Thursday, May 26, 2016

Okamoto Taro Memorial Museum

Museum entrance
Okamoto Taro (1911-1996) was one of the most prominent Japanese artists of the 20th century. He led quite a life, fighting in World War II, studying in Paris, and hobnobbing with the likes of Picasso and Breton. Taro's work featured a kind of primitive abstract style that was widespread at the time, and, just like prolific artists such as Picasso, he created paintings, sculptures, and everyday objects including tables, chairs, and dishes.
Taro sculpture in front of United Nations University, Shibuya

To me, one of the most compelling aspects of his work is how accessible and visible it is. I've seen public art by Taro in several spots in Tokyo (including a massive mural inside Shibuya station), and I've had the chance to see his monumental Tower of the Sun, which he created for the 1970 World Expo just outside of Osaka. The grounds make a great day trip if you're in the Kansai area.

Today was my first visit to the Okamoto Taro Memorial Museum, which is located in Aoyama, Tokyo, just down the road from Omotesando station. The building, where he lived and worked, retains many artifacts from his studio in addition to hosting exhibitions. It's small, but like Taro's work, it's personable. You can get close to the art, and in the case of the garden sculptures, you can walk right up to them as they inhabit an overgrown mini jungle - which is probably just the way Taro intended (and in stark contrast to the well laid out, planned, and often surgically precise gardens found throughout Japan). 

First, here are some visiting details:

Address: 6-1-19, Minami-Aoyama, Minato Ku, Tokyo 107-0062
Phone: 03-3406-0801
Map: Click for Google Map
Nearest train stations: Omotesando, Shibuya
Hours: 10:00-18:00 (final admission 17:30) (Closed Thursdays, except on national holidays. Closed Dec 28- Jan 4)

Now let's head inside.

First Floor
Museum lobby
The entrance fee is very reasonable - just 620 yen. The first floor contains a look at Taro's studio and a kind of seating room area containing many objects.
An eerily lifelike sculpture of Taro greets you. After seeing the Murakami sculpture the other week, I'm beginning to sense a pattern!

 More after the jump:

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Design Festa 43 - Live Art

One of the most compelling aspects of Design Festa is the exhibition of live art that goes on throughout the show.
This happens in a variety of ways. Participants renting small booths can elect to have blank canvases set up on the walls behind them. (Apparently, these are then peeled off at the end of the show.) Some use their booths just for this purpose, and in lieu of tables or cases, they use the floor space to spread out drawing or painting materials.
Various folks were asked to add to the Hints and Spices wall, By Sunday, it had quite a few drawings on it! My contribution to a small corner of this section reveals my limited skills. But Shane was very polite, and I was given consolation chocolate. It all worked out.
Others, like our indie toy buddy Hints and Spices, integrate the canvas into their booths, where they also sell toys, cards, and other wares.

Here are a few more small canvas spaces:
 More after the jump:

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Design Festa 43 - Indie Toys

The latest Design Festa, one of Japan's largest gatherings of craftspeople, musicians. and other creative sorts, took place at the Tokyo Big Sight on a beautiful spring weekend.

Many of the indie sofubi stalwarts were there, and in addition to those I wanted to provide a look at some makers working with other materials, since Design Festa really brings everything together, from sofubi to felt to yarn to wood, and more. So here's our toy report, with makers arranged alphabetically.

Super creative wooden toys. Click here for Atara's website.

 More after the jump:

Monday, May 9, 2016

New online toy shop - Yamakichi

It feels like it's been a long time since a major online outlet has opened in Japan for indie toys. Some years back, there were a slew of shops. Some shipped overseas. Many didn't. Few were easy to navigate in English. seems to have put everything together in an easy-to-use website that not only ships worldwide, but also has English instructions helping you get your order in.

The shop has a very nice range of figures from a variety of toy makers, including Dream Rockets, Five Star Toys, Henry Anderson III (whose toys are made by Shikaruna), Uamou, Rockin' Jelly Bean, and many others.

Besides sofubi, Yamakichi carries keshi gomu figures, T-shirts, and other goods.

Let's hope they're able to help folks around the world get their hands on their favorite toys!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Ora Ora - Vintage Toy Shop in Taipei, Taiwan

There was a time when Taipei was chock full of shops selling toys from the USA. In the 2000s, with the release of Star Wars: Episode One, there were dozens of stores carrying everything from Star Wars to Spawn to super hero toys.

The boom gradually fizzled out as interests changed and more activity moved online. By the end of the decade, only a small number of specialty shops remained open. And so it's great to see a fairly new shop like Ora Ora (オラ オラ) plant its flag and spread the vintage love.
Ora Ora gets its name from the Japanese manga JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. However, the shop specializes in US toys.
You can find all kinds of cool stuff at Ora Ora, including action figures, plush, cars, and a lot more.
Here are the shop details:

Address: 台北市大安區泰順街50巷19號1樓
Map: Click here
Phone number: 02 2367 1213
Facebook page: Click here

Here's a walk-through video I made:

The shop owners are really friendly, and they love toys. Ora Ora is in the Shi Da University area, which is great for browsing through boutiques, not to mention trying Taiwan's amazing street food, tea drinks, and desserts.

Thanks for reading, and if you're in the area, have a great time at Ora Ora!
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