Day 4 : Yesterday was Sunday. We all agreed to soak up the relaxing spirit of Tokyo by starting our day at the Imperial Gardens. Every Sunday they lend out 500 bicycles for free and close off several connecting streets to anyone who cares to partake in a 15 minute joyride.
After our spin around the park and regrouping under a tree on the lawn we decided it was about time for our first MUJI trip. MUJI is a little like the Japanese equivalent to IKEA, except we in the MFA department only think of them for their inexpensive and beautifully performing writing instruments. Like IKEA they also have a cafeteria available where we lunched and then set out for the next destination: Itoya.
Itoya is in two buildings on the same block in the Ginza area. It is 5 floors of stationary, journals, pens and funny themed sticky notes in one building, while the other building, another 5 floors, boasts higher end products like fine art supplies and pricey pens, one of which held a 40,000 dollar price tag. The Japanese are very serious about their pens here.
Day 5 : We went straight to the Origami Museum where a 7 hour workshop was offered to us upon our arrival. Half of us went directly into the workshop while the other half explored the exhibition and journeyed out to other museums and attractions in the Roppongi area.
The workshop began at 10am. We opened the workshop doors and there sat 40 elderly Japanese women at 3 long tables. Cesar was the only male and they were all tickled that we were there. They even clapped for us after the instructor introduced us. Each of us had a packet of colored precut origami papers set at our seats. Our neighbors were so friendly to help us along in every step and lend us their glue, rulers and box blades. We broke for lunch and the instructor took us next door to a little sushi place where we removed our shoes and sat on pillows on the floor at low tabes. They brought each of us each a large plate of colorful sushi while we tried to converse with our lunch companions. This felt like a true local experience. We went back into the workshop and worked through the remaining projects of the day. The final project was the most difficult of the set, the workshop went to 6pm. After 8 hours of brain flexing origami, one half of the group was spent for the day.
The other half of our group discovered an author of multiple origami books in the gift shop at the museum. The author and origami master demonstrated multiple projects right in front of them while holding conversation about our whereabout in Texas without even looking down. Quite a gem!
Next the group went over to 21_21 Design Sight. They discovered an exhibit entitled KOME: The Art of Rice. The exhibition explored how rice is grown, used and how it’s needed in the future. They found it to be very engaging and artfully presented. They also read up on the history of sake and how it made its peak in popularity in 1973. The story of one sake maker was highlighted in the exhibit. The saker maker had doubts about continuing production after he realized the downfall of the industry in the 80s when his father passed and the business was left to him. The man sought council from an elder in the community with doubts of keeping the operation in business. The elder asked one simple question, “Is your sake of value to people?” After this the man changed everything about the way the sake was being produced from the ingredients to the happiness and attitude that the men mixing the rice projected into the process. They work in sync and rhythm while singing all together. The business became more successful than ever before and is still vital today.