Sunday, April 08, 2007

A perfect day in Tokyo

I went to Tokyo last week, to watch the K1 tournament held in Yokohama on the 4th April. Ian Shaffa, a fighter who trains at my old Sydney kickboxing gym, was out here for a fight, and so my old instructor was here as his coach. This meant a chance to have a perfect Tokyo day.

After a leisurely breakfast I took the train over Tokyo bay to Odainba kinkakoen station. This is a fantastic journey, since the train passes from Shimbashi (an area of amazing modern architecture in itself), above the port area and then by a huge arched bridge over the bay. On the way we passed through a vast region of glass and concrete, and from our position hanging on the very edge of the bridge we could see across the bay to the forest of red cranes lining the docks. Here container ships were loading up, helicopters buzzed past us, and an 8 lane highway teeming with traffic buzzed by to our left, before we came to rest in a quaint little station nestled between modern apartment blocks. From here I took a walkway over a highway to a car park, were a building had been constructed entirely of cardboard tubing, white plastic sheets and shipping containers.

This building was designed by famed architect Shigeru Ban as the home of the art exhibition Ashes and Snow, which is a truly amazing exhibition of massive photographs of humans posed with animals. Set in its specially constructed "nomadic museum", everything about this exhibition is designed to impress and astound. The photographs are all huge, perhaps 3m by 2m, and are taken in a kind of grainy sepia colour, which is matched perfectly by the lighting in the building. They are arranged in two rows, with each row ending in a little theatre space where video of animals and humans interacting is played. In between these two rows is a larger video space, in which an hour long movie plays. The movie contains the background material for the individual photographs, shot in the same colours and played with a beautiful soundtrack by Lisa Gerrard. The scenes - particularly those with whales, Elephants and manatees - are breathtaking in their simplicity and beauty. I spent a good two hours wandering through these two hallways and the video theatres in between, being amazed by what I saw. I have subsequently read criticism that the photos are two posed, and the overall effect is obviously intended to be emotionally manipulative, but I don't care. It worked for me, and I left in a state of stunned disbelief, so I suppose the exhibition successfully manipulated me.

After this I returned via torturous routes to my hotel room, and from there hopped the 400m to Yokohama Arena, to indulge my fondness for kickboxing. The fights started at 5pm and went with barely a break until 10pm, culminating in an exciting bout between two well respected fighters. Ian Shaffa's fight went well, with his opponent putting up a decent struggle but ultimately falling to Mr. Shaffa's superior power and wily ways. Some of the fights were a little one sided, but I htink I must have seen 20 or so fights, so I was satisfied. I wandered down to the ring at the end to try and congratulate Ian, but the ring was hemmed in tight by a crowd of screaming girls, so I wandered back to my hotel room, fully sated by a day of gleaming city scapes, escapist art, and robust violence. How better to spend a perfect day in Tokyo?


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