Architecture and Karaoke

We decided that today would be a day to see some of Tokyo’s iconic buildings. We wanted to visit the Teien Art Museum, an art deco masterpiece with a uniquely Japanese flavour, but it was closed. We settled on a couple of alternatives and, making full use of our Pasmo cards, we set off on the subway system.

Yesterday, I posted about the Emperor Meiji and referenced his embracing of openness towards western cultural influences in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. One of the significant changes he made was to end Japan’s prohibition on Christian preaching. This resulted in the establishment of the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Tokyo, with its seat at St. Mary’s Cathedral – a wooden construction built in the Gothic style in 1899. And, like so much of Tokyo, burned to the ground during the second world war.  Its replacement, designed by Kenzo Tange and completed in 1964, is a building of stunning beauty.


This was out in a fairly suburban part of Tokyo but if you have any interest in architecture, I would say it was well worth the trip. As we walked back to the subway station, we saw an interesting road sign.


It’s a reminder of the everyday threat under which Tokyo goes about its normal business.

Although thwarted by the Teien Museum, we had another art based building on our list, The National Art Center Tokyo (note for pedants: that’s how they spell centre, so I’m respecting that).  This is a more recent building, opened in 2007. They don’t have a permanent collection and instead display rolling temporary exhibitions. Currently there is a Japanese calligraphy exhibition underway which seemed very popular but the finer points escape us. The internal spaces in the building are spectacular.

img_1364It was an easy walk back to our flat from here and, as we strolled and chatted, it suddenly struck us why Tokyo taxis look so odd.

dsc_0124 3It’s a long time since UK cars were built with wing mirrors on the actual wings of the car. We didn’t figure this out for ages but once you notice, it really does look odd.

We went out for a quiet dinner this evening. There are some things that don’t make sense to do when there are only two of you. On the other hand, if those things are bucket list items, you need to go ahead and do them anyway. So it was that, after our quiet dinner, I dragged Ishbel into Karaoke Kan as there was no way I was leaving Tokyo without having sung karaoke. I managed to book us a room for 2 through a combination of the receptionist’s broken English and my non-existent Japanese. I wanted to book an hour but Ishbel decided that was far too long and we only booked a half hour. We emerged 90 minutes later having run through what might best be described as an eclectic selection. I put my heart and soul into songs famous and obscure by The Clash, Jimmy Cliff, Grandaster Flash and Melle Mel, Eddie Cochran and the Dead Kennedys. Ishbel did the same with Dusty Springfield, Kirsty MacColl, Stealers Wheel and Judy Garland. We both decided to try a bit of Johnny Cash – a surprisingly successful (to our jaded ears) duet on Folsom Prison Blues.

I wouldn’t be surprised if we repeated the experience before we leave Japan.

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