Roppongi in Tokyo is famous for being a city of modern art. So if you want to experience the “now” of the Japanese art scene, you should go to Roppongi! First of all, there is the “Roppongi Art Triangle” (or “Art Triangle Roppongi”), consisting of three cutting-edge art museums, but there is also a lot of representative modern architecture. Including places such as Roppongi Hills, which looks like a spaceship out of an SF movie that landed in the middle of the city. We went to an art exhibition at the Mori Art Museum that combines these two elements: art and architecture.
The Mori Art Museum’s exhibition “Roppongi Hills and Mori Art Museum 15th Anniversary Exhibition Japan in Architecture: Genealogies of Its Transformation” focuses on Japanese architecture. It covers a huge variety of architectural styles, from old temples and five-storied pagodas to futuristic towns that haven’t even been built yet. The exhibition explores the Japanese architecture from various viewpoints; from its physical structure to the philosophy behind the architecture itself.
In the first room, you will experience an old Japanese technology called “kigumi“. By attaching notches to wood and stacking it, the gravitational force and pulling force make it possible to create building structures that can even withstand strong earthquakes – without using nails! That’s what I’d call “Japanese wisdom”!
In Japan, where wooden buildings are very common, this old technology is still in use today. After visiting this exhibition, you might start noticing the “Japanese-ness” in the architecture surrounding you when walking around the city.
Inside a Japanese teahouse
One of the highlights of the “Japanese in Architecture” exhibition is a realistically reproduced teahouse. After taking off your shoes, you can even go inside! Upon entering this Japanese teahouse you will be able to experience the “narrowness” of a proper Japanese teahouse. The Japanese tea ceremony is very sophisticated and calm. When preparing the tea, all movements are executed with extreme accuracy, and with no excess. You won’t see any movements “without a purpose”. Maybe it’s because of the narrowness, which makes it impossible to move freely.
On the contrary, because Japanese tea ceremony is all about minimalism and perfection without dynamic movements, there is no need for a tea house to be large. Architecture isn’t just a purposeful “structure”. Instead, architecture can make us think about the people who use and live inside the buildings and the cultural background of a country.
The future of modern urban living
In the last area, you can see the future of Japanese architecture. I thought that the concept of ‘Future Living’ by Japanese architects is very interesting. It is strongly based on a concept (or maybe fear?) of limited space and efficiency.
The wonderful thing about this exhibition isn’t just the number of exhibits, but how they are being displayed. There are pictures, models, enlarged displays, and movies – it doesn’t get boring. Everything is very self-explanatory. You really don’t have to be an architecture expert to enjoy the exhibition. And I think that the teahouse experience is especially great. Moreover, you are allowed to take photos of some of the exhibits (something rare in Japanese art museums). These are some of the reasons why I highly recommend this exhibition!
This exhibition will be held until September 17th. However, don’t worry if you can’t make it! Since there are always great exhibitions at the museums of the “Roppongi Art Triangle”, you can be sure to always find something inspiring and interesting when visiting Roppongi.
“Roppongi Hills and Mori Art Museum 15th Anniversary Exhibition –
Japan in Architecture: Genealogies of Its Transformation”
Period: 2018.4.25 (Wed) – 9.17 (Monday)
10:00-22:00 (Last Admission: 21:30）
* 10:00-17:00 on Tuesdays (Last Admission: 16:30)
Venue: Mori Art Museum (53F, Roppongi Hills Mori Tower)