The Unknown Hipster

Tokyo, part I

Posted in Travel by unknownhipster on November 11, 2010

Early this autumn, I was invited to attend Tokyo Graphic Passport, a creative and visual arts conference organized by  +81 Magazine – a Japanese graphic design journal – with speakers coming from various parts of the world.


I love Tokyo. From the very first time (back in the early 90’s, when I came as the tambourine player for Uneven Dusk to perform gigs at a small club located in the basement of an anonymous white-tile building in the outskirts of Tokyo) I was taken by the poetic particularity of the city, and has taken every chance I could to come back.

I love the crazy sound of cicadas in the summer, the temples and their gardens, the tiny bars, and the blinking red lights on the tops of office towers at night. I can stroll endlessly in the quiet backstreets behind the busiest arteries, and wish I could live in one of these little wood houses. Even the spectacular flagship stores of the global luxury brands seem surrealistic mysteries, and yet appear more gentle than anywhere else.

Struck by jetlag in the hotel lobby.

With Satoru Yamashita, founder of +81 Magazine and Graphic Passport

Fantasista Utamaro performing at Arts Chiyoda.

« Live painting » as it’s called, is a common and much appreciated form of performance art for painters and their public, just like readings are for American writers. Although anybody who has ever painted could sense that it’s less than likely that a painting executed in public would be any good. Even Picasso was not so astonishing in « Le Mystère Picasso ». But Fantasista managed to get his act together in front his home crew.



These young chaps had looks that deserve a Sartorialist award.

John Warwicker from Tomato had flew from Australia to paint a large mural.

If the mural was John’s, the stained plastic protections on the floor were reminiscent of Hans Namuth’s photos of Pollock.


Most amazingly, John’s painting looked good at all the different stages throughout the 3 days it took to finish.

Toru, assisting John and documenting the performance.

While Roland Barthes’ « Empire of Signs » is my beloved travel campanion in Japan, and a nourishing reading, it’s sometimes more nutritious to dine on Sumo food.