We went to Yokohama and the timing was perfect!

Posted on 14.08.2015

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IMG_4755 We’ve been here for a year and a half now, and only JUST got down to Yokohama the other day.

What should have been just another ‘we are so smug and went to ANOTHER art gallery’ blog post has ended up turning into a whole hell of a lot more, and it’s probably more awesome than what we were expecting, or else it’s just a typical depiction of life in ri-goddamn-diculous Tokyo.

Mark’s student had mentioned she wanted to get down to see a show in Yokohama (only 42 minutes from Ikebukuro on the Fukutoshin line, direct! SO MUCH EASIER than Odaiba!), but that she had to put it off. Thankfully, Mark asked which show it was, and heard the names of one of my favorite contemporary artists, Mr Cai Guo-Qiang. Apparently he was showing at the Yokohama Museum of Art, and she really wanted to take her child to see the work (really??).

I’m so glad that as a teacher, he felt the need to keep the conversation going by asking more questions. This is literally what we do all day, but still: if he would have gone to use the book, we would have definitely missed out on walking through some life-sized replicas of wolves.

So we made a plan to get the hell down there and see that show, dammit, on our next day off, which was coming up! We got on the train, headed down to Yokohama (which is actually the second-largest city in Japan next to Tokyo. So I guess that makes it Brooklyn, right?), and followed the signs to get to the museum.

IMG_4674But that wasn’t all that we followed. All throughout the train station, there were HUGE inflatable Pikachus, people giving out fancy paper Pikachu hats like the one you see me wearing here, and photo stops where we could jump in and get a photo of us getting attacked by the Pika himself. As if he’d ever attack us.

It was then that I remembered reading an article in Tokyo Cheapo about just such a thing happening: for one week (this is the second year, I think), 1,000 Pikachus will invade Yokohama and put on parades, performances and even dances in a few instances. And thus, our day became a lot more than ‘just another trip to see an awesome artist in Tokyo’.

IMG_4700But first, we got into that damn museum and looked at some art. As appears to be the norm in Japan, there were NO photos allowed of the feature event.

I’m not sure if this is just becoming common practice, since I don’t get to swing by the MOMA and check out what their policies are these days, but I swear, I recall photos being allowed in most galleries, for even the most popular artists, as long as the flash was turned off.

Sadly, in Japan, we have that annoying ‘loud’ photo function that we can’t turn off, so there is NO sneaking photos of art works here. Just wait until I get my new Nikon up and running. I am sure that thing is silent. Test-run in a few weeks! So I snapped a photo of the gunpowder drawing at the main entrance, and Mark snuck one in the gallery, but that was it.

There was one funny, ridiculous thing that happened while were entering the gallery: as usual, there was an ‘American tourist family’ entering with us (as there always seems to be). The first room was full of new works like the one pictured here, which were done specifically for this show. There was one for each season, and each image featured a couple ’embracing’. The one I’ve included here is BY FAR the raciest thing that was on the wall, and to the eyes of an 11-year old (guessing the kids’ ages), this wouldn’t look like much. But dad took ONE look at the description on the wall, said to his kids ‘We don’t want you to see this’, and then led them out.

Really? REALLY? You travel to the other side of the GD world and don’t want your kids to see something that really just looks like two people kissing?

This thought stayed with us as we walked through the gallery. The ‘Head On’ work, which has an AMAZING back-story and idea (‘the wall in our minds’, as ze Germans would say), featured 99 replica wolves at full-size. Some were male, and some were female, and this was clear due to the genitalia we saw on the wolves hanging above us as we walked through the work. Did the parents not let their kids see this? In another room, we saw works from that BS period ‘Primitivism’, which is basically white dudes painting images of topless brown ladies from various countries. Could the kids not see this, either? Better to leave the museum now and get your Y1500/person back.

That stupidity aside, it was an excellent, albeit small, show. I say ‘small’ lightly, as the size of the works was huge, and thy probably couldn’t have fit more in if they tried. It was a great, focused show, and it featured a lot of videos and interviews, so you could see the process of the gunpowder drawings and ceramic works, which was amazing to watch.

Pikachu parade!

Pikachu parade!

After the museum, we walked out into Yokohama and decided to explore a little, since we had some time until we had to get back on the train to head home for our movie date later that night. So we started to walk down towards the water, and then THIS happened.

A Pikcahu parade. We heard music, drums, and saw people clearing the way. Pikachu staff members wearing yellow Pikachu shirts on either side of the bridge we were crossing, and then this.

It was a gd frenzy! Tons of people, both children AND adults, screaming ‘Pikachu!’ and ‘Kawaiiiiiii!’ (cute). Many, many photos being taken, lots of waving, and dancing from Pikachus. Then they turned around, did it all again, and went back to wherever they came from.

IMG_4821We thought we were lucky to have experienced it once. As it turned out, it was an ‘every hour’, or ‘every half hour in different locations’ thing.

The Pikachus were everywhere. The news article I’d read gave me no indication that it would be such a huge and wide-spread event, but we were pleasantly surprised to be bombarded with Pokemon at every turn.

The port city was literally crawling with  people wearing the paper Pikachu hats and taking photos, eating ice cream, hugging life-size (and so much larger) Pikachus.

IMG_4831It felt like going insane.

There was a small army of Pikachu statues on the hill.

There were Pikachus on the other side of the bridge.

There was a Pikachu ship captain, making an appearance on the ship in the harbor, met by a crowd of people, who had all paid to see him and take photos with him.

There were Pikachus on parade in the mall, plastered on elevators, hanging from the lights and ceiling… it was like a scene from Gremlins, but yellow.

IMG_4777At some point, we decided we were hungry. We didn’t have TOO much time, so we started looking around us, near the Queen plaza. We saw a Hard Rock Cafe. While neither of us would necessarily plan to go to one of these restaurants, a look at the menu showed a veggie burger, so we jumped on it.

We both ordered the burgers, which were a little overpriced (the usual for the Hard Rock, but whatever), a drink and relaxed to the sounds of Everclear and Linkin Park. Which was fine. It was all fine, and blessedly not yellow. A very short respite from what surely awaited outside.

After we finished, it was back out into the mayhem. As we made our way back to the train station, we passed 2 more parades, more statues, and another huge, inflatable Pikachu on the square, facing the water.

IMG_4832It was a surreal, unexpected experience. I think if I had mentioned that I wanted to go and do this, it might not have happened. I’m not a fan of Pokemon, but I understand the cult status it enjoys here. Even if it wasn’t something I would have planned to do on my own, it was still fun and interesting to walk around and see it all.

Add to that getting to see Cai Guo-Qiang’s Head On in Tokyo, and it was a perfect day.