unexpected Asakusa

Battling for air amongst all the other tourists, I tried to look at things a bit differently (or to shoot from the hip and not look at all).

Returning to the images a few weeks later, these are my unexpected photos of Asakusa’s Sensō-ji and Nakamise-dori.



When I first went to Japan I had no concept of where I was geographically other than “somewhere to the left of Tokyo”.

When I went to Japan the second time, I had no concept of where I was geographically other than being slightly savvy with the metro map.

After going to Japan for a third time I decided to plot the places I had been on a map. See the full interactive version here: http://npugh.co.uk/jmap

line up!

Walk to work: but very slowly and without getting out of turn.

the sound of watching

A week or two ago I posted an incomplete post about invigilator: Tokyo.

Well, I’m back in the UK now and sorting through all my documentation from the trip to Japan.

I’ve uploaded a few images to Flickr. There’s a slideshow here, but the pages on Flickr include captions giving more detail about each image.

but I was a bit wary about taking too many photos during the invigilation. I think it’s just a little bit too intimidating for a project that’s so much about how people react to subtleties within a space.

So, as an experiment with alternative forms of documentation, here’s a sound recording we made of the invigilation:


Monday round-up

Decamp to Asakusa with large amounts of rucksack. Encounters at the coin laundry.

Spent a few hours in the morning wandering around the (very) local temple. Slightly-strange-but-nice moment when a school girl very politely asks me how I pronounce my name and then gives me some origami thankyous. Is this homework?

A very enjoyable afternoon was spent talking with a friend and being watched intently by her 7-month old.

On returning to Asakusa I found the nearly-deserted temple grounds to be much, much more preferable to the hulabaloo of the morning.

Yamanote day 1. Met the artist I’m collaborating with, got ourselves up to speed and then I somehow manged to feel my way through buying a voice recoder in Akihabara. 1 hour circuit of the Yamanote Line making recordings.

Much sushi goodness and catching up with a friend for evening entertainment

A day in the office. Not much to tell except the average time taken for a train to travel between stations on the Yamanote line is about 1min 20sec.

Over to Koiwa in the evening for a jam-packed launch party for Dislocate.

Food with a friend whilst we talk about the trials and tribulations of figuring out how to be an artist after graduation.

A few more laps of the beloved Yamanote; Orichan brought along some amazing pictures to use in later stages of the project; a great few hours spent at Kandada.

In the evening I had to move over to the Suginami area of Tokyo – more lumping of large rucksack on busy commuter trains. As I left Asakusa I was stopped by someone from a TV station making a programme about increasing levels of foreign tourists in Japan. Yet again I’m asked “what Japanese food do you like?” Infinitely less satisfying than the encounter when I was asked how I pronounce my name on Sunday.

Serious preparations (including a nap) for the Invigilation that evening.
A long day but very interesting.

Coin Laundry and then the Ginza space for the Dislocate event.
Fantastic soba meal in the evening.

Saturday and Sunday:
Commuting to Yokohama for the Dislocate conference. Very interesting group of artists with a nice mix of people/work that were familiar and new. Various walking activites that involved being tracked by GPS, using my heart rate to control a game and having my galvanic skin response monitored.

Gyoza and laughs on Sunday night.

It was thundering outside but I’ve now been in a manga internet cafe place for nearly an hour now and I’m blissfully unaware of anything happening outside my 1.5 by 2 metre cubicle besides the insipid guitar moods musak and the occaisional tapping of keyboards. I need to find some street maps to draw on and then go over to Ginza for the launch party of the exhibition Linda and Meg have been working hard towards.

Time seems to be running out fast: only Tuesday and Wednesday left to go before that train ride out to Narita…

invigilator: tokyo

more people; affecting more space

probably the most difficult thing about the event was trying to find an equivalent for “invigilator” in Japanese. We trawled the dictionary but so many watching/guardian type words seem to come with a lot of baggage through association with being told what to do by a person of higher rank. Nothing seemed to have the feeling of benevolence we wanted.

We invigilator

In the end we settled for “kizuiteimasu” – I am noticing/aware of things.

Whilst waiting for invigilator #3 at the station we realised we could be using the time as an aquivalent to the 30 mins delay I experienced on my way to work. (incidentally, we did our invigilation in the evening – taking into account the time differences we reckoned we’d be starting out at about the same time as I would bnormally leave home…)

Rather than just hanging around we put up our signs and started invigilating.




Many people swerved to read our signs announcing that we were noting varous things in the area, not many went so far as to make eye contact. When they did we smiled and wished them a good evening.

After meeting our third team member we moved on to Nishi-Shinjuku to find a good starting point. We selected a huge office block building (I think it was an insurance company) where we found a doorway with a stream of office workers leaving (at that time it was probably about 8 pm)

….to be continued next time I go to an internet cafe – time’s up for now…

room with a view

found an interesting view from my ryokan room after all…

japanese garden


For the last few days I’ve been staying in a ryokan in Asakusa: somewhere my friends tell me is very old style Japan.

I don’t think much of the view from my room.


However, on the plus side I’m about 20 seconds’ walk from Kaminari dori and Sensoji temple. I battled the crowds on Sunday morning, but by far prefer the place at night when it has room to breathe.


hozomon gate





After some serious Googling for artist-led projects in and around Tokyo, I ended up following a link to the Yaribi gallery. As is often the case in these situations, I’m following a link from an English-language site to a Japanese one, so I tend to get most of my information from the link rather than the site itself. In this case:

Yaribi is a little wooden hut constructed illegally on the roof of the painting department of Tama University by a number of students. They organise exhibitions in it. …The structure will stay on the roof for a while, and has the support of a number of professors. I suggested they perhaps involve curating and critical studies students as well as artists, to try create a broader public platform. Anyway, it is wonderful to see such initiatives in the normally rather quiet and reserved spaces of art schools.

All the universities here are just closing down for their Summer vacation so I thought I’d missed an opportunity to visit Yaribi, but fortunately they had two Open Campus days just at the time when I was staying at a friend’s house close by.

tamabi view

The campus is on a hillside on what I assume is the edge of Hashimoto. The buildings are that Eastern Asian concrete type of institutional architecture that I somehow simultaneously find quite uplifting but also incredibly bland. Hmmm.

painting east

Anyway, I finally tracked down the East painting building and the Yaribi rooftop.

Thanks to the language barrier again, I’m really not in a position to be able to say much about either the show or the organisational set-up but as far as I can make out there was previously a more ramshackle construction on the site that was made more solid in the early months of this year.

Thanks to some sheets of hardboard, some scaffolding, a website and a few judiciously placed tarpaulins, Yaribi seemed to me to be a really viable exhibition space. There are quite a large number of staff (a mix of current and graduated students?) and, judging from their website, a busy programme.

I’m really excited that something like this is happening, although I’m not really sure how autonomous it is and it’s still very much within the ‘safe zone’ of an art university (and probably within the students’ own department at that). I’d love to see more of this Outside, both in Japan and in Brum.

Could the use of scaffolding lend itself to a modular approach and a space that could be quite mobile? …or is it the semblance of something permanent that gives this project its strength?










Over the last week I’ve been able to cobble together a couple of fairly respectable sandwichboards that I intend to use to mark out an area under the watchful eye of a group invigilation.

It required an interesting combination of tools and materials from Meg’s studio and things like tweezers and a compass that I have in my rucksack.


(just to put things to scale, the table is about a foot high…)

Finding people to work with for the invigilation is proving much more difficult so, for the time being, the boards remain blank and the red t-shirts un-worn.

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