The more people who cram in here, the bigger it seems. Maybe because quite a few of the people concerned are very small, and jump about a lot, so you get a continuously changing sense of depth. Oh, how big this old house might feel to a child, with the high roof and different but connected rooms, people selling things, inviting you to play, a smiling woman named Mari who will draw your face like a monster, a curry stand set up by neighbourhood-born-and-bred Tokyo Masala Boys, dishing up chicken and chickpeas.
This is the second edition of Engawa Bazaar, Verandah Bazaar, out the east exit of Kita Senju station past Tokyo Denki Daigaku, the Electrical University, a couple of minutes down the shotengai shopping mall, turn left. Going on its name, you partly expect this Senju Geijutsu Mura, or Senju Arts Village, might be like other creator collectives as in Taito-ku or under the tracks near Akihabara, but turns out it’s just this old house, more like a concept than a concrete entity — the village exists in the cloud, a gathering of creators connected through the NPO managed by the radiant Haruka Kajino. You run into her at the genkan and she apologises for all the shoes and welcomes you in. Later she tells you how they run two other houses for artists-in-residence, and hook up designers and artists with each other and with jobs, an operation still in its infancy.
The house has been semi-renovated by another loose-knit group of about a half-dozen students from Denki Daigaku, Musashino Arts University and others, including Maui in the green sweater, who’s in architecture and tells you of plans to make the outside space good for performances. At the moment the house doubles as a workspace and children’s drop-in center, a sort of daycare between home and school, given that around here, with the lack of parks and the high-density living, there’s almost nowhere to play.
You look over a half-dozen stalls of mostly DIY crafts including one for a small Senju cafe called cup2gallery, and the Tsukuru Project of volunteer vendors selling accessories to benefit Fukushima and Miyagi. The woollen brooches are made in Fukushima from recycled yarn gathered in Tokyo.
Most of the visitors are locals, there is a community feel, but supporters from afar also show up to shop and hang out, like Haruka’s school- and theatre-group friends Yukari and Kyoko. On your way home through the evening light, before the Skytree Line takes you back across the river to Asakusa, you stumble on another sort of wonderland next to the station, Fandango Records a little analogue paradise run by Masa, an AC/DC fan, and when you buy a record his original taste in shopping bags gives you a lift.