You might see Mt. Fuji. Out there in the red dusk beyond Skytree, beyond soapland, beyond this weekend’s art event. Or look down six floors, and the straight road leads your eye between the Yoshiwara brothels, the willow trees and lamp-posts, head- and tail-lights of the dark-windowed people-movers with their human cargo; shipping the girls out, bringing the men in; bright signs for bordellos with names like Honey Collection, the fluorescent-lit doorways guarded by sinister touts dressed like waiters.
An unlikely place for public art. So perhaps all the more apt that some local artists and others have staged this. Yoshiwara Art Super Service, on October 29 and 30, marked its third year. You could visit installations and happenings at venues across this red-light district north of Asakusa.
In the park was a portable kiln where you could fire your own teacup. In a bare room sat a demon who kept your soul (breath) in a balloon you inflated, with your personal details including in what form you’d like to be reincarnated, written on a rolled-up piece of paper inside.
Tea ceremony on the roof of a nearby apartment block is by the three men who make up Chaban Guild. They have a dome. It’s entirely cardboard, see-through, about as practical against outside light, wind and sound as a fishnet stocking. Walk the paper stepping stones and climb in, however, and you feel protected from the material world. That’s the way of tea.
Safe. They’ve been hauling around and setting up this geodesic dome for around five years. All the parts are replaceable, Hundreds of little triangles, coded A to I for assembly, which takes one day. It’s inspired by Metabolism, says tea master Yoshihiro Nakajima (left).
Chaban means “farce”, and is written with the Chinese character for tea. The incongruity of performing tea in a sordid soapland district seems to fit the men’s wry outlook. Two of them are tea masters of the Uraku Ryu school; the other is a temple carpenter.
Nakajima shows you a tea vessel they have made, from the shards of broken rice bowls, scavenged at a campsite of evicted homeless people. It is held together with kintsugi, the traditional gold lacquer technique. It represents a kind of harmony, a coming together, against demons perhaps.