On the last day of the show my companion and I finally decided to make the trip to Meguro (not far 😉 ) to see 假屋崎省吾の世界. Yes, lots of kanji! Or if I put it into something your eyes are more familiar with “Flower show by Famous Gay…I mean guy”. Or at least that how I felt, but I’ll get back to that later.
As written on Gajoen’s official site, from the very beginning the establishment has been more than what one would normally expect to exist under one roof.
When the old Gajoen established in 1931, Tokyo was recovering from a devastating earthquake. Houses were cramped and barely equipped with electricity and running water, and the average person probably led a wretched life. In addition, home decorations available to the common people were limited. The old Gajoen might have been called a fairyland of sorts, which brought each of those people’s dreams and fancies together in one place.
In the past it was electricity and running water, now Gajoen houses several waterfalla, a hotel, a bridal shop, an Omiai, and seven gourmet restaurants. One of such restaurants, TOFUTEI, is a traditionally styled freestanding building built within Gajoen. The building also boasts a “million dollar bathroom”, oddly with no bathroom attendant. Everything I have said up until now is commercialized as “Gajoen”. Except NONE of it is Gajoen, the only parts of the building that are original to the structure are not open to the public. These are a couple of designed rooms with mural ceilings and the HYAKUDAN KAIDAN (The 100 steps). The 100 stairs (and rooms?) are designated cultural treasures of Japan. These steps supposedly exhibit an exclusively Japanese beauty or something like that. But honestly, I just wanted to enter the non-public space, see some pretty flowers (smell them too!!), and use the “million dollar bathroom”.
So what did I get to do? I got to walk (barefoot yay :P) on some weirdly uneven old steps – this is one of their unique characteristics apparently. I got to see some pretty flowers (and fruits) that were arranged into meaningless almost impossible ugliness – they looked like they were running away from the feathers and random affects that were attached, wrapped around, and piercing them. I got to use the million dollar bathroom…but not the toilet because they were all occupied (I know from reading other impressions that it is just a regular pearly white bowl, so I missed out on nothing).
The arrangements were ugly, you say?!?! No and Yes. The remaining original seven rooms each have a theme grassy knoll, holy light, that type of thing. There are paintings and embellishments following each room’s theme, and this was disregarded. Kariyazaki’s creations were like a titan stumbling through town. And I say creations because it wasn’t just his floral arrangements, but his kimonos and his music too. So not only was the space visually oppressing but the music was inescapable. To me the only comforting thing was the smell. However that seems to be contrary to what was enjoyable for Japanese attendees whose number one remark was “It stinks!” closely followed by “I want to see how he is in person!”. It may be the case that many of the Japanese attendees enjoyed this type of shock, catharsis, and hoped to round it out by meeting the “strange” creator himself.
When the “strange” creature appeared in the merchandise area hoisting up the “last” ten calendars for sale yelling, “There are only ten left! Who will be the lucky person to take one home?!” there was an audible gaspm – Yes, gasp orgasm! It was a sound akin to this clip of Homer Simpson. Then they crowded around and a lady screamed out almost as if she was having a religious experience, “Me! I’ll take two. I feel so happy I get to take them home!”. He continued pushing his products in this Osaka Baba-chan manner hoping to get people to purchase his next item. But they were already satiated. He had already given them all the strange they needed for the day, and so they went on with their portrayals of interest in his other products…facing the other direction.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are probably many people who respect Kariyazaki and buy his products and take his arrangement advice, but the people who came that day (THE LAST DAY) were not there for that! I would have loved to show you pictures of the arrangements and the rooms and the stairs but there were no photographs allowed – unless you payed and came at a certain time (entry was also not free). We had entered Kariyazaki’s world (name of the exhibit). The arrangements were “on sale”, just like his kimonos, music, shears, cloths, calendars, posters, books, and personality.
Like I said before his arrangements were not ugly, but they are as appealing and admirable as the consumerist merit that most likely bore them. The same goes for Gajoen. I went there excited to experience a piece of Japanese culture and beauty but instead I was reminded how skillful the Japanese people are at monetizing and exploiting culture – especially their own. Kariyazaki just decided to get him some too, i guess. The consumerist clock continues to count….down?