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A Cultural Tour of Ginza’s Artistic DNA

Akiko Tomita

Ginza Six Editors Vol.7 (Lifestyle)

Can I ask a quick question? Are you someone who worries the weight of your books or records will damage the floorboards? Since I moved out on my own, as someone who’s written for photography and culture journals since my student days, I know the feeling. So, today, for all my fellow culture addicts and everyone else who seeks out what’s new and fascinating in the world of culture, I’d like to recommend the cultural space at GINZA SIX. Allow me to proceed with my introduction.

First, let’s head to Ginza Tsutaya Books on the sixth floor. Here, you’ll find an event space with a high vaulted ceiling inspired by watchtowers, an art gallery showcasing timely works, and a series of artworks exhibited at various points throughout the store. All of this merges to create an important site for transmitting art and culture.

Among the store’s major highlights is a 60,000-volume collection of art books. When I visit the store, I immediately head over to the used-book area. I’m repeatedly awestruck by the vast range covered by the stock of invaluable books here. My lucky find today was a rare book of photos by Kikuji Kawada entitled “Chizu” (published by Bijutsu Shuppan-sha).

This first edition, of which only 500 copies were printed in 1965, is the pinnacle of vintage photo collections. It all but inaugurated the artist book in Japan. The high-contrast photographs, including the shadows seared into the walls of Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Genbaku Dome) and portraits of kamikaze pilots, were designed in a novel format in which all the pages are gatefold. The binding was developed by Kohei Sugiura, the renowned Japanese graphic designer who studied Asian iconography to create highly innovative book designs.

The store’s lineup of books that follows current trends is also exceptional. Photographer Lieko Shiga is a major artist who has pursued, through photography, the fundamentally dual nature of human beings—life and death, light and shadow, the seen and the unseen. “Lieko Shiga Blind Date,” an exhibition of her works held this past summer at the Marugame Genichiro-Inokuma Museum of Contemporary Art in Kagawa Prefecture, drew considerable attention and provided a glimpse of Shiga’s continuing evolution as an artist. The bookstore carries a few copies of “Blind Date” (T&M Projects), the book accompanying the exhibition. The store also carries books carried by very few other bookstores. Loyalty to a bookstore is built on things like this.

The entrance to “Art Street,” the common name given to the art books section, features a special area for oversized books. Kishin Shinoyama’s “KABUKI by KISHIN” (limited edition of 1,000 copies), considered the standard for Kabuki photography, and a special edition of “Hiroshige’s One Hundred Famous Views of Edo” with the first printings of the “Famous Views” (limited edition of 200 copies; with one reproduction of a favorite work) are limited editions available only here at Ginza Tsutaya Books. To transmit Japanese aesthetic perspectives to the world—each of the collections and displays scattered throughout the store in glass cases, in cabinets, and on flat display platforms speaks to this mission.

Let’s go down one floor to the fifth floor and check out Leica GINZA SIX. Leica, obviously, is the renowned brand of German cameras and binoculars. Many photographers, including Robert Capa and Henri Cartier-Bresson, have lived with their Leica cameras and captured numerous decisive moments.

The store is based on an open floor plan that includes a photo exhibition space. The current exhibition, “Kosen,” features work by John Davies (through December 13). Davies, an English photographer, is also well-known as a collector of vintage photographs of Japan. The remarkable work gathered here tracks the progression of a 15-year-old apprentice geisha, or maiko, over five years, as she becomes a full-fledged geisha.

Let’s start by checking out the Leica Sofort, the brand’s first-ever instant camera. It looks cute, but it also features real-world working chops, like creative double-exposure and time-lapse-exposure modes.

And since we’re here, let’s pick up and hold the camera that makes any camera fan’s mouth water: the Leica M. The heft, the texture of the surface, the austere body—it’s hardly an overstatement to say one perceives the presence of craftsmanship in one’s hands.

Next, on the center shelves, in a tribute to the “Kosen” exhibition, are items produced in collaboration with traditional Kyoto craftspeople. These products are normally available only at the Leica Store Kyoto. The cloisonné-patterned folding fan is a limited-run item produced with traditional maker Miyawaki Baisenan and priced like a bottle of champagne. We also find here a drawstring pouch of leather, lined with kyoyuzen-patterned silk from famous kimono maker Chiso, priced around 15,000 yen. These items would make spectacular gifts.

Nevertheless, I ended up going home empty-handed… just kidding! I’m not sure that’s possible. Today, I picked up the July 1989 issue of Geijutsu Shincho magazine (Best 10 Showa Era Photos, as Selected by Photographers), a find I came across in Ginza Tsutaya Books. I really had no idea I’d come across a magazine, here in the middle of Ginza, that I’d missed the chance to buy in my younger days.

In its DNA, Ginza has long exemplified Japanese sophistication while also serving as a center for fine art. GINZA SIX clearly and purposefully inherits and deploys this tradition in all dimensions. But it’s not merely following tradition; there’s a creative grit I sense in its acute attention to current information and willingness to tackle new challenges. Having a place like this within your daily repertoire is one of the secrets to bringing more enrichment to life.

Author: Akiko Tomita Photographer: Hiroyuki Takahashi Editor: Yuka Okada

editors_tomita

Akiko Tomita

Editor and writer. Entered the publishing industry after working at an art museum. Worked on numerous photo collections and street art features for a culture magazine before launching her freelance career. Currently writes articles on the arts for Vogue Japan, Numero Tokyo, and other media while participating in international photo festivals and corporate philanthropy projects held throughout Japan.
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2017.10.23 improves