Autumn (Tokyo Studio)

Shousetsu: Heaven’s essence rises, earth’s essence sinks/ north wind, freezing rain (3 of 5)

December 1st, 2008

Shoutetsu 8 of 15 Today we visited Neilton Clarke in Musashi-Itsukaichi (just over an hour train trip west). Neil is an artist who came out to the area to participate in a Japan Foundation residency project about 10 years ago and decided to stay on. He renovated the house he lives in DIY fashion with an amazing amount of ingenuity, creativity, and style. Its’ clever organization of space reminded me of the machiya (typical merchant house of the Edo period) we saw in Nara.

Musashi-Itsukaichi is in the Akikawa valley. North is Hinode and Mitake, south of the area is Hachioji and Takao. We caught the Seibu-Shinjuku line to Haijima then transferred to the JR Itsukaichi line and rode to the end of the line. The sun was out and we saw many vegetable patches and mini-farms along the way.

Neil took us to a contemporary Japanese Italian restaurant on the river. We had lovely lunch and plenty of amusing exchanges of experiences of Tokyo. After lunch we persuaded Neil to take us to a new onsen nearby, which we saw advertised at the train station. The facility is located in the forest atop the Akikawa (river). It has a shower area, an indoor onsen, an outdoor onsen, and a sauna. The indoor onsen has large floor to ceiling windows so that you can appreciate the forest view (which, of course, is in their full Autumn colours). The outdoor onsen on deck overlooks this amazing view. If you sit on the edge of the bath, you can see the river and bush below. It really was simply delightful to relax in the very hot bath, breathing in the nearly freezing air, and soaking up the view.

We headed back towards Neil’s house in town and saw this astounding junk pile on the main drag. Apparently, a Korean migrant runs a ‘junk store’ in the house behind the pile. Neil told us that the owner used to have a wooden Japanese-style shop with a pile that parted at the doorway. This was burnt down, so both the house and the pile we saw are new. And yes, he does sell this stuff that has been sitting out in the weather. And no, people don’t just make off with things without paying. The whole situation has a certain poetics. It gives new meaning to the term ‘junk store’.

5 Responses to “Shousetsu: Heaven’s essence rises, earth’s essence sinks/ north wind, freezing rain (3 of 5)”

  1. 1 lisa kelly
    December 4th, 2008 at 6:51 am

    oh what a splendid heap! and what great thrift, that this is still considered and respected as worthwhile stuff in the world. Yesterday I found myself writing a righteous note on a large panel of perfectly good foamcore to the “landfill junkie” who has filled up a skip with majority recycleable and reverse garbage/bower worthy materials out front of my studio.
    Onsen visit sounds to die for…

  2. 2 Lucas in Austinmer
    December 4th, 2008 at 8:18 am

    wow, that’s amazing. compare the retail experience in the photo above to the other, much more restrained one, which you wrote about a few days ago:

    it reminds me of the house of the garbage fox in the mitey boosh.

    or, if you prefer a more high-brow reference, the stuff robert morris was moving towards in the late 1960s, with his essay on “anti-form” and his dust and garbage scatter works. of course, finding “the real thing” in the urban environment is so much more satisfying. like a huge compost of human artifacts…

  3. 3 jolaw
    December 4th, 2008 at 9:21 am

    I thought the photograph might spark a few comments from fellow collectors and recyclers 🙂 Just think: this only shows a part of it – yes, there is more! He also started an annex further down the road. There is old wooden floor mill there which would make a great addition to any kitchen – your own freshly ground flour!

    Incidentally, that’s what the flat looks like a bit at the moment as we are trying to pack three months worth of stuff into our backpacks! Post-cards will have to be hand delivered!

  4. 4 Silvia Kwon
    December 12th, 2008 at 4:05 pm

    that’s it. the onsen at akikawa valley sounds like a must visit.

    I wonder how the junk shop owner actually finds stuff? He must get requests for specific items and if it happens to be at the bottom of the pile – how does he retrieve it?

  5. 5 jolaw
    December 15th, 2008 at 7:55 am

    When we were in front of the pile, Neil and Redmond were just pulling stuff out and having a look. I think he uses a ‘treasure hunt’ system. He barters with you too – so it’s not all bargain priced junk!