By – Jeremy Pilote Byrne
During my stay in Japan earlier this year, a friend I made while visiting Mount Fuji recommended I download an app called “Tokyo Art Beat” if I was interested in discovering all the little galleries Tokyo had to offer. I downloaded it right then and there and was amazed by how many art shows there were spread across each of this great city’s wards. This article is one of many that will make you discover some of the wonderful places I had the opportunity to visit while in Tokyo.
On one of my walks around Shinjuku’s ni-chome last April, I was intently studying the map on my phone. The overcast sky and light wind were a blessing after the damp heat I had been barely living through for the past few days. In short, a perfect day for gallery hopping. The gallery I was trying to get to in particular was reachable only by going through a maze of side streets and overpasses. Having no clear address system, Tokyo’s buildings can be quite tricky to find if they are not a huge shopping mall. When my phone indicated I was at the right spot, I looked at the preview on my app, looked at the building in front of me and looked for a sign saying this was the right place. “Ken Nakahashi Gallery.” Third floor. I was understandably quite excited.
Now, even if I knew space is generally quite limited here, I was not prepared for what I was about to enter. Closed off by heavy fabric as to not let any light penetrate this exhibition space, what awaited the viewer inside was quite a mystery. I was greeted by a friendly shadow who let me take in what my heart was feeling. I instantly forgot about the bustling streets I had just left, the winding staircase I had climbed, the shadow next to me and the body I was inhabiting. Mihoko Ogaki’s Threshold had the effect of a sledgehammer on my mind, shattering my reality. I was in the core of our galaxy, stars gently rested on my face. These pinpricks of light and the figures that produced them were reminding me that death was just a change of state, that death should not be feared in contrast to life. We are all stardust, anyway. Why fear death when atoms still lived on?
After what seemed a few millennia, the shadow sitting next to me and I got to talking. This is when it told me he was this gallery’s owner: Ken-ichi Nakahashi himself! I was instantly struck by a wave of intimidation. Here was a man who had such great taste—such great vision—and there I was, yet another visitor out of hundreds. Getting over this nervousness, I spoke to him about the feelings I had when viewing Mihoko Ogaki’s work. Ken added to my thoughts his own musings on the installation. He told me that Ogaki created this collection after overcoming a cerebral hemorrhage. She wanted to explore and to dissect the feelings she had about aging and death. About how we are all standing at a threshold awaiting the next step. Each star sitting on the surface of this gallery represented a memory, an emotion, a heartache, or a fear. With age comes the creation of a personal galaxy for each being on this earth—each star added bringing us closer to our graves.