Top 3 Roppongi Exhibitions To See This Summer

Tis’ the season to art and chill—literally—in a cool museum

By Zoria Petkoska
August 13, 2019
Art & Culture

Roppongi has two faces: party animal and art buff. Its museums and galleries always have unmissable art on display and this summer is no different.

Aaah, nothing like a cool museum to dive into to escape the summer heat! Pools are ok too, but we would argue that museums soothe not only the body but the soul as well. And just like artworks, we don’t do well in heat and humidity. Tokyo being a city known for its great art scene, there are always new and exciting exhibitions popping up and museum hours have been extended on weekends in some places.

Roppongi, the vibrant area of Tokyo and a party town by night, is an art haven by day filled with museums: The National Art Center, Mori Art Museum, 21_21 Design Site, Tokyo Midtown, and other venues. The art offerings of these museums and galleries in Roppongi are plentiful this summer, and here are the top three we recommend.


1. Shiota Chiharu: The Soul Trembles


Shiota Chiharu: The Soul Trembles

Shiota Chiharu has always had strings attached around the globe, calling many places home and being inextricably linked to all of them. In this largest and most comprehensive exhibition of her work, you can take a walk through her career, artworks, and inspirations. The artist explains that her exhibition “is a dialogue with my unveiled, naked soul.” Once you see Chiharu’s intricate installations of strings and webs, you will understand why there is such a huge ticket line at Mori Art. Her art is spacious, invites you in, makes you a part of it. You can take photos in most of the exhibits, in a way also participating in her art. Reusing it as a photo setting, remixing it, sharing it with the world.

Shiota Chiharu The Soul Trembles 2

Apart from the art installations, this exhibition has photographs, paintings, videos of past performances—making the visitor present not just here and now, but also in exhibitions’ past. Every work is a string leading to some topic—identity, existence, pain, and many named or nameless emotions. And when those strings touch your soul, both the strings and the soul tremble. Above all, Shiota Chiharu’s work makes you think, as most art should.

Where: Mori Arts Center Gallery, Roppongi Hills Mori Tower 53F, 6-10-1 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Admission: Until October 27, 2019
Ticket price: ¥1,800 (Adults), ¥1,200 (Students), ¥600 (Child, age four to Junior High School), ¥1,500 (Seniors)


2. Attack on Titan Final Exhibition


Attack on Titan The Final Exhibition 2

This one is for the anime fans and for those with a flair for the dramatic. A soldier from the Survey Corps, a military division in the world of Attack on Titan, welcomes you in front of the gates and leads you into the exhibition. But first, they offer you a choice. We’re not going to spoil interesting details of this exhibition, but please note that the exhibition itself will spoil the plot of the anime series if you’re not caught up on the episodes.

Attack on Titan The Final Exhibition

This exhibition is a pre-emptive goodbye to one of the most globally successful anime series to come out of Japan in the last few years. It is at times interactive and immersive—surrounding you with audio-visual projections and transporting you to the fantasy world of the series for a moment. It is also a great opportunity to see original art and storyboards from the original series and buy new and exclusive merchandise. Hajime Isayama’s, the original manga creator, touching interview is part of the exhibition giving us a rare glimpse into his creative mind. Among the many things Isayama reveals, we learn that he can’t bring himself to throw away sketches from the anime and the reason behind it.

This exhibition spills out of the gallery’s walls in many ways. One of them is the overhauled menu of The Sun restaurant on the same floor in Mori Tower. From the wine that Commander Pixis loves to a sandwich in the shape of a wall with a Titan peeking from it, the menu playfully draws on the anime’s characters and plot. The adjacent restaurant named The Moon also offers Attack on Titan inspired lunch and dinner courses if you want something fancier.

Where: Mori Arts Center Gallery, Roppongi Hills Mori Tower 53F, 6-10-1 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo
When: Until September 8, 2019
Admission: ¥2,000 (Adults and University Students), ¥1,500 (High School and Junior High School Students), ¥1,000 (Child)

Savvy Note: If you go to both exhibitions in Mori Art Gallery on the same day, you get a ¥200 discount, so both tickets will cost you ¥3,600 instead of ¥3,800.


3. The Story of Seibei Kajima, the “Millionaire Photographer” in the Meiji Period


Ponta and Oen, c. 1895 FUJIFILM SQUARE

Ponta and Oen, c. 1895 Photograph by Seibei Kajima, hand-colored albumen print. Private collection.

This small museum in Tokyo Midtown is all about film photography. You can check out the permanent displays of analog cameras, printouts of rare photos from various landmarks in Japan taken during the late Edo period and early Meiji period, or limited-time exhibitions—all for the price of ‘zero’.

The “Millionaire Photographer” exhibition features beautiful old photos from Meiji Period Japan taken by Seibei Kajima, a wealthy merchant who sacrificed a lot of his time and money for photography. He made significant contributions to the development of photography in Japan, experimenting with X-ray photography and magnesium flash photography—he is the one who made the first outdoor night photo in Japan!

View of Mount Fuji and Tagonoura Beach, 1887-1896 FUJIFILM SQUARE

View of Mount Fuji and Tagonoura Beach, 1887-1896 Photograph by Seibei Kajima, hand-colored albumen print. Collection the JCII Camera Museum *the work on display is a reproduction

Many of the prints on display are painstakingly later hand-colored, as was common practice at the time. From stunning close-ups of Mount Fuji to Kabuki actors’ and geishas’ portraits, these photos showcase both the culture of the times and the technological advancement of cameras. There is also something touching when you see these photographs, a feeling of forging a deeper relationship with Japan, akin to when you learn more stories from the youth of your grandparents or see their too-few old photos.

Where: FujiFilm Square Photo History Museum, Tokyo Midtown 1F, 9-7-3 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo
When: Until August 31, 2019
Admission: Free!

From photography, anime and manga art, to world-famous art installations, there is a lot of choice for art lovers this summer in Roppongi. The Story of Seibei Kajima, the “Millionaire Photographer” in the Meiji Period, Attack on Titan Final Exhibition, and Shiota Chiharu: The Soul Trembles being some of the best among many others in this art pocket of Tokyo. So, keep diving in museums this summer and you are guaranteed to find pearls of art!

 

Photos from Shiota Chiharu: The Soul Trembles and Attack on Titan The Final Exhibition were taken by the writer.