About a year ago I moved apartments in Tokyo, from Higashi-Koenji to Araiyakushimae. I realize that, for most people reading this post, the names of these neighborhoods mean very little. They’re not too far apart, though; I can bike from my new apartment to my old one in about 25 minutes. When I told people I was moving over there, I got a lot of weird looks, along the lines of, “why would you go through all the trouble of moving, if you’re practically living in the same place?” I didn’t think twice about it though. My new place is maybe a little bit smaller than my old one, but it’s cheaper, gets more light, and has a roof which is ideal for summer barbeques. The best part about it, though, is probably the neighborhood.
Araiyakushimae (新井薬師前) is like a slice of 1970s Japan which has been left untouched by the high-rise development that is common to so many Tokyo neighborhoods. It’s a laid back area, where the people have been extremely friendly—most of the businesses around here are not chains, so the people working there will talk to you in an open way. It’s a real change of pace from central Tokyo.
Around the time I was moving, my friend Cameron mentioned to me that there was a photography gallery in the area, called 35 Minutes. I had trouble believing it, since there’s not too much (if any) culture aimed at young people in the area. But he said he’d take me by when they did something, and sure enough there was an event over the summer, where I met some of the people who were running the gallery. There was a good atmosphere at the opening, and I went home feeling glad that there was actually a space for photography about 5 minutes outside my door.
I heard that the events at 35 Minutes were pretty infrequent, so I didn’t think too much of it. Later, I bumped into a couple of the members, at the local bar, and then sitting out side on a bench by the train station. We’d talk, and after meeting up a few times, Kota, the guy who runs the space, told me that it had become underused, and that he wanted to start putting on some more shows. He was also interested in connecting with photo communities outside of Japan, in whatever way possible. He suggested that we do something together, and I didn’t have to think twice about saying yes.
So here we are, it’s November and we’re putting on our first show as Studio 35 Minutes in a week or so. We’re showing some photographs by Benjamin Alexander Huseby, a photographer from Berlin. It’s part of a broader series of exhibits in Tokyo featuring Berlin artists. The flyer is pasted in at the bottom of the page, and the same information (plus a map) is available on our website.
I would be lying if I said I know exactly what I am trying to get out of this experience. I’m pretty sure that the gallery world is not a place I want to be forever, but this is a great chance to experiment, make mistakes, and hopefully put together a couple of interesting things. The gallery has a strong DIY past, you can see old flyers and publications at the old website. I’ll update here as more things come through.