Last Updated:Mar 17, 2011

Bakurocho: The New Art Town

A Tokyo gallery crawl.

One of the pitfalls of the Tokyo art world is its diaspora. The galleries are spread far and wide. Though there are a handful of funky buildings containing several galleries, they themselves are located in areas far from each other. When exhibition openings clash often a hard choice has to be made, since rarely is it possible to visit more than one in a night. The New York gallery crawl experience of taking in a glut of places in an hour is a foreign world indeed.

However, with the opening of Musashino Art University’s Gallery αM space in Bakurocho, alongside young galleries like CASHI and other 2008 arrivals, Tokyo is in danger of achieving a real art town in a most unexpected place.

Bakurocho is located relatively close to Kanda and other convenient areas, and is also just round the corner from Akihabara and shitamachi. Littered with Showa Era architecture, the district is a far cry from the plush museums of Roppongi. However, with the galleries has come a clutch of cafes, making it a pleasant place to have a lazy lunch.

On a sunny summer afternoon, TABlog took a stroll in the area to investigate if art gallery flanerie is possible.

Artistic it ain't but this large junction is a central landmark from where you head off to galleries in different directions.
Artistic it ain't but this large junction is a central landmark from where you head off to galleries in different directions.
Photo: William Andrews

You can start from JR Bakurocho, Bakuro-Yokoyama or Higashi Nihonbashi stations.
You can start from JR Bakurocho, Bakuro-Yokoyama or Higashi Nihonbashi stations.
Photo: William Andrews

Just a few minutes' walk from West exit 2 of JR Bakurocho Station is this building, home to Foil Gallery, Gallery αM and Taro Nasu.
Just a few minutes' walk from West exit 2 of JR Bakurocho Station is this building, home to Foil Gallery, Gallery αM and Taro Nasu.
Photo: William Andrews

Don't be put off by the building site next to Taro Nasu's separate entrance.
Don't be put off by the building site next to Taro Nasu's separate entrance.
Photo: William Andrews
You can recognize the building by the Foil Gallery banner and the nice cafe next door.
You can recognize the building by the Foil Gallery banner and the nice cafe next door.
Photo: William Andrews

Inside, go upstairs for Foil Gallery and down to the basement for Gallery αM.
Inside, go upstairs for Foil Gallery and down to the basement for Gallery αM.
Photo: William Andrews
Across the corridor to Foil Gallery is another nice eatery.
Across the corridor to Foil Gallery is another nice eatery.
Photo: William Andrews


より大きな地図で Bakurocho map 1 を表示

Go back to the junction and head another way to encounter this building with Gallery Hashimoto and Keumsan Gallery.
Go back to the junction and head another way to encounter this building with Gallery Hashimoto and Keumsan Gallery.
Photo: WA
The area has quite an 'old town' style about it.
The area has quite an 'old town' style about it.
Photo: William Andrews


より大きな地図で Bakurocho map 2 を表示

Yet another direction takes you to a back street with Radi-um, which moved from the Roppongi home it shared with Taro Nasu in 2008.
Yet another direction takes you to a back street with Radi-um, which moved from the Roppongi home it shared with Taro Nasu in 2008.
Photo: William Andrews
Right next door is CASHI.
Right next door is CASHI.
Photo: William Andrews

Both have quite distinct facades. Radi-um's is a deep red with tiny square windows.
Both have quite distinct facades. Radi-um's is a deep red with tiny square windows.
Photo: William Andrews
CASHI has a welcoming wall of glass.
CASHI has a welcoming wall of glass.
Photo: William Andrews


より大きな地図で Bakurocho map 3 を表示

I finished with a longer trek to the new home of Zenshi, recently moved from the Kiyosumi-Shirakawa building. Although a bit out of the way and very hard to find, it meant my crawl ended up right next to Iwamotocho Station, or a short walk from Akihabara.
I finished with a longer trek to the new home of Zenshi, recently moved from the Kiyosumi-Shirakawa building. Although a bit out of the way and very hard to find, it meant my crawl ended up right next to Iwamotocho Station, or a short walk from Akihabara.
Photo: William Andrews


より大きな地図で Bakurocho map 4 を表示
Bakurocho Venues

Gallery αM: opened in May 2009
Taro Nasu : moved from Roppongi, March 2008
Foil Gallery: also an art book publisher, since 2004
Radi-um: moved from Roppongi under a new name, March 2008
CASHI – Contemporary Art Shima: opened in 2008
Makii Masaru Fine Arts: just north of CASHI and Radi-um, since 2005
Gallery Hashimoto and Keumsan Gallery: since 2003
Zenshi: moved in June 2009

You can download a PDF map of the area’s art venues and recommended eateries here (Japanese only).
See this photo report of the closing of the old Roppongi building.
The July/August TAB Art Map also features CASHI and Gallery αM in its main article.

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William Andrews

William Andrews

William Andrews came to Japan in 2004. He first lived in Osaka, where he was a translator for Kansai Art Beat. Arriving in Tokyo in 2008, he now works as an writer, editor and translator. He writes a blog about Japanese radicalism and counterculture (<a href="https://throwoutyourbooks.wordpress.com/">ThrowOutYourBooks.wordpress.com</a>) and one about Tokyo contemporary theatre (<a href="http://www.tokyostages.wordpress.com">TokyoStages.wordpress.com</a>). He is the author of <em>Dissenting Japan: A History of Japanese Radicalism and Counterculture, from 1945 to Fukushima</em>.

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