Tuesday, September 1, 2009


(Start out at the Keio line Shimo-Kitazawa South exit).

I mentioned a few days ago that the Japan Times had an entry in their art exhibits listings for Kazuo Umezu x Ukiyo-e. at the GAoh! gallery. Unfortunately, they didn't give a URL for GAoh!, so it took me a while to track it down. It's a new art space in Shimo-Kitazawa, which is a few minutes southwest of Shinjuku on the Odakyu line.

(You'll be facing this way. Go straight ahead about 6 blocks.)

GAoh! is actually fairly tricky to find since Shimo-Kitazawa (SK) has lots of little art galleries and twisty little alleys. Even with a map, and the help of several people working in the area, it took me over an hour to find it. Didn't help that I started out from the wrong exit from the station, either. The SK station is pretty crazy, being a connection for the Keio and Odakyu lines, and you have to go up and down flights of steps and cross from one end of the platform to another to get to the south Keio exit from the Odakyu line. The station feels like it was designed by MC Escher. Anyway, make sure you're at the south Keio exit and go straight ahead into the rabbit warren. Follow this alley forward as it winds a bit, for about 6 blocks.

(When you get to this corner, turn right. Look for the little sign for GAoh! next to the vending machine,)

Look for this corner and turn right. At the moment, there's construction going on in one block on the right, and you know your turn is coming up when you pass this construction. Take the turn and go another 4 short blocks. The street will wind a little, again, but try to go pretty much straight ahead. You'll see the building on the left.

(This is what you're looking for.)

As I said, GAoh! is a new art space, and they've got exhibit space available for rent on the second floor and in BF1. The first floor is pretty much being treated as a goods shop for Kazuo Umezu, AKA UMEZZ. It was funny - when I approached the second person in SK to ask for help, I mentioned that I was looking for GAoh!, and he immediately flashed Umezz's secret hand sign and repeated "gaoh" back at me. So, he knew what I was looking for, it was just that the streets are so twisty that he didn't know how to get there.

There are some other manga goods in the first floor shop from other artists, but over half is for Umezz. There didn't seem to be anything on the 2nd floor. The basement has a small collection of about 12 woodblock prints of Umezz's horror works. So, the title, "Kazuo Umezu x Ukiyo-e" is a pun, indicating Umezz's assault on the printing method used for Ukiyo-e. Part of the exhibit shows the different stages of the printing process, with the woodblocks used for each color.

(Different stages of the woodblock print process.)

(Close-up of 2 of the woodblocks.)

It's an interesting little exhibit, but it's easy to blast through in just a few minutes. Fortunately, it's free. And the gift shop has some nice t-shirts. Umezz's art style is an acquired taste and not everyone is going to like it. But, if you enjoyed "The Drifting Classroom" or "14-sei", then I recommend checking this place out if you're ever in the area. And be sure to pose for a photo in front of the shop.

(Some of the finished prints.)

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