YOD Gallery, Nishi Tenma • YODギャラリー、西天満

Just opposite the Nishi Tenma postoffice is YOD Gallery. I walk past it everyday on my commute to the office, so I popped in just last week to see Hintobi, "Dignity and Beauty" (more info here).

The gallery itself is a single room not more than 4 or 5 meters wide, but still seems that you can pack a lot of art in there. A noticable feature of YOD is the wide wall outside the building, which acts as a canvas for the exhibiting artist to advertise on. I've heard that it's even used for live painting sometimes!

Keep an eye on upcoming exhibitions. As it's in a great area for a bit of an art stroll, you can add it to the list of galleries you're going to see.


Kansai Creative: Chie Fukami • 関西クリエイテブ:深海知恵

If you've already been to Lotus Roots Cafe, you would have been greeted by a friendly smile from Chie Fukami.

This November marks Lotus Root's 5th anniversary. 5 years ago, a younger Chie, just resigned from a typical office job, met the owner of an old house in Tenma Bashi. She (the owner) was interested in starting a gallery, and after a first introduction, Chie thought to herself 'what a cool lady'. Before long, the gallery/cafe was established, and now she is practically running the place.

To see just how creative Lotus Roots is, you really have to go there yourself. The renovations to the original building have brought space and an inviting warmth to the place, and details like alcloves with rounded corners, the curves of the kitchen counter and the open 2nd floor reaveal that this was no ordinary contracted job.

Chie thinks about everything she serves on the menu too. There's good organic food and coffee, and home made drinks with tasty cake. Though there are plenty of good cafes around, ones with a dedicated gallery space are still few. Lotus Roots even has an area reserved for reception (for artists to use, and during events).

Working at Lotus Roots is a great chance to connect with people. Chie enjoys sharing what she's learn with others. "When working at a company, there isn't really anyone to tell aside from friends outside the office," says Chie, "meeting people I don't know and learning things I don't know about them really fits my style." She believes that she really is lucky to work at Lotus Roots.

So who's her favourite creator? "I like all creators that exhibit at Lotus Roots. First they take an interest in the gallery space, and they contact us. Once I get to know about them a bit more, I really become to like them." This said, Chie admits that she likes things that are easy to understand. "Do you know Akino Isamu? or Wakiko Higashiguchi?"

Know any great places to visit? "Gallery Muun • 夢雲 in Miro, Nara and Blue Ballen in Yufuin, Oita-ken." I'll have to check these out!

Know any useful English? After a trip to India, she swears that "How much?" and "Really?" are two things you HAVE to know. 『英語でがんばってします!』

Halloween Sink • ハロウィーンシンク

Look, it's a purely accidental halloween sink!

How to make your own halloween sink:
1. Go to Baskins and Robins to get some ice cream.
2. Tell the staff it's going to take a while to get home (they'll give you some dry ice).
3. Put the dry ice in the sink and run hot water over it!

Enjoy! (Laugh • 笑)

Crafz, Funakoshicho • クラフツ、船越町

Riding my bike around Osaka on a bit of a gallery tour one day, I came across Crafz. The window display on the first floor contained what looked like hand crafted watches! I had to see for myself if this was true or not, so I went upstairs.

A small shop, packed full of the most wonderfully rustic watches greeted me, with the pleasant sound of someone gently hammering fine metal at the back. And it was all true, from the custom leather straps and the hand worked exterior to the guts and workings, all watches on display were all hand made. To me they have this really rough looking 'just invented' type of feel, some with bolts and bits sticking out, others more watch than watch face. But it's all good!

After speaking with the staff at the shop, they asked me to make a few small mentions on the site: Firstly, they can't sell overseas unfortunately. They also don't have any English speaking staff, and because they pride themselves on good customer relations, they ask that you come with someone who can speak Japanese. The watches are very delicate, and the shop maintains all purchased watches on a regular basis, so as you can imagine, there's a lot of stuff to explain!

But not to put you off! Go, check it out! It's creative, and it's right here in Kansai!

For more information, check out their website here.

Crafz is produced by the Japan Handcraft-watch Association Kansai.

Why? • なぜ?

Let me say, without any hesitation whatsoever, that Kansai is a great place.

I love it! I've been here 7 years, and though for the first 6 I was cooped up in a box at Nova, this last year I've been getting out and about, flexing the Japanese I've learnt, meeting new people and going to new places and you know what? I'm IMPRESSED. Some of the stuff going down in Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo, Nara, Shiga and Wakayama is really worth a look. Some places are even worth regular visits: and I've decided to start tracking my advertures.

But why?

Well, one thing that I keep constantly thinking is "I wouldn't know this place if it wasn't for the (Japanese) introduction by someone else". Take a place like Itohen, for example. When I first went to there, I thought, "WHY haven't I found this place until now?", and the answer was because I didn't have the connections. But now I've found Itohen, and I'm lucky to have an aquaintance with Sumiya San who works there, (if you ever head there yourself, tell him you read my blog and he'll be delighted to have a chat! *YES OK It's a blog plug, whatEVER*) I've been finding that my network is growing: people are asking if i've been here, met this person, checked this site... and I'm finding that I'm having trouble blogging about all things cool in Kansai! There's too much~!

Let's talk serious for a second now. I'm sure if you've read the news, you'll see that Osaka is in trouble. The government dosen't have any money, and there's constant talk floating around about this being cut (the Midosuji Parade), and spending being reduced (Osaka Dome). Now, Osaka being the biggest city around, the effects of a government without money weigh heavily on peoples hearts. In terms of Design, my field, everyone is moving to Tokyo! There's a general feeling that you haven't made it as a designer if you haven't worked in Tokyo. Yes, there is a Design boom going on over there at the moment, but that's over there, not here.

A friend sent me a very interesting article called "Why to start a startup in a bad Economy." Though I'm not starting a startup, What I want to do in Osaka is much like a startup. There are great oppurtunities here for Design businesses, Illustrators, Photographers and other creative minded people purely because there's not much competition. It's great! Let everyone crowd into the other areas (e.g. Tokyo), leaving more space for those willing to hang around to be creative. That's cool with me! I'm here to track it all (the best I possibly can), RIGHT HERE, in TSUNAGARI D.

Read me! I'm going to bust some ass going around Kansai trying to build a bit of an international scene! I guarantee that some of the places I go to you wouldn't know about if you couldn't speak Japanese. But don't worry, you've got me to follow. My Japanese may not be kickass, but I can order beers and ask for business cards (and if it's OK to take photos and put them on my blog), and I get there!

...there was this one time that I got lost, though. Oh, and another time I found the gallery, but it was closed. But I persist!

I will show you places to visit! I will reccomend the best of the best! I will Introduce you to people in Kansai who are cool and who make great stuff! Hey, if you've actually got the guts to say "Yeah, oright, go on then. Introduce me to him/her." I will! But you must promise to be nice and not be rude.

I'm gonna canvas this place, and do it all in English, to try to build a bit of a scene here in Kansai. You can help me out if you want. I'll take any kind of help I can get. Tell your friends, and get them to tell their friends. Tell me about places that you've been to that I haven't! (I'm the jealous type, I'll get there in a flash and say HAH! Now i've been here too.) Or tell me about places that we both haven't been. There's plenty to see out there in Kansai.

I am always planning to make this blog bilingual (kind of in the back of my head). It's hard work translating your own stuff on a regular basis. Originally, I wanted to do this blog in Japanese and English, for anyone interested in either language—to be used as a language tool. But currently I've decided to progress only in English. But that dosen't mean that it's not going to be as great as it could have been! I will find a way to do the Japanese in the end, I know I will. For the time being, anyone who's native language is not English, please be prepared to read it.

All those living in Kansai, and for those wishing to visit it sometime, I hope you love the place as much as I do! Help me spread it some!

Yoroshiku~ • よろしく〜

Lotus Roots Cafe, Nishi Tenma • ロータスルーツカフェ、西天満橋

I work in an office in Nishi Tenma, and I'm just around the corner from Lotus Roots Cafe, a very cozy cafe and gallery. There are few cafes around that also have a dedicated space for exhibitions and workshops, but after visiting those that are there, you kinda wish there was more.

The Building is actually an old house that has been converted with a very rustic feel. There's a small atrium in the middle which is open to the sky, the lights and speakers in the room are made from gourds and there's a cute little arc leading to the wash room that you have to stoop to go under.

Weekly/biweekly there's a new exhibition to see, the menu is full of organic food and drinks, and the staff member working there, Chie Fukami, greets you with a warm and friendly atmosphere making you want to go back there again and again!

I rank Lotus Roots Cafe high on my list of creative places worth visiting.

For more information, visit their website: http://www.lotusroots.org/

Mebic Creative Cluster Meeting @ Midosuji Kappo • Mebicクリエイティブクラスター @ 御堂筋Kappo

Mebic Ogimachi is a incubation office building set up specifically for people in the creative fields. The Mebic Creative Cluster Meetings are setup for designers and the like to come together, creating connections and networks, while discussing relevant topics. While the meetings are usually held at their HQ in Ogimachi, this time the organizer, Mr. Dono decided to have an open air meeting at the Midosuji Kappo Rucksack Exhibition, and the general public were invited to overhear the discussions.

The MC for the event was Mr. Esaki of the School of Passion • 情熱の学校, who had a natural talent for public speaking, and seemed to enjoy himself the whole time.

We were divided into two groups, left and right of the board in the center. On the left, including myself, were the representatives of Kita • 北 and on the right were the representatives of Minami • 南, though I don't know exactly where the line was drawn in Osaka city. I know that I'm in Tennma, and that's considered north.

The meeting was an open mic style discussion centering around 3 main problems. Though the problems were very business focused and not very creative, they were engaging and I believe that the audience got something from it.

I found that I wasn't able to contribute so much serious discussion as I found my business and client interaction experience very limited, especially in Japan, but at the after party I met some really interesting designers, and most of them running their own companies.

The official report from the meeting can be found here (Japanese only). It includes the very awesome comment I made.

Mebic are located in Ogimachi, Osaka. For more information, visit their website: http://www.mebic.com/

Midosuji Kappo: Rucksack Exhibition • 御堂筋Kappo:リュックサック展覧会

On Sunday the 12th of October, as part of the Heart of Osaka Autumn Festival • 秋祭り, Midosuji was closed for the afternoon, and art flooded onto the streets (like where the cars usually drive and stuff). I was invited to the event to take part in a slightly-different-than-normal open air Mebic Cluster Meeting, which was held amongst the other artists participating in the Rucksack Exhibition.

A few weeks ago I was lucky to meet Mr. Yamano, chief producer of the Osaka 21st Century Association, the organizer of the event. He organized the rucksack exhibition for the afternoon with the idea that it wouldn't be art on display, but the artists themselves.

The artists were allowed to display anything they could fit into a rucksack, though they were not allowed to sell their work. I arrived early as I wanted to have a good look around at all the individual exhibitions before the Mebic meeting.

I was thoroughly impressed: there are some very nice Illustrators, and I met a nice photographer. I collected a few email addresses and made promises to contact people later.

And then there were these guys (following pictures).

People were allowed to feed them trash • ゴミ. I saw them chasing some kids later when they were let loose.

Sai Gallery, Kitahama • サイギャラリー北浜

Tucked away in the 6th floor of the Eiwa • 永和 Building (Kitahama, Osaka) is a nice little gallery of contemporary art called Sai Gallery. Around Nakanoshima (Kitahama, Tennma) there are a great many galleries, and plenty to see. Though Sai Gallery is a little hard to find, it's worth the visit if you happen to be in the area.

Sai Gallery is run by Yoko Nishimoto, and has been around since 1991.

Unlike most small Galleries, it has a counter with chairs against the window on the river side, so you can sit and soak up a very nice view of Nakanoshima after browsing the current exhibition.

You can check out more information on their website:

Kansai Creative: Coudai Nakamura • 関西クリエイテブ:中村晃大

The first time I met Coudai, I was at Jam collecting print samples, and he happened to be manning the desk. It wasn't till later that I found out he painted, and not only painted, but also made the majority of the furniture in Jam's reception.

I first saw Coudai's work at Itohen in Nakazakicho. He happened to be there and he remembered our first encounter. He had some samples of his work with him and pulled them out to show me. I was taken by the interesting characters that appear in his work, and also his habit of adding something funny or peculiar to them.

Later I came across another piece of work where he had drawn a bunch of interesting characters in the footprints of various animals. I found myself bending down to study these faces and laughing at them.

I just have to meet this guy for a chat, I thought to myself.

I asked Coudai out for dinner one evening, and over beer and chicken we had a very pleasant chat about all kinds of things. Coudai likes Osaka, and the way that people always seem to tag something funny onto what they are saying. He's a friendly guy with a DIY attitude: hence the furniture in the reception of Jam. "I brought all the tools myself," he said.

He featured in Summer Sonic 2008 as a live painter (see the image below). "I knew the person in charge through a teacher at the school I used to go to. I showed him some of my stuff and asked if I could paint next year."

For more information on Coudai Nakamura I recommend you check out his website: http://www.codaiweb.com/

Live Painting at Summer Sonic, 2008