The Letter

We went to Shibuya again to see some Dutch paintings.

Readers may recall that the last time we went to Bunkamura exhibition hall, Pandaonium managed to get us "lost on the way to the Geographer". I've had other troubles in Shibuya before, such as the time six years ago when I was waiting for K to get out of a business meeting and find me at the station, I was approached by an English speaking prostitute (yuck) who was annoyingly persistent and repeated everything I said (she was practicing her English!).

The place is crowded, noisy, and populated by odd characters, which may be fun for some people, but not this shy panda. It's a zoo. On top of that, as if Japan weren't trying to squeak by with all but two of its 56 nuclear power plants off-line and depending instead on imported oil and LNG, all the neon signs and billboard-sized flat screen displays were lit up and the speakers were pounding out advertising like there was no tomorrow (hmm, could be).

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lights, video screens, loud speakers, crowds, traffic, trains, wackos - help!

This time at least, I didn't get lost and we arrived in 7 minutes by the most direct route from the station. The exhibit was excellent with the main attraction being Johannes Vermeer's Girl Reading a Letter, which can normally be found at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, but has been out of public view for the past two years undergoing renovation. Nice shade of Blue, don't you think?

For three of the Vermeer letter paintings, it was the first time to be exhibited in Japan.
The theme of the exhibit, which included over forty works by Vermeer, Pieter de Hooch, Jan Steen, Gerard ter Borch and many others, was "Communication: Visualizing the Human Connection in the Age of Vermeer". The paintings depicted people playing music, talking, singing, partying, consulting attorneys, doctors, and so on, and of course, reading or writing letters.
Our favorite of the day was Vermeer's “A Lady Writing a Letter with her Maid”, 1670

A Lady Writing - Vermeer c. 1665-1666

After viewing the exhibit we went into Tokyu department store which is connected to Bunkamura, and had tempura lunch at a top floor restaurant. The food was OK, but I was a bit miffed that my lunch cost ¥800 yen more than K's, even though they were identical, only because hers was labelled "lady's lunch". Hers also included sherbet which mine did not. On the way out I noticed some photos of some elites who had dined there - Frank Sinatra, Jacques RenĂ© Chirac, Bill Clinton, and others.

Though it was still early, we headed home, and it was perhaps a good thing that we did. For later in the afternoon, around 4 pm, in a walkway between Tokyu department store and the train station a woman her 70s felt she was being stared at, so ran up behind a woman of 61 and stabbed her with a knife leaving a 5 inch deep wound in her back and other cuts in her chest and arms. The victim survived. Such violence is the stuff of Hollywood movies, rarely the streets of Japan.

Well, violence is certainly one way to communicate, but really, she should have just written a letter.

As much as I like to complain about "the big city", we are really quite fortunate to be close enough to make a day trip of it and so able to enjoy a wide range of cultural treats such as this exhibit, and come home to our quiet "village" by the lake.


Lrong said...

Wow, the stabbing incident... just like that? Scary, eh...

Pandabonium said...

Lrong - yeah. very scary. so random.

Joesbackyard said...

I look at here and wonder, what is she thinking while she is reading the letter in her hands ? I wish I Knew...

Pandabonium said...

Joe - yes, indeed. There are hints of the situation - a map of the Netherlands indicating, perhaps, the absence of her significant other, a wealthy household as shown by her expensive silk house coat and the Spanish leather chairs. She holds the letter in both hands. She seems engrossed, yet calm. But Vermeer does not let us see beyond that, so we are left to wonder.

HappySurfer said...

The wonder of paintings, besides their beauty, they let you see through time.

The stabbing is scary. We have such incidents here too - parang(long knife)-wielding robbers at Internet cafes and lately the re-emergence of acid attacks after a lapse of six months.

Pandabonium said...

HappySurfer - it was interesting to think about letter writing which became very popular in Holland in the 17th century and today's electronic methods of communication.

I still like letters written on paper best, since I can keep as long as I like.