Takashi Murakami sets up shop in otaku heaven

May 28th, 2010 by Felicity Hughes

Murakami's gallery is flanked by stores selling rare toys

Murakami’s gallery is flanked by stores selling rare toys

Last month Takashi Murakami opened up a new gallery in Tokyo to show off his art work and the art work of artists he supports. While you’d expect such a high-profile artist to chose somewhere swanky and fashionable like Daikanyama or Omotesando, the king of cute decided to set up shop in the otaku haven that is the third floor of Nakano Broadway.

Hidari Zingaro gallery is not easy to find

Hidari Zingaro gallery is not easy to find

Opened in 1961, Nakano Broadway is fairly old by Japanese standards but unlike many shopping arcades of its time, the four-storey mall is still thriving. Finding the Hidari Zingaro gallery on the third floor was a bit of a challenge as it’s flanked by brightly colored shops selling rare toys or comics. In fact I only found the plain white fronted shop on my second circuit round. Inside, artworks by Chiho Aoshima, Nobuyoshi Araki and Mahomi Kunikata were displayed alongside Takashi Murakami’s work. Unfortunately, photography was not permitted and the gallery assistant was also very tight-lipped when it came to answering any questions about the gallery, revealing only that Murakami loved Nakano and that is why he’d decided to open a gallery there.

If you just stroll around Nakano Broadway you’ll see that there’s much for Murakami to love. The second and third floors are not only devoted to otaku culture but also house trendy stores such as Back to Mono, as well as old-school fortunetellers. A must-visit shop is Mandarake, purveyor of rare retro toys that have price tags to rival those on display at Hidari Zingaro (a piece by Murakami cost a minimum of ¥40,000).

On Nakano Broadway’s  first floor, there’s a huge number of incredibly cheap discount clothing stores that sell dresses for as little as ¥500 and the basement is home to a marvelous food market where you can buy what is possibly the tallest ice cream cone in Tokyo among other things. It a different story, however, if you venture up to the fourth floor where the number of active tenants is low and many of the shops have their shutters pulled down. Perhaps Murakami’s gallery will attract more of the art world and revitalize of this part of the mall.

Visitors to the gallery can expect exhibits to rapidly change and those who are able to read Japanese can follow Murakami on Twitter and hear about special events held there.

Mandarake is one of the best vintage toy stores

Mandarake is one of the best vintage toy stores

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