Travel Diary: Los Angeles Day 3 (Part 4) - Little Tokyo

January 25, 2016 (continued): The next place I checked out was mainly the Japanese Village Plaza area in Little Tokyo. Making my way from the Go For Broke Monument, I passed by some interesting art along the way.

On the side of one of the buildings in the Japanese American National Museum is a mural entitled, Moon Beholders by Katie Yamasaki.

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Further down the street beside the other building of the museum is the OOMO Cube, a giant rubix-like cube with different facial features from all different backgrounds and ethnicities you can mix and match to show that we are more similar than different. I added my mean “frowning in the sunlight” mug to the equation on one of the mirrored sides of the sculpture.

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I then ventured towards the Japanese Village Plaza. Out in front is a replica of a Japanese fire lookout called the Yagura Fire Tower. It was actually designed by a Korean-American architect David Hyun in 1978.

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Inside the plaza is small but has a mix of Japanese themed shops specializing in nik naks, toys, clothes and beauty. There are also a few restaurants, sweets and bakery shops and a Japanese market.

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In the courtyard are traditional, Japanese wishing trees where people write their wishes on small pieces of paper and tie them to the bamboo tree. In normal tradition the tree is later thrown into the river or brought to a shrine and set fire to in order for the wish to come true. I just thought it was a lovely scene in being able to visually see people's hopes and dreams in colorful, physical form.

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It was starting to get late, and I was getting hungry so I went to try a nearby ramen restaurant Shin-Sen-Gumi which in Little Tokyo is located across the street from the Japanese Village Plaza. At this location there is usually a line of patrons waiting to get in, pretty much any time of day but it usually moves fairly quickly. They sell only one type of base broth and then you choose from a variety of toppings including a miso butter bomb, to tomato paste and mozzarella(!!). I got one of the suggested combinations of kimchi, garlic chips and a poached egg. It was delicious, the noodles were nicely aldente, the toppings added a nice texture and flavor variation that helped cut the richness of the broth.

It was also surreal to see non-Japanese chefs cooking the ramen who conversing in perfect Japanese. At the same time it made me ashamed in my own lack of fluency.

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I finished off the night with dessert at the Mikawaya store back in the plaza, where they have a variety of different flavored Japanese mochi ice cream. Here is the cookies and cream version. 美味しかった! (It was delicious!).

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Travel Diary: Seattle Day 4 - Chihuly Glass & Garden

January 18, 2016 (continued): My next stop was something that’s been on my bucket list for a while, and luckily the Chihuly Garden & Glass was right next door to the Space Needle!

My introduction to the works of Dale Chihuly was originally coming across pictures of the stunning glass ceilings that he created for the Bellagio Casino in Vegas. He’s originally from Washington so what better than to see his works in his hometown.

The explosion of color throughout the gallery was akin to a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory moment, where the glass sculptures reminded me of giant candy ready to be picked! Of course it is sort of daunting going throughout there since everything is so delicately put together that one small move and it could all come crashing down! How they sculpted the pieces of blown glass to fit so intricately together like a puzzle is amazing, especially when seeing it in real life. Even though the pictures don’t do his work justice, see below for some of my favorite pieces from my time there.

Surrealists

Surrealism is one of my favorite artistic movements, there’s something about the juxtaposition of reality and the bizarre that creates this dynamic, visual dream world. It may jar you at first with its provocative concepts, but then when you stop to think about it, it seems to take you out of your own reality for that moment and projects you into an alternate one.

I like all things strange and I like all things humorous so I was happy to discover this awesome combination when I was bingeing on clips of The Eric Andre Show on YouTube. Be warned, if you haven’t heard about the show, it’s not for the faint of heart. To give you a clue as to what you're in for, it's on the Adult Swim channel and under Tim and Eric’s company. It’s quite polarizing, some people love it or hate it but I found the more I watched, the more I couldn’t get enough of it and wanted to know more - much like surrealist art. 

Something that has also been catching my eye in terms of modern day surrealism is ironically these vintage stock art that has been reimagined utilizing collage techniques to create this visual dream state. Below, are some of my favorite new vintage surrealists that I have come across.

Free Falling   by Trash Riot

Free Falling by Trash Riot

Follow Me  by Frank Moth

Follow Me by Frank Moth

Ula Space   by Mariano Peccinetti

Ula Space by Mariano Peccinetti

Escape Route   by Beth Hoeckel

Escape Route by Beth Hoeckel

Artsy Abbot Kinney

The other day, I went on a little excursion to explore the famous Abbot Kinney Blvd in Venice. I’d heard how heavily gentrified it had become and was now the go to place for artists and the like. Even upon exiting the parking lot, there was mural after mural, street art after street art painted on gates, shop exteriors, sidewalks, etc.  I was a kid in a candy store - it was akin to being in a free outdoor art gallery, everywhere you turned was a hidden little pocket of artistic expression. The mix of cool, eclectic shops and palm tree lined street added to the fun vibe of the area. I highly recommend checking it out if you’re ever in LA.

All photos taken by me on my iPhone 6.

Thursday Tip: It's Hammer Time

Since I’m always up for a ballin’ on a budget moment, what better way to get my arts and culture on with a practically free Hammer Museum visit. It is free admission with just a $6 flat rate parking fee (most museums have an average $10-$15 flat rate for parking).

The museum is a great mix of contemporary art pieces along with these interactive spinning top chairs you can try out in the courtyard, great if you’re a big kid like me!

Michael Velliquette

I love the internet and how you can stumble upon such beautiful work, where you were originally looking at something else completely different!

These gorgeous hand sculpted cut paper works are by an American artist, Michael Velliquette. I love that he uses everyday materials and turns them into spectacular pieces as he says here

I tend to work with materials and tools that are available to most hands - paper, scissors, paint, glue - and which are then transformed into spectacles of the handmade.

See much more of his work here.

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