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Last week, we had a round-up of my choices for the seven stupidest art pieces in Tokyo, but lest you think I am just a negative Nelly incapable of appreciating talent and beauty, this week we’re presenting Tokyo’s seven coolest public art pieces.

Again, let me start with the standard disclaimer about the subjectivity of art, the changeability of generational, societal and personal preferences, yada yada yada. Now here are my choices:

Steampunk Clock by Hayao Miyazaki

Anime fans will like this one. Did you know that the Nippon Television building in Shiodome is home to the world’s largest animated clock, designed by none other than Spirited Away and The Wind Rises creator Hayao Miyazaki? It springs into life five times a day, with a short mechanical show set to music. As you might imagine, this is hugely popular with children, and quite a lot of adults as well.

Sure, this is a pop culture-influenced piece that doesn’t have the gravitas of, say, Prague’s astronomical clock, but it does have all the earmarks of a successful public art piece: it’s beautiful, it’s functional, and it both enriches and draws inspiration from the surrounding community.

Senaka Awase no Maru by Felice Varini

Swiss artist Felice Varini has a knack for messing with your mind. He uses a projector and stencil to make geometric images that pop out at you in depth-perception-defying ways if you are standing in just the right position. Like the whispering gallery in Grand Central Station, his work creates a kind of Easter egg for those in the know about a city. So next time you are in Tachikawa, impress your friends by knowing just where to stand to make the seemingly random black lines on the overpass and stairs turn into a giant, floating circle.

Fossils of 20th Century Civilization by Shoichiro Higuchi

One place where Tokyo really excels at public art is in the train and subway stations, in particular the Toei lines. That company has turned entire stations into art projects! But possibly one of the neatest pieces can be found stretching the entire length of a platform at Kiyosumi-Shirakawa Station. The artist has used all kinds of industrial metal relics, like nails, chain links, and gears, to create a giant mural with lovely geometric patterns. Each time you look at it, you notice something new, and unlike a lot of station art placed in walkways, the location of this one ensures you have plenty of time to consider it.

Figure of Underground Railroad by Akira Yamaguchi
Subway walkways can be kind of dark and sterile places, but some smart person at Nishi-Waseda Station realized that backlighting a stained glass artwork would give the illusion of sunlight underground and it changed the whole atmosphere of the station. Waseda is well-known for its wealth of educational institutions, including the prestigious Waseda University, and the piece makes reference to the intellectual life of the neighborhood in the details, showing elementary school kids in their uniforms, heads together over some bit of homework, college-age youths waiting for the train with musical instruments strapped to their backs, and professor types hurrying down the stairs. There’s also an interesting anachronistic quality to it, with some people wearing Showa-era clothes and others clearly talking on cell phones.

Myth of Tomorrow by Taro Okamoto

OK, one more piece of station art. Anyone who has been to the youth culture hub of Shibuya will probably recognize this huge mural near the entrance to the Inokashira Line. It’s by Japanese avant-garde darling Taro Okamoto, in his signature abstract style and primary colors. The painting mainly depicts the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but other small details that reference the dangers of nuclear technology are included, such as the Fukuryu-maru 5, a fishing boat whose crew and cargo were unknowingly subjected to massive doses of radiation from nuclear tests in the Bikini Atoll. It is so representative of the anti-nuclear movement that a Tokyo art collective secretly added a panel depicting the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi reactors in 2011.

Duality by ART+COM

The very best public art fits seamlessly into the surroundings, serving a functional purpose while also providing an artistic experience for those that stop to enjoy it. An excellent recent example is a piece in Shinagawa that unobtrusively uses LED screens and weight sensors to make an interactive artwork out of a simple walkway to the station. The glass tiles over the LED screens are equipped with load cells measuring the exact position and power of each footstep, triggering corresponding virtual waves on the screens that continue as actual waves in the adjacent pond. It’s an entrancing synthesis of the virtual and actual worlds with you as the nexus, orif you are late for your trainit’s not a big statue getting in your way.

Showa Rainbow Hammock by Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam

Artist Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam creates sprawling, hand-knit, rainbow-colored creations that are meant to be crawled over, hung from and bounced off in a very hands-on style of art appreciation. The story goes that MacAdam had a gallery show once where a child asked if it was OK to touch her work. Rather than trying to protect it from little hands, she encouraged him to climb all over it. Since then, she has been working with a Japanese structural engineer to create fun and safe installations for kids to enjoy. The picture above is from Tokyo’s Showa Kinen Park, but I confess my favorite work of hers, shown at the top of this article, is actually just outside of Tokyo at the Hakone Open Air Museum. Look at that beautiful crazy yarn playland and tell me your inner child isn’t itching to try it out.

OK, readers, those are my choices. How about yours? Got a favorite piece in Tokyo or your hometown? Tell us in the comments!

Source: RocketNews24
Images: NetPlayWorks (top), Afar (clock), @ART, ART+COM (Duality), Sugusugu (hammock)