Andy Rementer & Margherita Urbani in Tokyo

We here at Sight Unseen consider ourselves to be relatively worldly — I say this literally as Monica touches down in Norway — but if there’s one place that’s proved a holy grail for both of us, it’s Japan. We’ve never had the opportunity nor the funds to go, despite being relatively obsessed with the idea of both shopping and scouting there. So when two of our most visually attuned friends offered to provide us with a travelogue of sorts during their recent trip there, we jumped at the chance: Philadelphia-based partners-in-crime Andy Rementer and Margherita Urbani (whom many of you likely know from their collaborations in Apartamento magazine) were recently in Tokyo for two weeks, and they’ve provided us with a design and architecture guide that’s at once specific to their own experience and also perfect for anyone interested in graphic design, art, architecture, illustration, or ridiculously cute animal figures. Rementer was brought there for an art show of paintings and drawings at Commune Gallery, located in the Shimokitazawa neighborhood; for Margherita, “it was an inspiration trip 20 years in the making. It was our first time in Tokyo, and the city seemed to have surprises for us around every corner,” they wrote. “Here are a few things we discovered, observed, ate, bought, and enjoyed, as well as some notes about the experience of having a show and painting a public mural.”1_ARSHOW “For Andy’s show, Commune Gallery published a zine of his preparatory drawings for his paintings. It was RISO printed locally by JAM on fine Japanese paper.”
2_CLOCK “The architecture is so varied that every building is different. This ’90s clock spotted in Shinjuku seems strangely relevant.”
3_ONKUL “We picked up this issue of Onkul at 7-eleven, if you can believe that. Every girl in Tokyo was reading this. We’ve never seen such a fashion-forward, on-trend population. Style seems to go from lookbook to reality in a matter of seconds, and is far more effortless than in New York.”
4_VILLAGE_VANGUARD “Village Vanguard was one of the very first places we went in Shimokitazawa. It sort of blew our minds. It’s got everything under the sun from clothes to stationery to home goods, packed into what feels like a claustrophobic and slightly dystopian cavern. Imagine Canal Street in the ’90s, on acid.”
5_KINOKUNIYA “We’ve been to the Japanese bookstore Kinokuniya in New York many times, but we weren’t prepared for the explosion of awesomeness at the Shibuya location.”
7_SWIMSUIT “We were lucky to arrange an appointment to visit Swimsuit Department in Harajuku. It’s a store and gallery of vintage and selected items. On view was a lively show of Mexican Folk Art.”
8_CALM_AND_PUNK “Solo show of paintings by Atsuhsi Toyama at Calm & Punk Gallery in Roppongi, operated by Gas as Interface.”
9_SEKAIDO “Everybody talks about Tokyu Hands in Shibuya, specifically for the stationery department. But the real deal for art supplies is by far Sekaido. Located in Shinjuku, it’s six floors of crafty goodness; a kind of heaven for artists. Here, Margherita was able to find an abundance of gridded ‘Millimeter Paper’, which is impossible to find in the U.S.”
10_ZINES “The independent publishing and zine world is thriving. We met many artists who shared their publications with us. This is one by Tobias Gutmann called Let’s Make Language, on display at Commune Gallery.”
11_YU NAGABA “Yu Nagaba did countless icon drawings on Ace Hotel NY notepads brought to him by a traveling friend. The result was a show held at Midori, a gallery space located inside the ultra hip Commune 246 pop-up food truck and event space in Omotesando.”
12_MURAL “Public art is not very well received in Japan at the moment. Andy was lucky enough to have the opportunity to paint a mural in Kōenji as part of the rotating Legal Shutter residency program run by artist Taishi Nishihiro. But not too many people who walked by seemed to care about what we were doing. The only comment was by a small child who asked her mother ‘Mom, is this drawing?'”
13_AOYAMA “The luxury-mad retail area of Aoyama didn’t disappoint. The Prada building by Herzog & De Meuron is pure eye candy.”
14_RATHOLERat Hole Gallery was a great space, at the time with a dazzling floor installation by Jim Lambie.”
15_OC “The stairwell at Opening Ceremony in Harajuku made us go bonkers.”
16_USEFUL “A phrase to live by, found on one of the many compact trucks in the bustling fish market of Tsukiji.”
17_CANDY “Any previous opinions we may have had about cute characters on food packaging completely flew out of the window. Embracement level: 1000%”
18_NAKAGIN “A highlight was getting to see the famous Nakagin Capsule Tower designed by architect Kisho Kurokawa. It’s slated to be demolished soon, so it was treat to see it in real life.”
19_SKETCHBOOKS “Since we couldn’t grow another set of eyes, we spent the majority of our trip maxing out our memory cards and iPhoto libraries. Our sketchbooks filled up quickly.”
20_UMBRELLA “You are nobody without the ubiquitous transparent, plastic umbrella.”
21_COMMUNE “Commune Gallery owners Miyuki and Shuichi were wonderful Tokyo guides. They shared some inner secrets of the city, and in return we thanked them with some Purikura embarassment.”