Things to do this week in Tokyo

Free poutine at Robson Fries

Tue Jun 11, 2013 Robson Fries
What’s better than chips with cheese and gravy? A free portion of chips with cheese and gravy, that’s what. Canadian fast food specialist Robson Fries celebrates its first anniversary on Tuesday, and it’ll be dishing out free portions of poutine to the first 500 customers to stop by.


Open June 11

Time From noon (first 500 customers)

Venue Robson Fries

Address 2-31-5 Shimokitazawa, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo

Transport Shimokitazawa Station (Odakyu, Keio Inokashira lines), north exit

The Place Beyond the Pines

Ryan Gosling plays a modern Robin Hood in this overreaching drama

The Place Beyond the Pines

Director: Derek Cianfrance
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes

You’re not going to learn it from the movie itself, but the poetic title of Derek Cianfrance’s latest is an English translation for Schenectady, the Mohawk-derived name for the New York town where it’s set. That’s a clue: for what’s basically a grubby sins-of-the-father story, the mood here is grander than expected – mythic, portentous and likeably heavy, even in its overreach. We start in Dardenne-brothers territory, as a mysterious, tattooed carnival stunt biker (Ryan Gosling) awakens to his status as a father, bailing on the circus to provide for his infant son by robbing banks. We’re too close to Drive to see this performance as anything special, but when Suicide’s ‘Che’ churns to life on the soundtrack and Gosling peels out, there are thrills to be had.

Cianfrance has too much love for this blond Robin Hood to judge him all that harshly, and just as our hero is cornered by the law, we’re asked to switch allegiance to the ‘hero cop’ (Bradley Cooper) who enters the tale, also a young parent and surrounded by bad influences. (In his case, it’s a corrupt precinct dominated by the ever-menacing Ray Liotta.) The shift feels like whiplash – another one’s in store, when we jump 15 years ahead to see the fates of the two kids – and there’s a distinct feeling that the movie is trapped in its own pop psychology. Yet after the actor-centric fireworks of Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine (2010), it’s impressive to see him going after a wider sociopolitical scope, one that would have been better served by a less repetitive structure. Even if the place beyond the pines is just Schenectady, the ambition will lead to higher ground.

The Place Beyond the Pines opens at select cinemas nationwide on May 25

Hooters Beer Garden Otemachi

Thu Jun 13 – Mon Sep 30, 2013 Metro Square 1F Metro Square
Family restaurant of choice for leery salarymen (and, it must be said, a surprising number of Japanese women), Hooters will be hitting the great outdoors this summer, as it opens a temporary beer garden in the heart of the Marunouchi office district. Join the local suits as they ogle at the waitresses’ lovely, er, faces, and order up a few rounds of beer and chicken wings.


Open June 13-September 30

Time Mon-Fri 11.30am-2pm, 5pm-11pm; Sat, Sun & hols 11am-11pm

Venue Metro Square 1F Metro Square

Address 1F Tokyo Sankei Building, 1-7-2 Otemachi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo

Transport Otemachi Station (Hanzomon, Marunouchi, Chiyoda, Tozai, Mita lines), exit A4 or E1

The Great Gatsby

Baz Luhrmann retools a literary classic for the ‘Twilight’ generation

The Great Gatsby

Director: Baz Luhrmann
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire
Japanese title: Karei naru Gatsby

The purists have had their knives sharpened for months, and now that Baz Luhrmann’s 3D adaptation of F Scott Fitzgerald’s canonical novel is finally here, the dissection and disembowelment can begin. This bombastic superproduction is certainly its own strange beast – bluntly effective as melodrama, vividly colourful in its stereoscopic grandeur, never a dull moment, etc., etc. You just have to accept that the themes undergirding Fitzgerald’s precise prose (the bracing critiques of willfully blind idealism and Jazz Age excess) have been squashed by overproduced spectacle. That’s a bit of a backbreaking proviso.

A seductive skin remains: embittered narrator Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), self-made romantic Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) and flighty flapper Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan) move with great ease through the story’s tragic-romantic beats. Yet while the book’s metaphorical signposts all appear (the blinking green light across the Long Island bay, the Doctor TJ Eckleburg billboard), and Fitzgerald’s text is often spoken verbatim, there’s something crucial missing. You can trace it to Luhrmann’s Minnelli-on-acid aesthetic: the anachronistic pop-music cues, digitally augmented tracking shots and disco-globe–glittery production design don’t recreate the headiness of early-20th-century New York so much as invent a billowy fantasy otherworld in the gauzy vein of Twilight. Shorn of its quintessentially American roots, a biting tale of adult extravagance becomes insubstantially tween-aged.

The Great Gatsby opens nationwide on June 14

Antonio López

Until Sun Jun 16, 2013 Bunkamura The Museum
Best known from Victor Erice’s 1992 film Quince Tree of the Sun, Spanish hyperrealist painter Antonio López Garcia has only had a few solo exhibitions in the course of his five-decade career. Following well-received shows at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in 2008 and Madrid’s Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza in 2011, he’s now heading to Japan for a career retrospective that’s being described as the ‘first and perhaps the last opportunity’ to see his work here – and they probably aren’t exaggerating, either. The show features 65 pieces from throughout his career, including key works ‘Gran Vía’ (pictured) and the sculpture piece ‘Man and Woman’.


Open April 27-June 16

Time Daily 10am-7pm (Fri, Sat until 9pm)

Admission Adults ¥1,400, students ¥1,000, junior high & elementary students ¥700

Venue Bunkamura The Museum

Address Bunkamura B1, 2-24-1 Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

Transport Shibuya station (Yamanote, Ginza lines), Hachiko exit; (Hanzomon line), exit 3A.

International Tokyo Toy Show 2013

Sat Jun 15 – Sun Jun 16, 2013 Tokyo Big Sight
Unleash your inner child at this year’s International Tokyo Toy Show, where everything from soft toys to dolls and games will be on display. Have a gander at some of their latest creations – and discover what your kids will be pestering you to buy them next. The largest event of its kind in Japan features exhibits from all the big names in toy-making, including Bandai, Mattel, Square Enix and many others, plus a dedicated area where kids are actually allowed to play with some of the toys.


Open June 15-16

Time June 15 9am-5pm, June 16 9am-4pm

Admission Free

Venue Tokyo Big Sight

Address 3-11-1 Ariake, Koto, Tokyo

Transport Kokusaitenjijo Station (JR Rinkai Line) or Kokusai-tenjijo-seimon station (Yurikamome Line)

Warrior Dash Japan

Sat Jun 15 – Sun Jun 16, 2013 Sagamiko Resort Pleasure Forest
Five kilometres has never seemed so epic. Join the world’s largest running series in a muddy obstacle course that will test your endurance and push you to your limits, as the Warrior Dash makes its Japan debut at Sagamiko Resort this month. Throw on your fluffy warrior helmet and battle your way through a course featuring 15 natural and man-made obstacles, then unwind with a stein of beer while listening to DJs including Ken Ishii (Saturday only). Race start times are staggered at thirty-minute intervals throughout the day, with up to 500 intrepid runners departing at each time. If you just want to go and soak up the atmosphere, opt for a ¥1,000 ‘festival attendee’ ticket.


Open June 15-16

Time June 15 from 11am, June 16 from 9am

Admission Runners ¥8,000, spectators ¥1,000

Twitter WarriordashJa

Venue Sagamiko Resort Pleasure Forest

Address 1934 Wakayanagi, Midori-ku, Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture

Transport Sagamiko Station (Chuo main line), then bus to Pleasure Forest Mae

Fussa Firefly Festival (2013)

Sat Jun 15, 2013 Hotaru Koen
Late spring, just before the rainy month, brings hotaru season – a brief period of days, drenched in sweat and nostalgia, when Genji fireflies come out and enchant riverbanks across the county. The festivals that surround their appearance are often friendly affairs, none more so than the annual Fussa Hotaru Matsuri. Locals are known to breed the fireflies and release them in Fussa Hotaru Park, and it’s thought that the best time to see them is around 8pm, although there’s other entertainment going on throughout the day. It’s likely to be crowded event, so visitors are advised to come via public transport.


Open June 15 (in the event of rain, the festival will take place the following day)

Time 1pm-9pm

Venue Hotaru Koen

Spring Breakers

Bikini’d teens run wild in a bizarre offering from Harmony Korine

Spring Breakers

Director: Harmony Korine
Starring: James Franco, Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson

It’s not just the ample teen flesh that’s a little tender in the new film from Harmony Korine – the impish American filmmaker who wrote Kids (1995) when he was around college age and directed Gummo and Mister Lonely. Korine’s last full-length film was the scuzzy, experimental Trash Humpers, and he often keeps things unpolished in look and spiky in tone. But this absurd, brightly glowing tale of three girls (Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson and Rachel Korine) who rob a restaurant to fund a booze-and-sex holiday in Florida with a fourth friend (Selena Gomez) is surprisingly good-looking, dreamy and soft-centred.

Which is odd because, on the surface, Korine’s story overflows with nastiness: guns, drugs, dirty cash and endless sins of the flesh. Once our bikini’d quartet arrive in Florida, their hard-partying lands them in jail, until they’re bailed out by Alien (James Franco), a gangster in a sports car who’s all cornrows, gold teeth and loud shirts. At first it seems like Alien is a joke, but it soon turns out he’s a gangster for real – although he still comes across as a complete clown. It’s a bizarre and upending performance; Franco gives it all he’s got and is forever spinning guns and fondling cash (when he’s not playing Britney Spears on a white poolside piano).

What threatens to be a down ’n’ dirty tits ’n’ ass fest in the style of Larry Clark, or even a kids-in-peril thriller, actually turns into a warped fairytale of the American teen dream of hedonism and crime, one that takes itself just seriously enough not to be dismissed as trashy exploitation. It flirts with the mainstream – from which it borrows its style, music and actresses – but the film’s true intent is never fully clear. It’s campy and comic at times, but Korine also gives the film a downbeat, melancholic edge, with voiceovers, pointed repetition of dialogue and images, and hallucinatory camera work, sound and editing.

All this helps to prevent Spring Breakers from becoming a full-on flesh fest, and tips it more towards the surreal. There’s no judgment here, nor is Korine simply celebrating the good-bad life into which Alien leads these teens. He’s mostly determined just to show us a good time, and he does that in full-on, bass-thumping, flesh-panning style, even if his lack of commitment to character and clear ideas is frustrating at times.

Spring Breakers opens at at select cinemas nationwide on June 15

‘Mono no Aware’ and Japanese Beauty

Until Sun Jun 16, 2013 Suntory Museum of Art
It’s one of the key concepts in Japanese aesthetics and literature, but ‘mono no aware’ (literally, ‘the pathos of things’) is something that’s best experienced rather than explained. Nurture your appreciation of the ephemeral at the Suntory Museum of Art’s spring exhibition, which revolves around the motifs of kacho fugetsu (flowers, birds, wind and moon) andsetsugekka (sun, moon and flowers).


Open April 17-June 16 Closed Tue (except April 30)

Time Mon, Wed-Sun 10am-6pm (Fri, Sat until 8pm)

Admission Adults ¥1,300, students ¥1,000

Venue Suntory Museum of Art

Address Tokyo Midtown, 9-7-4 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo

Transport Roppongi Station (Oedo, Hibiya lines), Nogizaka Station (Chiyoda line)

New 10am Film Festival

Until Fri Mar 21, 2014 Toho Cinemas Roppongi Hills Rakutenchi Cinemas Kinshicho, Tachikawa Cinema City, Toho Cinemas Fuchu

Toho’s popular 10am Film Festival – a season of morning movie screenings that allowed audiences to revisit classics from Belle de Jour to Back to the Future – looked set to bow out in 2013, yet another victim of the switchover from celluloid to digital. But fret not, cineastes: after some last-minute wrangling, the event will be continuing in a new, all-digital format. That’s not the only change, either – there are now four Tokyo-area cinemas taking part, with each film now getting an extended, two week run. The following list is for screenings at Toho Cinemas Roppongi Hills; see the official website for details of screenings at other participating cinemas (Japanese only):

April 6-19: The Last Adventure (Les aventuriers) (1967)
April 20-May 3: Roman Holiday (1953)
May 4-17: Pretty Woman (1990)
May 18-31: West Side Story (1961)
June 1-14: Rio Bravo (1959)
June 15-28: Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
June 29-July 12: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
July 13-26: Ben Hur (1959)
July 27-August 9: Forrest Gump (1994)
August 10-23: Cinema Paradiso (1988)
August 24-September 6: Mary Poppins (1964)
September 7-20: Casablanca (1942)
September 21-October 4: Rocky (1976)
October 5-18: Enter the Dragon (1973)
October 19-November 1: The Godfather (1972)
November 2-15: The Godfather: Part II (1974)
November 16-29: The Day of the Jackal (1973)
November 30-December 13: The Towering Inferno (1974)
December 14-27: The Great Escape (1963)
December 28-January 10: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
January 11-24: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
January 25-February 7: Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955)
February 8-21: Gone with the Wind (1939)
February 22-March 7: Chariots of Fire (1981)
March 8-21: Psycho (1960)


Open April 6-March 21 2014

Time Screenings from 10am

Admission Adults ¥1,000, students & children ¥500

Venue Toho Cinemas Roppongi Hills Rakutenchi Cinemas Kinshicho, Tachikawa Cinema City, Toho Cinemas Fuchu

Address 6-10-2 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo

Transport Roppongi station (Hibiya line), exit 1C; (Oedo line), exit 3.

¥0 for dads at Sweets Paradise

Sat Jun 15 – Sun Jun 16, 2013 Sweets Paradise (Shibuya Parco) and other branches
Still deliberating about what to get your dad for Father’s Day? Sweets Paradise has the answer for you: cake, and lots of it. The all-you-can-eat dessert restaurant is giving free run of its buffet to all fathers on June 15 and 16, provided they’re accompanied by a child aged 4 or over (though as a rather cute diagram on the official website cautions, grandpa doesn’t count). He’ll be working off the damage for weeks to come, but don’t let that put you off.


Open June 15-16

Time 10am-9pm (Shibuya Parco shop; other branches vary)

Venue Sweets Paradise (Shibuya Parco) and other branches

Address 3F Shibuya Parco Part 3, 14-5 Udagawacho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

Transport Shibuya Station (Yamanote, Ginza, Hanzomon, Fukutoshin, Denentoshi, Tokyu Toyoko, Keio Inokashira lines)

Categories: Must see, Things to do, Where to eat | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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