julia mejnertsen

Filtering by Tag: artist residency

last of the best

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back in tokyo, japan

hi y'all.

it's been a while and i apologize. what has happened since last post over a month ago? many things. let's see...

  1. i had my exhibition 'highway 202 to karatsu' at studio kura.
  2. i left studio kura after a 2 month stay. what an amazing place, which i can highly recommend to anyone who need to get away from the hustle and bustle and stress of it all. i din't know i needed it, but i did. it was so relaxed that i managed to practice my headstand everyday... let's just say, i've gotten really good at standing on my head.
  3. my first ever attempt at a photobook 'tell me, how do you pronounce a hyphen?' was shortlisted for guatephoto 2015
  4. i travelled around japan for 2 weeks doing app. 3000 kms in train and visited nagasaki, kyoto, i had the biggest artistic experience in the chichu museum in naoshima, got drunk in takamatsu, hiked the ancient pilgrimage route kumano kodo through the kii mountains, sang karaoke in tokyo and rode the train 2.5 hours to kanazawa to see an art museum, which didn't live up to expectations (then went 2.5 hours back to tokyo on the same day). oh, i also had my second oyster ever in kanazawa - it was the biggest thing i ever saw, had to eat it in 3 bites and i didn't throw it up afterwards.. 

i have a hard time getting my head around having to leave japan in less than 2 weeks.. when i came back this summer for the second time this year, i didn't really have any expectations. actually, the whole thing didn't start out too well. it was scorching hot, and i was left to my own devices most of the time, but it just kept picking up and getting better and better. and poof, i'm head over heels in love with japan again. the high points of the last 2.5 months being the music festival sunset live in keya beach in itoshima, the harvest festival in a field close to the studio kura, riding my bike through the rice fields in the sun wind in hair in itoshima, being buried in hot sand in beppu, the kumano kodo hike, where we walked from takijiri-oji and 2 days later ended up in hongu after an 8 hour hike with no place to stay and finding the most amazing small vegan minshuku (called yamamizuki), which was just absolutely perfection, and lastly the amazing naoshima (the ferry ride and the chichu art museum in particular).

some pictures to illustrate the whole thing.


a little bit about the work - highway 202 to karatsu

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itoshima, fukuoka, japan

impressions of the middle of nowhere.

i came to itoshima after having been working in tokyo on the project search for me in plain sight. i thought i would continue that work here, but with a rural spin. the people out in itoshima surely must also experience loneliness. maybe they do, but the fact is that i haven't seen it. i haven't seen the lonesome pensive moments undisturbed by nothing or no one. when i came here a month ago, it was so hot and humid that by the time it was 10 o'clock in the morning nobody was to be seen anywhere. come night time it got so dark that i guess nobody ventured outside either (unless they were in a car). hence, the setting didn't really invite a continuation of the project from tokyo, which i had originally thought it would. from my own point of view however, the loneliness, silence and melancholy was ever present.

the days went by. i didn't move outside the aircon during the day, and while still HOT at night, it had cooled down slightly. so come nighttime i went to the street. i live right next to the highway 202 that runs to karatsu - it's a fairly busy road and it's the only thing that divides me from the kilometers of rice fields that stretch out on the opposite side. in the back of my house is where the mountain and forrest begin and beyond there is the ocean. while there is not a lot of artificial light sources out here at night, besides a few street lights on the road, the cars and truck continually running through on the 202 create quite a good light source that i thought i might be able to use. also i hadn't quite found the courage to venture too far into the darkness, and thus the hunt for motives around the 202 began. the project of portraying the area around highway 202 to karatsu was born.  

since then i have taken loads of pictures, but the premise remains the same. i shoot at night time, not any longer out of necessity, as it has cooled down since then, but rather to get that uncanny, sort of lonesome feeling that i love, and that i felt when i just arrived. and still feel at times. further i have included the farmers as characters in the series. they are to me mysterious creatures, because i see them in the middle of their fields completely covered in hats, gloves and what not to avoid the sun. i never see a face, because of the big shaded hats and because they are always bent over rummaging through the dirt. to me they are anonymous creatures, but so ever present in the vast landscape, even when they are not in it physically. 


welcome to studio kura in itoshima, japan

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itoshima, fukuoka, japan

i've landed in itoshima - 45 minutes on the local train outside of fukuoka on the island of kyushu in japan. itoshima is not an island (despite the name - shima in japanese means island), but rather a peninsula with ocean/beach on one side, mountains on the other and some rice fields in between. this is where studio kura resides. in a quaint village looking out over the rice fields with the mountains as a back drop. as pretty as can be, but it is rural folks! there's a 15 minute bike ride to the nearest shops. between my house and the rice fields runs the 202 highway to karatsu providing me with some feeling of life at night time, but otherwise it is pitch black after the sun sets at 7-ish. 

out here speakers are installed along the roads (i think actually this is the case most places in japan). in case of earthquakes, tsunamis etc. the alarm can sound so everyone can hear. but these speakers do more than sound alarms - they also play music. i wake up at 7 o'clock in the morning, when the street speakers play a tune. at 12 pm they play again another tune and at 6 pm a third. no need to keep track of the time here - just pay attention to the music coming on... i am waaaaaay down in gear! the days just come and go while i go to the beach, or go for coffee/lunch or ride around in the rice fields and mountains on my bike exploring this beautiful place. i buy local produce from the produce stand - eggs, passion fruits, tomatoes, even sausages from the local pig farm and salt from the local salt works. it's pretty great despite the unavoidable loneliness that comes from being so far away from everything and everybody. it's been unbearably warm here for the first 10 days i've been here, and there has literally been no people around, but it's cooling down a little bit now (only 29 degrees celcius today), so maybe i'll start seeing some more faces.. 

i do realize that i'm here on an artist residency, but i have not yet decided what kind of project i want to do. i've started doing some stuff already, but i want to try out some more things before settling on a project. i'm sure i'll come up with something, since i still have 1.5 months to go. i'll keep you updated.

for now, some pictures of the place i'll call home for the next few months.

 

culmination of artist residency at 3331 ARTS CHIYODA

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tokyo, japan

it's been a couple of weeks since my last post and obviously many things have happened since. time flies here, and i just cannot quite keep up.

yesterday was the opening of my photography exhibition 'search for me in plain sight' at the 3331 nishikicho studio in jinbocho. there was quite a good turn-out of people that i have gotten to know during my last 2 months in tokyo, as well as old friends, so i was very happy about that. it was fun to have them come by for a chat and a drink. i always feel very humbled, when people want to show up to support me. so thank you all very much! (if you want to read more about the exhibition straight away, you should scroll down a little.)

it is weird with this culmination of a 4 weeks residency, i feel happy and excited at what i have managed to produce, but at the same time it feels sad that it is over. on sunday the 5th, when the exhibition closes, i'll move to harajuku to stay at my friend's house for a week before heading back to denmark for a couple of weeks. after that a new chapter begins in itoshima, fukuoka at studio kura (read more about itoshima here). 

now let me tell you a little bit about the last 2 weeks. since the last post i managed to have a couple of more photo shoots, and although it almost started raining a couple of times, i never really managed to time it with a photo shoot. hence, no rain pictures. that's okay though. it's also fun, when things don't go exactly as planned and you have to think and produce on the spot (which, yes, did happen a few times).

open studio - on friday the 26th, we had an open studio night at the 3331 nishikicho studio. since the 3331 nishikicho studio is quite a new part of Arts Chiyoda, it was like a house warming party, where 3331 had invited many people to see the studio and the residency (where i'm living) on the floor above it. at the open studio night, i showed my works in progress and portfolio, as part of the event. it was a great night with many people showing up as well. afterwards we - some of the 3331 staff and the other residents - went out for dinner and drinks. great bunch of people, the other residents who included hakan topal, jying tan, gustavo giacosa, jean-maxime dufrensne & virginie laganiere and of course our 3331 contact lana tran, who is just a star! 

note magazine - while i've been doing my photography project, i have also been writing a personal essay on tokyo for the danish fashion magazine note. the essay will be printed in the august issue and along with it, i'm happy to announce, will be some of the photographs i've been doing while at the residency. more to come on this. 

Tell me, how do you pronounce a hyphen? - i'm still working on my hand made book!!! i'm producing more dummies before i leave tokyo, so that i can participate in more dummy competitions. and hopefully as i do it more and more, the dummies will improve in quality. i've found a japanese silk screen printer, who can do my title pages on the silver paper (if you remember, i've had some issues with printing on the silver mirror like paper, but hopefully it will be resolved now).  it is still a lot of fun to do things with your hands, and book making is just an absolute joy. again, i need to underline this, the options are endless, so give those 'normal' books a rest :) 

printing - since i've been editing the pictures for the current exhibition continuously since the shooting started, once i had a the majority of the picture that i wanted to exhibit, i sent them off to be printed. i copenhagen, like probably most other places, having A1 and A0 size art prints made costs quite the fortune, as does it take time to get them produced. well, yumi from reminders photography stronghold showed me a printing company in akita prefecture (zoomland - in japanese only) that will print and you'll receive to your door the following business day. naturally, you give away your possibility to color check, and if something is not okay, you'll have to start over, but the service is fast, reliable, and the quality is actually pretty genuine. moreover, it is cheap. all in all, i had 9 A1s and 2 A0s printed at the total cost of 13,000 yen (700 dkk equivalent). that is including 'to the door'-delivery people! and as i said the quality is not bad! i'm impressed anyway. 

exhibition - 'search for me in plain sight'  is my reaction to tokyo and the massive population living and working in the city. i've always been interested in the moments of quietness you have, when you think that nobody is looking at you. while you can take these pictures as a street photographer, i think it is also interesting to remake these moments in staged photography, so that is what i set out to do in tokyo during the residency.

in tokyo, the intime sphere needs to be very tight due to the population size. what i mean by that, is that standing close together side by side, face to armpit in the trains during rushhour doesn't leave a lot of personal space. hence, in tokyo there seems to be a special ability to find a mental space, where you are completely alone and do not register people around you. and in tokyo that boundary is drawn much later than any other place i've experienced. i have seen this on the trains and in the streets, when people are by themselves they do not register the world around them unless the world comes straight into their faces. it is a very interesting phenomenon to witness, and this is one of the themes i have been working with in my images. moreover, i like to work with the state of being alone, because being alone does not always equal loneliness. rather being alone can be a choice and seeing a person that looks lonely doesn't mean that s/he is. that is a subjective interpretation of the viewer. however, on the other side, in tokyo there is a serious problem with lonely people, and the exhibition 'search for me in plain sight' is also a comment to not ignore the people, who are right in front of your eyes. 

the exhibition is up from july 1st to july 5th (opening hours 2nd-3rd 11:00-17:00, 4th-5th 11:00-15:00) at 3331 nishikicho studio in jinbocho - 2nd floor.




tokyo series 'search for me in plain sight'

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tokyo, japan

a little more than one week into my residency and it is going great so far. i went location hunting last week in the middle of the night to find the best lit spots in tokyo. this week, i have my first round of shoots set up. just to recap i was anticipating several issue or potential problems i could experience with my photoshoots. however, there really has not been any so far.

  • no problem getting models - 3331 arts chiyoda sent out an open call for models on facebook and other social media, and it was answered. so many replied that they had to close it again within 10 minutes. what a wonderful surprise!
  • we've had no language problems - lana from 3331 is accompanying me on the shoots and translates for me, when needed.
  • no weather problems (yet) - i've been shooting monday and tuesday night this week, and there has been no rain. and now comes the tricky bit, because i wouldn't mind a rainy shot. so where's the bloody rain..

now i'm just hoping that the printing goes well, when the time comes. i still have a couple of shoots this week, but i think a have some good material thus far. 

on a personal note, i'm still floating on a cloud here. 

since my location scouting and shooting has been at night, i've had most days to do everyday things of course, but also just to hang out, read, drink coffee and do touristy things. i'm still in love with my new favorite coffee shop 'glitch', where they know me now, and we have a little chat, when i get my coffee. also i've taken up a habit of going to the family mart (convenience store), when i return home at dusk, before heading out to shoot later, hot and sweaty from the heat, getting a cold beer and sitting outside the store reading. it's a nice little square with green plants and cafés around, so jazz music is in the air. 

last week i went to the danish embassy to cast my vote for today's election. exciting although i'm not really a political person, the fact that danish women received the right to vote 100 years ago this year, convinced me to go. i've also been writing an article/guide to tokyo for the danish fashion magazine 'note', which i think will be featured in their august edition (if it is good enough). i'm still working on my book dummy on the side as well, so all in all time is still flying pretty fast. i really cannot believe that i go home in less than a month.

vote well now denmark, and talk soon.

p.s. please feel free to give me some feedback on my work below.

my corner coffee shop 'glitch'

my corner coffee shop 'glitch'

my new neighborhood jinbocho

my new neighborhood jinbocho

new neighborhood

new neighborhood

meiji jingu iris garden in bloom

meiji jingu iris garden in bloom

3331 ARTS CHIYODA residency start

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tokyo, japan

on monday i moved into my new digs at 3331 Arts Chiyodas Nishikicho studio, effectively starting my 4 weeks residency. i have a lot of work to do, and 4 weeks are going to fly by very quickly. i've moved into the very centre of tokyo. i'm close to the imperial palace, i'm close to tokyo station, i'm close to most things actually. a huge change from my stay out in sumida, where there was a wonderful quietness (the real japan). my room is big, almost as big as the first apartment i ever lived in in tokyo, i have aircon. AND the very best thing... wait for it.. it is literally around the corner from my favorite papershop!!! and an excellent coffee place (glitch coffee).

here is how i've planned my stay:

  1. week: research and location scouting - securing models
  2. week: shooting and attending open studio
  3. week: shooting and editing
  4. week: printing and exhibiting - my exhibition will hopefully hang from july 1st to 5th

should be a breeze right? i hope, but obviously we know, that things never go as planned. i anticipate problems with finding models (although 3331 arts chiyoda is helping out), possibly printing problems, possibly weather problems (we're anticipating rain) and possible language problems. 

i'll keep you posted on the work.

 

choosing paper, test printing and binding

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tokyo, japan

i guess it's time for another update. although i can hardly find time to sit down and write it. so many things have happened since the last post, and right now i should be back at the gallery test printing. well, i needed a coffee and so i've ended up at starbucks in the skytree (not due to the quality coffee, but rather the free wifi).

paper and test printing

i have been incredibly busy the last week. while i was not expecting handmade book-making to be easy, i seem to continuously run into new challenges that need to be overcome. while printing in denmark leaves you with little choice of paper to choose from, this is not the case in japan... in fact i find myself rather overwhelmed. last week i went back to takeo paper shop to look for paper. i posted earlier all the multitudes of great paper they have in that shop, but after spending the better part of an hour i finally departed the store with 10 different kinds i wanted to test. all within the white/eggshell color scale, from thick to very thin. all in a4 size and with two sheets of each. i think it cost me around 1500 yen (10 euro) - very reasonable i think. but come on, 10 sheets of paper doesn't even begin to cut it..

thus, i ventured off to ginza, where i had been told that another japanese paper maker, oji, has a store. the rumors go that you can actually take all the sample paper you want for free (they have printed facts and test prints on one of the sides, but the opposite side is free to test print your own stuff). anyway, who gets anything for free these days, so i thought it was definitely worth a visit. as it turns out, the store wasn't a store, rather it was oji's administrative HQs in a fully owned oji high rise. although a little intimidating to enter, i quickly found myself in the reception of this pretty awesome looking office building. here all of oji's 100s of different types of papers were available in drawers. please go ahead and take as many as you like. i think i snatched around 50 different types, as i thought it could also make good referencing in the future. out of these 50 sheets of paper, i couldn't really tell you the difference of many of them, but there are some that are glossy, some are matte, some are glossy on verso and matte on recto and vice versa. some weigh 40 grams and some 90 grams, so you see, the options truly are endless.

i thought that now i had spent a day securing all my test paper, all i needed to do was a couple of test prints to see which looked the best, and then just go and buy that kind. no no no no, think again. today i went to kinko's printing services to do so. firstly they screwed up my double sided prints, so that two images were printed on top of each other rather than recto/verso. remember i only have two sheets of each kind of takeo paper, so one sheet was lost. their fault. i gave them sheet number two. they print them, it looks horrible. why? they are using laser jet printers obviously (read about the difference between laser and inkjet printing here), and it doesn't penetrate the paper properly. my own fault. so now i have no paper left and no useable prints to judge from. after that experience i needed a coffee and that is why i am currently sitting at starbucks. 

what will you do then? you might ask. well, here is my game plan. i am going back to the gallery to use the gallery's inkjet printer to print the recto pages on the pages kinko's screwed up and see how it works out. then, i'll probably rely on my gut to take me the rest of the way. i'll get back to you on that.

update! i printed on the back pages and it looks much better than kinko's - so now i've managed to cut down on paper and will choose between my 4 favorites for the b/w printing.

binding

another thing i have been trying to figure out is which kind of binding i want on the book. here's the tricky part, my book doesn't give a shit about what i want. instead it is about what is feasible and doable. yumi-san of reminders photography stronghold has been a great advisor, spending amble time with me discussing what can be done and what will work the best. to start with i really wanted some kind of stitch binding, but because my pages are japanese folded (fold a piece of a4 into an a5 and have the binding of the book be in the end of the opening - really it's the opposite of normal pages and you kind of get two hidden pages. however, it is not possible to stitch them traditionally. since there is no reason for my book to be japanese stitched and a japanese stitching would result in the margin eating about 1 cm of the book, which i'm not interested in, i won't do that either. eventually yumi-san and i ended with glue binding probably being the best option, and we decided to try it on one of my dummies. however, yes there is a however, because my book consists of different types of pages i.e. japanese folded pages in a5, a4 pages as well as normal a5 pages, the glue binder told us that the result may not be satisfactory and thus was reluctant to do it. we were invited out to his small factory (douchi-do, murayama book binding) to see the process, so we could better understand why he was hesitant. sunday morning, yumi-san and i biked through eastern-tokyo to get to the small factory, where we should try to glue my dummy. it was a simple process, but with a lot of steps. one would normally cut all four sides of the pages of the book at the same time to get them even and completely straight for gluing. because of the many page formats in my book this cannot be done, and only the side where the glue was to be put was cut. the end result looks pretty good anyway, and i'm sure that when it is the final copy and not just a dummy made with copy paper, it will look even better. one thing to keep in mind though, is that the glue might work differently depending on the paper type I use. that means that while the copy paper works fine, it might not end up working as well on my chosen paper. yes i know, it is a continous battle to get this right.

i just have to mention though that this guy, who did the glue binding was absolutely amazing. not only did he glue my dummies for free, he also made two notebooks for me while we waited for my glue to dry and gave us samples of both glue, mesh and tape to take home, so we could experiment with the glue binding ourselves at the gallery. totally worth spending sunday morning this way, and once more i am humbled by the warmth and service level of the japanese!! plus as you can see from the pictures below, a lot of the glue binding process is still made by hand at his factory. pretty cool! 

all the other stuff 

the past week i also visited a printer that can make blueprints from drawings and copies. it looks pretty awesome, so i got my architectural drawings made as a blueprint, as well as my 'blondes in denim shirts' grid (that doesn't look as awesome as the architecture drawings though). i also visited my next stop in tokyo - 3331 arts chiyoda - to have my first meeting with the staff, who will help me out during my residency. this i do not doubt will be an equally amazing experience as the bookmaking workshop has been so far. i am learning a bunch and feeling very inspired. the area i live in (sumida) is old tokyo, cultural and historical - apparently i'm right in the middle of an old red light district - many old, traditional japanese houses and small shops, restaurants and factories. 

i haven't been anything but happy for the past 3.5 weeks, while i've been in tokyo. just when I think that an experience cannot get any better, it gets a little better. miki hasegawa has taught me japanese stitch-binding and hajime kimura has spent a day teaching indesign. the weather is great, the food is great, the beer is fantastic and the company is pretty cool also. 



i didn't know research could be this much fun

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tokyo, japan

i have not really had a chance to consider how i want my own photo book to look until now. my favorite photo books are like diaries in some way - they are often very personal in nature, and the design and form of those books are very important in conveying and underlining the feelings that the book contains. however, when looking at which photo books i have in my own library most of them are traditional, pretty minimalistic and a decent size that can easily be held and flipped through. i guess i'm not the coffee table book kind of a person.

now i'm thinking for my own book i can go traditional and rely on my pictures to speak for themselves. but then again, traditional publishing is not why i'm doing a handmade photo book workshop in tokyo for (then i might as well "make it on a mac"). rather i have the last couple of days gone on a small research tour around tokyo to look at what's trending in photo books. i have done a fair share of research in my life, albeit academic research, but i never knew it could be this much fun. in my opinion japan has some of the most innovative photo book publishers in the world - super labo, ima photobooks/amana, art beat publishers to just name the ones i've come across during my research, and they're getting me highly motivated to create my own book.

as i am writing this i'm sitting at the café at the ima concept store (japanese photo book heaven with nice coffee and free wifi) and contemplating which of the thousands of photo books i should claim, buy and make mine. yesterday, i went to tsutaya books in daikanyama t-site (also a very decent photo book selection), where i bought "tokyo parrots" by yoshinori mizutani. i was proud that i exited the store with only one book (remember i have to transport them all home at some point..), but i think that one book will not suffice this time. too many books take my breath away and i cannot afford them all - yoshinori mizutani's  "colors", rinko kawauchi and terri weifenbach's "gift", rinko kawauchi's "sheets"  and risaku suzuki's "white", i really want them all, and they all have some interesting feature i wouldn't mind adopting into my own book.

for my own book however, after my initial research, my thoughts are:

  • A4 or smaller
  • japanese binding (special hand stitched back)
  • neutral colors / see through papers / splash of color
  • pages within the book that are bigger (opens up) or smaller than the book format
  • portfolio-type, where one book opens into 2 or 3 smaller books

these are all design elements that my research has inspired me to think about. i would sincerely recommend going photo book hunting, if you need inspiration for photo book making. really, the sky's the limit and it is very inspiring and motivating to see how many options you have.

below i've included some pictures of the books, i found most inspiring in terms of design and formats.



fifty shades of whatever color you want

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tokyo, japan

i've been trying to figure out what my blog should be about. should it have a topic? a certain theme? should i be blogging about photography and culture or just about the things i love in tokyo? i guess it will be a little bit of both, but i'll try to keep the coffee pictures to a minimum. i want my blog to be inspiring and help people, who like myself, want to be creative, but don't always know how to.. 

first i want to just clarify what i'll be up to the next 6 months, as it is not just a matter of hanging out in tokyo for the fun of it. i'll be in tokyo for a little over 2 months to begin with. here the first thing i'll do is join a handmade photobook workshop held by reminders photographers stronghold and taught by the belgian photographer jan rosseel. the workshop will run through may, after which i'll join 3331 arts chiyoda, as a artist in residence. that means i'll get to work on a new photography project in tokyo, and i'm very excited about that as well. next i'll move to itoshima in fukuoka to join studio kura, as an artist in residence. i'll be there for 2 months before collecting my gear and travel through japan. in itoshima i'll get to explore the more rural side of japan, and in my head that means my über-urban tokyo project that i'll do at arts chiyoda can be counterweighted by a more rural side. could be an interesting juxtaposition. but let's not get ahead of ourselves, as i know all to well, things change all the time. 

i'll start by telling you a bit more about the "staples and stitches" handmade photobook workshop i'm attending this month. i have for the last couple of months been working on new material that'll go into this book. i've been shooting film (portra 400) on an old minolta autocord, which is a completely new experience for me. these color film images will be set against some of my b/w pictures from my dark ops series - the story is one of inner frustration and doubt regarding my life direction. although this is a story personal to me, i think that most people can relate. anyway, that's what i hope will come across in the pictures and the book. the purpose of the workshop is to create a dummy - a dummy is a first proposal for your book, which can then be pitched to publishers, entered into competitions or be self published. i'm very excited to get started, as i have never ventured into making photo books previously. i have a feeling that the craftsmanship that goes into it, is right up my alley.  

i'm currently living in a room above the gallery, where the workshop is held. very bohemian. the couple, yumi and masaru, who own the gallery live there too, and today masaru took me to a paper shop/book binding shop in jimbocho called misuzudo, so i could get all the tools for book binding and making. OMG! this shop was heaven - the amount of paper available there... i honestly haven't seen anything like that. ever! there were rows and rows of paper samples in any imaginable color and then 50 shades of that color. i could spend hours in there, and i am absolutely certain that i will, when the time comes for me to choose the paper i want to use in my book. i knew japan was good with paper and speciality shops, but this went beyond my wildest imagination.