Culture / Travel

A Girls’ Trip to Japan

How Sexy Shoes Led to the Journey of a Lifetime

BY // 05.07.16

What could possibly happen when three stylish friends jet off on an impromptu trip to Japan? Just ask art collector Lindsey Collins, stylist Brittany Winter, and occasional DJ/stylist/producer Elizabeth Farrell. Hint: The destination is so much more than sushi, cherry blossoms and samurai.

It all begins with a pair of heels — sans heels. After meeting a couple years ago, Collins brought Japanese sculptor and artist Noritaka Tatehana to Dallas for TWO x TWO for AIDS and Art, to which Tatehana had donated a pair of his famous gravity-defying shoes to the silent auction. (Collins also wore a pair of his heel-less wonders to TWO x TWO this year.)

Tatehana, who is equal parts designer and artist, has developed a rather bright following on the fashion circuit, with the incomparable Lady Gaga among the first to put his works of wearable shoe art on the map. Collins, known for her own avant-garde-cool style, was so thrilled by Tatehana’s shoes that she commissioned him to create a one-of-a-kind pair of cowboy boots.

“The first shoe he made with an actual heel,” Collins says. A few months later, Tatehana invited Collins to attend a one-night-only exhibition of his sculpture and shoes in Japan. And here our story takes flight: Collins mentioned her Japanese excursion to longtime friends Winter and Farrell — the former an editorial stylist, the latter a stylist, DJ and producer — and the trio decided to make a girls’ trip of it

Mise Natsunosuke’s “Painting of Japan -basso ostinato-,” 2015, at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art

First up was Tatehana’s opening in Tokyo. The exhibition, titled “Traces Of A Continuing History” was held at the main building of Hosokawa Marquis House Wakeijuku. The series went far beyond Tatehana’s well-known shoe designs, incorporating his sculptural works that were inspired by his experience and memories of the devastating 2011 Japan earthquake. The pieces, which included haunting, yet glamorous, depictions of skeletons in cages, were made by traditional craftsmen of Nousaku, a historic casting workshop in Takaoka City.

With the opening over, Collins, Winter and Farrell had a packed itinerary for the remainder of the week, with two full days exploring Kanazawa, which is renowned for historic districts, art museums and its well-preserved traditional arts-and-crafts culture. Here, the visit included several ancient stops: the Nomura Samurai home, a samurai secondary residence designed in the late-Edo Japanese style with cypress coffered ceilings, a garden with a 400-year-old bayberry tree and a collection of samurai weaponry; and Kaikaro, a circa-1820 chaya, or entertainment house, where geisha would perform and serve food and drinks.

It wasn’t all a look into the past, as Kanazawa also provided visits to Rempah Rempah, an emerging art gallery known for its surreal works inspired by the craft culture of the area, and the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, which was designed by Pritzker Prize–winning architects Kazuyo Sejimi and Ryue Nishizawa. A private tea was held at the home of Takuo “Baizan” Nakamura, a foremost master of Japanese pottery and ceramics. The house, which was originally built by Nakamura’s father, is undergoing a renovation by Tokyo–based architect Hiroshi Naito.

After Kanazawa, it was back to Tokyo for more art, wild fashion and, yes, even a cat cafe. The trio met with Japanese milliner, jewelry designer and artist Maiko Takea, who also works for Issey Miyake on accessories design; her ethereal works have been featured in digital album artwork for Björk and exhibited during London Fashion Week. When flattened, Takea’s headdresses appear to be an eye, but when worn, they take on new life, assuming the shape and form of an artful, jelly-like sea urchin. A visit was also made to Gallery 360°, which has been a leading space for contemporary art since 1982.

Steve “Espo” Powers’ “Now is Forever” street art in Harajuku

Naturally, it wouldn’t be a trip to Japan without a significant amount of time spent exploring the larger-than-life Takeshita Street, known for its Harajuku girls and over-the-top cutesy shops and cafes. The trip ended with nail art — incomparable to the nail art performed by American manicurists, Collins, Winter and Farrell agree — and dinner at Robot Restaurant, a sensory overload where enormous robots perform in a bizarre setting of lights, sound, smoke, sequins and neon.

Upon their return to Dallas, the trio combined the dozens of Japanese souvenirs they collected on their trip — wasabi-flavored Kit Kat bars, Hello Kitty keychains, et al. — and, naturally, arranged it in a highly stylized pattern on the floor for photographing. (Once it was dismantled, they distributed said goodies to friends.) The takeaway? If it isn’t already, Japan should officially make the travel list for its sublime collision of contemporary art, rich history and fashion mania.

Here, a compilation of the girls’ recommendations, should you find Japan listed next on your itinerary:

Tahei Sushi, Kanazawa, 1-164 Taheiji, Nonoichi, Ishikawa Prefecture
Kawaii Monster Cafe
Vesta Tokyo
Robot Restaurant

Nomura Samurai Home

Rempah Rempah Gallery
21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa
Artist Takuo “Baizan” Nakamura
Artist Maiko Takeda
Artist Noritaka Tatehana

Crafts Hirosaka
Dog Harajuku

Matsusaki Kanazawa Tatsunokuchi Onsen

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