Another lesser known place I fancy. Shimotakaido. Its in the same ward I live in, Setagaya, but I still need to take the train for around 45 minutes to get there. It’s a peaceful place to spend a day especially with the 3 spots I will introduce, they are all within a minute walk from the station. You could catch a morning movie at Shimotakaido Cinema, have lunch at Sakahon Soba and get a haircut at Barber Sakota right after. 🌞
The interesting thing is that I got there by a train line called the Setagaya Line that is rather different from other lines. Firstly, you get on by tapping your card on the train itself rather than the gantry outside(except for the terminal stations). Next, it is smaller in size, like a tram or a bus and if you’re lucky it will travel backwards from where your seat is facing. Its weirdly fascinating to see the sceneries of Setagaya moving backwards haha. 🚃
DISCLAIMER* The opening times might be affected by the covid-19 pandemic.
The first place I would like to introduce is an independent cinema simply known as the Shimotakaido Cinema. The building itself is rather pure-looking and unlike a usual cinema, the interiors are a little old-fashioned and a little cute too😎
Firstly they bring in interesting foreign films that major cinemas do not carry and they also put on certain japanese cult classics from time to time. As you can see in my photos, it only cost a whopping 1000yen on the “cinema day” Doesn’t it have indie vibes? Anyway its a decent place. 🎥 Note that no food allowed though. 🍿
#2 Soba with Nostalgic vibes
Sakahon Soba Noodles さか本そば店
★★★☆☆ Address 4 Chome-45-16 Akatsutsumi, Setagaya City, Tokyo 156-0044 Access 1 minute from Shimotakaido Station
Mon-Sun: 9:00~21:00; closed on thursday
This was recommended by a writer of a magazine as well. It has a wide selection of soba and I got one with some mochi in it! I never had mochi back in my home country, even if it was Japanese cuisine, it wouldn’t be included in the menu. Thus, I took the chance and went for it~it was chewy and melting! 🍜
The shop owners are old and the place is old; but I like it all the same. In fact it is the nostalgic showa retro vibes that make it special. Note that there is no English menu, only go if you know some Japanese.
I was looking for haircut recommendations in Popeye magazine and most had astronomical prices. The most reasonable one I saw was Barber Sakota–they go only by reservation, no walk-in. If it’s just cutting, its 3000yen and an additional 1000yen for a wash. In an interview, the owner mentioned that if the customer left it up to him to decide the haircut, he would look at the customer’s shoes to decide what kind of person he is; to decide on his cut. 💈
The place had a cozy modern+mid century interior, I like the smell here more than most salons. My hair was cut by the disciple rather than the owner and it was intricate; the hair wash was great too! My scalp felt minty and fresh after the massage! 💆♂️
Wes Anderson’s new film The French Dispatch’s trailer came out a while back and it was spectacular. It brought me back to 2013 when I watched his film for the first time. The Grand Budapest Hotel. At that time the poster looked cute and I decided to casually give it a watch without much thought, a common tendency of mine.
At the end of the 2+ hours, I found myself quickly searching for the film’s art director on my smartphone. I was floored–I have never seen such visually detailed movie before, every frame was like a painting.
I think it started at around 10 minutes into a film where there was a scene with a shoe shine boy being so compositionally perfect despite being only shown for a second. I was hooked from that point on. In this article, I would like to talk about 3 points on why this film is a masterpiece, even though there are many others.
(TOP) The main characters of the film, Zero (left) and Gustave (right). (上) 映画の主人公、ゼロ（左）とグスタフ（右）
★ Outline / 概要 ★
It is a story centered around an extravagant hotel in Europe in the 1930s with the main characters, Gustave H, the concierge of the hotel and, Zero, his protégé and lobby boy. Gustave would soon be wrongly framed for a murder, driving him to go on adventures to escape and prove himself with the help of Zero throughout the film.
(Clockwise from the left) Passport, stamps and currency notes from the fictional country of Zubrowska (左から) 虚構の国「ズブロフカ」のパスポート、切手、紙幣
The film is brimming with many beautiful, intricate props that most people would not bat at eye at. However, a point that the audience should know to appreciate the film more is that every little prop is handmade to fit into this fictional world–Every advertisement, every piece of note in the background, every item.
(ABOVE) Several newspaper designs shown very briefly in the film (上) 新聞のデザイン
A great example to highlight this is the Newspaper. Even though the Newspaper only flashes for moments, every word in its articles are written by the director himself and laid out to reflect the world of that time. In fact, it went through over 40 revisions to reach its final state, its almost as if the 2 seconds of the film with the prop is a tale on its own.
(ABOVE) How a Mendl’s packaging opens up (上)「Mendl’s」というお菓子店のパッケージの開け方
Another prominent prop is the packaging for Mendl’s, a lovely sweet shop in the world of Zubrowka. Of course, it has nice lettering and a lovely shade of pink but the key is in the way it opens up. When you pull the ribbon, the box flips out dramatically on all 4 sides seamlessly to reveal the beloved dessert adorably standing in the middle. The fact that they considered even the movement of the prop reflects how seriously they take their prop-making.Re-creating the fictional universe to such intricacy is often said to be for the actors. It helps them immense in this illusion, it is kind of like how actors/actresses image background stories for the roles beyond the script to mould the character more realistically. A good example is the currency and the stamp used in the Grand Budapest, you have even the portrait of the imagined King of the fictional world and the country’s very own crest.
(ABOVE) Further beautiful examples of the Mendl’s brand identity seen in various scenes (上)「Mendl’s」のブランドアイデンティティーが見える様々なシーン
★ #2 Take your references seriously • 参考の緻密な再現 ★
(1)A comparison with a 1908 image of a Hotel in Cairo with similar inconsistencies in letter spacing.
タイトルの字間の少し不規則ところを1900年代カイロにあったホテルとの比較 (2)A group picture of the Grand Budapest Hotel staff with some employees taking a half-knee and some sitting with their legs slanted.
片膝についたり、斜めに座ったりしたなど職業によって姿勢をするグループ写真 (3)A beautiful painted background
Everything seems natural or obvious in Wes’s fictional world but everything is researched, debated and designed.
For example in the masthead of the movie poster, you can see that the kerning (or spacing between alphabets) is off in some areas. You would think that it is a mistake but it is actually the genius of Wes. The team underwent intense research into the European hotels of that bygone era. An old steel hotel sign from the 1930s Cairo was especially picked out as it had many spacing errors blacksmiths often commit in the process of making the letterings with the tools then. They replicated these errors intentionally even if it might seem like a mistake on their part–there is soul in these things.
There are many other occurrences that seem natural initially but unique on a second look–Such as the very intentional half-knee pose when taking the photograph. I also love the painted backgrounds, very much like the hand-painted sets in old films and theatre. Usually they would seem cheesy in this day and age but they merge beautifully with the rest of film’s universe.
★ #3 The framing and blocking of things, characters and places • 物、人、場所の位置と大きさ ★
(ABOVE) The changes in aspect ratio according to the time period shown (上) 画面の縦横比は時代によって変わる
The physical design of the places and things are only the tip of the iceberg. Wes has also put in considerable effort in the arrangement and framing of these things.
The aspect ratio of each scene changes according to the time period that it reflects. In the beginning–supposedly the modern age–the standard 16:9 ratio we know of today is used. However, when the author recalls back to the 1968, the aspect ratio changes to the widescreen ratio 2.4:1 of the 50s and 60s. Furthermore, when the main character further recalls back to 1932, the 4:3 squarish ratio used by black and white films of that time is applied.
On a closer look, the positioning of the character is also linked to its development in the story. A disciple and lobby boy at the start, Zero mostly appears in the background while his teacher, Gustave is usually at the front, big and close to the camera. However this changes at the pivotal scene where Zero saves Gustave to which he said “we’re brothers” From that point on, they are equals and they began to be shown on equal levels and equal sizes. This is very similar to how they divide the stage in 9 sections in theatre for different uses.
Today, I only cited one of the many masterpieces of Wes Anderson because there is just too much to talk about. Every of his film has a soul, a time, a place and a feeling of its own. “Rushmore”–has a romance towards prestigious private schools and the plethora of extracurricular activities(even eccentric ones) “Life Aquatic of Steve Zissou”–has the fascination towards the deep sea and nautical culture. “Moonrise Kingdom”–has references to cartography and an adoration for the world of boy scouts. If you haven’t watched them, please do yourself a favour and immense yourself in the spectacular world of Wes Anderson.
今日、ウェス監督の映画の中の一つしか言及していないが、言えることはさらに無数にあるのです。彼の映画ごとに、独特な魂が潜んでいる－自分ならではの場所、時間、雰囲気など。 “Rushmore”– 風変わりな様々な部活動と豪華な私立学校へのロマン。“Life Aquatic of Steve Zissou”－航海のカルチャーと深海への冒険。“Moonrise Kingdom”–地図作成オタクとボーイスカウトのキャンプの世界。これらの映画は絶対に観る価値があります。
DISCLAIMER☞The writing and content have seem odd during the attempt to draw a parallel between my limited Japanese ability and English expressions. This is for my practice, let me know areas of improvements thanks. Special thanks to my Japanese teacher, Naoko.