A to Z Cafe: Artist Yoshimoto Nara
Jazz musicians use the term “shed” to describe relentless hours of practice. Artist Yoshimoto Nara however has taken this conceit to another level with his very own lean-to placed smack dab in the middle of A to Z Cafe. Surrounded by a herd of tables, the shobby-chic shed allows cafe-goers a voyeuristic peek into Nara’s personal workspace. The tiny enclosure is full of Nara’s artwork stylistically shuffled amidst a clutter of vintage toys and worn out brushes. The Cramps poster on the wall puts a stamp on Nara’s signature punk rock aesthetic.
The scabrous theme of Nara’s studio continues throughout the rest of A to Z Cafe with a whitewashed interior full of weathered tables, exposed piping and wooden beams. The cafe’s parred down motif ironically affords a view via its rooftop terrace of Tokyo’s high-end district, Aoyama (most notably the futuristically modern Prada building).
Yoshimoto Nara first hopped the Japanese Pop art train in the early 90′s with his deceptively innocent illustrations and sculptures. His trademark mascot of a chubby-cheeked and doe-eyed-bobbed-hair girl was often contradicted by jaded anthems such as “I Don’t Want To Grow Up” or “It’s OK If You Forget Me”. These sort of defensive messages were often materialized by the characters wielding weapons, an attribute that Nara justifies by saying, “…I kind of see the children among other, bigger, bad people all around them, who are holding bigger knives…”
Nara’s artwork was not only inspired by rock ‘n’ roll ethos. It has also graced the album covers of such musical outfits as Shonen Knife and the Mike Patton fronted band, Fantômas. With an impressive collection of work inspired by everything from graffiti to comics, it’s no wonder that Yoshimoto Nara has been painted as a punk rock aesthete.
The A to Z Cafe captures the romanticism of art slumming in a Ready Made crafted way despite the upscale address and consequently, inflated drink prices. Luckily, the cafe does offer a mid-priced lunch set ranging from ¥800 to ¥1,000 followed by an array of tea-themed desserts. Keeping with the theme, you can also visit Nara’s colossal dog statue at the The Aomori Museum of Art.