This past week, I stumbled upon a Frank Lloyd Wright building. Who knew that Mejiro, one of the minor stops on the Yamanote Line is one of the hotbeds of architecture in Tokyo. There are a lot of gems in this neighborhood, most notable is Kenzo Tange’s St. Mary’s Cathedral, which strangely is one of the most popular posts on my blog.
Hana Yorozu Café and Gallery
Anyway, this is how I came upon the Wright building.
I decided to wander off into a small street off Mejiro street that seemed intriguing and was drawn to a café that was a gallery and flower shop, called Hana Yorozu.
Plants, art and crepes? It was an irresistible combination so I stepped inside. The gallery was mostly beadwork. Nicely done, with some unusual beads in the necklaces and bracelets. But it was the kind of stuff most anyone could have put together at a bead store for a fraction of the cost.
Connected through the wall was the flower shop/nursery. A nice collection of herbs and flowers, but the prices were also a bit inflated.
Thankfully, the crepe lunch set was more affordable. It came with decent coffee, a tiny plate of crunchy salad and a bowl of tasty tomato cheese soup. And my egg and ham crepe was very yummy. I chuckled when I realized how typically American I was to choose basically a glorified breakfast slam.
The staff seemed a little frazzled and disorganized, even though there was only one other table of people. I imagined that the business was run by a few friends who went to France together, really dug the crepes, took a cooking class to learn how to make them and opened up the café. One of them makes beaded jewelry and wanted to sell them. The other one wanted to grow lavender. Et voila! What was meant to be a lovely vacation dream had turned into an overwhelming business!
I’m being unkind. Luckily, I wasn’t in any hurry and I really did appreciate the care that was put into the atmosphere and the food.
Who to take: friends from your French cooking class.
What to do: write postcards to people you met while traveling in Provence.
What to read: The Little Prince
Jiyu Gakuen Myonichikan, 1921
At the gallery there was a stack of little pamphlets that unfolded into a map of all the other galleries in the area. On the map I noticed there was a note in katakana of a landmark of a Franku Roydo Wrighto building. Since it was only a few blocks away I decided to take a stroll over there.
What I found were two buildings, one by Wright and another designed by Arata Endo in the Wrightian style. The one by Wright is a single storey U-shaped complex that encloses a courtyard. It appeared to be privately owned and was used as a wedding event place. It had a great example of Wright’s glasswork. Dramatic vertical panes were set in a typical Prairie style horizontal façade. Unfortunately, the inside was closed to the public that day. I’ll have to go another time and snoop around more closely.
The other building, connected by an alley seemed to be some kind of community center. There were many kids with their mothers. This building seemed to be designed to be a church.
I later found out that it was a lecture hall for the Jiyu Gakuen, or Freedom School. Wright was asked to design the school while he was in Japan overseeing the construction of the Imperial Hotel. The gorgeous Imperial Hotel has since been dismantled and replaced with a high-rise style Imperial Hotel. So the Jiyu Gakuen is one of a few works of Wright still standing.
I was heartened to see so much activity in and around the buildings. They were living, vital parts of the community, instead of calcified structures cordoned off to the public.