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TOP Museum's Special Movie Theater

Watch rare movies at the reopened art museum in Ebisu

After a 2-year renovation, TOP, the Tokyo Photographic Art Museum, has reopened in Ebisu Garden Place on September 3, 2016.

To celebrate the rebirth of the museum, various events and exhibitions have been and will be held here. One of them is the rare documentary movie shows held in a small event hall inside the museum. The first movie they chose to present was "FROZEN FIREWORKS: THE LEGENDARY JAPANESE MODEL SAYOKO YAMAGUCHI".

Sayoko Yamaguchi was a Japanese super model who was the first Asian model to walk on the runways of Paris, New York, and other centers of fashion. She became a fashion symbol in the 70s and early 80s. The fact that full-size mannequins of her decorated show windows in the major cities of the world can tell how well-known and popular she was at the time.

When I was just a small kid she was EVERYWHERE. Whenever I turned on the TV she was there, because not only did she walk the runways but she was also an exclusive model for one of the most famous Japanese cosmetic companies, Shiseido. Her exotic beauty, represented by her thin eyes on a flat, expressionless face, made an unforgettable impression on my child's mind. It was like looking into an expressionless Noh mask in the darkness with fear at first, then eventually becoming mesmerized by its eternal beauty. In my opinion, the uniqueness of her beauty and popularity lay in the fact that for the first time in the fashion history she showed the world that a Japanese woman with a typical Japanese face could wear latest western clothes and look beautiful. Japanese women's beauty had been depicted in many Ukiyoe (woodblock prints) and widely acknowledged by western connoisseurs of Japanese arts, but till then nobody had ever imagined that these flat faces with thin eyes could go well with dresses of, say, Yves Saint laurent or Claude Montana.

In the late 80s, she retired from walking the runways, joined the modern dance group Sankai Juku, and started to perform as a dancer and an actress on a stage. Around that time she disappeared from the TV screen, and that was when I lost track of her. The next time I heard about her was via TV news which reported that she was found dead in her apartment on August 14th in 2007. My first thought was she had died alone and forgotten in the last stage of her life, but the documentary film I saw at TOP proved me wrong.

In fact she was truly active till the end of her days. She performed on stages, DJ-ed, designed clothes, made public speeches, and so on, and was always surrounded by friends and young people, which made me feel very happy. The theater was almost fully packed with her old fans, young fans, and stylish-looking show-biz people. At the end of the film the sound of sobs was heard in the audience. The film was well-made by one of her friends, but didn't reveal her private life at all. The director made a speech after the movie, and said ''She was close to me, but somehow she was always faraway. From the beginning to the end she was shrouded in a mysterious veil''. Mysterious...that was what she was. She was like an icy queen, with her beauty frozen in time forever.

All in all I was impressed by her documentary, as well as by TOP's choosing it as its reopening movie. It made a prospective repeat visitor out of me for sure. TOP's reopening events will continue, and will include a series of interesting movies such as Mother Teresa Film Festival, GAIA SYMPHONY No.8, Warner List, and so forth. The theater has only 190 seats, and a reservation can only be made from 10 A.M. on each day. So I recommend that you come early to get a good seat, or make prior contact with the theater (at 03-3280-0099) to see if seats are still available. For more information please refer to TOP's homepage.

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Find out more about Tokyo Photographic Art Museum.

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