ar–chive studio

Tamagawadai, Tokyo Japan
Self-initiated Art Residency
June 2019

5 weeks in Tamagawadai

5 weeks in Tamagawadai


In June 2019, our artistic journey led us to a 5-week art residency in Tamagawadai, a quiet suburb south of Shibuya, Japan. Reminiscing about the experience, we're transported back through film rolls to the city's ambient sounds and the panoramic view, as if we were directors on a film set capturing the daily hustle. Passersby become cameos, entering a bar with the distinct aroma of cigarettes, highball whiskey, and the crackling of a record.

A street photograph taken in Tokyo of two men.

Tokyo during this time felt peculiar, with a tangible sense of two interconnected realities. Our residence, just five minutes from Yōga station in Tamagawadai, buzzed with life at night – fire stations, a quiet cafe, and a lively dance studio where middle-aged women danced the Hula.

One rainy night in Sangenjaya, seeking shelter, we stumbled upon a small bar, "Uncle Tom's" written in the typeface mistral. Coltrane's melodies filled the intimate space as we ordered a highball and whiskey on the rocks. The bartender warmly greeted us with small plates of nuts and edamame. The dim, tranquil atmosphere resonated with "My Favourite Things" and the locals' subdued chatter nearby.

An abstract drawing by Angela Tam of distorted shapes of faces with the text 'Jazz Inn Uncle Tom' displayed on top.

Angela, with her Moleskine, captured the surroundings with continuous lines, guided by subconscious thoughts—a practice of thoughtlessness immersed in the environment.

Our exploration continued with destinations on Google Maps, absorbing each city's unique offerings, from Nihonbashi's tempura to the Le Corbusier Museum in Ebisu. Each destination followed a similar routine.

A yellow and blue poster of Le Corbusier's painting, displayed as a poster. An iphone is in the foreground with an image of a wooden table designed by Le Corbusier.

A gallery visit led us to the Yayoi Kusama Museum in Waseda, with an entry fee of ¥1100. Waseda, a recurring location in Haruki Murakami's books, added significance. The exhibition, 'Here, Another Night Comes From Trillions Of Light Years Away: Eternal Infinity,' showcased paintings with no clear beginning or end. Kusama's 'Infinity Net' series and 'My Eternal Soul' paintings, with accompanying documentation and photographs, were extraordinary. A ladder installation resembled transcendence to eternal space.

On the museum's top floor, Kusama's stainless steel pumpkin sculpture offered a delightful experience, providing new perspectives through the passing skylight and infusing energy into the remainder of our residency.

Our journey extended to Tokyo's TDC (Type Director's Club) exhibition at the ggg (ginza graphic gallery), a haven for designers and typographers. Exploring the Tokyo TDC collection was vital to understanding Japan's evolving design and advertising practices.

Scanned image of two thin portrait brochures: one showcasing the map of subways in Tokyo, and the other featuring a colorful design for the Ginza Graphic Gallery.

Immersed in the gallery for hours, away from Ginza's bustling atmosphere, we discovered images akin to those sought on blogs and Pinterest, hidden in historical issues of TDC's catalogue and print.

Reflecting on these photos, it's evident how our travels shape motivations, influencing creative output for exhibitions, personal projects, and collaborations with clients. Tokyo remains vibrant, depending on where you look, the time you have, and the intention behind each interaction.

Series of black and white images of a sculpture and the artist.

Images of sculptures made of reused materials, photographed in the streets of Tokyo.


Discover more references that we've seen, created and found from our travels in our library.


Written by Rowland Reyes Martinez
All images and photography courtesy of Angela Tam