Beautiful benches. Tokyo's amazing public art

Beautiful benches. Tokyo's amazing public art

Watch your back next time you grab a pew around Tokyo Station, where a galaxy of stars is keeping the seats warm
Bench Art in Marunouchi 2012
Just don't call him inscrutable. That sword's still sharp.

Here’s a question: what do Albert Einstein, table-tennis Olympian Ai Fukuhara, manga superhero Kamen Rider and the singing, dancing cross-dressers of the Takarazuka Revue have in common?

If you answered that their images can all be found in one form or another in Akihabara's geekier stores you're probably not wrong, but we’re actually referring to the fact that all four are currently featured in a public art exhibition in downtown Tokyo's Marunouchi district.

Bench Art in Marunouchi 2012Again with the tongue-out pose, Bertie?Installation project “Bench Art in Marunouchi 2012” marks the 10th anniversary of the opening of the Marunouchi Building and the current revitalization of the area around Tokyo Station.

That’s where you’ll find 20 benches accompanied by life-size statues of famous figures along the kilometer-long Naka Dori shopping street between Yurakucho and Otemachi.

Art as life

The curator of the project, Goro Yamada, chose the celebrities to reflect the theme that art should be a part of daily life.

Ranging from timeless names to flavor-of-the-week levels of fame and hailing from history to current pop culture, the figures make for an eclectic group.

Fans of Japanese history will be excited to pose with the legendary shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa, the first emperor of the Edo Period.

A few blocks away, they can take a load off next to Takamori Saigo, hero of the Meiji Restoration and known as “the last true samurai,” although his statue looks something like a taxi driver in his spotless white gloves.

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Bench Art in Marunouchi 2012Accept no substitutes. The original Kamen Rider.All the pretty young things will surely be gathered around the statue of heartthrob actor Shun Oguri, while the even-younger things can get a photo with statues of eight-year-old actors Fuku Suzuki and Mana Ashida.

And the not-so-young-anymores will probably be more interested in the statue of songstress Hibari Misora wearing one of her trademark flamboyant outfits.

Albert Einstein and Charlie Chaplin head the overseas contingent, while Kamen Rider and the Japanese version of Barbie, Licca-chan, stand up for the fictional world.

Several statues are of sporting figures, including golfer Ryo Ishikawa, baseball player Hideki Matsui and sumo wrestler Hakuho.


Architects to wrestlers

Perhaps surprisingly, two architects are also included -- Englishman Josiah Conder, who designed the Mitsubushi Ichigokan Museum, as well as several other notable buildings in Tokyo, and Kingo Tatsuno, the mastermind behind the original Tokyo Station.

Bench Art in Marunouchi 2012Life's better in color.

In terms of eye-catchingness, the clear winner is the statue of wrestler Giant Baba.

Standing a true-to-life 209 centimeters, he looks especially resplendent against the bronze of the other statues in his white robe printed with orange peacocks.

And for an especially good photo op, hang around until a diminutive Japanese fan stands next to him. You won't have to wait long.

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Bench Art in Marunouchi 2012 runs until October 14;