Known as a bustling ward ridden with salarymen, a red light district, and home of the world's largest train station, it is not surprising that Shinjuku caters to each individual. Creative individuals looking for free entertainment should set out to these two art galleries in East Shinjuku.
Around the corner from Golden Gai, Shinjuku Ophthalmology Gallery’s focus is both contemporary art and explores Japan’s subculture. Subsequently, many of the exhibitions range from anime to comical yet seemingly nonsensical installations. Often held for a week or more at a time, the Ophthalmology (Ganka in Japanese) Gallery holds two exhibitions at once. Though closed on Thursdays, the somewhat wacky museum is open from noon to eight in the evening, proving to be a perfect stop before eating at an izakaya in Golden Gai. A small shop in between the two studios sells cute souvenirs and provides free booklets of art events throughout Japan. Recent exhibitions include works by Megumi Igarashi or Rokudenashiko (“good for nothing girl”), known for her controversial pieces about female genitalia.
Note: Konica Minolta Plaza closed in 2017.
Right off of Shinjuku Dori and a minute walk from Shinjuku Station's Lumine EST, Konica Minolta Plaza is a three gallery studio dedicated to photography. Taking the elevator up to the fourth floor brings you straight to the gallery's entrance. The information counter offers pamphlets concerning current and upcoming exhibitions at the Plaza, and a wall of flyers detail various art events in and around Tokyo as well as discounts for galleries with entrance fees. Given its name from the technology company Konica Minolta––whose motto is "Giving Shape to Ideas"––this art space provides both seasoned and up and coming artists a chance to showcase his or her latest collection of photographs. Each gallery has its own theme, from black and white to images taken while abroad. While all three display rooms have descriptions or notes from the photographers, they are only written in Japanese. However, some gallery workers may provide explanations in English.
Free and conveniently located near Shinjuku Station, the Ophthalmology Gallery, and Konica Minolta Plaza are just two of many more affordable ways to enjoy modern Japanese art in Tokyo. While the spaces may be small, each exhibition presents its own insight into the human experience through visual and audio interaction.