Japanese Artist Creates Bookshelf Dioramas That Magically Transport You Into Tokyo’s Back Alleys

Should you find your­self in a Japan­ese city, spend time not on the Star­bucks- and McDon­ald’s-lined boule­vards but on the back streets that wind in all direc­tions behind them. Or bet­ter yet, head into the back alleys branch­ing off those streets, those half-hid­den spaces that offer the most evoca­tive glimpses of life in urban Japan by far. Only there can you find pas­sage into the won­der­ful­ly idio­syn­crat­ic busi­ness­es tucked into the cor­ners of the city, from bars and restau­rants to cof­fee shops and of course book­stores. Those book­stores have long occu­pied Japan’s back alleys, but now an artist by the name of Monde has brought the back alleys onto book­shelves.

Mon­de’s hand­craft­ed wood­en book­end dio­ra­mas, which you can see on his Twit­ter feed as well as in a Buz­zfeed Japan arti­cle about them, repli­cate the back alleys of his home­town of Tokyo. They do it in minia­ture, and down to the small­est detail — even the elec­tric lights that illu­mi­nate the real thing at night.

Scaled to the height of not just a book but a small Japan­ese paper­back, the likes of which fill those back-alley book­stores from floor to ceil­ing, they’re designed to slot right into book­shelves, pro­vid­ing a wel­com­ing street scene to those brows­ing through their own or oth­ers’ vol­umes in the same way that the actu­al alleys they mod­el come as a pleas­ant sur­prise to passers­by on the main streets.

Tokyo has become a beloved city to Japan­ese and non-Japan­ese alike for count­less rea­sons, but who can doubt the appeal of the way it com­bines the feel­ing of small-town life in its many neigh­bor­hoods that togeth­er make for a megac­i­ty scale? Mon­de’s dio­ra­mas cap­ture the dis­tinc­tive mix­ture of domes­tic­i­ty and den­si­ty in the cap­i­tal’s back alleys, reflect­ing the nar­row­ness of the spaces in form and their some­how organ­i­cal­ly man­made nature — step­ping stones, pot­ted-plant gar­dens, and all the small pieces of infra­struc­ture that have accu­mu­lat­ed to sup­port life in the homes of so many — in con­tent. Though Tokyo has for decades been regard­ed, espe­cial­ly from the West, as a place of thor­ough hyper­moder­ni­ty, its alleys remind us that with­in the some­times over­whelm­ing present exists a mix­ture of eras that feel time­less — just like the con­tent of a well-curat­ed book­shelf.

via Twist­ed Sifter

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch Japan­ese Wood­work­ing Mas­ters Cre­ate Ele­gant & Elab­o­rate Geo­met­ric Pat­terns with Wood

Mes­mer­iz­ing GIFs Illus­trate the Art of Tra­di­tion­al Japan­ese Wood Join­ery — All Done With­out Screws, Nails, or Glue

“Tsun­doku,” the Japan­ese Word for the New Books That Pile Up on Our Shelves, Should Enter the Eng­lish Lan­guage

The Toky­oi­ter: Artists Pay Trib­ute to the Japan­ese Cap­i­tal with New York­er-Style Mag­a­zine Cov­ers

A Pho­to­graph­ic Tour of Haru­ki Murakami’s Tokyo, Where Dream, Mem­o­ry, and Real­i­ty Meet

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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