A ‘near-perfect’ maker haven in the heart of Tokyo

If you decide to get lost in the streets of the Kuramae district, known as Tokyo’s Brooklyn, you may be lucky enough to find yourself in front of "almost perfect"an artistic residence devised by a Spanish-Japanese couple, which invites creators to discover the Japanese city, produce and exhibit their works.

This project "almost perfect" was born in October 2018, the fruit of the vision of Luis and Yuka Mendo, a couple who sought to create a space in which artists could get away from their day-to-day lives in their countries of origin, explore new projects or redirect their careers.

"When you are an artist or creative, it is almost like a train that never stops: you are producing all the time. We wanted to offer people the opportunity to come to Tokyo and have a place to experiment and find the time and space to work on something for themselves."Luis explains in an interview with Efe.

Born in Salamanca, Luis spent most of his career in Amsterdam, where he designed magazines for 20 years. As a consequence of professional wear and tear and after the death of his father, he decided to take a few sabbatical months in Tokyo and after falling in love with the city, move there permanently.

Since then, the artist from Salamanca has become a renowned illustrator and works for numerous brands, magazines and websites from his small Tokyo studio. It is also here that five years ago he met his wife, Yuka, an expert consultant in sustainable fashion, who he combines with the management of "almost perfect".

"We found the house by chance"explains Luis at the entrance of the three-story white building where you can read "shop and rice mill". Right now, three artists are doing residencies there: Detroit painter and designer Martyna Alexander and Swiss designers Sandra Golay and Alexandre Armand.

A century-old rice shop

The location of "almost perfect" it’s not by chance, Yuka points out. "Very few artist residencies are located in the city center, but in rural areas, but for us it is important not only to be in Japan, but in Tokyo, where you have many things around you".

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"The curtains are wrinkled, it has stains, it’s an old house, not perfectly perfect, but almost"says the artist born in Chiba, northeast of Tokyo.

Located in the old "shitamachi"one of the historic centers of Tokyo, the building where the residence is located was built in 1924 as a rice mill and store and three generations of the same family passed through it, dedicating themselves to the sale of this product, until the interest because of the business it was lost.

"They did not want to continue with the family business, so they told us that if we did not keep it, they would turn it into a parking space"comments Luis, who regrets that possibly "they are only prolonging the life of the building for a few years".

Martyna, however, found a renewed source of inspiration in this space and now, at the end of her stay, she has managed to produce a dozen works, most of them made with recycled, discarded or locally acquired materials.

"Being in this place and neighborhood has been very inspiring. Everyone is connected, they know each other and help each other"says the artist and designer "freelancing" who is now interested in using local materials and the services of those around her.

A dream stopped by the pandemic

After starting the project in 2018, the couple of artists saw their reservations shoot up, however, the pandemic stopped these dreams and forced them to keep the space practically closed until a few weeks ago.

Sandra and Alexandre, the couple behind the Swiss 3D design studio "getit"They did not hesitate and were encouraged to come. "We knew about the project for 3 or 4 years and this year we decided that it was what our studio needed in the search for style that we are doing."Sandra points out.

Since its opening, some 40 artists have stayed in residence, however, Yuka and Luis have bigger plans for "almost perfect". "We would like to have a bigger building with four or five rooms to help more artists"explains Yuka, to which Luis points out running that "not too big".

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