Meet Yumiko Utsu at Kadoya

· Monday October 21, 2013

Meet Yumiko Utsu, an artist whose works combine photographs with everything from exploding tomatoes to sea cucumbers. After joining her university's photo club, Yumiko began shooting and exhibiting wherever they could find a space, but it wasn't until she won the Grand Prix at the Hitotsubo Exhibition in 2006 that she began to focus on her current surrealist style of photography. Her photographs – meticulously composed and shot at home – present colourful scenes within which figures morph and merge, identities mix and inanimate objects and elements of the natural world are brought to life, in at times comical and bizarre situations.

I met Yumiko in Kitasenju, an older part of the city not far from where she grew up in neighbouring Arakawa Ward. It's an area where she spends most of her time, whether it be shopping for daily goods or searching for seafood at Adachi Market for her artworks.


She proposed we take an afternoon stroll past a couple of the local sights, before finishing with dango from Kadoya in Senju.


The grand facade of Daikokuyu – a classic bathhouse and sauna built over 60 years ago.


We stopped briefly to buy several bags of ame (hard candy) from one of the tiny stores that line the street to the station in Kitasenju.


Crossing over Nikko-dori, a historic street that linked Tokyo to Nikko in the Edo Period, we looped in by the station and passed by 'Taco-park' – a local landmark.


Describing herself as a lover of all things sweet (dango included), Yumiko recommended Kadoya – an old-style sweets store – as a place she stops by whenever she gets the chance.


Due to popularity, the store intermittently runs out of dango throughout the day. The small glass cabinet is replenished as quickly as the man out the back can lather the dango with anko or sweet syrup.


Established in 1952, Kadoya is famous for its super-soft sticks of yarikake-dango, which are slow roasted one by one over charcoal. For Yumiko it is places such as Kadoya, with its slow pace of life, that make Kitasenju one of her favourite places in Tokyo.