Konoike Tomoko: Inter-Traveller

Konoike Tomoko: Inter-Traveller

I recently visited Konoike Tomoko’s (鴻池朋子) immersive retrsopective show called Inter-Traveller at the Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery. Presented as a child-like journey to the center of the earth, Konoike’s art creates a universe of myths in which nature and humans become merged in fantasy: six-legged wolves, wolves and butterflies with young girl’s legs and red running shoes, volcanoes with human faces, a fuzzy ball character with legs and no head, a giant ball with antlers and wings and human birth, swords, and giant books.

Konoike Tomoko: Inter-Traveller

This first comprehensive exhibit include pencil on paper, painting, fusuma screens, installations, animations, and sculpture. Some rooms are entered by very low passage ways, and the second to last room has a giant spinning baby’s head covered in mirrors, surrounded by mariners’ ropes and broken glass. The movement of light around the room made me hold on to the railing with intense vertigo. The final room almost forces the visitor to confront nature and death in a tangible way; fortunately there was a discreet side escape for the squeamish.

I mention Konoike’s work because her wonderous myth-making projects a vision of humans in a state of crisis and seeking meaning through nature, mystery and travel. Just as some argue that most agricultural invention and technology comes from cities, I felt that Konoike’s art, while drawing on the natural world and spirits, is deeply urban and contemporary. The journey to the center of the earth and to rebirth, she suggest, involves imagination, play and communication between the living and the dead. I was not surprised to learn that her atelier is in one of the world’s most urban locations, Akihabara, and that her background includes toy and character design along with fine arts.

Konoike Tomoko Inter-Traveller


  1. I love this exhibition. It was a truly magical experience, very uplifting, and my mind was buzzing with activity afterwards. Whatever your dreams are, I’m sure that, after visiting this exhibition (wherever you get the chance to see it) you will leave feeling more focused and more determined to follow them.

    On a side note, I was also intrigued by Tomoko’s apparent (if unconscious) influence by William Blake, especially with her series centered around a book, “The World of Wonder.” The similarities with William Blake’s works some 250 years ago are astonishing. I’m actually aiming to do a PhD looking at William Blake’s influence/reception in Japan in a year or two, so I just wish I could sit down and talk with Ms Konoike for a few hours and really get to grips with her work.

    Anyway…. you HAVE to see this exhibition. It was one of the most memorable art experiences of my life.

      1. Hi Jazz, Thank you for your comment. I agree that the show is incredible. Unfortunately, your link didn’t work. Is there a typo?

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