Uplink X in Shibuya : A Place Like No Other
Tucked away in one of Shibuya’s lesser-known side streets, you’ll find Uplink X, a building brimming with Tokyo’s most creative offerings. Founded in 1987 by ASAI Takashi, the space began life as a distribution and production company, but nowadays it serves as a cultural “hot spot” with three multipurpose cinema spaces, a gallery, a café/restaurant, and a shop.
Photo: Hajime NAKANO on Flickr
Uplink’s specialty is arthouse films and documentaries, though there’s room for all manner of creativity behind its doors. On the first floor, you’ll find Screen 1, a 58-seater multipurpose space that’s primarily used for film screenings, though it’s not rare to see a dance performance there, and on occasion, it even serves as a shop. Upstairs is Screen 2, with 44 seats and a 120-inch screen, and Screen 3, described by Uplink’s owner as “the smallest theatre in Japan.” He’s probably not exaggerating. The room is composed of a mere 40 seats and makes use of various different styles of chair: there are armchairs, wooden stools, even deckchairs, so it bears more similarities to an IKEA showroom than your average multiplex. That said, it’s certainly a unique way of watching a film or a live performance that you won’t forget in a hurry.
Most of the films are in Japanese and unfortunately subtitle-free, though occasionally they’ll show the odd film in English – odd being the operative word. Xavier Dolan’s Mommy and David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars make up the venue’s most recent English offerings, as well as, somewhat obscurely, Richard Curtis’s About Time. Surreality is their specialty though, with previous screenings including Polanski’s early works, Eurotrash flicks, and a host of experimental short works. Until late July 2015, they’re running Italian Nights, a series of Italian movies – once again, Japanese subtitles only! You can check here for more details about their English screenings.
Downstairs, the “Tavela” restaurant offers a variety of different meals from all over the world, including a number of Greek dishes. The staff members are friendly and accommodating, and whilst smoking isn’t allowed indoors, there’s a heated balcony area to keep smokers warm in the winter months.
Also on the first floor is Uplink’s gallery, with free exhibitions that change on a weekly basis. Examples of recent showcases include an exhibit based around Kumiko Maekawa (a professional cage fighter), an animated exhibit entitled “Alien Love” and an exploration of the history of the boom box. Eclectic to say the least!
On the second floor, you’ll find the Uplink X shop. Their primary stock consists of movie-themed goods, though included in their wares are teddy bears, T-shirts, necklaces, faux fur hats, and even teas and cutlery. The books are primarily Japanese, and the English books on offer make up an obscure selection. You may not have heard of the writers, but in amongst the poetry and coffee table picture books, you might just discover a new favourite.
Fans of film, and all things eccentric, will surely find something to love about Uplink X, and whilst English screenings are sparse, it’s still an impressive little cinema with a great deal of character and some delicious servings in the café! Certainly worth a visit.