Yukihiro Yoshihara’s “Technoetic Trees” is one of the few artworks on the Oedo Line located away from the ticket gates of the station.

Yukihiro Yoshihara talking about his piece, “Technoetic Trees”

Which is probably just as well. To appreciate the three identical sculptures that form the piece, located at Kiyosumi-Shirakawa Station, you need a little more room for a view.

Computer-generated, the figures resemble futuristic vases whose forms, depending on the angle from which you look at them, are changed by the boxes of distorting “angle-21” glass in which they are placed.

Subtle use of lighting makes these unusual towering structures glow, standing like lanterns at the end of the spacious passageway to the station platforms. “Usually sculptures and carvings are made to be touched, or at least should be touched. But you cannot touch this work; it is purely visual,” says Yoshihara. “As you walk around the sculptures, the visible angles of each change.”

The shape of the sculptures, he explains, expresses a theme he has been working on for a number of years. “Vertical axes are symbolic of male instincts or principles. It’s like with towers, rockets, even the Empire State Building, which I had begun to see as symbols of outward energy emanating from a horizontal plane, like the ground, and symbolizing male primal instincts.”

Despite his Oedo commission, Yoshihara believes that “the concept of public art in Japan has not yet taken root.”

“In America and Europe, that concept is deeply rooted in public space. Public art is publicly owned, and the issue of who bears responsibility for it and who it belongs to is extremely clear,” he says. “In Japan, this is a long way off.”