A major trend in the Tokyo art world over the past few years has been the temporary “art-jacking” of old buildings and facilities just before they are scheduled to be knocked down.
This was a major success at the former French Embassy, which allowed artists to take over every corner of its old premises for the extravaganza that was “No Man’s Land” back in 2009 and 2010.
Trans Art Tokyo, whose current edition is running now, has been transforming old (and some new) buildings in the Kanda neighborhood with various art exhibits and events. This year includes a flying whale! The publisher Shogakukan also invited people to graffiti its walls as a tribute to its manga output over the years shortly before its building was pulled down.
This also extends to reclaiming the buildings on a permanent basis, such as the case with 3331 Arts Chiyoda, a former school that is now one of the capital’s premier art centers.
In BCTION some seventy artists and artist gropus have taken over all nine floors of a building in Kojimachi, central Tokyo, and turned the whole thing into a big installation shortly before it is going to be demolished.
Increasing the sense of this being a secret event, visitation is by reservation only. Work on the installations began in August and then the main exhibition was for the first half of September. However, some events and “encore” exhibits are being held at the end of the month.
The main disadvantage to this is that BCTION has gone under the radar somewhat and did not get as much coverage as other similar art-squatting events in the past, which is a shame as the events and exhibits (so far) looked impressive.
As the 2020 Olympics loom and bring with it a bonanza of new development works, many old buildings and districts will be making way for shiny new venues. While in limbo awaiting their fates, the spaces open up exciting opportunities for artists and designers.
This article was first featured by our friends at TokyoKinky.com (*NSFW*) but we liked it so much, we decided to reblog it here in a slightly toned-down version.
Tenga is Japan’s most stylish brand of sex toys and masturbation aids. They first exploded domestically when they released the Tenga Egg, followed by a series of “onacups” and then finally hit the big time internationally with the Tenga Flip Hole, possible the most attractive adult toy ever made.
Since then the company has been taken over by Soft on Demand — the Mitsubishi of the Japanese adult world — but has continued innovating, creating the Tenga 3D and other variations on their previous products, as well as branching out with a series of vibrators for both women and couples. Earlier this year they took an interesting step sideways with the Pocket Tenga (*NSFW*), returning to their disposable Tenga Egg roots.
This is a one-use only masturbation aid that looks both unlike a sex toy at first glance (handy!) and also has very nicely designed packaging as well. Being Tenga, there are all sorts of smart extras, such as how the masturbation sleeve’s sachet even has a sticker so that after, ahem, usage, the toy can be popped back in the packaging, sealed up, and then disposed of hygienically and discreetly.
Oh, and the whole thing is so slim it can fit into your pocket (hence the name), so you are never far away from having some private Tenga time.
On top of fantastical product design, though, Tenga also has a good eye for marketing. In the past it has organized Tenga-themed club events and art shows, and even a beach clean-up day this summer (after all, sex toys contribute to waste as well).
And this idea was just brilliant. Tenga employees took their business cards and integrated them into the sachet for the Pocket Tenga, serving both as a giveaway sample to clients and visitors when they meet for the first time, and a regular business card.
As you can see the business card (slightly larger than a normal card) is enclosed in the wrapping for the Pocket Tenga, so on one side it shows the employee’s details and on the other shows the toy and brand.
One lucky visiting journalist was fortunate enough to get his own made by Tenga for him!
The first one came out in July 2013 and caused quite a stir. Now comes the follow-up.
“Suichu Ni-so” (“underwater knee-high socks”) is a photography series by Manabu Koga devoted to — you’ve guessed it! — young ladies diving under the water wearing knee-high socks (and swimwear too, of course). The idea sounds ridiculously simple but actually the visuals are quite fresh, almost hypnotic, like a whole new aquatic landscape.
Koga’s new 96-page photography book “Underwater Knee-High Girls plus” hits local stores on October 20th, priced ¥1,800 (around $18) plus tax.
Part of the appeal comes from the fact that the models have all kinds of props with them, some of which — like umbrellas, raincoats and rabbit ears — just shouldn’t be there (i.e., underwater) in the first place. Apparently the knee-high socks are designed especially for diving in, created by a “mecha designer” who is also working on the new “Gundam Build Fighters” TV anime series.
Models featured include Risu Shima and Manami Yamaguchi.
When in Rome, as the saying goes. And so when in Kyoto, wear a kimono. There’s nothing pretentious about getting into “costume”, so to speak, and exploring Japan’s old capital in a kimono. It’s fairly common to see both Japanese tourists (men and women) doing it.
But kimonos are not designed for walking fast and are certainly not designed for riding a bicycle — which is a shame, because Kyoto is a city ideal for cycling around, its layout being in the old grid system of Japanese capitals (see Nara).
Enter the KOTO LX-20, a kimono bike — that is, a bicycle designed for riders wearing kimonos.
Its concept might have traditional clothing in mind but the design itself feels retro and pop — not dissimilar to a Brompton — with the bottom bar set very low so your straight and long kimono won’t have issues with the pedals and so on. The chain looks fully covered so getting oil on the kimono also shouldn’t be a problem.
There are current three versions, each in its own wa (Japanese) color: OBOROZUKI (light blue), YUUGAO (white) and KOMURASAKI (purple). Wearing a matching kimono the best effects while cycling around Gion.
The bikes costs ¥48,000 ($440) and come with a snazzy leather saddle and three gears (there are some slopes in Kyoto). The KOTO LX-20 went on sale in April this year in Kyoto — has anyone seen them around the city? — but were recently showcased on Japaan.com and Rocket News 24.
We’re not sure if they are available for rental yet but surely it’s just a matter of time before kimono rental shops and hostels offer them.
Japan is a land full of cyclists, both of the hipster variety, the designer variety, and just the humble mama-chari “granny bike” variety. And so now we have the “traditional” Japanese bike, of sorts.
Here you can see the KOTO LX-20 in action around the old capital.
Japan has its fair share of wacky but fascinating beauty gadgets. There are also lots of inventive cosme items too. For example, we’ve already had the Cats Face Pack, the Kabuki Face Pack, and the Animal Face Pack.
All these face packs were created by Isshin do Honpo and designed based on genuine characters.
Now comes the Fashion Face Pack by Kansai Yamamoto, which features two face packs recreating actual make-up used by the eponymous veteran designer in a London fashion show.
These were in turn inspired by Kabuki kumadori make-up, so this is very much a mixture of avant-garde art from both the past and present.
Isshin do Honpo calls the series the “Japanese Face” brand.
JAPANESE FACE is a cosmetic face pack brand that introduces uniquely Japanese faces to the world.
With illustrated sheet masks and carefully selected moisturizing lotions, consumers have fun wearing the masks and then enjoy the benefits of beautiful skin afterwards.
It is a new kind of Japanese souvenir that introduces the great Japanese culture to people around the world and here in Japan, as well.
The Fashion Face Pack by Kansai Yamamoto is available worldwide from JapanTrendShop. It officially goes on sale in select stores in Japan on September 21st, which is actually the same day that Japan’s first ever fashion show was held at Mitsukoshi in 1927.
We can’t wait to see what Japanese Face is next! Tengu, perhaps?
Red Bull Music Academy has produced a great series of documentaries about the little-known world of Japanese video game music.
The series is called “Diggin’ in the Carts” and so far parts 1 and 2 have been released. Each episode is around 15 minutes long and have English subtitles.
Composers featured in the series include Hirokazu Tanaka, Hitoshi Sakimoto, Shinji Hosoe, Hiroshi Kawaguchi and Takenobu Mitsuyoshi (both above), Masahi Kageyama (below), and many more.
The series highlights how important video games and their soundtracks were for the generation growing up in recent years, and “yet for most of us the composers behind these timeless melodies remain faceless”. The central thrust of the series is to put a face to these undervalued composers and argue that video game music has been probably Japan’s largest musical export to the rest of the world.
Here is Episode 1: “The Rise of VGM”.
In this episode we look at the birth and rise of music in video games. From the earliest sounds and melodies to the first fully formed continuous music to be pioneered in the arcade games from Namco. We meet Junko Ozawa, one of Namco’s earliest sound team composers, and also the legendary Hirokazu ‘Hip’ Tanaka, who joined Nintendo in 1980 and was responsible for composing some of the giant’s most loved classics like Metroid and Tetris.
The series is directed by Nick Dwyer and Tu Neill.
For some reason they have elected not to put the other full episodes on YouTube (yet?) but they exist as heavy videos on their own site that don’t really embed well.
The first episode was released in early September. Episode 2 is called “The Outer Reaches of 8 Bit” and is out now. The final three episodes are scheduled to go online over the next few weeks.
Watch the rest of the series when they are released and see other bonus content over on the Red Bull Music Academy website.
On a side note, one of the most famous composers of Japanese video game music, Mamoru Samuragochi, was exposed as a fraud earlier this year.
Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs sends “racist” Hague Child Abduction Convention pamphlet to embassiesWritten by: William on September 17, 2014 at 10:49 pm | In LIFESTYLE | 3 Comments
The culprit this time is Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which has sent an 11-page leaflet to Japanese embassies and consulates. The education literature has been published in response to Japan finally ratifying the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, reports the South China Morning Post.
This has been a matter of contention in Japan, which has been seen as soft on issues of child abduction — mostly notably Japanese partners taking their child to Japan and away from the other parent who is foreign, who until now could not do anything about it. Signing the Convention, going into effect from this past April in Japan, means that children taken by one parent are legally required to be returned to the country of their regular residence. In other words, a Japanese parent cannot suddenly take their child out of a foreign country where they had been living full-time.
The pamphlet uses manga-esque images (taking its subject seriously, then) and, more offensively to some, depicts a white man apparently assaulting or abusing a Japanese-looking child as she dreams of her mother far away in Japan.
While it is common for even official documents in Japan to use manga imagery, the one-sided portrayal of the issue has angered people like Debito Arudou, a naturalized Japanese citizen originally from America. It particularly makes some indignant because the issue of child abduction that got many activists campaigning for Japan to ratify the Convention was most infamously due to cases of Japanese (usually women) taking their half-Japanese child away from foreign partners (usually men).
To be fair, the leaflet is 11 pages long and depicts several scenarios, as Arudou shows on his website with a scan of the actual document (you can view a full translated version as a PDF on the MoFA website). However, the only image to show an “assault” is the one with a white man abusing a Japanese-looking child. (And in fact, one shortcoming of the Convention is that it may not be able to protect children from being returned to abusive parents.)
And government rubber-stamped “Cool Japan” rears its silly head too, with an anime figure bringing some cute moe to the proceedings and at one point acting as a kind of interlocutor between child and father, who is an otaku. Perhaps ultimately, more than actual discrimination, the truly offensive thing here is that the bureaucrats took a very serious issue and belittled it with a visual style that made it all seem silly.
Korg, although respected as a premier electronic musical instrument and accessories maker, still likes to have fun every now and then.
That’s why in the past it has released such items as Hello Kitty Guitar Tuner in collaboration with Sanrio.
And now it has created the Korg Miku Stomp Effect for Hatsune Miku, the virtual character originally created for the Yamaha Vocaoloid system that has since become a mini industry in its own right.
Korg’s contribution is the rather snazzy-looking Korg Miku Stomp Effect. Korg is obviously at home with Hatsune Miku, who was born out of electronic music. This new Korg Miku Stomp Effect, to be released in October in Japan, allows you to have a guitar duet with Miku, singing in her unique Yamaha eVocaloid style.
Here’s a trailer hinting at the kinds of sounds you can create.
Korg says the aluminum diecast body on the effects unit is decorated with a specially commissioned original illustration.
There are 11 different lyric patterns and you can also input and customize your own lyrics. Korg are being a bit coy about how this will work. Apparently there is going to be a dedicated iPhone app but complete details are not yet available, plus they do not promise it can work with “English” but do say it can work with up to 6,000 characters in either Hiragana, Katakana or Romaji — but the latter is essentially writing Japanese in the Roman alphabet so it should in theory be possible to program Hatsune Miku to sing what you want to the tune of “Senbonzakura”.
This will have to confirmed in late October when the Miku Stomp Effect goes on release here. We can’t wait to see what Hatsune Miku fans create with their new musical toy.
Check out further details and specs on JapanTrendShop.
Descendants of “villain” in Korean box office hit “The Admiral: Roaring Currents” sue over historical inaccuraciesWritten by: William on September 16, 2014 at 9:58 am | In CULTURE | 1 Comment
Descendants of a figure depicted as a “villain” in the current Korean box office smash “The Admiral: Roaring Currents” are suing over the film’s alleged historical inaccuracies.
“The Admiral: Roaring Currents” revolves around the 1597 Battle of Myeongnyang, a victory for the Korean Joseon navy despite the odds. The Koreans had only a dozen ships against the invading Japanese’s 133 warships.
The film, known simply as “Myeongryang” in Korea, stars famed Korean actor Choi Min-sik (“Old Boy”) as Admiral Yi, the commander of the Korean last stand. Released in July, it has grossed over $100 million and been seen by over 17 million people. It is now the most successful film in Korean box office history. It received a limited release in America this summer.
Detractors have accused the film of having an nationalistic agenda. Its release and popularity at a time of Japanese and Korea tension over territorial and historical issues is certainly unfortunate for politicians, though the reasons for its success may also be more innocuous. Ordinary Koreans have much affection has for Yi, the underdog protagonist hero, and film’s distribution company is said to have a monopoly over local movie theaters.
Facing incredible odds, Admiral Yi held his ground even when ordered to fall back and devised strategies to hold the Japanese ships at bay. His leadership qualities are greatly admired by Koreans today and a translation of his diary into modern Korean has been a bestseller.
Not everyone feels that “The Admiral: Roaring Currents” is accurate or fair, however.
The suit, filed against the producer and director Kim Han-min, the screenwriter Jeon Cheol-hong, and a novelist, relates to the portrayal of a side character in the film.
“Our ancestor’s name has been defamed for commercialization and we are also suffering from stigma,” say descendants of Bae Seol, a Korean general whom the film depicts as a rival to Yi. Bae is often said to have deserted the battle but alternative theories say he was allowed to leave the battle due to illness. He was later captured and executed.
His modern-day descendants have asked for screenings of the film to be suspended.