Japanese vagina artist Megumi Igarashi (Rokudenshi-ko) launches “deko-man” artwork sale to pay legal bills

Written by: William on July 30, 2014 at 10:50 am | In CULTURE, LIFESTYLE | No Comments

It garnered headlines worldwide and made a fringe figure the talk of the town. The arrest of Megumi Igarashi (Rokudenshi-ko) on July 12th ostensibly for “distributing obscene materials” after she made data for a 3D printing of her genitalia available to supporters of her crowdfunding campaign ignited a scandal.

She was arrested by ten (yes, ten!) officers, sparking a serious debate over whether she was being punished for being a woman who dared make a thing (literally) out of her you-know-what. There is also the question of whether art was being censored by the state, not to mention how in a nation with a mammoth sex industry, a correspondingly vibrant adult toys market, and the per-capita largest porn business in the world, why were the police so bothered about one woman making a kayak out of her genitalia? And any cursory glance at Japanese mythology or historical art genres like shunga prints would convince you that sexual liberty and nudity should form a healthy part of society.

japanese vagina artist megumi igarashi rokudenshi-ko arrest artworks deko-man kayak boat

But this is contemporary Japan, which has a long history of double standards in this area. Although there have been countless full-frontal photography books featuring female celebrities over the past decades — strictly speaking, showing genitals or genital hair is interpreted as “obscene” — and released into the mainstream to great success, last year Leslie Kee was arrested for exhibiting images of naked men in Tokyo. Freedom of expression is not protected for artists and, for example, a couple of years ago a major performing arts event in Tokyo (name retracted on recommendation!), upon being told by the city that they could not allow a public festival to program sexually explicit work, had to ask a director to re-configure a play featuring nudity so that the vital “bits” were hidden from view.

In the end, police decided not to indict Igarashi for now but she still has potential charges (carrying up to two years in prison and a fine) hanging over her. The prosecutors have inadvertently turned Igarashi into a martyr for both feminist and artist causes, though, and would be foolish to continue with their persecution.

japanese vagina artist megumi igarashi rokudenshi-ko arrest artworks deko-man kayak boat

Igarashi was released after six days. But getting arrested is an expensive business. Even if charges are not brought or — very rare in Japan! — you are acquitted, you still have to foot your lawyer’s bill.

japanese vagina artist megumi igarashi rokudenshi-ko arrest artworks deko-man kayak boat

Always one to utilize her grassroots support, Igarashi has turned to her fans now to help cover the costs. Her gallery has launched a sale of her vagina-inspired “deko-man” (decorated vagina) artworks and she promises in a tweet to use the proceeds to pay her legal team.

japanese vagina artist megumi igarashi rokudenshi-ko arrest artworks deko-man kayak boat

Rokudenshi-ko’s mission to reclaim what is hidden, what society deems “obscene”, into something playful and ordinary is here manifest in cute vinyl figurines of female genitalia. You can get pink or gold versions of “Manko-chan”, or even a glow-in-the-dark one! They cost between ¥2,100 ($21) and ¥2,800 ($28), though some of them won’t be available until late August.

japanese vagina artist megumi igarashi rokudenshi-ko arrest artworks deko-man kayak boat

See the Shinjuku Ganka Gallery online shop for more. If they put up an English website with PayPal options, we reckon this would be very popular overseas too!

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Yakuza syndicate Yamaguchi-gumi launches English website in mission to bring back code of chivalry

Written by: William on July 28, 2014 at 9:13 am | In CULTURE | No Comments

It got quite a bit of attention when Japan’s largest crime syndicate, the Yamaguchi-gumi, launched its own website (with theme song and videos) earlier this year, not least because the design is less Web 1.0 than Web 0.0. Oh, and they are claiming the organization is actually all about “drug expulsion”. Right, even the Yakuza claimed they are anti-amphetamines — drugs are that taboo in Japan — but what about the other unsavory criminal pies they have their hands in?

It’s been updated with a skeletal English version. Here is their self-penned English profile, warts and all.

We are the Alliance to Eradicate Marijuana and Purify the Country(the”Alliance”),

It is solemn oath,as it is a basic human right and of national interest as a treasure of our
Constitution under Japanese law,to be a pioneer in the pursuit of our societal wellbeing by sweeping
away marijuana and narcotics from the country,thus protecting youth from this bewilderment of
society and to serve as a guide to a Japan of orderliness and excellence.

We have made this new home page in acceptance of Boss Taoka’s undertaking and strong conviction
regarding the eradication of illicit drugs from Japan.

And as reports Jake Adelstein on his Japan Subculture Research Center website, they have also launched a new site (also with an English version for global audiences!) dedicated to Yakuza ideals.

yamaguchi-gumi japan yakuza syndicate gangsters english website ninkyodo

The Yamaguchi-gumi is on a mission to bring back ninkyo (or ninkyodo), or the code of chivalry.

Ninkyo-dou is inspirational and educational way to a spiritual discipline yet it is almost distinct. In today’s society, it is frustrating to see people not understanding what Ninkyo-dou truly means yet they believe it is same as violence.

Recently, people in Ninkyo world are recognized as mafia and both members and their acquaintances are discriminated. Moreover, the government is attempting to ban ninkyo spirit and its practice all along.

They even get a bit self-righteous.

“Yakuza is bad” “Everyone else who is associated with this practice is wrong”
This thought is not only oppressive but also dangerous.

Interestingly, they also condemn Prime Minster Abe whom they claim (like many leftists) is taking the country down the road to fascism.

Beside the proud list of the crime syndicate’s list of “recent social contributions”, perhaps most shocking is how they decry the rise in “vicious crimes” in Japan, as if they had nothing to do with all that malarky.

So how about English lessons from the new line of schools by the Yamaguchi-gumi, launched in the near future as part of its latest “social contribution”? Farfetched, for sure, but not as much as they other things on their website!

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Pop idol group Perfume turn Hiroshima Prefecture tourism guidebook into mega hit

Written by: William on July 23, 2014 at 8:48 am | In CULTURE | No Comments

The sad truth is that sometimes Japanese consumers are a simple bunch. Forget complex marketing strategies or clever stunts. The way to their hearts is just to put a famous person on the front of whatever it is you’re selling.

Hence why there are so many TV commercials and other ads featuring the same gallery of celebrities. Hence why Hollywood films will have some random Japanese model appear at a press conference to promote the movie. And hence why this free 126-page guide for Hiroshima Prefecture tourism has sold out immediately after it hit the shelves.

nakeru hiroshima perfume tourism booklet magazine guide sold out popular

It was published and released on July 14th but reprints have already been ordered. How come? Well, in order to give the booklet a push, the folk at Hiroshima made the decision to pay a no doubt not inconsiderable pile of cash to have Perfume to appear on the cover, looking cute and pop like the trio of young girls always do.

Within two hours of launching the campaign website, they had already reached the limit for 2,000 reservations, and now the publishers are getting orders from book stores all over the country, desperate to get their hands on the rare booklet. The initial run of 50,000 copies is almost all gone and the next run won’t arrive until mid-August.

nakeru hiroshima perfume tourism booklet magazine guide sold out popular

The idea to include Perfume in the “Nakeru! Hiroshima-ken” (literally, “Hiroshima Prefecture that will make you cry!”) booklet and campaign is not as cynical as it sounds, since the girls originally hail from the region (it does, though, time in nicely with the release of their latest single). They also appear in a short PR video and are interviewed in the book.

The best place to get a copy in Tokyo is from the TAU Hiroshima Prefecture Store in Ginza, though at time of writing it no longer has any guidebooks left.

nakeru hiroshima perfume tourism booklet magazine guide sold out popular

We’ve long struggled to understand the popularity of Perfume. On a superficial level, they are hardly what you might think of as glamorous. Rather, like many idol groups, they are presented as “amateurs” and this is reflected in that basically only one could be called beautiful. But it also shows in their ultimately fairly limited abilities to sing and dance, let alone write their own songs. Their managers are savvy folk and know to employ talented people to make cool music videos and album covers, which raises their sophistication. But what is the appeal of the Perfume girls themselves? Clearly they must have something, as this latest development shows!

Now we just have to see if the Perfume effect can actually increase tourism in Hiroshima.

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Exbiotanica: Makoto Azuma launches bonsai Japanese plant sculptures into space

Written by: William on July 22, 2014 at 12:11 pm | In CULTURE | No Comments

Intergalactic bonsai!

Just when you thought there couldn’t be any more innovations on past traditions, along comes something that makes your jaw drop.

Makoto Azuma, known for his eye-catching botanical art work such as the greenery sculptures that decorated Shinjuku’s Isetan Department Store when it reopened in 2013, has taken things to the next level, stratospherically speaking.

makoto azuma exbiotanica bonsai flower botanical art space launch flight

makoto azuma exbiotanica bonsai flower botanical art space launch flight

While he has previous suspended bonsai in the air, this time round he actually launched a new piece called Exbiotanica into space. The two botanical objects were sent where no plant had gone before from a special site in Black Rock Desert outside Gerlach, Nevada, on July 15th.

According to Spoon Tamago, Azuma and his ten-man crew, along with help from JP Aerospace (despite the name, actually US-based) and Fujifilm (thanks for the great images!), launched a version of his Japanese white pine work “Shiki” and an untitled flower bouquet into space using a helium balloon.

makoto azuma exbiotanica bonsai flower botanical art space launch flight

makoto azuma exbiotanica bonsai flower botanical art space launch flight

makoto azuma exbiotanica bonsai flower botanical art space launch flight

T Magazine describe the launch:

The expedition started in the dead of night, at 2 a.m. One hour later, Makoto was already building a bouquet with about 30 varieties of flowers. He started with an aerial plant tied to a six-rod axis and studiously added peace lilies, poppy seed pods, dahlias, hydrangeas, orchids, bromeliads and a meaty burgundy heliconia. “I am using brightly colored flowers from around the world so that they contrast against the darkness of space,” he said.

The scent of the flowers was stronger and more concentrated in the dry desert breeze than in their humid, natural environments, and the launch site was redolent with their perfume. Makoto worked quietly, until the metal rods were covered completely with plants. Then he directed his attention to his bonsai. For this particular project, Makoto chose a 50-year-old pine from his collection of more than 100 specimens, and flew it over from Tokyo in a special box. While readying it for space, he kept it moist and removed a few brown needles with a tweezer.

makoto azuma exbiotanica bonsai flower botanical art space launch flight

makoto azuma exbiotanica bonsai flower botanical art space launch flight

makoto azuma exbiotanica bonsai flower botanical art space launch flight

makoto azuma exbiotanica bonsai flower botanical art space launch flight

makoto azuma exbiotanica bonsai flower botanical art space launch flight

The two helium balloons went up in the early morning, both covering the same flight path. The helium balloons then burst at around 90,000 feet and parachutes softened the impact after the two vessels fell back to earth. Sadly the dangling bonsai and the flower bouquet both disintegrated during the fall. The vessels returned safely but alas, not the foliage.

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Eco Edo Nihonbashi Art Aquarium: Tokyo’s summer spectacle of goldfish and Edo colors returns

Written by: William on July 17, 2014 at 8:55 am | In CULTURE, LIFESTYLE | 1 Comment

After first appearing in 2011 and proving a massive success in both 2012 and in 2013, the spectacular Eco Edo Nihonbashi Art Aquarium 2014 is back. Exploiting Japan’s love of the decorative and the vibrant colors of kingyo goldfish to the max, the Art Aquarium event is popular with couples on dates and families looking for eye candy for the kids.

It opened for the fourth time at the Nihonbashi venue on July 11th. Last year’s edition achieved more than 300,000 visitors and this year the organizers surely hope to match this, pulling out all the stops with 5,000 goldfish and even new aquaria that use mirrors and lens called Paradoxrium and Reflectrium.

eco edo nihonbashi art aquarium tokyo goldfish event summer

eco edo nihonbashi art aquarium tokyo goldfish event summer

eco edo nihonbashi art aquarium tokyo goldfish event summer

Technically speaking, there are two events: Art Aquarium is open from 11:00 to 19:00 while the Night Aquarium is from 19:00 to 23:30. As we said, the two main targets here are surely families and couples, so from 19:00 the lighting and music change, and visitors are allowed to take around drinks with them. There will also be live music from 19:00 on weekends. In other words, expect things to feel more romantic from the evening.

eco edo nihonbashi art aquarium tokyo goldfish event summer

eco edo nihonbashi art aquarium tokyo goldfish event summer

eco edo nihonbashi art aquarium tokyo goldfish event summer

Themed around Edo and the goldfish motifs that populate art from the period, the aquarium is very much steeped in the tones of Japonism. It’s only a small coincidence that the venue is in Nihonbashi, an area that was instrumental in the Meiji and Taisho eras as Tokyo modernized.

eco edo nihonbashi art aquarium tokyo goldfish event summer

eco edo nihonbashi art aquarium tokyo goldfish event summer

eco edo nihonbashi art aquarium tokyo goldfish event summer

eco edo nihonbashi art aquarium tokyo goldfish event summer

eco edo nihonbashi art aquarium tokyo goldfish event summer

eco edo nihonbashi art aquarium tokyo goldfish event summer

There are many different kinds of aquaria featured in the exhibition, from balls to folding screen shapes, and complete with outlandish names like Elegance Dance, Bonborium, and Byouburium. You can see a slideshow and bilingual descriptions on the Art Aquarium website.

eco edo nihonbashi art aquarium tokyo goldfish event summer

eco edo nihonbashi art aquarium tokyo goldfish event summer

eco edo nihonbashi art aquarium tokyo goldfish event summer

Eco Edo Nihonbashi Art Aquarium 2014 runs until September 23rd at the Nihonbashi Mitsui Hall.

[Images source]

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Japanese idol metal band Babymetal appears in UK fashion magazine i-D

Written by: William on July 16, 2014 at 9:08 am | In CULTURE | 5 Comments

The website for UK fashion magazine i-D currently features Japanese idol group Babymetal. Online you can find an interview with the three young Japanese ladies, “bringing kawaii-metal to the world”.

Part gothic Lolita, part heavy metal, Babymetal have just appeared at Sonicsphere along with the likes of Iron Maiden. The three-piece is SU-METAL (16), YUIMETAL (15) and MOAMETAL (15), who certainly know how to scream.

baby metal kawaii idol band japanese i-d magazine world tour

i-D claims that Babymetal’s “eponymous debut album headed straight to the top of the charts worldwide, with a unique sound that merges Slayer with the very best dance mat anthems.” Well, we’re not sure they have their facts right (top of the charts worldwide?) but we like their enthusiasm. “It is awesome. With an incredible energy and a performance unlike anything you’ve seen before, a new legend is born.”

Here are some extracts from the “giggle-filled interview ahead of the band’s very first, very sold-out, London show.”

How was Sonisphere?

SU-METAL: It was the first time that we performed on such a huge stage so before we went on we were very nervous. The audience cheered lots so it made us very happy.

I heard that you performed on the same stage as Iron Maiden, who you’ve said before is your favorite metal band, how was that?

SU-METAL: We actually stayed on to watch their performance and we were like “did we really just play the same stage as them?!” It was really unbelievable.

You met some legendary metal bands too!

SU-METAL: Yes! Backstage at Sonisphere we were wearing BABYMETAL tshirts that reference classic metal bands like Anthrax, Slayer and Megadeath, so people recognise those and come to talk to us. So we took photos with some of the artists which was really cool.

Tell us about the fox god…

SU-METAL: We don’t really know what the fox god like because we’ve never met it, but we always have this message from this little master and we act accordingly. So we’re doing this European tour because of the calling. We’ve managed to achieve so many things that we would never even have dreamed of, so we really feel that there is a fox god leading us.

How does metal music make you feel? Angry? Powerful?

SU-METAL: It is more to do with my relation to the music, but whenever I perform it’s different to how I feel normally. I’m quite shy myself – I don’t actually go out dancing and headbanging but when I become SU-METAL and perform, it’s not embarrassing anymore. So when I perform, there are new discoveries in myself.

You’re supporting Lady Gaga. Are you excited?

SU-METAL: We’re all so excited! It still feels like a dream.

Her sound is very different to kawaii-metal, how do you think her fans will react?

SU-METAL: You’re right — in terms of music we’re completely different, but we ourselves didn’t know about metal music before Babymetal. When we first heard it we thought ‘what the hell is this?!’ but found it very interesting and enjoyed it, so I think the fans of Lady Gaga who don’t normally listen to metal music might feel the same way as us.

If you weren’t in Babymetal, what do you think you’d be doing right now?

SU-METAL: Just going to school and studying like ordinary kids. I don’t think we’d have the opportunity to go abroad or anything like that.

Which characters do you think you’re most like?

MOAMETAL: My favorite animation is “Love Live” and there is a character called Honoka Kosaka and I think I’m most like her, but who I aspire to be like is Nausicaa from “Valley of the Wind”.

YUIMETAL: I would like to be the Little Mermaid so I can live in the sea

SU-METAL: I would like to be the lead girl in Mama-Mia because she’s such a positive thinker.

This is the trailer to the band’s world tour, which kicked off in March in Tokyo.

Two years ago, in a country far, far away… It is a period of pop music. Rebel idols, striking from a hidden base in Japan, have won their first victory against the boring music empire. During the battle, the kitsune-sama fox god revealed his ultimate weapon, BABYMETAL, a kawaii-metal band with enough power to drive the metal resistance and restore musical freedom to the galaxy…

i-D magazine has been a stable for over 30 years now, famed for its wink-and-smile front covers and its coverage of the world’s fashion elite.

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Transformers, Anime in Disguise: Chogokin Chogattai SF Robot Fujiko F Fujio Character Robot is an amazing six anime character combo!

Written by: Japan Trends on July 15, 2014 at 10:14 am | In CULTURE, PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

While the latest Michael Bay Transformers movie is shooting up the box office around the world (though not yet in Japan), it’s worth taking a look at a pretty spectacular local Japanese version. A veritable manga character Transformer!

Celebrating 80 years since the birth of Hiroshi Fujimoto, one of the manga-writing duo Fujiko Fujio, here is Bandai Tamashii’s Chogokin Chogattai SF Robot Fujiko F Fujio Character Robot! We don’t know how to begin describing this. It is made up of SIX Fujiko F Fujio (Hiroshi Fujimoto) characters that combine into one model. The “SF” in the name stands for both “sci-fi” and “sukoshi fushigi” (a bit mysterious), while “Chogattai” is a play on the name of the series (Chogokin) and means “super combo”.

chogokin chogattai sf robot fujiko f fujio model bandai tamashii toy doraemon

How’s your anime and manga character knowledge? How many of the “parts” can you name?

Okay, here’s a spoiler: The cast is made up Doraemon, Dorami (Doraemon’s sister), Perman, Korosuke (from Kiteretsu Daihyakka), Chinpui, and Gonsuke (from 21emon).

If you wondering what that big thing the Chogattai is carrying, it’s artist Fujimoto’s iconic red beret hat and pen. Another accessory included is the popular time machine from the Doraemon series.

chogokin chogattai sf robot fujiko f fujio model bandai tamashii toy doraemon

This rather strange but also rather awesome model/toy will get a release in late November.

Chogokin (literally “super alloy”) is a series of die-cast metal toys and models that first appeared in the late 1970′s. It’s pretty geekily Japanese — after all, who names a series after a fake material?! It is undergoing something of a revival at the moment. It’s the 40th anniversary of the model series owned by parent company Bandai, who now release the series through its Tamashii arm.

In recent years Chogokin has only been known for superior scale models of bullet trains, GX-64 Space Battleship Yamato 2199 and other modes of transport. However, of late we have seen an incredible Chogokin Hello Kitty there are more original releases to come, it seems. Look out for a Chogokin model based on the iconic Tower of the Sun by Taro Okamoto!

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Save the Okura: Monocle magazine campaigns to rescue Tokyo’s Hotel Okura from demolition

Written by: William on July 14, 2014 at 8:56 am | In CULTURE, LIFESTYLE | No Comments

We remember the good ol’ days when every tech blog was keen-eyed for the latest development from Japan, when mainstream newspapers at least partly seemed to take Japanese fashion seriously, and… well, when our job was way easier! It’s so much harder these days to get other folk excited about Japan, even with the Olympics a few years away and the government’s mega-budget “Cool Japan” juggernaut apparently running at full steam. Japan just ain’t cool anymore.

But Monocle disagrees: Monocle loves Japan. The magazine of choice for hipsters, sophisticates and pseuds has an obsession with things Japanese — well, at least, that certain kind of highly curated and orchestrated “design” world Japan. It might not have anything to do with how ordinary Japanese people live their lives but Monocle at any rate adores Tokyo’s pristine and over-priced coffee shops, its toniest of tony boutiques, the design for exclusive clients by the likes of Kengo Kuma, and so on.

Its issues invariably feature a dose of Japan content from both Tokyo and the regions, and in the past it has put out a mini select store in the FrancFranc in Aoyama and even set up a Monocle Cafe in Marunouchi.

monocle save the okura hotel tokyo designer demolition online petition campaign

Founder Tyler Brûlé once mused to The Japan Times about what it is that he loves about Japan.

Tokyo is a city with a 24-hour metabolism. Customer service in Japan has an enthusiasm, a sense of “going for it,” that’s consistent. Whether it’s in a convenience store or a hotel, there’s an attention to detail. In the West, in too many cases, doing things “quickly” has become “slapdash.”

Now Monocle is on a mission: to save the Hotel Okura.

monocle save the okura hotel tokyo designer demolition online petition campaign

monocle save the okura hotel tokyo designer demolition online petition campaign

The magazine has launched an online petition to have the famous hotel saved from demolition.

It’s the “final checkout,” as they say.

News that Tokyo’s iconic 1960s Hotel Okura is to be reconstructed has been met with outrage from admirers of its unique design. While Tokyo’s changing skyline is what makes it special, demolitions like this threaten its architectural history.

monocle save the okura hotel tokyo designer demolition online petition campaign

The Hotel Okura is one of the great symbols of Japan’s postwar recovery, along with the Shinkanzen bullet train and Tokyo Tower. It opened two years ahead of the first Tokyo Olympics and its recent guests have included President Obama.

In September 2015 the best bit of the most loved hotel in Tokyo will be torn down by its owners to make way for a 38-storey glass tower. It will be a heartbreaking and irreparable loss.

The 550-room hotel will open 2019, in time for the Rugby World Cup and Tokyo Olympics. Though the 1973 Okura annex will remain, we can bid farewell to the murals, the wood, the tuxedos (on the staff), and the folk art motifs.

monocle save the okura hotel tokyo designer demolition online petition campaign

As a devotee of Japanese aesthetics, Monocle is taking the redevelopment very personally:

The demise of the Okura is akine to the loss of a good friend. Tokyo will not be the same without it.

As well as this online endeavor, Monocle’s current July/August issue is running a generous six-page photo report paying tribute to the Okura and showcasing the efforts to save it.

monocle save the okura hotel tokyo designer demolition online petition campaign

Sign the petition on savetheokura.com.

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“One Piece” exhibition canceled in Seoul due to Rising Sun Flag “nationalist” images

Written by: William on July 11, 2014 at 10:11 am | In CULTURE | 3 Comments

An exhibition based on the massively popular manga “One Piece” scheduled to take place at the War Memorial of Korea in Seoul from July 12th has been canceled, it was announced on July 10th.

Organizers said they have made the decision after people realized that numerous motifs in the original manga were reminiscent of the Rising Sun flag, a symbol of Japanese militarism and which has a particularly painful resonance in Korea, a country which suffered from decades as a colony of Japan.

The TV anime version of “One Piece” has already been broadcast in Korea and so the content of the exhibition had previously been judged as harmless, according to the museum. As such, they agreed to rent out a section of the venue for the event. However, after being told that Rising Sun Flag images appeared in the original manga they changed their minds, although no such images were featured in the actual planned exhibits. As the museum is run as a public organization funded by the state they had no choice but to cancel the exhibition.

one piece manga expo exhibition korea seoul cancel politics rising sun flag nationalist symbol wartime aggression

Like in Japan, Eiichiro Oda’s “One Piece” is popular in Korea and the exhibition, along with sketches and other materials, was going to feature life-size models of the characters, bringing the world of the manga and anime to 3D life for visitors. It would have been very successful too if early numbers are anything to go by. The events company behind the show said it had received reservations alone from 5,000 people! Not surprisingly they are now looking for an alternative venue for their exhibition since there is clearly demand for it, regardless of the politics.

While it might seem inappropriate or even bizarre to hold a mainstream exhibition (i.e. a piece of entertainment) like this at a war memorial in the first place, the Seoul venue is actually very large and has multiple spaces for all kinds of functions and events.

A similar exhibition opened recently in Taiwan, also a former Japanese colony, apparently without similar issues.

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