Underwater High-Knee Girls Plus: a photography book devoted to ladies in knee-high socks, in water

Written by: William on September 19, 2014 at 11:00 am | In CULTURE | No Comments

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.

suichu niso underwater diving knee high socks girls shima risu yamaguchi manami model japanese photography book manabu koga

suichu niso underwater diving knee high socks girls shima risu yamaguchi manami model japanese photography book manabu koga

suichu niso underwater diving knee high socks girls shima risu yamaguchi manami model japanese photography book manabu koga

suichu niso underwater diving knee high socks girls shima risu yamaguchi manami model japanese photography book manabu koga

Koga’s new 96-page photography book “Underwater High-Knee Girls Plus” hits local stores on October 20th, priced ¥1,800 (around $18) plus tax.

suichu niso underwater diving knee high socks girls shima risu yamaguchi manami model japanese photography book manabu koga

suichu niso underwater diving knee high socks girls shima risu yamaguchi manami model japanese photography book manabu koga

suichu niso underwater diving knee high socks girls shima risu yamaguchi manami model japanese photography book manabu koga

suichu niso underwater diving knee high socks girls shima risu yamaguchi manami model japanese photography book manabu koga

suichu niso underwater diving knee high socks girls shima risu yamaguchi manami model japanese photography book manabu koga

suichu niso underwater diving knee high socks girls shima risu yamaguchi manami model japanese photography book manabu koga

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.

suichu niso underwater diving knee high socks girls shima risu yamaguchi manami model japanese photography book manabu koga

suichu niso underwater diving knee high socks girls shima risu yamaguchi manami model japanese photography book manabu koga

suichu niso underwater diving knee high socks girls shima risu yamaguchi manami model japanese photography book manabu koga

suichu niso underwater diving knee high socks girls shima risu yamaguchi manami model japanese photography book manabu koga

Models featured include Risu Shima and Manami Yamaguchi.

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“Diggin’ in the Carts”: Red Bull Music Academy’s documentary series about Japanese video game music

Written by: William on September 18, 2014 at 9:33 am | In CULTURE | No Comments

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.

Hiroshi Kawaguchi Takenobu Mitsuyoshi red bull academy video game music japan diggin in the carts documentary series

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.

masashi kageyama red bull academy video game music japan diggin in the carts documentary series

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.

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Descendants of “villain” in Korean box office hit “The Admiral: Roaring Currents” sue over historical inaccuracies

Written 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 admiral roaring currents korean film lawsuit descendants sue producers historial inaccuracy

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.

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Geisai: Tokyo University of the Arts’ incredible student festival

Written by: William on September 15, 2014 at 9:56 am | In CULTURE | No Comments

Being the season of the rice harvest, at this time of year there are lots of traditional festivals around Japan. Just this weekend (a long three-day holiday weekend) we saw several portable shrines (omikoshi) around Meguro and even in the heart of Shibuya.

But every year in early September there’s another kind of festival hosted by students from Tokyo University of the Arts, one that is part art carnival though with plenty of nods to the same modus operandi of a traditional Japanese matsuri.

geisai tokyo university of the arts student festival floats

It’s called Geisai (“Gei” means “arts” and comes from Geidai, the nickname for the college, while “sai” means festival) and the three-day festival always features elaborate (and huge) floats that show off the students’ creative talents. There are also performances and music during the festival, with the events happening at the main campus but also spilling out into the streets of nearby Ueno.

The students compete to see which team has the best float as they parade them around, wearing colorful clothes that sort of resemble the usual garb that shrine-bearers at festivals usually wear, with some extra flourishes.

geisai tokyo university of the arts student festival floats

geisai tokyo university of the arts student festival floats

geisai tokyo university of the arts student festival floats

geisai tokyo university of the arts student festival floats

geisai tokyo university of the arts student festival floats

geisai tokyo university of the arts student festival floats

geisai tokyo university of the arts student festival floats

geisai tokyo university of the arts student festival floats

geisai tokyo university of the arts student festival floats

geisai tokyo university of the arts student festival floats

geisai tokyo university of the arts student festival floats

geisai tokyo university of the arts student festival floats

geisai tokyo university of the arts student festival floats

This tiger float was the winning entry in the festival. The mouth is amazingly well made.

geisai tokyo university of the arts student festival floats

geisai tokyo university of the arts student festival floats

geisai tokyo university of the arts student festival floats

geisai tokyo university of the arts student festival floats

God knows what they do with the giant floats after the festival is over, though.

Also check out Tokyo Art Beat’s photo report on a Geisai event a few years ago.

[Images via NetGeek.biz]

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Former Aoyama Saint Hachamecha High School Japanese idol group members (and fans) sued by management for dating

Written by: William on September 12, 2014 at 10:38 am | In CULTURE | 2 Comments

In a possibly unprecedented move, the management of a Japanese idol group is suing two former members, their parental guardians, and the fans they had relationships with for damages.

MovingFactory, the management and label behind the seven-girl idol group Aoyama Saint Hachamecha High School has named both the two members, the fans and the parents in the lawsuit, which was made public yesterday.

Formed in 2012, Aoyama Saint Hachamecha High School is not as famous as other idol groups like Perfume, AKB48 and Momoiro Clover Z, but still has a reasonable fan base. Its single “STARTING OVER”, released in March, got to No.7 on the Oricon weekly singles chart.

In April this year it was suddenly announced that one of the members was leaving due to “health issues” and then in July another member was said to be taking a “break” from event appearances. New members were announced (the group now has eight members).

However, it was not until August that the reasons for the departure of Miho Yuuki (19) and Sena Miura (22) were made clear when a producer explained at an event that the two had been dating fans, which breached their contracts with MovingFactory. They were fired and the management even went so far as to reveal the names of the fans, which led to people tracking down their social media accounts and photos.

Aoyama Saint Hachamecha High School japanese idol group sued lawsuit relationship with fan

And now it has emerged a lawsuit has been filed for over ¥8.2 million (in excess of $75,000) for damages as a result of the girls’ actions. The two members are named in the suit, as are the men who had relationships with the girls.

“The parental guardians signed contracts that said the members would not have relationships with fans and would not neglect their work,” the management was quoted. “They have betrayed the members of the group and all their fans. We cannot forgive this.”

It was not until yesterday that the lawsuit was confirmed, though rumors about it had been circulating since mid-August when MovingFactory explained why the two members had left. One of the men in question wrote a blog post claiming that as an ordinary citizen he was free to have a relationship with someone and that he had received notice of a lawsuit. The other man went so far as to make a public apology via a YouTube video (since taken down).

There is a recent similar case. Last month the management company for idol group N Zero announced a lawsuit against a member and a fan for having “private contact”.

While there have been some scandals of this nature before, what usually happens is the “shamed” member is fired or punished. AKB48 member Minami Minegishi was demoted and even shaved her head in a bizarre act of public self-humiliation, while fellow member Rino Sashihara was exiled to a Kyushu “sister group” for a similar romantic episode, though her fan base has since exonerated her and turned her into one of the most popular members in the AKB sphere.

Some have criticized the management of idol groups for moral hypocrisy, demanding that female members be all pure and innocent while actually selling them as sex objects and profiting from the sexualization of young girls. In fact, as is alleged with former AKB48 member Tomomi Kasai, there are cases where relationships with the idols are condoned but only when it is with the (older) male management themselves.

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Infinity of Flowers: teamLab and Gucci create interactive digital floral installation

Written by: William on September 10, 2014 at 1:56 pm | In CULTURE, PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

teamLab has got together with Gucci to create “Infinity of Flowers”, an interactive digital installation at the Gucci Shinjuku store from September 13th.

Visitors will be able to “touch” the flowers on the screen and see them bloom, scatter, grow and wither. The installation using a computer program to “paint” the flowers in realtime on the screen. The imagery on the display is created spontaneously by the system. We look forward to the video that will surely be made.

teamlab gucci infinity of flowers digital installation shinjuku japan tokyo

There will also be a teamLab work in display in the 8-meter window that faces Shinjuku-dori.

teamLab is an award-winning group of “ultra-technologists” working with digital experiential media. Its previous projects include a remarkable high school musical, an amazing digital mural of Tokyo at the Skytree, smart clothes hangers in a department store in Shibuya, and many more. This Shadow Dance and Shadowgraph video from early 2011 was a hit, not least because it seemed to adhere to everything we love about Japan — samurai swords and technology!

teamLab already has a florally-themed installation, “Time-blossoming Flowers”, at the new KITTE department store in Marunouchi.

team lab flower installation kitte tokyo marunouchi

They have a new permanent installation, “Vortex of Water Particles”, at Narita Airport’s Terminal 1 North Wing (joining their other installation at the South Wing that started last year).

“Infinity of Flowers” will run from September 13th to September 28th at the third-floor event space at Gucci Shinjuku. Entry is free.

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“Toy Tokyo” explores Japan’s capital city in blurry, lo-fi photography

Written by: William on September 8, 2014 at 10:23 am | In CULTURE, LIFESTYLE | No Comments

“Toy Tokyo” is a new photography book by Manami Okazaki, a collection of 26 interviews and images.

New from Kingyo Books, “Toy Tokyo” features “the work of several photographers who are either from, or are shooting in Japan. While generic, commercial, travel photography based on stock has become the norm, ‘Toy Tokyo’ captures the exhilaration of travel photography and life on the road, in one of the world’s most intense locations.”

toy tokyo manami okazaki photography book

Photographers included in the book are: Frederic LeBain, Takeshi Suga, Cory Lum, Taiju Fubuki, Yusuke Abico, Genqui Numata, Hodachrome, Jorge Sato, Michael Feather, Katherine Oktober Matthews, Leo Berne, Kevin Meredith, Tommy Oshima, GHST WORLD, Kevin Meredith, Rei Sato, Paolo Patrizi, Sean Lotman, Jorge Sato, Remo Camerota, Michael Lyons, Martin Cheung, and Naga.Design by Cakefortiger.

toy tokyo manami okazaki photography book jorge sato

toy tokyo manami okazaki photography book taiju fubuki

You can read comments from some of the contributing lo-fi photographers over on GUP Magazine.

For example, here is what Michael Feather (responsible for the image below) says: “The reason I went with the pinhole is partly because commercial work is mostly digital, so to get away from that aspect, and with digital now, and iPhone and smart phones, we can shoot anything any time and stick a filter on it. You are playing around. You don’t start out with an actual vision, you just snap away. Whereas, when you start using something like a pinhole, with film, you start to think about what you are doing. You have made a conscious decision at the start.”

toy tokyo manami okazaki photography book michael feather

toy tokyo manami okazaki photography book sean lotman

“Toy Tokyo” is promised as the first in a series of location-specific toy camera photography books. It is available for $30 from Kingyo Books.

Australia-born Okazaki is the author of other coffee table books like “Kimono Now”, “Wabori” (on traditional Japanese tattoos) and “Kicks Japan” (about street culture and sneakers).

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Roboko: Shinjuku Kabukicho Robot Restaurant gets its own mascot character

Written by: William on September 4, 2014 at 8:08 am | In CULTURE | No Comments

It generated enough headlines when it opened and now it will surely get some more.

The Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku Kabukicho launched in late 2012 on a wave of publicity, not least for its enormous budget and advertising campaign featuring the eponymous robot vehicles been driven. Even if it wasn’t your thing, admit it — you were curious too, right?

And now the Robot Restaurant has its own mascot character, Roboko. (Strictly speaking, they have simply rebranded their robotic vehicles that star in the show as a mascot.)

Roboko is taking part in Japan’s “battle of the mascots”, last year won by Sanomaru. The robotic vixen is entry #55 in the corporate character competition in the Yuru-kyara Grand Prix, which is decided by public voting.

roboko robot restaurant kabukicho shinjuku mascot character yuru-kyara grand prix competition

We’re not sure about Roboko’s chances against the likes of Kumamon and Funassyi, but you can’t knock them for trying. Last year there were 1,245 regional mascots and 335 corporate characters in the running. The top two regional mascots (the corporate ones get a separate ranking) had over 1 million votes each! (In other words, entering the competition is great for getting more exposure.) The 2013 Grand Prix’s top corporate mascot was Kosuke, the character for the Japanese Cooperative Insurance Association.

The restaurant has made over 10 of its “robots”, with the first ones on display in the entrance as they were apparently actually too big to fit in the final space. They reckon this makes Roboko perhaps the largest yuru-kyara in Japan!

shinjuku kabukicho robot restaurant tokyo

As we wrote in a review last year, we found the Robot Restaurant a bit half-baked. There aren’t any genuine “robots” in the show, more like vehicles that that the dancers ride around on. And despite the risque outfits, it’s not really an adult show nor a regular idol event — something that sits oddly in between. And the staff at the reception were just like you’d expect from a venue located in Tokyo’s most notoriously sleazy district, i.e., pretty unwelcoming.

It also felt significant that around half the clientele were foreign (the restaurant ranked 16th on a recent list of most popular sightseeing spots in Japan for overseas visitors). Anyway, we don’t want to sound too snarky, we are sure that the show must have some appeal and we wish Roboko all the best in the competition. We would say “break a leg” but we doubt that’s physically possible for her.

Voting continues until October 20th, with the winners announced in November.

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Biwako Biennale 2014 Utakata, a site-specific art festival beside Japan’s largest lake

Written by: William on September 1, 2014 at 9:57 am | In CULTURE | No Comments

Biwako Biennale 2014 kicks off on September 13th, running until November 9th in a small city along the edge of Japan’s largest lake in Shiga Prefecture.

biwako biennale 2014 utakata

biwako biennale 2014 noda sachie

This sixth edition of the festival features more than 70 artists or artist groups exhibiting site-specific work in 12 old houses in Omihachiman.

The theme this year is “Utakata”, which means foam or bubble. This ethereal beauty is the key motif in the line-up, with contributions from the likes of photographer Rinko Kawauchi, “flower arrangement car” artist Yuji Ueno, sculptor Masato Tanaka (pictured below), and more.

biwako biennale 2014 masato tanaka

Here are grotesque Kokeshi-esque sculptures by Miki Sachiko.

biwako biennale 2014 miki sachiko

The first Biwako Biennale was held in 2001. Passes for the 2014 festival cost ¥2,000 for adults.

biwako biennale 2014 makoto ofune

biwako biennale 2014 mika aoki

A preview event was recently held at a Konno Hachiman-gu shrine in Shibuya, including a special dance performance by Tarinainanika (Kentaro Suyama & Tania Coke).

biwako biennale 2014 tarinainanika

Omihachiman is a roughly 30-minute train ride from Kyoto. The two-month will also include a symposium, workshops and live events.

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