The fair features around 180 galleries and other organizations putting their wares for collectors and the general to inspect and, hopefully, buy!
This year, G-Tokyo — previously an alternate art fair — has fused with Art Fair Tokyo to present a separate section within the main fair venue. In the past, the fair has used a separate venue or the upstairs floor to showcase younger contemporary galleries’ work. This year and last see just a single floor of the forum being used which, while spacious enough, does mean there isn’t the sense of demarcation between different kinds of art and art galleries as before.
You will need stamina to make it through all the booths!
Look out for the specially customize “art Mercedes-Benz” in the entrance.
A mini exhibition is also being held within the fair as part of its annual Artistic Practice series, this year highlighting Japanese modern painting from the late nineteenth century onwards.
If painting’s not your thing, how about the latest in animation and video art? The Japan Media Arts Festival is screening some of its 2013 award-winners at a special screen just outside the entrance to the fair.
There is also a “Discover Asia” section as well as cafe with cardboard furniture being painted by Aki Kondo.
The most exciting-looking part of the fair may also be its most esoteric. Aoyama Meguro gallery has accumulated a fantastic collection of photography by Mitsutoshi Hanaga that showcase the Japanese experimental art and theatre and dance scene from the 1960′s and 1970′s, as well as social movements and student protests from the era.
Whatever your tastes, there’s something for everyone.
Art Fair Tokyo runs from Friday March 7th to Sunday March 9th, 2014. Admission costs ¥2,000.
Fancy joining AKB48?
It was announced yesterday that the idol mega group is now recruiting a new member to join the ranks for a limited time only. The newbie will be over 30 years old, a stark contrast to the ever-younger girls in the group, typically in their teens or early twenties.
The Adult AKB48 Auditions campaign is looking for a female idol to join the group from April 12th to August 31st. She can be a professional or amateur, married or single — but she must be 30 or over.
She will be a central part of advertising fronted by AKB in the spring and summer, as well as participate in concerts, hand-shaking events and more. The whole thing is part of a campaign for Papico, an ice cream product by Glico.
We look forward to seeing an older AKB girl, though it remains to see how far they are prepared to take it. After all, Japanese women tend to look much younger than they are and there are plenty of famous models and actresses in their forties and fifties still regarded as beauties. But will AKB genuinely accepted a middle-aged “idol” or rather opt for a “still” cute-looking lady just into her thirties?
At present, the oldest member of AKB48 is Haruna Kojima (just under 26 years old). Mariko Shinoda graduated last year in July when she was a ripe old 27.
Applications for the new “older” AKB48 idol have already opened and close on March 28th. Ladies, what are you waiting for?!
This article by Frances Maeda first appeared on Tokyo Cheapo.
Make the most of the pleasant weather in Tokyo this March and April with Tokyo Cheapo’s guide to the best festivals and flowers. This is the first installment of a new bi-monthly events wrap where Tokyo Cheapo will be giving you the lowdown on what’s on (and cheap) in the coming months.
1. Hanami: Late March to Early April
For some, it’s the reason they come to Japan — to contemplate the transience of life while gazing at the cherry blossoms coloring the landscape pink. For others, it’s an opportunity to get drunk in a poetic setting. And yet for others, it’s a bit of both. Whatever you’re into, cherry blossom season is traditionally celebrated with chilled picnics under the trees, while the petals fall around you. The parks of Ueno and Sumida are popular spots for these hanami parties, as is the Chiyoda area (around the Imperial Palace) — you can even boat around the moat there. Rikugien, known for its “weeping” cherry trees, is worth a visit too.
When: Late March – Early April. You can check the sakura forecast (in Japanese) here.
2. Anime Japan 2014 (March 22nd and 23rd)
As the website says, “Here is everything about anime”. A dream come true for any self-respecting otaku, it’s two full days of all things Japanese animation. You’ll have a chance to see the newest anime, as well as enjoy screenings of classic titles. There will also be exhibitions, talks, music, all sorts of other stage events, seminars on the business side of things, and stuff you can buy. And did we mention the cosplay?
When: 22-23 March. Where: Tokyo Big Sight, East Exhibition Hall. Ariake, Koto-ku.
3. Mt Takao Fire-Walking Festival (March 9th)
You know those stories of monks walking barefoot across scorching coals? You can see that first-hand (and maybe try it too) at the Mt Takao Hiwatari Festival. Hotfoot it to Yakuouin Temple on Tokyo’s most popular mountain (less than an hour from Shinjuku) to experience the haunting sounds of conch shells, Buddhist prayers and fire (lots of it). When the flames have subsided, the monks cross the burning embers — said to be part of a path to an ultimately peaceful and enlightened existence.
More details here.
4. Kamakura Festival (April 13th to 20th)
The city of Kamakura (the one with the giant Buddha statue) in Kanagawa Prefecture was the political centre of Japan in the 12th century, and it’s hailed as the birthplace of samurai culture — giving it instant cool cred. Just an hour away from Tokyo, it’s a great spot to visit — especially during the Kamakura Matsuri (Festival). Held at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, there will be music, dance performances (on the first Sunday of the festival), mikoshi (portable shrines) and — the highlight — horseback archery (on the second Sunday). This style of archery dates back to medieval times and is said to have been used as a brain training technique for the samurai.
More details here.
5. Kanamara Penis Festival (April 6th)
What would the fertile season be like without a fertility festival? Except that, contrary to appearances, this festival is not exactly about that. The “Festival of the Steel Phallus” is held at Kanayama Shrine — where prostitutes apparently used to pray for protection from STIs, back in the day. The spot also came to be associated with prayers for prosperity, easy births and happy marriages. The festival is a celebration of all things penile (never thought we’d use that word in an article), with a big pink penis that gets paraded around, penis-shaped snacks and decorations, and even carved veggies. You’ll never look at pumpkin the same way again.
More details here.
Read on Tokyo Cheapo.
After a teaser a few weeks ago, the official trailer has been released for “Godzilla”, the new American film adaptation of Japan’s most famous monster.
Hollywood has a very bad track record when it comes to adaptations of Japanese pop culture. From “Astro Boy” to “Dragon Ball”, “Street Fighter” and “Super Mario Bros.”, the results are typically embarrassing for all concerned and more often than not, box office bombs. They seem to do better with darker video games or horror films. The “Resident Evil” series has its fans and the first “Silent Hill” film was quite a good horror flick on its own merits, while the remakes of “The Ring” and “Ju-on: The Grudge” weren’t so poorly done.
Roland Emmerich previously laid waste to the Godzilla franchise in 1998 with a notoriously cringe-worthy and stupid film adaptation. It was a literally a disaster movie.
In these post-Christopher Nolan days, though, Hollywood blockbusters are darker and grittier, so expect more handheld CGI shots. And if the tone is anything to go by in the trailer, lead actor Bryan Cranston will bring a raw emotion to the film that was utterly lacking in the comedic Emmerich film.
The studio sells its new version of Toho’s monster classic like this:
“An epic rebirth to Toho’s iconic Godzilla, this spectacular adventure, from Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures, pits the world’s most famous monster against malevolent creatures who, bolstered by humanity’s scientific arrogance, threaten our very existence.”
Here’s the official trailer.
It will be released in US theaters on May 16th (in other words, the first blockbuster of the summer season) and will be shown in 3D.
Directed by Gareth Edwards, the man who put a micro budget to very good use in his independent cult hit “Monsters”, this time he is working with $160 million, which must have been a bit of a change. With its distinguished cast of Bryan Cranston, Juliette Binoche, David Strathairn and Sally Hawkins, the film is clearly aiming for serious dramatic elements on top of the special effects. Youngsters get eye candy in the shape of Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen to keep them occupied, while Ken Watanabe flies the Japanese flag for the film.
In the new telling, the A-bomb “tests” in the Pacific were apparently attempts to wipe out the monster. But they failed. And now he is back to wreck havoc on mankind, specifically New York.
After failing so dismally in 1998, we hope Hollywood has learnt its lesson.
What will Japanese audiences make of the new version? Having only moderately flocked to recent Hollywood fare that offered “Japanese” settings like “47 Ronin” and “The Wolverine”, this time the film doesn’t even have that going for it since the action has been transplanted to American soil. Sure, many will be curious what the monster looks like and Ken Watanabe has plenty of local fans, but ultimately the success of the movie in Japan will depend on the quality.
In this hardened digital age, promoting people to read poetry can be an unenviable task. While Twitter has brought the epigram into the modern era, we seem to have less and less patience.
It is hard to imagine a digital native penning “The Waste Land” or any of the other lengthy, opaque works of poetry that burst onto the scene around a century ago. But perhaps we need to wait for the new generation to find its feet.
One young Japanese poet has found a novel way to promote her poetry online and it also borrows heavily from a retro video game that we surely all know and love.
Shi Shooting (Poetry Shooting) is a website for the work of Tahi Saihate. Also a novelist, she has won several awards for her verses.
She came up with a brilliant way to introduce her poetry to audiences by having the words converted into the spaceships in a “Space Invaders”-style game in which you can control laser cannons to blast her poems to smithereens before their projectiles hit you or they reach the bottom. Yes, in a nutshell, rather than those waves of merciless advancing aliens you have Saihate’s lyrics to destroy — and presumably read as well.
The classic two-dimensional look is faithfully retained, though this time with just black (both the laser cannons, defense bunkers and poetry “invaders”) against a plain white background. You’ll be pleased to see the iconic pixellated design is also still there, along with the annoying habit the invaders have for speeding up as they get closer.
When it’s game over, the message on the screen even says “Thank you for reading”. We’re not sure how much actual reading most players will get when visiting the website (avoiding the projectiles and aiming for that pesky final comma that needs blasting surely is time-consuming enough!), but it is certainly a great way to get people to remember your work and interact with it in a fresh way.
Give it a try — you’ll be hooked!
Japan is a country that seems to inspire more than its far share of stereotypes and myths. The overseas media is also complicit in perpetuating many of the images of Japan that make it seem weird, exotic and unfathomable. What irk the most are the ones that mold Japan as a nation of wackos with bizarre tastes in fashion, beauty, sex and entertainment. This isn’t just Japan; the western media continually likes to mock and belittle Asian countries. Would Psy have been such a hit if there hadn’t been a “weird dance” (actually originally very tongue-in-cheek)?
Here are five we particularly dislike and feel are wrong (in whole or in part), and also harmful and patronizing.
Yes, there are mascots — lots of them.
The Self-Defense Force has them, as does the police and even the Japanese Communist Party. Some days it feels like you can’t get away from mascot characters, on TV, advertising or merchandise. But that doesn’t mean people are stupid or only interested in something because of a mascot.
Mascot culture has been a big success story for regional tourism, hence why it has become something of a phenomenon in recent years. This is a fascinating social development and offers lessons in tourism. But also don’t confuse it with the idea that everyone in Japan walks around with mascot toys in their bags.
A nation of geeks
This links in with the mascot thing. Sure, manga and anime are popular here. hHwever, one of the biggest mistranslations and inaccurate use of language concerns the idea of “subcultures”. If we had a yen for every time we saw the words “anime subculture” in Japanese or English. More often than not, it’s being used incorrectly. What’s important here is how manga and anime are indeed mainstream — but in the sense that cartoons and comics are part of popular culture in America too. No one calls American geeks because of how successful “The Avengers” was, right? But the movie was seen by thousands of non-fans too.
What has changed in recent years is that certain types of manga and anime have risen in status — by which we mean subcultural content previously associated mostly with hardcore fans, especially science fiction. However, manga and anime itself is not a subculture. Quite the opposite: they are part of pop culture. So just because they are a visible element in Japan, it cannot be correlated solely with “geeky” culture.
The difference is that there is a whole wealth of anime and manga that can be enjoyed by adults too, not to mention the tens of thousands of titles specifically meant for older audiences (and we don’t mean “adult content” either). This is like how there are graphic novels and the likes of Robert Crumb in America, plus a quality Pixar animation is entertaining for all ages.
That’s what’s interesting; not that everyone in Japan is an otaku because they read comics even after the age of 18, but that there are comics that cater to predilections that go way beyond superheroes. If you look at the annual list of bestsellers, Japan has some of most varied reading tastes. What was the biggest box office hit recently in Japan? Yes, it was an anime. But it was Studio Ghibli’s “The Wind Rises”, which frankly is as mainstream as any Disney picture.
What makes us doubly angry is that “Cool Japan” is also getting it wrong, promoting a subculture — something for a select taste — as representative of all that’s good about Japan. And so we have embarrassments like AKB48 (not even a true example of genuine otaku culture anymore) performing at the ASEAN gala banquet.
We have been guilty of helping with this myth ourselves. Sure, there are some bizarre beauty gadgets in Japan. But they are genuine skincare and health tools, no matter how odd the pictures sometimes look. From electric nose-lifters to face sliming mouthpieces, there is a whole pantheon of frankly visually alarming gadgets out there. But we actually think these are pretty amazing and not just to be scoffed at.
Either way, they are unusual items that are used by a minority of people. It’s not the case that everyone women is walking around with wacky mouthpieces jutting out of their jaws in a quest to retain their youthful beauty.
And at the end of the day, the beauty trends that should really be grabbing the headlines are the amazing quality of Japanese cosmetics and make-up, from Shiseido to Kanebo and shu uemura.
The catalog of articles here would be notorious and too long to list, but the perennial claim is one of two extremes or even both at the same time: the Japanese are not interested in sex anymore, and/or they are super kinky and like to get their kicks at strange fetish clubs or through 2D characters.
There are extremes in every culture and we love how Japan, free of the notion of original sin and other moral hangups in the monotheistic world, is able to find a way for more unusual sexual customs to exist alongside the so-called mainstream. But they are just that: fringe elements. As healthy and often refreshing (if mind-boggling) as they are, the majority of men in Japan are not interested in pursuing anime girls or even Akihabara “idols”.
And we find it laughable this image that young people are not interested in sexual relations (any reporter who writes an article on this should go and visit a college campus or nightclub).
Japan is prohibitively expensive
Not so “wacky” this one but we still hate it always gets rolled out as a stereotype to explain how “opaque” and formiddable the lifestyle in Japan — especially Tokyo — is. Japan is not expensive. Sure, if you take the average apartment in America and Europe and compare it to a similar size in Tokyo, it will seem crazy. But no one lives like that. Things are compact in Japan (not small, compact) and you have to adjust your scale a little. In fact, it is far more affordable to live alone in Tokyo and go out for meals on a very regular basis than other cities.
What is expensive? Up-front fees for apartments, though this has improved recently. Some fruit and vegetables. Hostess clubs. Shinkansen bullet train tickets.
Everything else is pretty reasonable, not least because consumption tax is relatively low (it’s going up this spring, though) and prices have hardly changed in over ten years (the up side of the “Lost Decade”). You can shop at UNIQLO et al if you are on a budget and there is a host of great eating-out options for as little as ¥1,000-¥2,000 yen for a nice meal. Try getting an apartment for one, paying for daily transport costs, utility bills and going out half a dozen times a week in New York or a major European city… and then you’ll see what we mean.
And if don’t believe us, head over to Tokyo Cheapo for some tips on enjoying yourself in Japan on a budget.
Anyone whose finger has been even intermittently on the pulse of Japanese cultural trends in the past couple of years has surely heard about cat cafes. Basically they’re just what they sound like: They’re cafes with cats in them. Since many people in Tokyo and other large Japanese cities live in apartments that don’t allow pets, these cafes have become popular as a way to get one’s animal fix without the responsibility of actually owning a pet.
But how exactly do cat cafes work? What are they like, really? A few days ago, I grabbed a friend and went on a mission to find out.
After researching several cat cafes online, we chose to visit one in Ikebukuro called Neko no Iru Kyuusokujo 299. (The website is in Japanese, but there are pretty pictures.) We liked that it seemed to have a lot of space, big comfy sofas to relax on, shelves full of manga to read, and of course lots of cute kitties! Fortunately, we weren’t disappointed and the cafe lived up to the impression it gave on its website.
The way things went down procedure-wise was quite simple: We first walked into a closed-off reception area where we were instructed to remove our shoes and change into the slippers provided. We were then given an explanation of the cafe rules. (My friend, who doesn’t know much Japanese, was handed a card with all the rules written out in English.) We were each given a card stamped with our time of entry, which we were instructed to present on our way out to calculate our payments. (We would be charged by the length of time we stayed in the cafe.) Both of us opted to purchase unlimited fountain drinks (with various coffees, teas and juices available) for 350 yen. The friendly attendant then spritzed our hands with hand sanitizer and left us to our devices.
We proceeded to have a very nice, relaxing time lazing around on the couches, petting the kitties, trying to take cute photos, and observing the people attempting (usually in vain) to engage the cats’ attention with the various toys available. At one point, we watched a whole gaggle of cats practically mob one of the attendants as she doled out snacks to them. The cats were obviously healthy and well cared for, and all the people in the room all seemed happy to be there. (Though there was one guy who seemed to be there just to sleep, and was dozing away on one of the couches the whole time!)
Besides the cats, the drinks, the shelves full of manga and the cat toys, this cafe had a few other things to keep guests entertained including computers with free Internet and even a massage chair! They also had binders laid out with photos of all the cats, their names, and explanations of their personalities, which was nice.
We ended up paying over 2,000 yen each for the couple of hours we spent at the cafe. A bit spendy perhaps, but we felt it was worth it and we would like to go again! But then again, we’ve heard there’s also such a thing as a rabbit cafe. So maybe we’ll check out one of those next time!
Have you ever been to a cat cafe? If so, how was your experience? If not, would you like to go?
Work by the composer of the most famous pieces of Japanese contemporary classical music from this century is now alleged not to have been composed wholly by its official creator.
The score for Mamoru Samuragochi’s piece Sonatina for Violin was set to be published and released on February 11th but this has now been cancelled. It is also planned to be used as the music for skater Daisuke Takahashi’s solo in the showcase program at the upcoming Sochi Olympics this month, though this too may not be able to go ahead now.
Samuragochi — though sometimes written “Samuragoch,” this is apparently the preferred Romanization of his name, rather than the literal “Samuragouchi” — lost his hearing at the age of 35 and has also composed for video games such as “Biohazard” and “Onimusha”. He is a self-taught composer and a second-generation hibakusha, both his parents having suffered the Hiroshima bombing. His condition led to him being hailed (or hyped) as a modern-day Japanese Beethoven.
Hiroshima is the most famous work by Samuragochi.
“I hope listeners will feel the darkness of hopelessness and the gentle light hope that follows,” he said in 2011 when Hiroshima was released as a CD in the wake of the Tohoku disaster. It went on to sell over 100,000 copies.
Now aged 50, he began to suffer from hearing issues when a high school student but relying on absolute pitch, he could continue to compose. According to his official profile, he “suffers from neurotic depression, anxiety neurosis, and chronic headaches and has a persistent ringing in his ears, but composes by relying on his perfect pitch.”
Symphony No. 1 Hiroshima was completed in 2003. It was then premiered at a the meeting of the Group of Eight leaders in Hiroshima in 2008.
It has now been alleged that a third party actually composed much of Samuragochi’s oeuvre. Samuragochi’s agents announced that his lawyer had received a message claiming that Samuragochi had composed only the overall structures, while the finer details had been done by someone else without credit.
“I’ve been told that there are certain circumstances that make it hard for the person (who composed the works) to come out in public, and Samuragochi has come to describe himself as the sole composer,” the lawyer told Kyodo News.
Symphony No. 1 Hiroshima has also not always met universal acclaim, being criticized as too “commercial” by some classical music reviewers.
It has been reported that Samuragochi has already accepted the claims as true and expressed remorse. His ghost writer is a college music teacher Takashi Niigaki, who had received a fee from Sakuragochi to compose his music for the past ten years.
An interview with Niigaki was set to be published, which prompted the revelations at last.
*Updated*: Niigaki has said that he does not believe that Samuragochi is even deaf!
The Koppu no Fuchiko (“Fuchiko on the edge of the cup”) by Kitan Club and Katsuki Tanaka was first released in 2012 as a Gashapon capsule toy. In a nutshell, it’s a series of cute figurines of an Office Lady (OL) in various poses.
Doesn’t sound like much to make a fuss about, right? Well, if you think that then you are obviously not a Japanese consumer!
It proved a bit huge hit for Kitan Club, who quickly followed up with other capsule toy series in 2013. And then came the merchandise. Now there are notepads, cups, t-shirts, bags, socks… Fuchiko is everywhere!
Who is buying Fuchiko’s goodies? We thought geeky guys at first but then we came across female consumers in their thirties who were avidly purchasing all the kawaii Fuchiko stuff they could lay their hands on.
Japan has a bit of an obsession with “small” stuff, especially girls.
There is plenty of chibi (“runt”) in manga and anime, and typically means the kind of SD drawings of girls popular in various forms of otaku culture. It has even spawned its own sub-genre of “shrinking girl” erotic manga (ero manga) called Koonago (*NSFW*).
Traditionally one of the archetypes of beauty was the hattoushin bijin, the girl with a head one-eighth the size of her head. This is still used as a compliment for certain fashion models with doll-like proportions.