This coming winter, Japan’s iconic cosmetic brand, shu uemura, will celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of its beauty boutique in Omotesando in central Tokyo with the Christmas collection “Six Heart Princess by takashi murakami for shu.”
On August 29th, the brand had its first opportunity to present the collection in public at Shibuya Hikarie.
In collaboration with contemporary artist Takashi Murakami, this collection of nineteen cosmetic items is themed around “transformation,” featuring pink and black as the two primary colors that represent the duality of women. Six Heart Princess (6HP) is Murakami’s animation work which was first introduced at his exhibition in France, “Murakami Versailles,” back in 2010.
For this collaborative project with shu uemura, Murakami created a new character, Black Princess, and made a special version of the anime in the promotion of various cosmetic items which will all help women “transform” into beauties — or anything that they wish to become. The collection features a wide variety of cosmetics (priced from ¥1,470 to ¥27,300), ranging from single items such as eyelash extensions, gel pencil eyeliners, UV under base mousse, cleansing oil, to more convenient sets such as Palette Kit, Brush Set and Makeup Box.
At the event, a live makeup show was performed on stage. Another highlight was a dancing performance of Tempura Kidz, most famous as Kyary Pamyu Pamyu‘s backup dancers, complete with original mascot characters for the project.
Murakami has previously collaborated with Louis Vuitton and Marc Jacobs, while shu uemura has previously hired the artistic talents of film director Wong Kar-wai and photographer Mika Ninagawa.
Back in 2008, when the French embassy in Tokyo decided to demolish its premises and relocate, it invited in a whole bunch of French and Japanese artists to create site-specific temporary installations, artworks, concerts and more. The result, “No Man’s Land”, was one of the best bonanzas of art Tokyo has ever seen, so popular that they had to extend the event period.
Likewise, when the Tokyu Toyoko Line’s Shibuya Station, a rare example of a raised station in central Tokyo and much loved for its platforms semi-transparent to the world outside, chaotically moved underground, the original space has subsequently been utilized for pop-up retail and other events.
Tokyo likes to build and rebuild, and it is common for locals to display an apparent lack of sentimentality regarding buildings bordering on the sacrilegious for some, especially if you are from Europe.
Well, when manga publisher Shogakukan decided it was going to demolish its current building in September, it invited in a bunch of its manga artists to turn the blank walls into temporary comic book panels.
The results by Kazukiho Shimamoto, Naoki Urasawa and others were on the walls, windows, glass doors, columns… everywhere in the building was going to be demolished so everywhere could become a piece of graffiti manga!
Which artists’ work can you recognize?
Images via Togetter.
While people make charitable donations for (arguably) many different reasons, this year, the annual 24 Hour Television themed “Love Saves the Earth” — which will be aired on August 24th and 25th — might give you yet another excuse to be genuinely generous to others.
Charity or even volunteer work is certainly not a common habit in Japan. One reason might be because the Japanese are so humble that they think they cannot be useful to others — or the more probable one is that the majority of people do not bother to take action themselves, thinking that someone else — not me or us — will do it instead.
NTV’s 24 Hour Television is an annual telethon notoriously famous for spotlighting the physically challenged in a “sympathetic” light — an approach which has been harshly criticized by some as sheer hypocrisy. Unlike other telethons broadcast in different parts of the world, the purpose of this program is not so much to raise awareness of people in need of help, but to make its viewers look down on them as a group of completely powerless, voiceless people. In short, they think that we need a solid reason to be generous to others. (Personally, though, I don’t think we should condemn an attempt to support others regardless of their hidden intentions, if any.)
As part of the charity promotion, each year they design and sell their own charity t-shirts. This year, it’s a collaborative effort by Satoshi Ono from Arashi and the avant-garde artist Yayoi Kusama. The tees have already been on sale for 1,500 yen since June 14th and are available in four colors (pink, blue, yellow and white), representing four seasons in Japan (spring, summer, fall and winter) respectively.
Here are the pink and blue versions.
And the yellow and white ones.
Kusama is known for her extensive use of polka dots and psychedelic patterns.
As described in the clip above, she has managed to turn what many would regard as insanity into something worthy of our attention. We think that there is a thick and clear line between sanity and insanity, but is it really a THICK line? Or IS there any line in the first place?
The t-shirt is already kawaii on the outside, but as one individual who very much admires Kusama’s attempt to be borderless in every possible way, I would like to interpret this particular piece of work as a way to question how we see, treat and judge others who are different.
As I mentioned before, the 24-Hour Television telethon likes to focus on the “extraordinary” aspects of physically challenged people, yet at the same time promoting the message of “Love Forever”, which is printed on the back of the T-shirt, as a universal value.
For the majority of people, though, “Love Forever” is not an easy task. The fact that they are asking for love on national television in a predominantly non-religious country means love is a product of hard work. And if the message of “Love Forever” has become prevalent enough in our hearts like in mass-produced t-shirts, that’s when such a show should really become extinct — which is not likely to happen anytime soon.
All in all, the new t-shirts look worth the price… even without the charity concept.
Last weekend I jumped on the Fukutoshin Line and headed down to Shibuya to check out Keitai Mizu (“mobile water”).
From what I had read, the event at Jingu-dori Park was set to be a mobile game, a treasure hunt for art. Players were given fifteen minutes to go through the parkette, search for artist-rendered sea creatures native to Tokyo, snap photos and send them to the Spatial Dialogues Twitter account via Instagram.
When I arrived at the park, I got much more than that. I was lucky enough to get a tour through the entire installation by Larissa Hjorth, one of the coordinators of the event.
The art and the park were put together in a meeting of worlds, of sorts. When you walk by Jingu-dori Park, it’s easy to spot the little bits of rubbish scattered amongst the shrubbery. The participating artists, such as Simon Perry and Kristen Sharp, used found objects to make their underwater animal creations, giving the hunt a real trash-to-treasure feel.
You might be wondering, though, what’s with the sea creatures? Why all the water? Not only did I receive a tour, but also a bit of a history lesson.
Did you know that once upon a time, a river ran right through the middle of Shibuya? It was a channel of natural beauty flowing through the city. Economic power and developmental change brought pavement. The river was forced underground and out of our minds.
I feel lucky to have met the creative team behind such a conceptually interesting event like Keitai Mizu. Throughout the rest of June you can check out other Shibuya: Underground Streams events happening in Tokyo.
We blogged last autumn about the opening of the Art Aquarium in Tokyo in 2012.
After the exhibition pulled in a whopping 200,000 visitors, it’s not surprisingly coming back to the Nihonbashi venue, this time from July 13th to September 23rd for seventy-three days.
As before, the emphasis is on the colors and magnificence to be enjoyed in goldfish, who are lumbered with a far more humble reputation in the west than their Japanese peers.
Produced by Hidetomo Kimura, the event puts the spotlight on kingyo, the fish beloved by Japanese since the Edo era. They feature prominently in art and design, and also traditional places like matsuri festivals, where they are often sold at stalls.
The first exhibition was in 2007. The numbers of fish in 2012 increased from previous years by 1.5 times to some 5,000, their fins and scaly bodies floating hypnotically in the darkness.
Here’s a promotional video for a previous year.
This year’s event will see more of a harmony of goldfish and the lighting. The venue will also be open at night time, making this perhaps the top Tokyo date spot for couples over the summer.
Much like Nuit Blanche, in my hometown of Toronto, Roppongi Art Night is an all night art festival consisting of large-scale outdoor art installations. It’s a beautiful experience that has to be seen to be believed.
I arrived a little earlier than I was supposed to, and stumbled upon the Roppongi Hills Spring Festival, which was booming with excited guests. I left and returned a little later on to find a Roppongi Hills still bustling with people, but also with beautiful and interesting installations.
[First photo from flickr user Ryosuke Takeoka]
Attending Roppongi Art Night is much like attending Nuit Blanche. When attempting to stick to a viewing schedule it almost feels as though you’re missing out installations. It’s best to just go with the flow of the crowd and let your eyes do the navigation for you.
[Photo by flickr user robochick]
One particular installation that stood out to me was the first that I saw. A wooden boat, strung up with colorful flags. A very classic looking piece. Upon closer inspection, the flags were covered in modern manga style illustrations. It felt like a representation of how I see Tokyo: traditional and modern seamlessly woven together.
Part of what makes installation art so interesting is that you, as the viewer, feel involved with the grand spectacle that has been created all around you. Roppongi Art Night filled everyone with a buzzing energy to give the city of Tokyo a running start into the spring season.
This hasn’t taken off yet like we hoped it might — if YouTube video numbers are anything to go by at time of writing — but we wanted to share this video we spotted of an “Avatar Man” roaming the streets of Omotesando at night, amusing and possibly frightening innocent Japanese shoppers.
Here’s the trailer:
And the full video:
The production values are pretty slick, and the hair and make-up in particular are more impressive than anything wandering out of 109 by a million miles.
It is from a series called I AM MODEL, created by Maaserhit Honda.
According to the makers, the series was…
born in August 2011 through the creative ideas of photographer/cinematographer/art director Maaserhit Honda and British fashion model Dean Newcombe. The part documentary, part mocumentary story conveys the experiences of a ‘lost’ model in Tokyo, a metaphor for the unorientated feeling of many of the models in the industry.
Through this model’s exploits, we gain a comical taste of the show business industry.
Kind of like evolution in reverse, the series charts the lost model’s progress from wanderig around Shibuya to regressing to some new primitive state.
“Avatar Man, set free in Tokyo and wandering the unfamiliar streets. Fearful and misplaced, he suddenly encounters a beautiful, foreign-looking doll, and finally warms up to the world around him. Feeling relaxed and in high spirits, he dances his way through the crowds and becomes the life of the party. Is he hungry for a burger?”
Insipid Japanese celebrities, move aside! This “man” needs his own TV commercial right away!
Maaserhit Honda tells us that the next installment, intriguingly titled “Mr. English Teacher” will be out next month. You can stay updated via the I AM MODEL Facebook page.
Paddle8, the online art auction portral, is holding a special online art auction during this month, to accompany an exhibition, Trailblazer, happening at the Japan Society in New York. The auction itself will be “held” virtually on March 21st and bids are being taken until the day before.
With the current two-year anniversary of the Tohoku catastrophe on people’s minds, charity events are cropping up all over. This one, though, is not benefitting disaster-relief causes (which, sadly, as we have seen have actually seen little of the money that was donated) but the Japan Society Gallery.
Tomokazu Matsuyama, “I See U” (2012)
The selection of artists’ work, including international illuminaries like Mariko Mori, Hiroshi Sugimoto and Miwa Yanagi, celebrates the best of the modern and the traditional, with prints by Utagawa alongside contemporary curated photography.
The exhibition is celebrating the work of Toko Shinoda and the artist’s centenary.
Toko Shinoda, “Yugen” (1981) [left] and Hiroshi Sugimoto, “Conceptual Form 0026″ (2004) [right]
Miwa Yanagi, “My Grandmothers/HYONEE” (2007) [left] and Mariko Mori, “Oneness” (2013) [right]
Singaporean photographer Leslie Kee (41) has been arrested by Tokyo police on suspicion of distributing obscene imagery, a development that will surely ignite a fierce debate over the freedom of expression for artists in Japan.
Kee and two others were nabbed by police on suspicion of selling at least seven copies of Kee’s photo books to two customers at hiromi yoshii roppongi gallery as part of Kee’s current exhibition at the well-known venue.
Kee’s new series, “Super Goh” and “Super Miki”, feature extensive male nudity. (Kee is a popular figure in the gay world.)
The Tokyo-based Kee is a star in the local fashion and art worlds, having photographed music artists as major as Ayumi Hamasaki and Seiko Matsuda. He has also worked internationally, including album cover photography for Lady Gaga and famous portraits of the likes of Quentin Tarantino.
Japan, despite having one of the most profligate adult industries in the world, still maintains a bizarre schizophrenic attitude towards depictions of nudity.
A porn producer such as Soft on Demand can have a massive billboard in Shibuya — but to show direct images of genitalia is forbidden under an ambiguous century-old law introduced when Japan was attempting to copy western (i.e. Christian) morality.
This is the reason for the “mosaic” pixellation not just of pornography but also regular films with full-frontal nudity, and of course, photo books as well.
Japanese fringe theatre also suffers from this situation, in that while nude scenes do take place, technically it is not protected by the law and the production could be shut down if patrons then reported the performers to the authorities.
There is definitely something sexist at work here. There are plenty of so-called “hair nude” photo books with female actresses and models stripping off for publications sold in mainstream book stores (usually bound so browsers cannot open them). This has become more and more common over the last twenty-five years, even if the “boom” for them has died off recently.
But full male nudity is much rarer. And yet how sad that Kee, a Singaporean who no doubt relished Japan’s lack of strictures compared to his home country, would have to face the cops for his photography.
Kee certainly wasn’t being discreet, though. The exhibition at hiromi yoshii roppongi was even called “FOREVER YOUNG Uncensored Edition !!!! Male Nude Photo Exhibition by LESLIE KEE”. (One of the other arrested apparently included Yoshii, the gallerist, but there have been conflicting reports about this.) It opened on February 2nd and is (was? will it have to shut down?) set to run until March 6th. The sale of the uncensored photo books seems to have happened on the opening night of the exhibition.
*UPDATE*: The exhibition has been cancelled! Japanese police, congratulations for your act of censorship!