Just an ordinary weekend in Tokyo? Wrong. Saturday witnessed the first ever robot wedding.
As we reported back in May, Maywa Denki’s Frois bot and the AKB48 Yuki Kashiwagi idol-lookalike android Yukirin (here renamed Roborin) joined together in holy matrimony at Aoyama Cay in Spiral, central Tokyo.
The non-legally binding ceremony was an event (called Robo-kon, or “robot wedding”) produced by Japan’s favorite tech and music anarchists, Maywa Denki, who created the “groom” (Frois). The “bride” was made by Takayuki Todo in the likeness of a certain Japanese music idol (whose name was withheld from the official PR materials).
The handful of lucky guests who attended (paying ¥10,000, or more than $80 for the privilege) witnessed the happy occasion as the mechanical couple tied the knot.
The proceedings were presided over by Aldebaran and Softbank’s robot Pepper, who can normally be found in certain Softbank phone stores offering entertainment to customers. Frois may not be the most conventionally good-looking of grooms: “he” is a kind of large red bath stool robot. Well, who says romance is dead?
The wedding ceremony pulled out all the bells and whistles, with a male and female MC, Pepper as the “priest”, plus a walk (actually, more like being gently wheeled) down the aisle, a cake — and even a kiss.
Seibu hosted a special “nightclub train” event on June 5th-6th, featuring on-board DJs and music as passengers were transported in the charted train from Nerima non-stop all the way to Shin-Kiba.
The sold-out event was devised in partnership with well-known nightclub ageHa, which is based in Shin-Kiba. A Seibu train was refurbished with DJ booth, speakers and everything needed to transform a regular commuter train into a club on wheels.
Seibu has a pretty dull reputation; it runs the train lines that people who live in the suburbs west and northwest of Tokyo take to go home. Adding go-go dancers and a thumping club soundtrack to the carriage facilities is certainly one way to liven up your brand image!
Seibu trains don’t actually go all the way to Shin-Kiba, of course. The railway company partnered with Tokyo Metro so the ageHa Train could run on the Yurakucho subway line.
DJ Alisa Ueno was in charge of the tunes while the dancers were CyberJapan. Strobes, alcohol, costumes. This was no ordinary train: this was a crowded EDM locomotive, a forty-minute mobile mosh pit!
The intrepid The Japan Times had a nice write-up:
“It’s just a regular train!” says a man in a suit next to me. Before I give him a “geez, old people” eye-roll, I look at the train and see that he’s right — a plain old train save for the windows, which are covered in black vinyl. The inside looks normal, too, except that speakers have been placed on the luggage racks above the seats. For five minutes as the crowd boards, we replicate Tokyo’s morning rush hour. Instead of grumpy office workers, though, we’ve got giggling young women in glow-in-the-dark cat ears.
The passengers alighted at Shin-Kiba for a group date event at the club itself.
A ticket for one of the two ageHa Trains that ran on June 5th and June 6th didn’t come cheap, though. Male passengers/clubbers had to fork up ¥7,000, or nearly $60 (the ladies got on cheaper, at just ¥3,000 or about $25).
In total there were 480 places available, divided evenly per gender since the party was ostensible a gokon group date.
Given the amount of media attention the event received, we expect it will be repeated again in the near future. How about a Shinkansen version to really raise the stakes?
Go hunting for Shaun the Sheep in Omotesando this June in a special art and charity event called “Shaun in Japan”.
The Shaun-hunting event has already been a success in the Aardman Animations character’s native UK in the form of two “ewe-nique charity arts trails” in Bristol and London. 50 specially created Shaun sculptures were exhibited in the British capital and 70 in Bristol, a city in the far west of England. Kids were encouraged to go searching for all the sculptures in the “flock” as part of days out in the cities. The celebrity-designed sculptures were then sold off for charity at the end of the respective events.
The “Shaun in the City” trail now arrives in the Japanese capital. (Wallace & Gromit is popular in Japan, even if some of the British jokes may go over viewers’ heads!) While the trail is not as big as the original UK versions, the designs of the sculptures have been considerably localized.
“Shaun in Japan” takes place from June 12th to June 25th, and features seven Shaun the Sheep sculptures at the Tokyu Plaza Omotesando Harajuku designed by Japanese artists like acclaimed anime director Hideaki Anno.
No surprises but Hideki Anno’s contribute is an Evangelion Shaun!
The Shaun sculptures measure 130cm in height. Only four designs have been unveiled so far, but they include a Hello Kitty Shaun and Sugar Sugar Rune Shaun!
Aside from Anno, other designers and artists involved include manga-ka Moyoco Anno (who wrote the comic Sugar Sugar Rune), calligrapher Tomomi Kunishige, character designer Yuko Yamaguchi, manga-ka Ikuto Yamashita, and sweets artist Osamu Watanabe.
The British Council and Sanrio are also participating.
The fifth-floor Hands Cafe at the Tokyu Plaza will also offer special Shaun the Sheep menu items.
“Shaun in Japan” is also being touted as a charity event, though the details are yet to be announced.
“Schoolgirl Animals” is an exhibition currently running at BAMI Gallery in Kyoto until May 31st, featuring an array of beguiling images of female school students in their uniforms and other schoolgirl paraphernalia, but with incongruous animal heads.
The solo exhibition showcases the work of Takumi Kama. His stunning portraits include schoolgirls combined with a zebra, cheetah, monkeys, giraffe, deer, and more.
Schoolgirls are a continual obsession for artists and designers in Japan, especially their uniform as a motif.
Photographers like Yuki Aoyama have made whole careers out of series of schoolgirl images and the results aren’t necessarily sleazy (though that taint does also, unmistakably, linger).
The recent Design Festa featured an “interchangeable schoolgirl uniform” by Maori Iguchi.
“Schoolgirl Animals” also taps into the culture in Japan for moe anthropomorphism, specifically kemonomimi. This is most famously expressed in the form of catgirl characters, where anime or illustrated figures have cat tails and cat ears (nekomimi) — something even clothes for pet-owners like to indulge in!
Get ready for “Kiss Day”.
Yes, this Saturday, May 23rd, is apparently the day of smooching, at least in Japan at any rate.
And Edition, a club in Akasaka, central Tokyo, is celebrating by asking couples to kiss, though not in the way you’d think.
May 23rd is “Kiss Day” because it’s the day that saw the release in 1946 of the first Japanese film with a kissing scene, Hatachi no seishun (20-Year-Old Youth). Not surprisingly, the scene was a decorous one by the standards of today but at the time it was a big deal.
Directed by Yasushi Sasaki and starring Kaoru Aikawa and Michiko Ikuno, the actors actually kissed each other through a gauze to protect their modesty.
Borrowing this concept, Edition’s plan is to get several hundred couples to kiss through acrylic plastic panels of see-through plastic.
The party event is expected to attract around 250 people, though you have to be aged between 20 and 35 to join in. Oh, and it costs guys ¥5,500 ($45) and girls ¥3,000 ($25). That’s an expensive kiss and we’re not even sure if this counts as getting to first base.
Who says romance is dead?
In 2011 there was also this “kiss transmission” device. While the “acrylic kiss” is certainly more low-fi, we’re not sure if it’s any less weird.
Japan actually seems obsessed with anniversaries of late, from “Condom Day” (May 6th) to “Ninja Day” (February 22nd). Every month seems to bring another oddity, though the possibilities they present for promotional events are interesting enough.
Last weekend Roppongi Art Night 2015 took over the Roppongi area for a night of art and
The events, performances and installations stretched out from sundown on April 25 to sunrise on 26th.
This year’s theme was “shining, connecting, joining in”.
Here are a few highlights.
A wall of “light boxes” made at workshops at Suntory Museum of Art.
The “Lungplant” by Tim van Cromvoirt was a street installation that “depicts a landscape with living, luminous organisms and explores the influence this landscape has on its spectators.”
The “Comic Foreground Gods Clock” transformed a regular clock tower landmark into a succession of spring deities.
The Dance Truck featured performances by Tsuyoshi Shirai, MOKK, Yukio Suzuki, JON THE DOG, Kumotaro Mukai, Mirai.Co, AEROBIX, Ippei Shintaku, Yo Nakamura x TOYOFUKU Akifumi, and Wataru Kitao.
“Emaki/Wave” by Takashi Ishida gave the usual industrial look of a car park a more interesting edge.
“TME – Tokyo Metropolitan Expressway” by Nina Fischer & Maroan el Sani was a projection of footage from the Tarkovsky sci-fi classic Solaris (1972) that features a car trip on the Tokyo Metropolitan Expressway, plus a parallel second screen with a contemporary “remake” of the ride.
Images via official RAN Twitter
On April 4th, Mori no Tosho Shitsu (Mori’s Library) in Shibuya will be transformed into a club for a silent disco event.
Remember Mori no Tosho Shitsu? It was the crowdfunded “book and beer” library opened by a book worm in Shibuya last year. Not only can you go there for a drink and a bite to eat, if you become a member you can borrow the books, just like a library.
While there are plenty of public libraries in Tokyo (there’s even one right in the same building as the Cosmo Planetarium), places like Mori no Tosho Shitsu attract interest because their book curation is special. You don’t go there just to see any books; you go there to see THE books the owner has selected. This is similar to the appeal of places like B&B in Shimokitazawa, Village Vanguard, and Shibuya Publishing Booksellers.
Silent discos are nothing new, not even in Japan.
But this is a silent disco inside a “library” in the heart of noisy Shibuya. How cool is that?
Audiences to the silent disco event will get to enjoy the music through wireless headphones, in the unique bibliographical surroundings of Mori no Tosho Shitsu.
If you like your drink too, you’ll be pleased to know the event is being supplied by Tokyo Craft Beer Mania. Craft beer will be available from ¥500 a glass.
Music is by DE DE MOUSE and others.
It’s also being billed as a club event, since it starts at 11pm and carries on until 5am.
Tickets cost ¥3,500.
Media Ambition Tokyo returns for another year, transforming Tokyo into a media art bonanza.
In the grandiose words of the organizers, Media Ambition Tokyo “takes an experimental approach to urban implementation.”
This is the third time Media Ambition Tokyo has been held, showcasing cutting-edge technology and art crossovers. The previous two festivals had a combined audience of 120,000 people.
The eight venues across Roppongi, Aoyama, Odaiba, Iidabashi and Shibuya include Midtown and Intersect by Lexus.
Ever worker-bee media art unit Rhizomatiks have partnered up with Lexus to create a video and sound installation inspired by the LFA supercar.
The title for the “1,220” installation might sound cryptic at first but it’s a reference to the height of the car. Visitors will lie down in a space with the same height and experience a series of landscapes passing right above them on a huge LED screen.
When we watch a screen, we first detect what we see as nothing more than light before it gradually takes form inside our brains. Light captured by our retinas travels to the visual cortex at the back of our brains, and this is where light is first recognized as an image. We are not normally aware of this process, but our emotional reactions to the images we see are triggered by the conversion that takes place in that short span. “1,200” is an attempt to have visitors experience that journey of light attaining meaning across a distance that represents the height of the Lexus LFA.
The winter is nearly over but if you feel like ice-skating artistically, you should check out “Skate Drawing” at Midtown, an interactive art piece where the paths traced by skaters on the ice are displayed on a video screen. Once again it is by Rhizomatiks.
In Shibuya, Tokyo Anarchitecture sounds like the kind of thing to get Tumblr bloggers excited:
Tokyo Anarchitecture is a photography series which evolves around space representations and experience of the reality. Breaking up then reconstructing pictures of huge urban plants shot in various spots in the world, Olivier Ratsi plays with the perception of our daily urban environment in aim to question its references.
The award for most-scary-sounding installation likely goes to “The Fifth Sleep”:
At the crossroads between video game and cinema, The Fifth Sleep is an immersive installation offering a unique experience : Giving a spectator the chance literally to travel into the interior of the most mysterious of organs, the brain. Using an HMD (head-mounted display), the spectator navigates in a 3D environment generated in real-time, and can interact in a story in which he gradually becomes the main character. The spectator thus participates in a team of scientists’ experimental project aiming to test the Proteus, a nanorobot camera that can be injected inside the human body… An unusual journey through landscapes never before observed, in the heart of a labyrinth where each of your choices will determine the patient’s fate.
Other participants include sculptor Kohei Nawa and teamLab.
The period varies per exhibition and installation event, but most start on February 11th and run until later in the month, though some events continue into March.
Want to give a special something to that special someone? But it’s not just what you give. It’s how you give.
And in Japan, the wrapping and packaging of a gift item is traditionally viewed almost as important as the content of the gift itself.
And so we get great services like this I WRAP Heart, now available at Plaza Ginza until December 25th. It allows you to gift wrap an item with your own portrait. In other words, that box or otherwise dull package will be transformed with a picture of you on the wrapping paper.
You stand in front of the camera in the store and then the staff will snap a shot of you however you want to pose. This is then printed onto special wrapping paper, which is then used to wrap up your item.
There is a small charge for the service. Small or medium size costs ¥200, while large is ¥500. Still, not much for a fast and truly personalized wrapping service (and a neat way to encourage people to give gifts at Christmas, not a tradition in Japan).
Here’s a video of a preview event they did with 400 participants.