Ten years ago today saw the English launch of a quirky Japanese puzzler, a sleeper hit that would go down as one of the most endearing, original, and gleefully weird gaming stories of the 2000s: Katamari Damacy. Its fever-dream plot has the record-scratching, Freddie Mercury-esque King of All Cosmos destroy the stars in a drunken fugue, and you, the diminutive Prince, must restore them with the Katamari -- a magical sticky ball that snowballs through cluttered environments, rolling up paperclips, flowerpots, cows, buses, houses, skyscrapers, and continents into new constellations. It also boasts one of the most infectiously joyous soundtracks of all time -- an eccentric, richly produced, and incredibly catchy blend of funk, salsa, bossa nova, experimental electronica, J-Pop, swing, lounge, bamboo flute, hair metal, buoyant parade music, soaring children's choirs, Macintalk fanfares, and the finest theme song this side of Super Mario Bros. Called a consumerist critique by sculptor-turned-developer Keita Takahashi (who after one sequel moved on to Glitch, the supremely odd Noby Noby Boy, and playground design), the series has inspired much celebration and thought [2, 3] on its way from budget bin to MoMA exhibit. Look inside for essays, artwork, comics, lyrics, more music, hopes, dreams... my, the internet really is full of things. [more inside]
Yamada Gouki (山田剛毅), aka goking, has been illustrating creatures from the Cthulhu Mythos and similar horrors in an ukiyo-e style: Cyaegha, Igolnaku, The Thing That Plays with Fate, Cthonian, Byakhee, and would like to wish you a very Merry Fishmas from Innsmouth. You can find more illustrations on his Twitter or his blog, 2D6. [more inside]
Valley of Dolls
Eleven years ago, Ayano Tsukimi returned to her home in Nagoro. Confronted with constant departures, she has populated the village with dolls, each representing a former villager. Around 350 of the giant dolls now reside in and around Nagoro, replacing those that died or abandoned the village years ago.
In a recent documentary titled The Valley Of Dolls, Fritz Schumann explores Tsukimi's world, highlighting the time and artistry that goes into making the figures, and explaining her motivations. In it we're shown around a local school, once filled with children and teachers, that now houses dozens of dolls, sitting statically, waiting for class to begin.
Momoko: Is it good?
Paulo: Oh, yes! Please try it.
(and other insane Japanese textbook doodles from Twitter user 茶んた). [more inside]
Paulo: Oh, yes! Please try it.
(and other insane Japanese textbook doodles from Twitter user 茶んた). [more inside]
Swinging Sixties Film Posters from Japan - Bootleg Film Posters from Ghana - Retro Film Posters from Thailand
"I lived in a hut near the summit of Mt. Fuli, the highest mountain in Japan,[more inside]
for five months straight, four years in a row,
for a total of 600 days. Each morning,
I photographed the dawn from the same spot, chasing the ever-changing
drama that unfolded before my eyes.
light AMPLIFICATION - Is the color of future of your future neon pink? Is the language Japanese? Are the city's an eternal nighttime of airbrushed martini glasses, glossy red lips and consumer electronics? Do you jam with the console cowboys in cyberspace? Then this is the tumblr for you. [via mefi projects]
With their brutal, simple riffs and aggressive, fast tempos, Accept were one of the top metal bands of the early '80s, and a major influence on the development of thrash. Led by the unique vocal stylings of screeching banshee Udo Dirkschneider, the band forged an instantly recognizable sound and was notorious as one of the decade's fiercest live acts. - AllMusic
Japanese Prints Online - The Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts provides an on-line catalogue for its collection of 18th- and 19th-century Japanese prints, which includes over 600 prints made by Japanese artists between the middle of the 18th century and the turn of the 19th century.
Dance of Darkness (Pt.1, Pt.2, Pt.3, Pt.4) is a documentary about the Japanese art form, Butoh. (Video links are generally NSFW:Nudity) [more inside]
The Great Wave off Kanagawa is probably the most iconic Japanese artwork in history, often used to illustrate tsunamis, and scientists have attempted to analyze what kind of wave it depicts. The woodprint is part of the 36 Views of Mount Fuji series, which depicts the famous mountain from different spots in Japan. The artist who made the Great Wave, Katsushika Hokusai, created thousands of images, many of which can be viewed online, such as in the internet galleries of the Museum of Fine Art and Visipix (Visipix' Hokusai page). Besides woodprints, Hokusai produced sketchbooks he called manga, one of which, number twelve, can be flipped through on the Swedish Touch and Turn website.
Illustrator Jed Henry and woodblock printmaker David Bull recently collaborated on a set of videogame-inspired woodblock prints in the ukiyo-e style. Just recently funded through Kickstarter, the prints are already underway. There are videos of the creative process here and at the bottom of the first link.
While researching the robotic sculptures of Kenji Yanobe (previously) I stumbled across this remarkable, eye-popping collection of artists at the Yamamoto Gendai. Enjoy...
You spin me right round, baby Right round like a record, baby Right round, round, round You spin me right round, baby Right round like a record, baby Right round, round, round
Pascal Ken, after taking several trips to Japan between 2007 and 2011, took some beautiful, dreamlike infrared photos of Tokyo.
Kokeshi Dolls originated in North-East Japan as wooden toys for children. They began being produced towards the end of the Edo period (1603~1868) by woodwork artisans, called Kiji-shi, who normally made bowls, trays and other tableware by using a lathe. They began to make small dolls in the winter to sell to visitors who came to bathe in the many hot springs near their villages, which was believed to be a cure for the demands of a strenuous agricultural lifestyle. [more inside]
"In November 1855, the Great Ansei Earthquake struck the city of Edo (now Tokyo), claiming 7,000 lives and inflicting widespread damage. Within days, a new type of color woodblock print known as namazu-e (lit. "catfish pictures") became popular among the residents of the shaken city. These prints featured depictions of mythical giant catfish (namazu) who, according to popular legend, caused earthquakes by thrashing about in their underground lairs. In addition to providing humor and social commentary, many prints claimed to offer protection from future earthquakes."
Tokyo artist Sagaki Keita creates incredibly detailed illustrations which are almost completely improvised. More of his work can be found on his website.
Japanese woodblock print images | wonderful vintage commercial graphics | the Folk Museum Kawachinagano | old books | ceramics and laquerware from The Digital Archive Project of Osaka which has an interesting online museum to explore with some excellent art and illustrations. [more inside]
Visually sumptuous, Gurafiku is a collection of visual research pertaining to Japanese graphic design. Assembled by the designer abroad; Ryan Hageman. Some of the categories: Ukiyo-e | Illustration | Typography |Manga | 1960's | 1970's | 1980's |1990's. [more inside]
The House of Sharing is a place for the Halmoni to to live together and heal the wounds of the past while educating the future generations of the suffering they survived.The View From Over Here details her visit to the House of Sharing, a therapeutic group home and museum for surviving "comfort women", who were systematically raped by the Japanese military during World War II. The museum displays art for and by the survivors. Via Ask a Korean. [more inside]
The Automata Blog is packed full of interesting images, videos and information about all kinds of amazing automata, cool machines, mechanical music, orchestrions and kinetic sculptures. This month's focus is the history of vintage Japanese tin toy robots and the toy robot paintings by Steven Skollar.
Weirdly wonderful illustrations from 70s Japanese children's books by Gōjin Ishihara, including much nightmare fuel from the Illustrated Book of Japanese Monsters
An AWESOME collection of sci-fi illustrations by the prolific Shigeru Komatsuzaki (1915-2001), whose fantastic work appeared on plastic model kit boxes and in magazines and picture books in the 1960s to 1970s. via [more inside]
Nichibunken Databases isn't a link that sounds promising, but oh, what a treasure trove of old Japanese art it is. Among the many lovely collections is the Japanese folktales in foreign languages, another has maps, which is probably easiest to browse by decade, then there's the picture scrolls (some nsfw), and also illustrations from an 1870s world tour. That's just a small taste of what's there. If, like me, you don't read Japanese, often you'll be going in with scant information of what will be on offer, but even random stumblings will reveal beauty and wonder. Just to get you started, here are nearly 800 pictures of demons and over 2500 floating world woodprints. [Note: Blue dots mean the material is accessible to the public, red dots mean you have to have a login to see it]
Shodo 'Arabi. "An appreciation of calligraphy is a lifelong interest for many Japanese, and for some, acquiring proficiency at it is a lifelong study. Yet, over the past two decades, a few have quietly put down their fude and picked up a bamboo qalam to try their hand at calligraphy in Arabic, which, they often find, is not as alien as they had thought."
View examples of the Art of the Japanese Postcard (1, 2, 3) or browse the Leonard A. Lauder collection of them at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts website.
Ultra Monster art by Takayoshi Mizuki: Japanese monster-kaiju art from the 70s. Warnring: Contains Dino-Tank
Besuboru Bromides (Japanese Baseball Cards) from the collection of John Gall, as featured at A Journey Round My Skull. Here is an earlier essay by Gall about Japanese baseball cards.
Tomokazu Matsuyama was born in Japan. He moved to the US when he was around ten years old, not speaking any English, and being overwhelmed by the culture shock of 1980s Los Angeles. His artistic work is a reflection of this upbringing. Matsuyama’s paintings envision traditional Japanese imagery through the lens of American pop art, creating a unique and beautiful hybrid. He strives to portray this global melee through a conscious “appropriation” of all of his influences: cultural, artistic, and personal. Matsuyama’s unconflicted and positively ebullient works do not ask, “What am I?,” but assert, “I am everybody.” (via) [more inside]
The Incredible Hulk, as told by Koike Kazuo, of Lone Wolf and Cub fame, and Yoshihiro Morifuji. More scans here.
Following the death of his sister to brain cancer, Motoi Yamamoto adopted salt as his primary artistic medium. In Japanese culture salt is not only a necessary element to sustain human life, but it is also a symbol of purification. He uses salt in loose form to create intricate labyrinth patterns on the gallery floor or in baked brick form to construct large interior structures. As with the labyrinths and unnavigable passageways, Motoi Yamamoto views his installations as exercises which are at once futile yet necessary to his healing.
Mingei is a transcultural word which combines the Japanese words for all people (Min) and art (Gei). The site has a flash interface and features over 5,000 high resolution, zoomable objects. More information on the Mingei Movement.
The digital collection of the Tokyo National Museum is full of wonder. TNM is the oldest museum in Japan and collects archaeological objects and art from Japan as well as other parts of Asia. The collection can be browsed by type or region. Here are some of my favorites: Buddha's life, The name "Korin" given to pupil, Tale of Matsuranomiya, Coquettish type, Tea caddy in shape of bucket with handle, Mirror, design of sea and island, Traditionary identified as Minamoto no Yoritomo, Seated Monju Bosatsu (Manjusri) and attendants, Sword mounting of kazari-tachi type and (my current desktop background) Figures under a tree. This is but a small sampling of all that can be found in the digital collection
Phase — Mother Earth, a piece created by Mono-ha artist Nobuo Sekine in 1968, has been re-created:
Consisting of a hole dug into the ground, 2.7 metres deep and 2.2 metres in diameter, with the excavated earth compacted into a cylinder of exactly the same dimensions, Phase — Mother Earth was instrumental in the early development of work by the Mono-ha artist group, and has been considered a landmark work in Japanese postwar art history.More about Mono-ha inside. [more inside]
“A Dream To Have In Heaven” (Tengoku De Miru Yume - 天国でみる夢) is a non-narrative, surreal manga created by Maki Sasaki. It was published in the November 1967 issue of Garo, a now-defunct alternative and avant-garde monthly manga anthology magazine that peaked in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Viewing Japanese Prints is an encyclopedia of Floating World art (or ukiyo-e) and related genres. It has lots of images to go with the articles. Once you've gone through the site and familiarized yourself with pre-modern Japanese printmaking you might want to browse through the humongous image archive of Tokyo Metropolitan Library. Here are a few images that caught my eye: musicians attempt to keep a lady entertained, samurai pirate jumps into the water, crazed sea-captain wields very big axe, two samurais in combat, elfin man watches split-tailed cat dance while a giant feline stares angrily and giant toad belches up samurai while another samurai fights a gigantic fish and a third samurai observes the action from the banks of a river.
Pictures of 100 poems by 100 poets, explained by a Wet Nurse - Hokusai's pictures describe what the poems do in the head of a wet nurse. With high resolution scans.
Sushi art. Weird sushi art. Sushi ASCII art. Sushi soap. Sushi jewelry. Sushi candles. Wind-up sushi. And finally, sushi made of chocolate!
Paradise: The Gardens of Tokyo. A collection of amazing photographs of Japanese gardens as taken by Tim Porter. [more inside]