Tag: Japan

On Japan/In Japan

On Japan/In Japan

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Don_Quijote_in_Shinjuku_at_night

Lafcadio Hearn, in his Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan (1894), sums up nicely how I feel about the place over a century later:

“The largest steamer that crosses the Pacific could not contain what you wish to purchase. For, although you may not, perhaps, confess the fact to yourself, what you really want to buy is not the contents of a shop; you want the shop and the shopkeeper, and streets of shops with their draperies and their inhabitants, the whole city and the bay and the mountains begirdling it, and Fujiyama’s white witchery overhanging it in the speckless sky, all Japan, in very truth, with its magical trees and luminous atmosphere, with all its cities and towns and temples, and forty millions of the most lovable people in the universe… ‘And this,’ the reader may say,—’this is all that you went forth to see: a torii, some shells, a small…

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CONFUSING ART WITH ARCHAEOLOGY

CONFUSING ART WITH ARCHAEOLOGY

CAREER SUICIDE

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Kakuzo Okakura, 茶の本 (The Book of Tea, 1906):

“We must remember, however, that art is of value only to the extent that it speaks to us. It might be a universal language if we ourselves were universal in our sympathies. Our finite nature, the power of tradition and conventionality, as well as our hereditary instincts, restrict the scope of our capacity for artistic enjoyment. Our very individuality establishes in one sense a limit to our understanding; and our aesthetic personality seeks its own affinities in the creations of the past. It is true that with cultivation our sense of art appreciation broadens, and we become able to enjoy many hitherto unrecognised expressions of beauty. But, after all, we see only our own image in the universe, – our particular idiosyncracies dictate the mode of our perceptions.”

“Another common mistake is that of confusing art with archaeology. The veneration…

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Say KO.NICHI.WA. to your secret

Say KO.NICHI.WA. to your secret

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I think a lot of the time weird Japan is weird, weird Japan knows it is weird and weird Japan is laughing about it, e.g.

Japan's food company Kagome employee Shigenori Suzuki tries to eat a tomato which is provided from the newly developed tomato dispenser for marathon runner

“We know. It’s OK, go ahead and laugh. We know.”

But sometimes Japan apparently has no idea it’s peculiar and creepy to invent an AI talkbot bear called (I think) Himitsuno Kumachan– Secret Bear?– then have it introduced in a stilted, badly dubbed video by the 100 Yen Shop version of David Duchovny. Remarkably, even I can tell that the Japanese is even more stiff and unnatural than the English.

“Mr J” also visits a coffee shop to have a little chat with his bear, which isn’t a strange and awkward thing for a grown man to do, no, not at all.

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Children are presumably the actual intended users for the product, as opposed to 100 Yen Shop David Duchovny. Here we see a genuine…

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Your chocolate is in my banana

Your chocolate is in my banana

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ChocoBanana2

If you search your heart you will recognise that your life has in truth been a sad and pitiful travesty because you’ve never found any way to conveniently inject bananas with chocolate sauce. Luckily Sonna! Chocobana-na is here to fill your bananas and to plug the aching abyss of your soul hole. そんな!チョコバナ~ナ: Sonna translates as “like that” or something similar, although I’m guessing they mean something more like “Such/So Chocobanana!”. You can also insert cream into your banana if you’re in the mood for even more symbolically charged fruit consumption than that which will ensue from the chocobana-na. You could try some jamu, or other gelatinous substances, but we need to face the fact that this product is called Sonna! Chocobana-na so I’m afraid you’ll just have to accept that chocolate is the orthodox choice. One thing to be said in the ad’s favour is that it’s relentlessly innocent…

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Good tight, sleep night

Good tight, sleep night

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zebra-zentai-suit

I’m sure there have been no end of articles and blog posts about ゼンタイ zentai: skin tight, faceless body suits. Originally they’re from Japan, of course, like many other cross-cultural mutations. The term is an abbreviation of 全身タイツ zenshin taitsu, “full body tights”. It’s also a safe bet that most of these articles fall into the categories of a) LOL weirdos b) LOL perverts or c) both of the aforementioned. Frankly, I would advise against uncontrolled internet searching on the subject unless you’re broad-minded because some of the people who are into it are absolute FREAKS and you might well see some obscure corners of the porn world that you’d really rather not. Also beware of YouTube’s “up next” autoplay…

Being an absolute freak is fine by me, actually (just wash your hands and probably have a shower too, before you do anything else) but perhaps especially for those who

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The Making II: Makerer

The Making II: Makerer

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Daruma_doll_sai2011

Even more from the series of Japanese short films about crafts and manufacturing, which was featured yesterday: this time the videos feature the making of clockwork and tin toys, daruma (達磨, the hollow good luck dolls supposedly modelled after Bodhidharma, the founder of Zen Buddhism), oil pastel crayons, oil paint for artists, and mosquito coils.

The film about daruma shows equally fascinating traditional hand-made techniques, and slightly more industrial manufacturing of them. Even so, they’re all still finished individually just like the other items shown in these videos, the paint and the mosquito coils included. The pastel one is a bit tedious at the start, but if you’re an artist like me or otherwise just get excited about colours, stick with it and the one about paint for some huge, lush blobs of intense, glossy pigment erotica. The film about mosquito coils is initially rather alarming because…

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(The) Making

(The) Making

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Food_samples_1

Along the same lines as the aforementioned Fascinating Repairmen, more short documentaries from Japan about crafting, which is apparently a genre. There seem to be dozens if not hundreds of these that have been uploaded to YouTube by the Japan Science and Technology Agency. Apart from a few captions– in Japanese, obviously– the videos are all wordless and self-explanatory. The seven embedded here are the ones I’ve found most interesting so far (listed in ascending order of Japanese-ness, possibly): manufacturing marbles from recycled glass, sculpting and moulding shop mannequins, kendo (Japanese bamboo stick-fighting) armour, paper lanterns, dolls for the annual 雛祭りHinamatsuri (Doll Festival), realistic fishing lures, and creating food samples out of PVC and wax.

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The book

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babadook

修理、魅せます Fascinating Repairmen– is, I’m sure, a nice skill to have but in this case it’s not an unusual talent or the first scene of an erotic film. Instead it’s the title of a Japanese series celebrating craftsmen and craftswomen who give new life to various old objects. This one is about a Tokyo bookbinder called Nobuo Okano and his process of restoring a much loved and therefore fairly well trashed English-to-Japanese dictionary. Its owner’s daughter is starting university and he wants to pass it on to her, so Okano does what he can to rescue and regenerate the book.

It’s a fascinating process, and you don’t really need to speak Japanese to appreciate what’s going on. The incidental music’s a bit overpowering, but it goes with the Japanese territory. About the only relevant information you can’t get just from watching is the client actually being quite pleased…

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Eat, human / Eat human

Eat, human / Eat human

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Japan's food company Kagome employee Shigenori Suzuki tries to eat a tomato which is provided from the newly developed tomato dispenser for marathon runner "Tomachan" during a demonstration ahead of this weekend's Tokyo marathon in Tokyo on February 19, 2015. The hands free tomato eating machine was developed by Japanese artist Nobumichi Tosa and Tosa also developed a compact one "Mini-Tomachan".     AFP PHOTO / Yoshikazu TSUNO Hands free tomato eating machine by Japanese artist Nobumichi Tosa. AFP PHOTO / Yoshikazu Tsuno.

A Japanese vegetable juice company has made a backpack robot with a tomato-shaped head, designed to feed its wearer tomatoes… because of course they have. Another solution to a problem nobody in their right mind ever thought was a problem.

It is at least credited to an artist, so we’ll give him some leeway to not be entirely utilitarian, and possibly even satirical. In the picture above it looks disconcertingly like some kind of high tech kawaii BDSM ball gag get up, and even more disconcertingly like these mechanoid, fetor-powered parasites from the manga ギョGyo (Fish) by Junji Ito, who seems to have a boundless imagination for scatology, body horror and despair. Probably not the vibe that Kagome were going for.

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I hereby announce the blogging genre of Japanese misadventures with vegetables and/or…

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“Spread human ride robots”

“Spread human ride robots”

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HelloKilly カワイイイイイイイイイイイイイ!!!

I’m still not entirely sure if this project which “aims to spread human ride robots” is in earnest or some kind of satirical sci fi art concept. Sometimes in Japan it’s hard to tell. It’s also entirely possible for any given thing to be both. I think “both” is probably the answer here although if it is a joke or has jokey elements, then it’s a joke carried out with unusual thoroughness and commitment. Well, unusual if you’re not Japanese, anyway. Obviously as usual any humour, intended or otherwise, has been missed by 90% of the lumpencommentariat on YouTube. As I’ve pointed out before, like the British the Japanese have an international reputation for being somehow both joyless stiffs and unpredictably eccentric, but in fact both nations across all social classes share a deep affinity for daft, surreal, mocking humour that doesn’t necessarily register in the USA, or…

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???est posts of 2014

???est posts of 2014

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Otherwise known as the now traditional lazy retrospective listicle

JoyceQuote2

We all know by now don’t we my little blackguards my pretty roadside fartflowers of the friggingfields my dearest filthy fuckbirds yes we know yes yes yes oh yes that the top pages on the site are invariably James Joyce’s paeans to using the tradesman’s entrance and the translation of Hokusai’s tentacle hentai. Tens of thousands of you, constantly, from all over the world, day and night. You must have massive right arms by now (if you’re right handed).

But there is so much more to explore, and some of it doesn’t even involve sexual fetishes. I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s true.

JANUARY

I have no idea what's going on in this picture.“What a shocking bad hat”, and other stupid 19th century memes.

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Marry yourself

Marry yourself

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Gremlins2_wedding

Merry War (Christmas is Over (If you want it))… or something!

Apparently there’s some kind of public holiday going on. But sod that, how about some proper “me time”? Why don’t you start the new year by having a solo wedding with yourself in Kyoto?

You are single and you don’t know if you would be able to get married and have a wedding ceremony in the near future, but you would like to have some pictures of yourself in a wedding gown or in a gorgeous bridal kimono now, when you are young and beautiful..

..or you even believe that you don’t really have to get engaged to be able to wear a bridal outfit..

..or you are already married, but didn’t have a proper ceremony with a beautiful dress and you find this fact to be quite regretful..

..or you did wear a dress, but it was…

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My kingdom for a wearable futon

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KingJim-01Japanese office supply company King Jim offer this lovely wearable futon and air mat set for a mere ¥4,500 (about £25, €30 or $40), because Japan. It’s ideal for those times when you’ve come to hold your own life and dignity so cheap that you’re willing to voluntarily wear a futon at your workplace and sleep next to your desk like a dog. The title in the blue box says “kiru futon & eaamatto” (literally “wear futon and air mat”). The kit also contains an air pump. I once slept on a legit air bed for far longer than is sensible and it nearly crippled me, so I’m guessing this glorified packing material is hardly better than the office utility carpet from which the air mat is supposed to protect you.

KingJim-04

Stylish cuffs, no? It’s nearly as hip as turning up selvedge jeans, except you’re wearing a futon therefore you…

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Calling occupants of interplanetary craft

Calling occupants of interplanetary craft

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FunkyForestPullPlease

I wouldn’t say that Funky Forest: The First Contact (ナイスの森 Naisu no mori) is a good or neccessarily a very funny film for the most part. But it is a film in which the scene above occurs, which is a kind of recommendation if you’re a fan of this blog and its usual subject matter. After a passing high school student is persuaded to use her navel to power up a Cronenbergian television that gives birth to a miniature sushi chef through its puckered sphincter-screen, the scene ends like this:

FunkyForest_WhatDoYouThink copy

To which the only possible response from her– and us, probably– is:

FunkyForest_IHonestlyDontKnow copy

 (More animated GIFs follow: give them a few moments to load.)

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When moustached Japanese children make popcorn with maracas

When moustached Japanese children make popcorn with maracas

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LET’S COOKING AND DANCING!

Maracas de Popcorn I hope the Japanese never learn that in English “let’s” doesn’t just go directly with any verb you can think of. It’s such a charming error.

Maracas de Popcorn is a Japanese product for making popcorn with maracas. Who hasn’t, at some point in their life, wanted to make popcorn with a special pair of maracas? I daresay the company condicted extensive research and discovered to their horror that a commercial void existed, a howling abysmal hellscape in which maracas are just a Latin American hand instrument and nobody can ever make popcorn inside them. Coming soon: Xylophone de Toast, Bassoon de Pancakes, and Bongos de Beefburger. I think at this point the Japanese are being deliberately random and weird to save face because the rest of the world would be so terribly disappointed if they just made popcorn without measuring it in a golden crown…

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Hello Cat-headed Person from Suburbs of London

Hello Cat-headed Person from Suburbs of London

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HKittyOver the past few days many bloggers and even newspapers have gushed that Hello Kitty is apparently a “girl” and not a cat, although for no adequately explained reason she has a cat head. Maybe I’m sheltered, but I don’t know any girls who love to bake and have cat heads. She’s officially and canonically got no mouth, so why or perhaps more cogently how is she so enthusiastic about baked goods anyway?

What none of them have done is behave like a real journalist and really look into Hello Kitty’s background. And while we’re on the subject, newspapers and so-called professional journalists, WTF? This blog here is explicitly dedicated to silly stuff, and I don’t get paid for doing it. Hello Kitty possibly not being a cat isn’t current affairs or headline news by any stretch of the most overcaffeinated imagination. Nor is the Great British Bake Off. Stop…

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Hiding in public, part one

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Japanese Noh masks

Obeshimi (demon mask), wood, Japan, mid 19th century. Obeshimi (demon mask), wood, Japan, mid 19th century.

A few months ago I visited the very inspiring Musée du quai Branly in Paris. I recommend it to anybody who is interested in anthropology or ethnography. Or disconcerting masks and dolls, because they have tons of those. They’ve published a great book called Masks: Masterpieces from the musée du quai Branly. The text is by the splendidly named Yves Le Fur, with photos by Sandrine Expilly. I’m going to reproduce a few scans, but the book is worth a look if– as mentioned previously– you’re one of those creepy mask people like me. I’ll also be sharing some of my own photos from the collection. All the ones by me will be clearly marked, otherwise credit goes to Expilly.

This time I’m concentrating on Noh (能) masks from Japan. Noh is the extremely formalised theatre that originated…

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One, two, you’re coming for Freddy

One, two, you’re coming for Freddy

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freddykruegerIf you ever watched horror films in the 1980s or 1990s and thought to yourself “Freddy Krueger’s OK, but what this keloid-deformed, ultraviolent, serial killing child molester really needs is fishnet stockings and a massive rack”, then today you have finally hit the jackpot, my friend. A Japanese company is now offering this bishoujo Freddy statue, or “stuatue” as they have it on their site. I know by now it almost goes without saying that if we discover a highly inappropriate item has been sexualised, then somebody Japanese will probably be responsible. I take a glass-half-full attitude towards this fact, though. These figures are very, very wrong but bless your filthy, weird, perverted Japanese minds.

tnirn20000016wboBishoujo or bishōjo (美少女)means “beautiful young girl”, and is usually taken to mean a woman younger than university age. Given the obvious intent behind this item, it’s reasonable to translate the figure’s…

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