Japan

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Art

Moonlit Owls, Tigers, and Dragons Set Against Ethereal Backgrounds in Paintings by Takashi Kanazawa

November 6, 2018

Kate Sierzputowski

Japanese artist Takashi Kanazawa paints animals such as tigers, owls, cranes, and dragons set against minimal backdrops which are lit by large waning moons. The scenes are painted on washi paper, a Japanese material produced by hand with local fiber, and are a twist on traditional Japanese painting, or Nihonga. The term was established near the turn of the 19th-century when Western oil painting became popularized in Japan, and refers to the traditional painting materials, techniques, and subjects rooted deeply in Japan’s art history.

Kanazawa’s work was recently included in the group exhibition NIHONGA: Contemporary Art of JapanSEIZAN Gallery‘s inaugural show in their New York City location. The exhibition brought together seven painters who reinterpret traditional Japanese art techniques through a contemporary lens. You can see more of Kanazawa’s painting on SEIZAN Gallery’s website.

 

 



Design

The Art of Japanese Funeral Floral Arrangements

October 3, 2018

Johnny Strategy

The farewell ceremony for actress Kirin Kiki took place on September 30, 2018 | Photo courtesy Sankei News

Last weekend, at the farewell ceremony for the late actress Kirin Kiki, a large display of white flowers, designed to look like a wave, greeted the constant flow of family members, fans and celebrities that had come to pay their respects, and to say farewell to the 75-year old who had passed away from cancer on September 15. The white wave of flowers was comprised of roughly 1200 chrysanthemums, orchids, and gypsophila (an ornamental flower known as baby’s-breath in the West).

Relatively speaking, the wave of flowers at Kiki’s farewell ceremony was actually quite modest, in accordance with her wishes for a simple gathering. Attempt to search the Internet for 生花祭壇 (seikasaidan, which literally means fresh flower altar) and you’ll see any number of extravagant designs.

The company Ito Sogi has a online catalog of funeral floral altars you can choose from

The wave motif itself is actually a common one in Japan, alongside the mountain. Both are typically used for men because they symbolize strength, but the rules of the old guard are starting to come down. Even chrysanthemums, which used to be the only accepted flower, are now joined by other white flowers, sometimes even colorful ones. But the alter of plentiful flowers is relatively recent, having originated in Kyoto just 30 years ago. This would make sense though because the technology and logistics involved in procuring large batches of fresh flowers is also relatively recent.

Diagram explaining the 6 stages of the chrysanthemum blossoms, from the book Nippon no Seikasaidan

A lot of money is spent on funeral flowers in Japan. In fact, in 2006 Beauty Kadan became the first publicly traded Japanese company specializing in funeral flowers when it listed itself on the Mother’s section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange. Youkaen, a general flower company that entered the funeral flower business in 1972 now says that roughly 75% of their 50 billion yen in sales (roughly $44 mm USD) comes from their funeral flower segment.

Over the summer, Haruichi Mimura, the founder of funeral flower company Sunvillage, published a massive 480 page book detailing the intricacies of seikasaidan. It’s an extensive look at the details involved in created fresh flower alters: everything from history and tools to the types of flowers and designs. It’s available from Pie Books and also Amazon. (Syndicated from Spoon & Tamago)

 

 

 



Design History Illustration

An Early 20th Century Guide to Wave Designs for Japanese Craftsmen is Now Available Online

September 26, 2018

Laura Staugaitis

In 1903, Japanese artist Mori Yuzan’s wave designs were published in a resource guide for Japanese craftsmen looking to add aquatic motifs to their wares. The three-volume series, titled Hamonshū, includes variations on contained and free-form wave patterns suitable for embellishing swords, religious objects, and ceramics. The collection has recently been digitized and is available for free on Internet Archive, a non-profit digital library of free books, movies, and software. (via My Modern Met)

 

 



Design

A Series of Japanese Benches Showcase How Pencils Are Made

August 7, 2018

Kate Sierzputowski

Images via @pomo

A series of benches that surround the Mitsubishi Pencil headquarters in Tokyo give step-by-step instructions for how the brand’s pencils are made. The concrete and wood furniture dot the perimeter, adding a creative touch to the public space just beyond the company’s walls. (via Spoon & Tamago)

 

 



Design

The Japanese Mini Truck Garden Contest is a Whole New Genre in Landscaping

June 8, 2018

Johnny Strategy

The Kei Truck, or kei-tora for short, is a tiny but practical vehicle that originated in Japan. Although these days it’s widely used throughout Asia and other parts of the world, in Japan you’ll often see them used in the construction and agriculture industries as they can maneuver through small side streets and easily park. And in a more recent turn of events, apparently they’re also used as a canvas for gardening contests.

The Kei Truck Garden Contest is an annual event sponsored by the Japan Federation of Landscape Contractors. Numerous landscaping contractors from around Japan participate by arriving on site with their mini trucks and then spending several hours transforming the cargo bed into a garden.

Other than using the kei truck there are very few limitations and landscapers have incorporated everything from benches and aquariums to elements of lighting into their designs. Judges then rank the entries based on planning, expression, design, execution and environment.

We’ve included a few of our favorite entries here but you can see more on the website of the Osaka branch, as well as this PDF from the Hanshin branch. (Syndicated from Spoon & Tamago)

 

 



Art Design

A Project to Immortalize David Bowie in Traditional Woodblock Prints

June 7, 2018

Johnny Strategy

David Bowie, who passed away in 2016, had a very special connection – some may even call it a “love affair” – with Japan. He originally developed his affinity after taking an interest in Kabuki and was heavily influenced by the exaggerated gestures, costumes and make-up. He later went on to work with fashion designer Kansai Yamamoto on many iconic costumes, as well as with musicians like Tomoyasu Hotei and the filmmaker Nagisa Oshima. In a sense, the love affair has come full circle and now a project has been announced to immortalize David Bowie in the form of ukiyo-e woodblock prints that depict Bowie in elements of kabuki.

Two unique prints were announced last month from Ukiyo-e Project, an organization that creates contemporary Ukiyo-e based on elements of pop culture. Each of the prints are inspired by iconic photo shoots of Bowie, which have been translated to woodblock print by ukiyo-e artist Masumi Ishikawa.

One of these is inspired by Brian Duffy’s photograph of a bare-chested Bowie with a red lightning bolt scrawled across his face the cover of “Aladdin Sane” (1973). For the ukiyo-e print, the artist imagines Bowie as Kidomaru, a fictitious snake charmer from the Kamakura period.

The second print was inspired by Terry O’Neill’s “Diamond Dogs” promotional photograph (1974) in which Bowie is posing with a large barking dog. For this ukiyo-e print the artist imagines Bowie as Takezawa Toji, a magician and entertainer who was often depicted by Utagawa Kuniyoshi.

The prints will be on display, and available for sale (priced at 100,000 yen) at the Marc Jacobs-owned BOOKMARC in Omotesando from June 23 – July 1, 2018. The final prints will be displayed alongside photos of David Bowie, as well as other materials that show the process of creating the woodblock prints. (Syndicated from Spoon & Tamago)

left: David Bowie, Aladdin Sane, Eyes Open, 1973© Courtesy of the Duffy Archive | right: Terry O’Neill – David Bowie Diamond Dogs, 1974 © Courtesy Mouche Gallery

 

 



Design

The World’s Largest LEGO Cherry Blossom Tree Blooms in Japan

May 17, 2018

Laura Staugaitis

A record-breaking LEGO tree has taken shape at LEGOLAND Japan, a theme park in Nagoya dedicated to the beloved plastic bricks. The cherry tree’s construction marks the theme park’s first anniversary, and has been registered as the “largest LEGO brick cherry blossom tree” in the Guinness Book of World Records. It was made with 881,470 bricks which took over 6,500 hours to assemble. Superlatives aside, the hand-built tree is a spectacular sight to behold. The tree sculpture includes a grassy green base and illuminated lanterns, all made with LEGO bricks. You can watch a video of the tree’s creation below. (via My Modern Met)