Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Man Behind the Myth

This video is a short spoof on Eiji Tsuburaya the man behind the creation and execution of Godzilla! There is also a book written on him, Master of Monsters, that goes further in to the detail of the artistic process that brought Godzilla and many other Japanese Kaiju icons.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Your type, my type? - it's about A, B, O (or AB)

We are often fascinated by horoscopes, with the notion that how stars align billions of miles away might say something about us in the everyday. In Japan the major personality index is much more biological in nature, you could even say "embodied" - blood.

Blood type holds a special place in Japanese culture as the go-to data for understanding what a person might be like. This recent article (or this more extensive one)

Indeed, anime and manga characters often have their blood types mentioned, and of course people keep track of this sort of thin in the form of online manga character blood type databases! Other websites, like this one called Anime Blood unpack the matter for readers.

Right now some of the top selling books in the country are on this very topic...

(the blood bag pictured here is by British designers Dunne and Raby)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Banned Hirohito art in Okinawa & "Going Nuclear" with N. Korea

As you have been readings in the essays from Oiwa and Suzuki's book The Japan We Never Knew,
World War II and the historical and cultural issues surrounding it are never far from the surface.

Two very interesting news items from today's The Japan Times make this clear in different ways.

A museum in Naha, Okinawa just banned an exhibit by the artist Nobuyuki Oura that include collages with depictions of Emperor Hirohito, the reigning emperor during WWII. (For the purposes of full disclosure, I should mention that I love Oura's collages).

The article reports:

"The decision has drawn a barrage of criticism from art critics in Okinawa.

"Okinawa was drawn into the ground battle during World War II under Japan's Imperial system," said one of the critics. "The prefectural government does not understand how dreadful it would be for authorities to promote only art that sees a bright side while avoiding facing up to the reality of the unfortunate part of history."

The Museum of Modern art in Toyama Prefecture cquired some of the collages and exhibited them in 1986. But the museum soon closed the show and sold it to other parties after it sparked strong protests from rightwingers.

In 1994, Oura filed a lawsuit demanding Toyama Prefecture repurchase the collages, but the court ruled against him in 2000. The latest incident "represents self-protection and excessive reaction from a local government, which makes the topic on the Imperial system taboo," said Oura.


In other news, the Japan Times also reports that former Finance Minister Shoichi Nakagawa gave a speech suggesting Japan should consider "going nuclear" - that is developing nuclear weapons as a deterrent to North Korea, which recently conducted both nuclear tests and missile tests.

I very touchy if not taboo subject - whether Japn should ever have nuclear weapons or support any country to do so - comes up again here as many Japanese continue to debate more broadly whether Article 9 should be revised.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Japan's Whaling Ways and Woes

When Greenpeace activists revealed exposed that meat left over from "scientific research whaling" was being illegally smuggled off as ship for sale on the black market, it was yet another outcry over Japanese whaling practices. Meanwhile the two Japanese Greenpeace activists have been charged with theft themselves and are awaiting trial.

The lead of Japan's whaling fleet, the Nisshin Maru might be familiar to some of you as the site of Matthew Barney's film Drawing Restraint 9, where he and Bjork carve each other up with knives while making-out. The trailer gives you a sense, if you haven't seen it.

Sea Shepherds and other groups have been in direct - and often quite violent - confrontation with the Japanese whiling fleet. Last week the fleet returned to Japan after 5 months at sea reporting a smaller than expected catch due to harrassment by Sea Shepherds and Greenpeace.

Japan claims that international regulation and protest of their whaling practices is nothing less than an interference with their traditional culture and long established food practices. Some counter that cultures adapt and evolve - and what better reason to changes ones practices but in the face the extinction of species.

It continues to be a touchy subject all around.....