Thursday, 28 November 2013

Another from the Japan Times

Was away on vacation and saw this when I arrived back home. thank you Jordan and JT! m(_ _)m

Providing an in-depth overview of all things kawaii (cute), this book traces the cute aesthetic from its inception in the 1970s as a schoolgirl trend to its position as a leading cultural norm, and includes interviews and hundreds of photos showing how kawaii characters such as cute animals and girls appear pretty much everywhere in Japan. Despite the light subject matter, the authors also provide analysis of the history and culture of kawaii, even peering into the darker effects of the phenomenon.
A must for any Japanophile, the book has enough grounded perspective for those new to Japan’s zanier aspects.

Sunday, 10 November 2013


I feel like a ham but  ....
dont forget to get my kokeshi book for Xmas!
You can get in on amazon, (its better if you can get it somewhere like Kinokuniya if you are in Japan, and should be easy to find overseas too at large bookstores)  it's not expensive, and interviews are great for lovers of crafts and handmade things, someone called the mood "meditative" which is really apt.
Real artisan heart and soul. <3333

Whoever wrote that comment on my amazon (thank you) if I ever do another edition, yes there will be comprehensive listings next time for places to eat and sleep, I'm already getting mails asking where I should stay, so that is a bit of a regret, as there isnt that much info in English online and some of the homepages are super ghetto (like html 101 class with fluro animated gifs)  but the actual place is amazing.  And also smooth out some gaffes.
Im about to go on vacay, but in the least I will try and write some places on this post in December with links to where we stayed, we did a ton of side trips as well.

oh and thanks to Andrew Lee at The Japan Times for reviewing it yesterday.
It was unexpected so I was super happy.
m(_  _)m

Kokeshi dolls are a mainstay of tourists shop across Japan, yet many visitors to the country may not know that these simple handmade wooden dolls are, by and large, associated with Tohoku, the region in the northeast that was so devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster of March 11, 2011.

In “Kokeshi: From Tohoku With Love,” author Manami Okazaki visits the region and interviews 20 koujin (kokeshi makers) who create these traditional dolls to discover the history and culture behind the various varieties of kokeshi (there are 11 aparently). The result is a delightful little book that captures the warmth of the artisans involved in creating the wooden dolls. “That moment you place the brush on a kokeshi your spirits lift. It is a strange and fascinating thing,” says one. Some of the koujin Okazaki speaks with have been carving and painting kokeshi for more than 50 years and many are carrying on a family tradition that goes back generations. “I have been making kokeshi since 1945, I was 18 years old and it was the will of my parents,” says another.

Throughout the book are photos of the people and places Okazaki visited, and as the dolls are also associated with the onsen (hot springs) areas of Tohoku, the book also includes a guide to the area. The photos of the matsuri (festivals) in the region are particularly fun.

Overall, the book reveals how deeply something as a basic as simple wooden doll can become so entrenched into a culture. Proceeds of the book will go toward Tohoku relief aid.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

blog going to sleep

This blog will go to sleep soon, but I will upload a bunch of outtakes (shoots we didnt end up using) over the next few posts. I.e. they will give more pleasure when I share them as opposed to them sitting in my phone. 
A lot of projects are appealing to journalists and photojournalists because the subjects are difficult, or getting access is a challenge, or something a long these lines, but I have to say with the  kawaii book, you can point your camera in any direction (including the sky, as there are SO many kawaii planes now) and hit something cute. 
Therefore,  it was more to show a nice cross section from the cliche to the more niche, but inevitably a lot got cut, especially the more obscure stuff in favor for the everyday cute. Its just so ubiquitous. I think my ed did a good job in steering the book in a way that made it the success that it was. And really I cant thank the readers enough for buying the book. SO SO SO grateful. 
And do have to add, even if it didnt sell, I had such a great time making it and discovering a lot about design theory and loved all the young and not so young entrepreneurs and artists. 

police ad:

Kumamon is the mascot for Kumamoto in Kyushu. 
Each prefecture and district has its own ultra cute mascot. The one below is the one for Nagano 
(not my photo)
 If you want to know why kawaii culture is getting so much attention lately, especially from otherwise quite serious press, it because it is a hugely profitable industry in Japan that goes way beyond being a trend or a subculture. 
According to the Bank of Japan, Kumamon generated 124.4billion yen in revenue (both from tourism to the region and products) over his 2 year stint as Kumamoto's ambassador.

 There are old school  mascots by Sato, a pharmaceuticals company. 
You see these outside dispensaries and pharmacies all over Tokyo.

For whatever reason, public transport companies LOVE kawaii things. 
This is the Odakyu Doareamon exhibition. 


Bullet train Kumamon
Rune Naito airplane. The company name, btw is PEACH (!) Rune Naito's work is in my book as well. He is often credited for being the godfather of cute, which is debatable, but he was the person that popularised the term Kawaii in everyday conversation. If you are in Tokyo, Japanese girls will use "kawaii" for everything and anything, and this is greatly because of the influence of Rune Naito. 
Iga town, home to a historical ninja sect boasts this amazing 
PINK matsumoto leiji ninja train. 
They did not, ever, have pink ninjas, btw.

panda bus in asakusa

I guess this guy is a station master?

 This is the mascot for the fire department:

 Pipo-kun is the mascot for the Tokyo metropolitan police force. He makes regular appearances all over the city. Ashikawa prison also have their own kawaii mascot too. 
Check out this site, (other district police forces) even for someone like me who just wrote a whole book on kawaii, I really find this amazing, I was at a friend's house pouring over it for hours. The mascot for Yamaguchi is so great.’s-police-mascots

This is the mascot for Hamaoka nuclear power plant. It was decommissioned shortly after Fukushima, as it is in a highly vulnerable location in Shizuoka. The site was mind-boggling at best, a bit like a theme park advocating nuclear safety and environmental friendliness.
Anyways, this kawaii guy is like the ambassador for Hamaoka nuke energy -- kawaii diplomacy at its most insidious.

Hamaoka nuke plant:

This kawaii catfish appears everywhere there is something earthquake related in Kanagawa. 

I didnt use so many food package designs as I ended up using examples of the food itself being beautiful. But kawaii packaging is all over sweets and chocolates. I think one of the most famous is Koala March
kawaii inflatables. I did have Yotta Groove's massive kokeshi but in retrospect I should have included more of these, even though I really had no more space in the book because there are so many great examples of artists and designers from sanrio to Yayoi Kusuma's yayoi chan and her polka dog, to Momoyo Torimitsu making these. I think they work quite well because we usually associate cute things with being small, so when they reach these proportions, they begin to look almost quite monstrous.
(not my pix)