Category Archives: Culture

Welcome 2012! The Year of the Dragon!

2011 left, well, a little something to be desired. Personally, I am looking forward to 2012 with great enthusiasm, starting with a long desired trip to Vietnam in February. Today, I’ve been collecting mental images to welcome the Year of the Dragon with excitement.

A beautiful 2012 Calendar from Ask Alice.

Year of the Dragon Fortune Cards. Scratch the gold and reveal your fortune! (via)

Cards, cards, cards. (via and thanks to Yoshizen for the head’s up.)

50 yen stamps. (via)

Dragon goodies of all sorts! (via)

Dragon Thing-a-Ma-Bobs? (via)


We are dragons living in Furano of Japan.
2012 is our year おいらは 北海道の富良野 ニングルテラスに住んでる「富良ごん」だい。文句あるか~

The gorgeous window display at Takashimaya.

And of course, Nengajo, New Year’s Postcards.

Most compelling for me, and a reminder to slow down and appreciate the very act of making a “card”, these hand-crafted and fired clay New Year’s “cards” honoring the Year of the Dragon.

From Flickr user Masayon123, these incredible “cards.”

Can you imagine actually sending these through the mail??

Interesting Factoid?

A Japanese postbox. The left slot is for new year cards only between December 15th to January 7th.


This letter will be delivered on the very day of January 1st if you put this stamp under postage stamps which means Happy New Year.


While my family and I are enjoying a relaxing New Year’s Day together, Japanese postal workers will be busy, delivering countless numbers of New Year’s greetings to families around the country. Sounds quite lovely to me.

Wherever you and your family are starting the year, all of us at Japanistic wish you good health and happiness in 2012!

Is iichi in English the new Japanese Etsy?


Of course, I want you to do all of your shopping at Japanistic, but  sometimes, I can possibly allow you to shop elsewhere. Now, there’s another option for Japanese handicrafts, and yeah, it’s a good one.

Just launched in english, iichistarted as a new project with a mission to connect Japanese craft-makers with users everywhere,
Our vision is to build a trusted marketplace that is open to the world.
In the near future, we plan to offer workshops, craft fairs and other unique iichi events. We sincerely hope to see you there.
” (via)


Yup. They pretty much had me at iichi! But wait-there’s more.

iichi is a new marketplace for Japanese handmade goods. Just as with other countries, there is a rich culture of handmade craft in this small island nation.
Each region offers an abundance of natural materials and traditions rooted in its own distinctive history and personality, and there always have been people who find fascination and fulfillment in using their own hands to create things.
” (via)

Still growing, the site doesn’t have a ton of product yet, but I like the direction they’re going.

Small Plates from Yoshiaki Tadaki.

Yup, I would completely have made my little boy wear this Polka Dot Bowtie when he was little!

I cannot believe this gal is called Little Chubb Chubb!!

Little Chubb Chubb artist, Kumi Takada, also makes these Angel on a Swing folks, which are the size of your thumb.

Bird ring from Tools Van de Lune.

Cute Furoshiki from Kyoko Bowskill.

The rub? The shipping ain’t cheap. But for something that’s perfectly wonderful and totally unique, it’s worth treating yourself sometimes, don’t you think?

Mourning your pet, Japanese-Style.

Tokyo pet cemetery

Mourning the loss of a loved one is an individual thing. No one can tell you what’s right for you and you have to make a choice. When that loved one is a pet, what to do is not always obvious.

When we lost our old dog several years ago, it seemed right have her cremated. Then, on Christmas Day, we scattered her ashes at her favorite swimming hole down a trail in the conservation area near our house.

It was perhaps because I’m a pet owner that I was so struck by these images for A Japanese Pet Cemetery at the Tokyo Times Blog by Lee Chapman, take at a pet cemetery outside of Tokyo,

Tokyo pet cemetery

Tokyo pet cemetery

Tokyo pet cemetery

I am finding these images so compelling. For you non-pet owners, what are your thoughts?

Gaspard and Lisa Celebrate 10 Years in Japan.

News photo

I have a total soft spot for Gaspard and Lisa, and I wish I could visit this Gaspard and Lisa anniversary exhibit in Yokohama.

The “Misadventures of Gaspard & Lisa,” a series of picture books about two rabbity doglike creatures, began in France in 1999. In 2001, its creators, Anne Gutman and Georg Hallensleben, brought the series to Japan, where it has since become hugely popular. The series is now published worldwide in about 15 different languages.

The Sogo Museum of Art in Yokohama is celebrating the 10th anniversary of the first Japanese publication of Gaspard & Lisa with 160 original illustrations, sketches and studies for the “lift-the-flap” books of the series. But the two unusual creatures are not the only ones in the spotlight. Images of Penelope, the lovable blue koala bear of another popular Gutman and Hallensleben series will also be on display.

ペネロペ パリへいく


Children (of all ages) will be able join in a workshop to create their own personal versions of the cuddly Penelope in the form of sticky decals. The finished pieces are heated on a hot-plate by exhibition staff, and are then ready to adorn fridges and other glossy surfaces.

Fans of the two picture-book series will also be able to take home limited-edition Gaspard & Lisa and Penelope goods, including a mug and jigsaw puzzle incorporating all of the characters. (via)

リサとガスパール にほんへいく

Citizen 13660, Mine Okubo and the internment experience.

I read a lot of graphic novels. I love the art form, and I’m amazed at the similarities between contemporary graphic novels at the work of artist Mine Okubo in Citizen 13660.

While not exactly a graphic novel, the series of drawings documents Okubo’s experiences as a Japanese-American woman during WWII.


According to Persephone Magazine, Okubo was interned at the Topaz internment camp in Utah. “It was at this camp that Okubo began to record the lives of the Japanese American internees. Cameras were not permitted unless brought by white photographers chosen by the war department to produce propaganda, so Okubo recreated scenes of daily life in drawings and paintings. She amassed over two thousand works in her two years at Topaz, reproducing both banal and extraordinary scenes of daily life in the camps.” (via)



Perhaps most stunning is the realization that Okubo published her work in 1946. “In 1946, while some Japanese Americans were still being held in internment camps, Okubo published Citizen 13660, a collection of over two hundred of her pen and ink drawings from Tanforan and Topaz. Each illustration in Citizen 13660 is presented with Okubo’s detailed descriptions of the circumstances surrounding the scene, providing one of the earliest and most complete portraits of the process of Japanese American internment.” (via)


A young woman with long hair and disheveled bangs is found in almost every drawing, perhaps in the foreground teaching children to paint, or in the background sticking out her tongue at a soldier. This was Okubo’s quiet way of reminding readers the book was the personal testimony of an American citizen, an artist, and a woman.” (via)

What an incredible show of dignity and strength.

Bye Bye Kitty!!! Hello Japan Society!

I love the idea of this upcoming exhibit at the Japan Society because it speaks to an issue we are keenly aware of at Japanistic – the fact that Japanese culture is much more than Kawaii, and that it too often is portrayed as only that.

Curated by David Elliott, founding Director of the Mori Art Museum, Bye Bye Kitty!!! is a radical departure from recent Japanese exhibitions. Moving far beyond the stereotypes of kawaii andotaku culture, Japan Society’s show features sixteen emerging and mid-career artists whose paintings, objects, photographs, videos, and installations meld traditional styles with challenging visions of Japan’s troubled present and uncertain future. Each of the three sections, “Critical Memory,” “Threatened Nature,” and “Unquiet Dream,” not only offers a feast for the senses but also demolishes our preconceptions about contemporary Japan and its art.

The sixteen featured artists are: Makoto Aida会田誠; Manabu Ikeda池田学; Tomoko Kashiki樫木知子; Rinko Kawauchi川内倫子; Haruka Kojin荒神明香; Kumi Machida町田久美; Yoshitomo Nara奈良美智; Kohei Nawa名和晃平; Motohiko Odani小谷元彦; Hiraki Sawaさわひらき; Chiharu Shiota塩田千春; Tomoko Shioyasu塩保朋子; Hisashi Tenmyouya天明屋尚; Yamaguchi Akira山口晃; Miwa Yanagiやなぎみわ; Tomoko Yoneda米田知子. (via)

Special events include Cordoning the Child, Killing the Kawaii, a lecture I’d love to attend.

In recent years, Japanese contemporary art has too often confined itself to the restrictive hierarchies of the antique, the childish or the “cute.” This talk by David Elliott, curator of Japan Society Gallery’s spring exhibition Bye Bye Kitty!!! Between Heaven and Hell in Contemporary Japanese Art, examines the ways many young Japanese artists have confronted cultural stereotypes, digesting, recycling, and re-imagining tradition in a challenging and at times visceral exposition of contemporary experience. (via)

The exhibit opens March 18th, and the lecture is on March 19th. If you’re in NY, be there.

Samurais, Coffee, and Cranes in your New York Times

I’ve been meaning to note these three articles ever since last Sunday, when the New York Times was a wealth of stories related to Japan.

First up, Slashing Samurai: A Culture Savored, Wendell Jamieson’s remembrance of The Sword of Doom. Jamieson recalls himself at 13-years-old, enthralled by the choreography of sword fights. “What so deeply drew my greasy-haired 13-year-old self to this black-and-white world of slashing blades? I have no idea. But from the moment my dad took me to see a double feature of Akira Kurosawa movies at the old Thaila — “Throne of Blood” and “Yojimbo” — I had, for several years, a continual loop of samurai battles running in my head.” (via)

As the mother of a would-be Jedi, I see this fascination at work each day in my very own home.

The second article speaks to me especially on a sleepy Saturday morning.

In Coffee’s Slow Dance, Oliver Strand details the artistry of Japanese coffee, and the simple yet sophisticated process of making coffee that tastes divine. Yes, please.

Finally, I can’t wait to see the new work by Allen Say, The Boy in the Garden.

The book tells the story of Jiro, and an imagined crane that comes to life in his dreams. And the artwork looks stunning.

In my mind, there is something that unites these three pieces, something other than their appearance in the Times. It’s the idea of specific and dedicated arts. The art of choreography. The art of coffee-making. And the art of, well, art?
Then there’s also the fact that each of these made me want to see, drink, or read more.

Today’s Levitation from Yowa Yowa Camera

My husband stumbled upon this site, Yowayowacamera, and it’s grown increasingly compelling for both of us. One levitation, every day.

We’ve talked about why and one reason is that through such a simple act, this woman challenges notions of what it means to be a woman in Japan. The images are compelling on their own, but for me, it’s also about the way she is making herself seen, obvious, and making her simple art public. She doesn’t talk about her work in this way, at least on the English section of her blog, but as I look at it and remember my experiences with women in Japan, I find it striking.

Natsumi says “yowayowa is a Japanese term meaning ‘weak’ or ‘feeble.
Since I’m yowayowa, it’s really heavy to carry SLR cameras around.”  (via)

In my estimation, she is anything but!

Learn more about Japan and if you’re lucky, win a prize

I love the idea of a monthly challenge around the larger theme of Japan, from the blog In Spring it is the Dawn.

Hello Japan! is a monthly mini-challenge focusing on Japanese literature and culture. Each month there will be a new task which relates to some aspect of life in Japan. Anyone is welcome to join in any time. You can post about the task on your blog. Or if you don’t have a blog, you can leave a comment on the Hello Japan! post for the month. Everyone who completes the task will then be included in the drawing for that month’s prize. (via)

Learn new things, and possibly win a prize?

February’s mini-challenge: Japanese Cooking. Try your hand at whatever dish you might like.

I guess this means I have to try bento this February. Any tips?

Fashionable Wear for Cameraman

A new favorite Tumblr to peruse. Japan Camera Mag.

Images, from Vintage Japanese Camera magazines.

This might be my favorite. How can I get one of these outfits for my husband?

Is it bad that I think about how great it would be to cut these magazines up for craft projects?

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