Japan

Reboots, Robots and ‘Recreation': Links You Need To See

Sobs will surely be heard throughout American households tonight as Parks and Recreation fans gather to watch the series finale of the seven season show. And while cries and moans might be appropriate, consider this alternative: commemorating the beloved show with a group sing-along of legendary guitarist Andy Dwyer’s (aka Johnny Karate) finest work. It’s also crucial, in these tough times, to remember that nothing is ever truly gone… so long as it’s commoditized. Parks and Recreation will always be in your hearts (with purchase of this show-related paraphernalia). … Read More

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The Life of Cats in Historic Japanese Woodblock Prints

They were brought to Japan on ships during the mid-sixth century to protect sacred Buddhist scriptures during transport, but quickly became a central element of Japanese life, appearing in art and folklore throughout the ages. Cats populate the ukiyo-e woodblock prints of the Edo Period (1615-1867). Japan Society Gallery will be presenting a selection of these historic prints, which include the longest-lasting image of a cat in Japanese literature and more. “Much that is fundamental to the Japanese character can be gleaned from these historic popular prints that feature cats in everyday life and lore,” notes Miwako Tezuka, director of the gallery. Half of the works will be on view through April 26, while the rest will be exhibited from April 29 to June 7. Bewhiskered kabuki actors, exotic predators, anthropomorphized felines, and other cats await you in our preview of Life of Cats: Selections from the Hiraki Ukiyo-e Collection. … Read More

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Essential Japanese New Wave Films

“As Touch of Evil is to classical film noir, so Vengeance Is Mine is to the Japanese New Wave,” Slant Magazine’s Clayton Dillard wrote of Shôhei Imamura’s 1979 film, which arrived on Blu-ray from Criterion this week. “Each film retrospectively serves as the apotheosis for the style or movement, encapsulating many of the aims and concerns of films from the previous two decades into a singular, reflexive work.”

Catch-all terms like “New Wave” can be confusing, but in this case I’m referring to the cinematic movement in Japan during the late 1950s and into the ’70s. Comparisons to the familiar French New Wave period, which developed during the same time, are inevitable. And many Japanese New Wave filmmakers were influenced by directors such as François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard. But as author and editor David Desser wrote in his indispensable book Eros Plus Massacre (borrowing its title from the canon):

To see the Japanese New Wave as an imitation of the French New Wave fails to see the Japanese context out of which the movement arose. While the Japanese New Wave did draw benefits from the French New Wave, mainly in the form of a handy journalistic label which could be applied to it (the “nuberu bagu” from the Japanese pronunciation of the French term), it nevertheless possesses a high degree of integrity and specificity.

Here are a few essential titles that explore key themes from the Japanese New Wave movement. … Read More

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25 Incredible Akira Kurosawa Quotes About Filmmaking

One of the most revered filmmakers in the history of cinema, and one who helped bring international attention to Japanese filmmaking, the distinguished Akira Kurosawa continues to influence moviemaking the world over. The Seven Samurai and Yojimbo director would have celebrated a birthday today, and to honor his memory, we’re revisiting some of his most compelling quotes about filmmaking. Through Kurosawa’s words, many of which come from the insightful Something Like An Autobiography, we get a feel for his complexity, incredible technique, passion, the poetry of his process, and profound philosophy. … Read More

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Surprisingly Gorgeous Manhole Covers from Japan

“Public art” and “sanitation infrastructure” generally don’t mix. But in Japan, cities and towns regularly get creative with manhole covers, placing visually stunning works of art right underneath pedestrians’ feet. There are almost 6,000 of the covers around the country, turning a decidedly unglamorous necessity into museum-worthy art. Photographer S. Morita has documented hundreds of these covers over the years; the complete set is available on Morita’s Flickr page. Here are some of the highlights. … Read More

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Regal Photos of Samurai Men in Storm-Ravaged Japan

The 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and the explosion at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant complex that ravaged Japan has not quelled the country’s rich cultural traditions. Soma Nomaoi is an annual celebration honoring samurai culture in Fukushima, which dates back more than one thousand years ago. The disaster death toll is staggering. Many people were forced to relocate due to radiation, but the surviving Nomaoi men have banded together in the face of tragedy and honored those lost by continuing to observe the gathering. We learned about artist Noriko Takasugi on My Modern Met, who spent a month photographing Fukushima’s Nomaoi and believes the event is “an embodiment of their identity and fight for survival.” Read some their personal stories, and see Takasugi’s regal photos of the men amongst their storm-ravaged surroundings in our gallery. … Read More

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Awesome Photos of Japanese Teens Reenacting ‘Dragon Ball Z’-Style Energy Attacks

We bet you’ve been excited for a movie release before, but have you ever gotten so pumped you decided to recreate its signature special effects with all your classmates? Such is the level of dedication dozens of Japanese teenagers showed in anticipation of the March 30th release of Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods, the 18th full-length movie of the anime franchise and its first in 17 years. Recreating Dragon Ball Z‘s signature energy attacks, including the “Makankosappo”  and “Kamehameha” moves, and posting the expertly choreographed results to social media has become the latest fad, a phenomenon that’s both impressive and really, really cool looking. Here are some of the most amazing pictures from the meme, which we learned about via My Modern Met, for your viewing pleasure.
… Read More

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