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
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.
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Few would brave getting this close to an erupting volcano. If the German photographer Martin Rietze – who produced this astounding series of photographs of an exploding volcano in southern Kyushu, Japan – was even a little bit frightened when he captured these, his photos don’t betray him. There’s an audacity inherent to each of Rietze’s photos (which we discovered at My Modern Met), in the lush plumes of pink, gray, and purple smoke, the volcano’s sparkling jets of lava, and the flashes of lightning that crackle at their top. His photos offer a way of looking at a natural disaster that could create phenomenal danger but is also, for all the harm it might reap, overwhelmingly beautiful to watch. Perhaps looking at Rietze’s photos invokes the same kind of relationship to the volcano – a unique mixture of awe, wonder and fear – the photographer felt himself, standing before the thing itself. … Read More
Who runs around wearing a loincloth, covered in tattoos, and delivers mail on a stick while managing not to look like an absolute fool? Japanese mail runners during the 19th century, that’s who — and they put modern bike messengers to shame. During the Edo period, tattoos became a popular form of art, and these guys are sporting some fantastic ink. Some historians debate that skin art was mainly a phenomenon amongst the lower class, but Okinawa Soba — the culture purveyor who published these wonderful hand colored photos that we found on Retronaut — points out, “the tattoo showed up everywhere in Japan — from the Ainu in the North, to the Okinawans in the South.” Check out more mail runners in our gallery, and feel sad that you’ll never look this badass in your life. … Read More
“Human beings are unable to be honest with themselves about themselves. They cannot talk about themselves without embellishing,” the great Akira Kurosawa once said. The statement forms the basis for his 1950 movie, Rashômon — a film credited with introducing Japanese cinema to worldwide audiences after winning the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. Rashômon tells a non-linear story about a brutal rape and murder in the woods from four different, fallible perspectives. There is no ultimate resolution, and audiences are left questioning the nature of truth and perception. It’s a hypnotic and ambiguous journey. Kurosawa’s existential masterpiece has been given the Criterion Blu-ray treatment, and we thought it would be the perfect time to revisit other essential Japanese films. Head past the break to see what works made the cut. Since this is just the tip of the iceberg, feel free to add to our list in the comments section. … Read More
Italian photographer Adolfo Farsari is known for his hand-colored portraits and landscapes — particularly of Japan and the country’s residents. Farsari settled there in the late 19th century and started a successful commercial studio — one of his many entrepreneurial ventures. He sold decorative albums filled with images depicting Japanese artistic traditions and expansive views of the landscape to tourists. His exacting standards made them some of the most sought after works available and are thought to have largely shaped foreign perceptions of the country. See more of Farsari’s gorgeous, hand-colored photos in our gallery. … Read More
Cramped, labyrinthine city space can be as alluring as it is claustrophobic. While some people yearn for vast uninterrupted landscapes and stretching horizons, others are drawn to squeeze themselves into an efficiency apartment that’s smaller than the average half-bathroom. With skyrocketing real estate prices and little room left to build in cities like New York or Tokyo, architects have begun to rethink the use of modern urban space.
As most architects, designers, and artists know, limitations can sometimes be much more creatively fruitful than facing endless possibilities. Rather than resort to rebuilding city space, the following seven examples of confined architecture take head on the challenge of limitation. Each of these designs is inspired by efficiency, envisioning novel ways of building around the issue of congestion. … Read More
Pritzker Prize-winning architect Kenzo Tange would have been 99 years old today. One of the most significant architects of the 20th century, his work combined traditional Japanese design principles with modern advancements in technology and materials to meet the social needs of a country devastated by World War II.
In Kenzo Tange: 20th Century Masters, Paolo Riani wrote that in Tokyo “there were not even the mountains of rubble of German towns; the wooden structures had gone up in flames and smoke.” It makes perfect sense then that Tange turned to the béton brut, or raw concrete, that defined the new Brutalist movement. The style was often criticized for being cold and oppressive, but Tange’s interpretations were different from the totalitarian aesthetic that gave the severe offshoot of modernism a bad rap. Hoping to erase the memory of mankind’s darkest hour, his creations ushered in a new Japan. Summing up his intentions, Tange said “there is a powerful need for symbolism, and that means the architecture must have something that appeals to the human heart.”
To honor one of the greatest architects of our time, join us as we take a virtual stroll past some of his most famous designs. From the Hiroshima Peace Park that launched his career to the Yoyogi National Gymnasium for the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, click through to check out the enduring legacy of Kenzo Tange. … Read More
There are 650 incredible illustrations in Book Cover Design in Japan 1910-40, which is currently selling for up to $400 online, but thankfully the rare book maestro behind website 50 Watts has uncovered a copy to share with us. The most-wanted title is in Japanese only, but if you’re not up to par on East Asian dialects, fear not. You’ll only need your eyes in this instance, and our gallery past the break proves why. The colorful, bold, early 20th-century artworks show a range of typography and illustration styles, from modernist-savvy reads to children’s periodicals. In many cases, they are indistinguishable from contemporary designs. Click through for a closer look, and visit 50 Watts for more gorgeous, vintage, Japanese magazine covers. … Read More
Geishas used to be considered the supermodels of their time. Japan’s decorated entertainers, skilled in many traditional art forms and other social customs saw a decline after the Meiji Restoration began to rapidly modernize and westernize the country, and World War II prompted more women to enter the workforce. Travel back in time with these candy-colored, vintage photos of geishas during the Meiji era that we spotted on Retronaut, circa 1900.
Some of the women photographed were highly regarded — like the first model pictured below, Miss Koman. Even Japanese writer and poet Yone Noguchi lauded her popularity. We’re used to seeing geishas with painted, tight-lipped gazes — and there are plenty in this selection of photos — but some of the girls seemed to really let their hair down. The props, poses, and striped bathing suits are fantastic. Click through for more vintage snapshots of beautiful geishas at the beach. … Read More