Archives: ‘Art/Culture’ Category

Time-lapse video of slightly darkened Tokyo

19 Apr 2011


+ Video

By fading back and forth between scenes of pre- and post-quake Tokyo, this time-lapse video by YouTube user darwinfish105 shows how the metropolitan nightscape has been affected by Japan's ongoing power shortages and conservation efforts.

Quakebook

13 Apr 2011

Quakebook --
The much-anticipated Quakebook (2:46: Aftershocks: Stories from the Japan Earthquake) -- a wide-ranging collection of personal accounts and reflections about the massive earthquake that struck Japan on March 11 -- is now available as a Kindle eBook on Amazon, and the entire purchase price ($9.99) goes to the Japanese Red Cross Society to assist those affected by the disaster. Highly recommended. [Link]

(Note: Non-Kindle owners can also read the book by first downloading one of the free reading applications for other mobile devices and computers here.)

Namazu-e: Earthquake catfish prints

06 Apr 2011

In November 1855, the Great Ansei Earthquake struck the city of Edo (now Tokyo), claiming 7,000 lives and inflicting widespread damage. Within days, a new type of color woodblock print known as namazu-e (lit. "catfish pictures") became popular among the residents of the shaken city. These prints featured depictions of mythical giant catfish (namazu) who, according to popular legend, caused earthquakes by thrashing about in their underground lairs. In addition to providing humor and social commentary, many prints claimed to offer protection from future earthquakes.

Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
1. Earthquake victims take revenge on the giant catfish responsible for the destruction [+]

The popularity of namazu-e exploded, and as many as 400 different types became available within weeks. However, the namazu-e phenomenon abruptly ended two months later when the Tokugawa government, which ordinarily maintained a strict system of censorship over the publishing industry, cracked down on production. Only a handful are known to survive today.

* * * * *

Namazu-e earthquake catfish picture --
2. Namazu and the kaname-ishi rock [+]

Namazu are normally kept under control by the god Kashima using a large rock known as kaname-ishi. The Great Ansei Earthquake of 1855 is said to have occurred when Kashima went out of town and left Ebisu (god of fishing and commerce) in charge. In this print, the giant subterranean catfish unleashes destruction on the city while Ebisu sleeps on the job. Kashima rushes home on horseback while the city burns, and Raijin the thunder god defecates drums. Large gold coins fall from the sky, symbolizing the redistribution of wealth during the rebuilding phase.

* * * * *

Catfish ukiyoe print --
3. Tug-of-war between namazu and the god Kashima [+]

This print shows a namazu engaged in a fierce game of "neck tug-of-war" with the god Kashima. A group of earthquake victims root for Kashima, while those who typically profit from earthquakes (construction workers, firemen, news publishers, etc.) root for the catfish.

* * * * *

Catfish ukiyo-e print --
4. Ancient catfish (Artists: Kyosai Kawanabe and Robun Kanagaki)

Produced two days after the earthquake, this work by Kyosai Kawanabe and Robun Kanagaki is considered the first namazu-e catfish print. The picture, which makes reference to a popular kabuki play of the era, inspired the creation of many namazu-e prints to follow.

* * * * *

Woodblock print of earthquake catfish --
5. Magical method of earthquake protection [+]

This protective print, which claims to prevent earthquake damage to one's home if attached to the ceiling, shows a group of remorseful catfish apologizing to the god Kashima for causing earthquakes while he was away.

* * * * *

Namazu-e ukiyo-e picture --
6. Catfish family

This print shows a mob of earthquake victims coming to take revenge on a namazu and its children.

* * * * *

Namazue ukiyoe print --
7. For peace and tranquility [+]

In this print, which claims to offer protection from earthquakes, the god Kashima and prostitutes from the Yoshiwara red-light district express their anger toward the catfish responsible for earthquakes.

* * * * *

Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
8. Namazu saviors

Some prints show the benevolent side of namazu. Here, they are seen rescuing people from the rubble.

* * * * *

Namazu-e mythical catfish print --
9. Daikoku, the popular god of wealth, restrains a namazu and showers people with money [+]

* * * * *

Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
10. Kashima restrains a namazu using the kaname-ishi rock

* * * * *

Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
11. Kashima, kaname-ishi, and namazu [+]

In this print, the god Kashima is pictured in the top right corner. The kaname-ishi rock, portrayed as a person, stands on the head of the catfish, while a crowd of people try to subdue the giant beast. The people on the left who are not helping subdue the catfish include construction workers and others who typically profit from earthquakes.

* * * * *

Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
12. Earthquake hand game

This print is a reference to the old Japanese saying, "The most frightening things are earthquakes, thunder, fires, and fathers." Here, a namazu plays janken (paper-rock-scissors) with the gods of thunder and fire while an elderly man (father) looks on.

* * * * *

Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
13. Earthquakes, thunder, fires and fathers [+]

This print also makes reference to the old Japanese saying, "The most frightening things are earthquakes, thunder, fires, and fathers." Here, a namazu and the gods of thunder and fire discuss their powers over a fish dinner while a middle-aged man (father) looks on.

* * * * *

Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
14. Tipsiness following the great namazu [+]

In this print, the god Kashima stabs his sword into the throat of the namazu, which is laid out on a giant table. The crowd of onlookers is divided into two groups. The people in the top half of the picture are labeled as "smiling" (those who benefit from the earthquake) and the people at the bottom are labeled as "weeping" (those who are harmed by the earthquake). The top group includes a carpenter, a plasterer, a lumber salesman, a blacksmith and a roofer, as well as an elite courtesan, an ordinary prostitute, a physician, and sellers of ready-to-eat foods. The bottom group includes a teahouse proprietor, an eel seller, various entertainers such as musicians, comedians and storytellers, a seller of luxury goods, a diamond seller, and a seller of imported goods.

* * * * *

Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
15. Prosperity of the Ansei era [+]

This print, which shows a namazu punishing a rich man and a famous actor, illustrates a popular theory that the gods deliberately allowed the earthquake to happen in order to rectify some of the imbalances in the world.

* * * * *

Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
16. Namazu attacked by the citizens of Edo [+]

* * * * *

Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
17. Catfish and construction workers partying in the Yoshiwara red-light district, pt. 1 [+]

This print depicts a crowd of namazu and newly prosperous construction workers living it up at a parlor house in the Yoshiwara pleasure district.

* * * * *

Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
18. Catfish and construction workers partying in the Yoshiwara red-light district, pt. 2 [+]

This print also shows carpenters, plasterers and roofers drinking and making merry in the Yoshiwara pleasure district while a namazu is restrained with a gourd.

* * * * *

Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
19. The earthquake and a "million prayers" [+]

This print depicts a namazu as a priest seated inside a giant rosary. The creature does not want to cause any more earthquakes, but the "worshipers" -- tradesmen such as lumber dealers and carpenters who profit from the disaster -- are praying for it to act up again. The ghosts of earthquake victims float overhead.

* * * * *

Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
20. Earthquake catfish and world rectification [+]

In this print, a group of construction workers pay respect to the namazu for helping them strike it rich.

* * * * *

Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
21. The shaking of greater Edo [+]

This print shows a massive steamship-like namazu approaching the city. The creature is spouting money, and people on shore beckon for it to come closer. The depiction of this namazu conjures up images of Commodore Perry's black ships, which arrived in Japan in 1853 and eventually forced the country to open its ports to Western commerce.

* * * * *

Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
22. The perpetrators of three big quakes captured alive [+]

In this print, the god Kashima has captured the catfish responsible for the major earthquakes in Shinshu, Edo, and Odawara. A carpenter, fireman, plasterer and roofer try to persuade the god to release the catfish, saying the creatures have apologized enough. The unforgiving Kashima sentences the fish to be cooked in a nabe stew.

* * * * *

Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
23. Namazu of Edo and Shinshu

* * * * *

Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
24. Ebisu apologizes [+]

In this print, Ebisu (god of fishing and commerce) apologizes to Kashima for falling asleep on the job after drinking. The catfish leader is also apologizing, saying it was the thoughtless ones that went wild.

* * * * *

Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
25. Peace in the Ansei era

This print shows the god Kashima using the kaname-ishi to subdue the namazu responsible for the recent earthquakes.

* * * * *

Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
26. Namazu is wrestled into submission and placed under the kaname-ishi rock [+]

* * * * *

Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
27. Ridgepole raising

This print shows a group of namazu construction workers erecting the kanji character å¹³ (hira), which can symbolize "peace."

* * * * *

Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
28. A man entertains a namazu [+]

* * * * *

Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
29. People inspect a namazu picture

* * * * *

Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
30. Monster namazu in the storehouse [+]

* * * * *

Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
31. Gourd and catfish

In this print, a namazu tries to help a comrade escape from a trap by handing it a gourd. The image is a reference to the old Japanese expression "gourd and catfish" (meaning "slippery" or "elusive"), which originates from a famous 15th-century Zen painting of a man trying to catch a catfish with a gourd.

* * * * *

Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
32. Mob takes revenge on a namazu [+]

* * * * *

Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
33. Catching a catfish with a gourd (Artist: Kunisada Utagawa) [+]

* * * * *

Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
34. People who profit from earthquakes make offerings to a namazu [+]

* * * * *

Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
35. Fear of Kashima

This print shows people dancing around a namazu dressed as a representative of Kashima shrine in an annual ritual held before the start of the new agricultural season. The image of the rabbit represents the zodiac year of the rabbit (1855).

* * * * *

Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
36. Reassurance of the quake-suppressing rock [+]

A crowd of elderly people, carpenters, young wives, china-shop owners, entertainers, Yoshiwara prostitutes, physicians, and others are offering prayers to the kaname-ishi rock, believed to have the power to keep earthquakes in check. When a person in the crowd voices his doubts about the rock's powers, the rock responds, "I assure you that if the earth moves even a little I will stand on my head." In the original Japanese, this answer features a pun on the words ishi-gaeshi ("overturning a rock") and ishu-gaeshi ("taking revenge").

* * * * *

Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
37. Earthquake protection song

In this print, Daikoku, the popular god of wealth, showers people with money while the god Kashima restrains a namazu.

* * * * *

Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
38. Frightened namazu [+]

This print shows a mother namazu chasing a mob of people who have kidnapped her two children. The message on the flag carried by a person in the crowd suggests they intend to grill and eat the young catfish.

* * * * *

Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
39. Namazu with construction tools, portrayed as the legendary warrior Benkei

* * * * *

Namazue earthquake catfish picture --
40. The god Ebisu restrains a giant catfish with a gourd [+]

[More: Disaster Prevention Museum, National Diet Library]

Hifana – Rainy Session

31 Mar 2011

Breakbeat duo Hifana (a.k.a. KEIZOmachine! and Juicy) mellow out in a rainy day session with Keisuke Muto (sitar), U-zhaan (tabla) and Izpon (percussion). Just chill.


+ Video

Video: ‘Machine Civilization’ – World Order

25 Mar 2011

World Order -- the celebrated music/dance performance group led by former martial artist Genki Sudo -- has released a fabulously choreographed video for the track "Machine Civilization," along with some words of hope following the recent devastation in Japan.


+ Video

Sudo's message in the YouTube video description:

The unprecedented disasters unfolding in Japan; earthquakes, tsunami, and nuclear explosions, will somehow change things to come. And to send my message about this, I have expressed it here with WORLD ORDER.

These disasters can be interpreted as a turning point for civilization. I think that we have arrived at a time of revolution, shared with all the people of the world, in today's society, economy, and political systems.

Incidents themselves are neutral. I believe that every single one of us, wandering through this deep darkness, can overcome anything, if only we let go of our fear, and face the it all in a positive light.

The world is not going to change. Each one of us will change. And if we do, then yes, the world will be changed. It is darkest right before the dawn. Let's all rise up to welcome the morning that will be so very bright for mankind.

Electricity conservation posters

22 Mar 2011

In Tokyo and surrounding areas, signs of electricity conservation are visible everywhere. Rolling blackouts are in effect, train services have been scaled back, stores and businesses are using fewer lights, advertising signs and escalators have been switched off, and even some pachinko parlors have cut their hours of operation. On Twitter, a community of graphic designers has sprung up to create posters encouraging people to save power. Residents of eastern Japan are encouraged to print them out and post them where they live and work. [Link: Setsuden via GaijinPot]

Japanese electricity saving poster --
Everyone save electricity

Japanese electricity saving poster --
Please cooperate in conserving electricity

Japanese electricity saving poster --
Save power and carry on

Japanese electricity saving poster --
Let's conserve electricity! Switch OFF!

Japanese electricity saving poster --
Turn OFF the power. Now anybody can be Santa.

Japanese electricity saving poster --
Power saving!

Japanese electricity saving poster --
The amount you turn off will light someone else up.

Japanese electricity saving poster --
Please conserve electricity.

Japanese electricity saving poster --
Save electricity. Save somebody.

Japanese electricity saving poster --
Save electricity. Switch off.

Japanese electricity saving poster --
The light you turn off will light up a smile.

Japanese electricity saving poster --
Now conserving power

Japanese electricity saving poster --
The quickest aid you can provide now is electricity.

Japanese electricity saving poster --
Saving energy & open for business

Japanese electricity saving poster --
Open for business in power saving mode!

Japanese electricity saving poster --
Conserve electricity to prevent massive power failures!

Listen: Vudu Ceremony On Mt. Fuji

21 Mar 2011

Vudu Ceremony on Mt Fuji -- "Sometimes just focusing our thoughts on something, in a positive or unique way, provides the energy for new ideas to manifest themselves in the toughest of times," says Brooklyn-based sound composer Charles Edward Fambro.

On March 3 -- a week before disaster hit Japan -- he released "Vudu Ceremony On Mt. Fuji," a free improv sound composition that taps into the spirits of Haiti and Japan through analog synths, turntables, bass, low frequency oscillators and percussion. With the news from Japan growing more grim, Fambro has decided to donate all download proceeds to the Japan Society's Earthquake Relief Fund. Recommended for fans of ambient/experimental sound.

[Listen]

Japan is in our hearts

19 Mar 2011

Hello all. Many thanks to those of you who have offered kind words of support and encouragement over the past week. Recent events in Japan have gotten in the way of blogging lately, but we are safe and sound in Tokyo and life is slowly returning to normal. Look forward to more updates here soon.

Japan Earthquake Relief Print --
Japan is in our hearts -- Artist: Josh Geiser

In the meantime, if you would like to support the ongoing disaster relief efforts, please consider making a much-needed donation to the Red Cross Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Fund. (Small contributions are appreciated, and credit card payments are accepted.)

You can also help by purchasing any of the Japan Earthquake Relief prints by underground artists at the Poster Cause Project. 75% of profits from these prints will be donated to the Doctors Without Borders' earthquake and relief efforts in Japan.

Japan Earthquake Relief Print --
Artist: Saner

Japan Earthquake Relief Print --
Artist: Brent Nolasco

Japan Earthquake Relief Print --
Artist: Oliver Kroa Cramm

Japan Earthquake Relief Print --
Artist: SCARECROWOVEN

Japan Earthquake Relief Print --
Artist: Joe Iurato

[Link: Japan Earthquake Relief Prints]

Decorated gas tanks

10 Mar 2011

Local gas companies occasionally add a touch of character to the giant spherical gas containers that dot the landscape of Japan. Here are a few examples.

Decorated gasholder in Japan --
Nicotan (mascot of Shibata Gas) -- Shibata, Niigata prefecture [via]

Decorated gastank in Japan --
Watermelon -- Tomisato, Chiba prefecture [via]

Decorated gas holder in Japan --
Hikari-chan and Gatto-kun -- Niigata [via]

Decorated gas tank in Japan --
Zen monk-poet Ryōkan -- Tsubame, Niigata prefecture [via]

Decorated gasholder in Japan --
Soccer ball -- Kiryū, Gunma prefecture [via]

Decorated gastank in Japan --
Tokkikki (Niigata prefectural mascots) -- Niigata [via]

Decorated gas holder in Japan --
Ōnyūdō -- Yokkaichi, Mie prefecture

Decorated gas tank in Japan --
Peach -- Akaiwa, Okayama prefecture [via]

Decorated gasholder in Japan --
Ouchi dolls -- Yamaguchi prefecture [via]

Decorated gastank in Japan --
Welcome to Isesaki -- Gunma prefecture [via]

Decorated gas holder in Japan --
"Taisha" wheeled fish toy -- Niigata [via]

Decorated gas tank in Japan --
Morioka Gas character dancing the Sansa Odori -- Morioka, Iwate prefecture [via]

Decorated gasholder in Japan -- Decorated gastank in Japan --
Bunbuku Chagama tanuki -- Gunma prefecture [via] // Origami cranes -- Mie prefecture [via]

Gas holder art in Japan --
Japanese irises -- Niigata [via]

Gas tank art in Japan --
Watermelon -- Takizawa, Iwate prefecture [via]

Decorated gasholder in Japan --
Godai-chan (tourism mascot for the city of Kashihara) -- Nara prefecture [via]

Decorated gastank in Japan --
Kōfu, Yamanashi prefecture [via]

Decorated gas holder in Japan --
Kintarō -- Saitama [via]

Decorated gas tank in Japan --
Flowers and butterflies -- Niigata prefecture [via]

Decorated gasholder in Japan --
Artist's conception of Nintendo Kirby tanks [via]