Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Ito Jakuchu: Quite the rare bird

Cockatoo, 1771
The best time to see Jakuchu was back in 2000 or 2006, when there were two big exhibitions that aimed to re-evaluate the under-appreciated 18th-century Kyoto painter.

Now that re-evalutation has picked up plenty of steam and we are now experiencing a powerful "Jakuchu Boom,” which means that "300th Anniversary of his Birth: Jakuchu” at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Art is a busy and crowded exhibition – not ideal conditions for appreciating the colourful yet delicate beauty of his work.

Sunday, 31 July 2016


Making movies is great if you want the fame and excitement, but for real artistic fulfillment there’s nothing like becoming an actual paint-and brush artist. This seems to be the conclusion that leading Japanese filmmaker “Beat” Takeshi Kitano has come to over his long and successful career.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

I, Kitty

Isaac Asimov in his classic Science Fiction story, I, Robot, created the 3 rules of robotics, the most important being: “A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.” Luckily, this was not a major consideration, when I recently had the pleasure of meeting Japan’s most famous celebrity – in robot form! Yes, meet ROBO-Kitty, programmed for 21st century cuteness.

Co-developed by Business Design Laboratory and NEC System Technologies, “Hello Kitty ROBO,” to use her official name, has advanced voice recognition and voice synthesizer features, enabling her to talk, using 20,000 pre-programmed conversation patterns. She can recognize words and questions, and respond appropriately. In addition, as the robot accumulates conversation history with partners and becomes more intimate, it changes speech patterns and shows a wider variation in conversation. Also, with an onboard CCD camera and an advanced face authentication feature, she is able to register and recognize the faces of up to 10 people, and call their names as well as talk to them while looking at their faces. This gives ROBO-Kitty the ability to at least simulate artificial intelligence in at least 90% of social situations.

Thursday, 5 May 2016


What Lies Behind Our Love of Clothes

There’s something counter-intuitive about photographic artist Hiroshi Sugimoto. While most artists are happy to achieve a distinctive style and enjoy the rewards that this brings, Sugimoto is forever re-inventing the wheel by developing then abandoning one style after another.
"I’m always trying to come up with some kind of idea, but if I feel I’ve done it, then I feel it’s completed," he tells The Japan Times during a visit to his Tokyo atelier to discuss his latest exhibition at the Hara Museum of Art. "My curiosity spreads to many, many fields. Some idea hatches, but I try not to get bored. Once I get a signature style, I just stop and change the signature."
While such changes of style would be a disadvantage for a lesser artist, in Sugimoto’s case they serve the fortuitous function of giving his career a convenient, compartmentalized structure that also makes it more marketable.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Photo: "Mujin" Store

Click to enlarge
In Japan, thanks to monoculturalism, high social trust, and Confucian morality, it is possible to have "mujin" (no person) stores like this one that have no shop staff and rely entirely on customers using the honour system to pay the correct price. This one is near Kiyose City in Tokyo.

Friday, 22 April 2016

The War Art of Saburo Miyamoto

The House of Death (ca. 1945-46)
One of the most astounding and, indeed, slightly unnerving pictures in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art Tokyo is Saburo Miyamoto's "The Meeting of General Yamashita and General Percival" (1942). In a masterly, realist Western style, it depicts the conference between the Japanese and British military leaders that led to the surrender of Singapore and over 100,000 British and Empire troops.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Photo: Momoko Kikuchi "Fire Woman"

Because Japanese cities are overwhelmingly built from wood, they are extremely susceptible to fire, so every spring there is a fire prevention campaign. This year the campaign involved the sudden appearance on millions of notice boards and other spaces across the land of the above poster featuring the actress Momoko Kikuchi. Enjoy a safe spring and cue Cult music!

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

The Polymorphous Creativity of Kuniyoshi

Men Join to Form a Man:
Looks Fierce But is Really Nice, c.1847
The big ukiyo-e exhibition this year has been the Toshusai Sharaku show at the Tokyo National Museum. Despite all the effort put into that comprehensive show, I have to confess that much more to my taste—and I suspect yours—is the exhibition at the Ota Memorial Museum of Art that looks at the work of another ukiyo-e legend, Utagawa Kuniyoshi.

While Sharaku is a historical cipher who largely limited himself to offbeat prints of kabuki actors in a short ten-month career, Kuniyoshi (1798-1861) was a manically creative genius who took the art of woodblock printing on one of its wildest rides during his five-decade career. If you don't already have a favorite ukiyo-e artist, then this is the perfect choice. Although just as talented as his great contemporary, Katsushika Hokusai, he is less famous, so citing him sounds cooler.

Saturday, 27 February 2016


Neil Munro (left) with an Ainu.
Perhaps the greatest champion of the Ainu people was the Scottish doctor, Neil Gordon Munro. Born in Lochee, Scotland, on the 16th June or July 1863, he received his medical degree in 1888, and then travelled to the east, where he first worked for the P&O ferry line in Hong Kong, before arriving in Japan in 1891, where he stayed for the next 51 years until his death.

Saturday, 12 December 2015


Takashi Murakami is perhaps the most famous contemporary Japanese artist in foreign countries. However, he is not so well loved in Japan. His latest exhibition – "Takashi Murakami: 500 Arhats" at the Mori Art Musuem in Tokyo – is an attempt to redress this imbalance, taking as its theme a traditional subject of Japanese Buddhist art, the painting of 500 Buddhist holy men. Here are some photos and videos that Fujiland was able to take at the exhibition.