When ones gets through the first chapter, or even for that matter, the first sentence, of Ryu Murakami’s Coin Lockers Babies, there is a sudden realization that the mundane is grotesque, sordid, and fetid–that natural everyday life hides behind it a prominent unnaturalness, and vice versa.
Murakami’s novel, after all, was based on the true phenomenon of rampant infanticide in Japan and China in the ’80s and ’90s, where parents abandoned their infants in coin lockers. While the novel’s characters, Kiki and Hashi, escape this fate, their coming of age, quasi-cyberpunk odyssey is one with no catharsis. There is an angst and anger, as personal as it is societal, in Murakami’s world of psychological torment and neglect that spans the remote Japan islands to the radioactive “toxitown” ghettos and bordellos of Tokyo, where life seems as complex in its sexuality, desire, and violence as it is simple in its needs.
|Recommended by Rhys Dipshan||Wednesday, December 9th, 2015||No Comments »|
Anyone who’s spent time in a foreign country can tell you that culture shock is a real thing. While perhaps not as romantic and alienating as moody cinema might have you believe, there’s a never-ending adjustment period in which you find yourself faced with situations you never would have considered before your arrival (ask anyone who’s had to use a Japanese squat toilet).
Nowhere is this more obvious than the adorable and irreverent comics of Mary Cagle, who has for the past two years been chronicling her time as an English teacher in a small-town Japanese primary school under the title Let’s Speak English. Cagle, who in addition to teaching also works as an illustrator, writer, and colorist on a multitude of comics, illustrates Let’s Speak English in the traditional Japanese comic format called 4-koma (ie: four black and white panels stacked atop each other) and makes full use of the medium to tell short, witty, and only slightly embarrassing stories of her daily interactions with her students, coworkers, and neighbors.
|Recommended by Marie Anello||Friday, August 21st, 2015||1 Comment »|
A recent viral video of a guy living the life of a businessman in Japan proves that the stereotype of the overworked, exhausted salaryman is still very much alive. But in addition to working from morning to night, many salarymen are expected to attend mandatory nomikai social events that are supposed to boost morale and bring co-workers together. However, what they inevitably lead to is overdrinking. These photos by Kenji Kawamoto show various salarymen passed out on streets, park benches, and subways on their way home from work. Kawamoto says the photos are not taken from a judgmental point of view and instead are meant to reflect the modern-day worker who’s pushed past their physical boundary. “My photographs are a record of the people who have reached their limit and exhausted their strength after the daily grind,” Kawamoto tells Faith Is Torment. “I took these pictures with a true feeling of respect for the people in them. [...] I can feel they have experienced hardships and fatigue to end up like this.”
|Recommended by The Absolute Staff||Tuesday, March 24th, 2015||No Comments »|
The first cats of Ancient Japan arrived on boats that were transporting Buddhist scriptures from China. The cats stayed, making Japan their new home, and inspired a generation of artists and writers who were obsessed with the passive felines.
Life of Cats: Selections From the Hiraki Ukiyo-e Collection is an exhibition that chronicles the influence cats had in Japanese ancient art, particularly ukiyo-e woodblock prints of the Edo Period (1615-1867). The series is divided into five sections: Cats and People, Cats as People, Cats versus People, Cats Transformed and Cats and Play. The exhibition is currently on display at Japan Society, but for you non-New Yorkers, you can check out selected pieces from the exhibit above.
|Recommended by The Absolute Staff||Tuesday, March 10th, 2015||No Comments »|
The Internet is obsessed with cats, but feline fanciers are taking it to another level by visiting the Japanese island of Aoshima, better known as “Cat Island.” Officially, there’s only 22 humans living on the island, but the tourists don’t care about the old timers when there are more than 120 adorable feral cats to feed and pet. Although the only way to get back and forth from Aoshima and the rest of mainland Japan is a ferry that runs twice a day, cat lovers are flocking to the island anyway to hang out with some of the felines.
Back in the day, the cats were brought over to the island to help fishermen deal with their mice problem, but as the population declined and there was nobody around to spay or neuter the cats, their numbers swiftly sky-rocketed.
|Recommended by Amanda Ferris||Thursday, March 5th, 2015||No Comments »|
Probably the biggest hurdle of any artist is making the mundane look beautiful. Director Mukai Jumpei somehow manages to do that with this stunning music video for Japanese experimental artist Yuki Matsumura. The video is a wide angle shot of something we see every day: commuters, dressed in all black, stomping off to work. It’s a mindlessly repetitive scene that’s not particularly inspiring, but by playing with effects, Jumpei manages to turn this otherwise hohum scene into a glitched out work of art. He works with the music with his cuts and edits, creating a kind of visual composition to the music that’s clever to watch unfold. Jumpei’s previous videos have dabbled in animation and digital art, but never live action. “Solo Scum” proves that with a little imagination, real life can be just as interesting.
|Recommended by The Absolute Staff||Wednesday, February 18th, 2015||No Comments »|
If I had to choose a favorite photographer it would be Nobuyoshi Araki without a doubt. There’s something magnetic about his photography, something dark but attractive that just draws my eyes in and doesn’t let me go. His obsession with the female form and the eroticism it evokes has been the most prominent subject in his career, which I believe culminates in his series Love on the Left Eye.
It was last year that Araki lost sight in his right eye due to a retinal artery obstruction, a fact that, while very unfortunate for the artist, resulted in the inspiration for this unique photography series. In it the omnipresent female nudes make an appearance, as well as another Araki staple: floral arrangements. But the real eye catcher here is that all these photographs have the whole right side of them covered up, simulating the artist’s skewed view of the world after his loss of eyesight.
|Recommended by Stefano Llinas||Thursday, December 18th, 2014||No Comments »|