It’s a well-established fact that tattoos, despite recent acceptance by a younger generation, still largely remain taboo in Japan. Japanese celebrities have occasionally appeared on camera flaunting their ink, which has helped the art form – once reserved only for ranks of the yakuza – get its foot in the door of the fashion world. But if you look back on Japanese history, there’s a deep connection between tattoos and organized crime, which makes society’s collective disapproval understandable. However, a new form of tattooing, which draws on Japan’s anime and otaku culture, is helping change the image of ink in Japan.
“Wouldn’t it be nice to watch shooting stars whenever and wherever you like?” That’s Lena Okajima, doctorate of Astronomy and the founder of a Japanese startup called ALE that wants to create man-made meteor showers. And if Dr. Okajima has her way, the company could create a never-before-seen light show for the opening ceremony of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Himeji Castle (photo by Bernard Gagnon)
Himeji Castle dates back almost 700 years and is the largest and most visited castle in Japan. The central tower is a monumental 5-tiered structure (in reality it has 6 floors and a basement) that sits atop a hill. A Lego recreation of the castle would be impressive in itself. But a Japanese Lego enthusiast has taken it a step further by creating a replica of the castle that begins flat and then opens up and pops-out like a pop-up book.
The Ito Jakuchu exhibition, which celebrates the 300-year anniversary of the birth of one of Japan’s most prominent mid-Edo painters, is currently sweeping the nation. The exhibition, which opened at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum on April 22, has become quite a phenomenon in Japan. As of May 10, over 200,000 people had already visited and news of long lines only stoked the flames. Lines became so long that the museum added an average wait-time clock on their website, which recently has been around 4 hours!
Throughout this entire week, commuters in Tokyo will have something special to look forward to at Shinjuku Station. Currently holding the title of world’s busiest train station, for 7 days Shinjuku will also house the world’s largest chalkboard mural.
kokedama ice, a dessert inspired by moss balls
The Raindrop Cake, a dessert based on Japanese mizu shingen mochi, is currently sweeping the Internet, and NYC’s Smorgasburg. But meanwhile, back in Japan, another dessert is creating rumblings. The “kokedama ice” was invented by pastry chefs at the Oirase Keiryu Hotel located in Northern-Japan’s Aomori prefecture. Inspired the the hotel’s natural surroundings and abundance of moss, kokedama ice was modeled after the Japanese variant of bonsai in which the plant is covered in mud, wrapped in moss (koke) and then suspended by string.
It’s made from matcha ice cream, covered with spinach powder and then served with green apple puree. The moss ball-inspired dessert will be available at the hotel this summer from June 1 – Aug 31, 2016 for 1,300 yen. But given the precedence of a cult-like kokedama craze, we wouldn’t be surprised if kokedama ice cream caught on elsewhere.
“Legend of the Forest” lounge where the kokedama ice will be served this summer
Earlier this month Japanese CG artist and photographer Yutaka Kagaya (previously) was perched atop a hill in the village of Oshino near the foot of Mt. Fuji. This, as it turned out, happened to be the right place at the right time for a rare, magical moment. That moment occurred when cloud iridescence appeared in the sky. The occurrence of colors in clouds is itself a fairly uncommon phenomenon. But the magic happened when a plane suddenly passed through the clouds, leaving behind rainbow-colored contrails.
Kagaya was ready with his camera and snapped several pictures, two of which he posted to his twitter account. The photographer, who has a passion for all things celestial, admits that even he had never seen something like this before.
Last week a pop-up shop emerged in Tokyo’s Harajuku district called Fast Food Aid. Looking somewhat like a sleek laboratory, the door had a large orange cross and the window was lined with orange prescription medication bottles. A neon sign glowed with the words “For FREE.”
all photos courtesy Cedric Riveau
When you walk out of a museum you’re usually in the same place where you walked in. But not with the Genbi Shinkansen. The new bullet train, which began operating just 2 weeks ago, is the world’s fastest-moving museum and will transport you from Niigata to Echigo Yuzawa in under an hour. It’s just enough time to take in artwork and installations throughout the train cars by 8 different artists.
all images courtesy Daikoku Design Intitute
La Malle de Bois is, in fact, the name of a new Japanese train that began traversing the rails of the Setouchi region this April. French for “wooden suitcase,” the travel-themed train connects Okayama to Uno Station, one of the gateways to Naoshima, Teshima and many other Setouchi art islands. And get this – it’s one of the only trains that has designated bicycle storage.