The Japanese Art Festivals to See in the 2nd Half of 2017

Summer might be coming to an end but Japan’s many art festivals are just kicking into high-gear. There’s a lot of them, we know, so we’re here to share some of the highlights, and help you decide which are worth your time.

And if you’re looking to do some domestic traveling around Japan but not sure where to go, planning your trip around one of these isn’t a bad idea. We’ve got you covered from the North, all the way to the South.

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Tohoku Standard: a Beautiful Gift Shop Designed by Keiji Ashizawa

all photos by Takumi Ota

On our recent trip to Tohoku, one place we were able to stop by is the gorgeous Tohoku Standard, a souvenir shop specializing in local crafts and handmade goods. It’s located on the 5th floor of PARCO2, a department store just steps from Sendai Station.

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Ukiyo-e Come to Life in New Animated GIFs by Atsuki Segawa

Doc and Marty travel back to 1885 Japan’s Tokaido in their DeLorean. Original print: “Fujikawa” by Utagawa Hiroshige, from the series Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido.

Atsuki Segawa is a Japanese filmmaker and animator who takes traditional Japanese Ukiyo-e woodblock prints and sets them into motion through digital animation. He began his collection of “moving ukiyo-e” in 2015 and has been slowly adding to his collection.

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A Spoon & Tamago Guide To Matsushima

all photos by spoon & tamago (taken with iPhone 5)

Matsushima, a port town in Miyagi Prefecture, has one of the most picturesque bays in all of Japan. But don’t just take our word for it. It’s considered to be 1 of “Three Views of Japan,” a select list of the country’s 3 most celebrated scenic sights. So instead of coping with the swarms of tourists in Tokyo and Kyoto, we recently had the opportunity to head up North because beaches and seafood were calling our name.

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The Yayoi Kusama Museum to Open in Shinjuku in October

photo by Masahiro Tsuchido ©YAYOI KUSAMA

Yayoi Kusama, one of Japan’s most prolific and successful artists, is opening her own museum in Tokyo’s Shinjuku ward. The 5-story structure will open to the public on October 1st, 2017.

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The Kamaboko Chair & Table

Kamaboko is a type of Japanese fish cake that’s formed into the shape of a loaf and cooked on a wooden rectangular plate. They’re favored during the new year season because they typically come in red and white, which are associated with the opposing concepts of birth and death, respectively. They can, however, be eaten year-round. But aside from being a common food, it also turns out that kamaboko can serve as fodder for furniture designers.

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Quirky Ballpoint Pen Illustrations of Japan by Yukihiro Tada

a tribute to Japanese comics, immortal works like Dr. Slump, Kinnikuman and Hokuto no ken can be spotted on store signs

Among the vast collection of work by Osaka-based illustrator and manga artist Yukihiro Tada are a series of ballpoint pen drawings of Japan. Tada often elects to include himself in the dense drawing, or sometimes his furry friend mosh, who appears in his comics.

His drawings of Japanese shopping streets, train stations and neighborhoods are alluring. One of our favorite pieces is a recent work (above) of a Japanese shopping street (shotengai), densely populated with signs, wires and boxes. But look closely and you’ll see that it’s actually a tribute to the many manga classics of the 80s and 90s. Each store sign has a different manga title like Dr. Slump, Kinnikuman and Hokuto no ken.

Read on to see more of Tada’s work:

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Ando Tadao’s Hill of Buddha

unless otherwise noted, all photographs by Shigeo Ogawa

Normally a cemetery wouldn’t be on our list of recommended sites to see, but the Makomanai Cemetery is one of the most awe-inspiring places we’ve ever been. Located in the outskirts of Sapporo, a large stone Buddha occupies the sprawling landscape. All 1500 tons of it has sat alone there for 15 years. But when the cemetery decided they wanted to do something to increase visitor’s appreciations for the Buddha, they enlisted architect Tadao Ando, who had a grand and bold idea: hide the statue.

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Nature is Reclaiming Fukushima’s Abandoned Areas

We are only guests on this planet. “In the day after humans disappear, nature takes over and immediately begins cleaning house – our houses,” wrote Alan Weisman. And that’s exactly what happened in Fukushima where, 6 years ago, residents were forced to evacuate due to the nuclear disaster that unfolded in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake.

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Exploring Japanese Hell Through Art from the 12th to 19th Century

demons can be seen tearing people at their crotch (ouch!)

As a child, growing up in Japan, there was one book that terrified me. Luckily, I didn’t own it. The red hardback sat on the bottom shelf in my friend’s room and every time I went over to play I could see it, out of the corner of my eye, staring me in the face. Once we pulled it out and flipped through the pages; each featured a grotesquely illustrated realm of hell with scenes of fire, torture, and suffering. It was, I assure you, a children’s book. But it was made for parents to use as leverage whenever their child acted up, or misbehaved. And boy was it effective.

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