Japanese cultural events in London

Posted on July 17, 2014 by Toothpicker There have been 0 comments

Being one of the most multicultural and diverse cities in the world, it is easy to find different arts and cultural events in London including many Asian-related ones.

Since June I have attended several Japanese cultural events which offer a glimpse of the past, current and future arts scene in Japan. As someone who sources from different parts of Asia, it is not just the designs that matter, but understanding the culture, people and habits is equally important to what I do.

Firstly, I went to see a new play "Super Premium Soft Double Vanilla Rich" by Japan’s most exciting theatre director, Toshiki Okada at the LIFT festival. Interestingly, the play was shown at Artsdepot in North Finchley, which is a very 'off' West end theatre location!

Okada founded the company, chelfitsch in 1997, and the name is the baby-like disarticulation of the English word "selfish." It is meant to evoke the social and cultural characteristics of today's Japan, not least of Tokyo.


A clip of the play on Youtube (with commentary in Italian)


Set in a typical Japanese convenience store (where I spent most of my pastime when I am in Japan), the play takes a darkly humorous glance at Japanese consumerism through slacker language, meditative movement accompanied by J-pop and J. S. Bach. Okada's theatrical language is unique, bizarre and its intentional sluggishness is probably not be everyone's cup of tea (judging from the audience's reactions).

I am not sure if it was due to the language or subtitle issue, but I felt that something was lost in translation. There were some humourous and capitivating moments but there were also confusing and boring moments. I thought the concept sounded better on paper but the play somewhat failed to deliver what it promised.


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Seiichi Hayashi in conversation with Ryan Holmberg


Seiichi Hayashi is a legendary illustrator and manga artist in Japan, so I was excited when I found out the artist was in town to talk about his work. The talk with Dr Ryan Holmberg (an art and comics historian) took place at Japan Foundation and it was as expected, a sold out event!

In Japan, Hayashi is most famous for his illustrations feauring a young girl in kimono (see below) for Lotte's Koume plum candies, which debuted in 1974 and are being used 40 years later! He has been a leading figure in the avant-garde cultural scene of late 1960s and early 1970s Tokyo, and was a regular contribuor to the iconic manga magazine Garo.


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Lotte's Koume candies, available at the Japan centre in Piccadilly


It was interesting to hear the artist talked about his previous projects, spanning from illustrations, comics, animations to art etc. Yet what struck me most was when Hayashi said that he doesn't like to repeat himself, so he is always exploring new territories. And this I think is the most crucial mindset for any one who in the creative industry (to break boundaries and test new grounds), despite how old or successful you are.


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Macoto Murayama's talk at the Japan Foundation


The second event I attended at the Japan Foundation was a talk by a young Japanese digital artitst, Macoto Murayama. Murayama first studied architecture before switching to design and information systems.

Murayama's passion for plants, traditional botantical illustrations and 3-d graphics has allowed the artist to develop work that is truly unique and beautiful. His detailed dissections of flowers and plants in digital format are not so different from architect's blue prints of buildings. Interestly, the artist does not rely solely on technology during his design process, he actually begins the process by using traditional methods like dissecting and sketching (see video below).


An interesting behind-the-scene video of the artist's design process by Autodesk in San Francisco


Murayama's work reveals what can be achieved with digital technology and the possibilities of adopting and applying it in other fields. Murayama spent six months of 2013 living and working at Metal Culture in Southend-on-Sea working on UK indegenous flowers. Now the results are being presented at a new exhibition, "Botech Compositions: New work by Macoto Muryama" in Metal Culture's Liverpool base, Edge Hil Station for the first time in the UK. The exhibition is part of the Liverpool Biennale and will be on display until 26th October.


Macoto Murayama and Lenta, "Botech Composition-1" by Frantic Gallery & Abandoned Audio

This post was posted in London, Talks, Graphics & illustrations, Art, Anything Japanese, Theatre & performance art, Japanese art and was tagged with London, Japanese designs, talks, graphic design, Japanese art, illustrations, theatre