Thursday, February 04, 2016

Monkey Business # 6

Launches in Tokyo next month; NYC, Chicago and the rest of North America in April. 


Sunday, January 17, 2016

On this year's anime revolutions in Japan & US, for The Japan Times

Online streaming keeps anime afloat


By ROLAND KELTS

Last week in California, I caught up with some of the chief purveyors of Japanese popular culture in the United States and elsewhere in the world. It became rapidly clear that 2016 won’t be at all like 2015 — or any other year before it.

The rollout of streaming media is fast approaching an avalanche. Mainstream portals Hulu and Netflix are snapping up anime licenses in an effort to target an expanding niche of young and dedicated global fans. Crunchyroll, the pioneer and leader in the market, is exploring content coproduction deals with anime studios, as Japan’s notoriously byzantine production committees slowly disintegrate in the face of plunging domestic DVD sales.

Anaheim, California-based Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation (SPJA), the nonprofit organization behind Anime Expo, North America’s largest anime convention, is expanding, refocusing and rebranding. It plans to move beyond otaku/fan culture and embrace the broader challenge of integrating successful conventions in film, gaming, tech, music and other forms of entertainment media. SPJA will open an office in Tokyo later this year and will soon reveal a new brand name and logo.

Friday, January 08, 2016

On Japan's troubled farmlands, for The Australian Financial Review

Beyond Japan's glittering cities lies a troubled farm sector

By ROLAND KELTS



I recently visited Aizuwakamatsu, a ­rural rice-farming region in northern Japan. The scenery was storybook Asia: precipitous hills, dense with greenery, dipping into narrow-cut rice paddies hedged by brooks and streams. At the onset of dusk one evening, our ­minivan rounded a hillside overlooking the Tadami River. A cluster of homes emerged through the mist, pastel green, pink and pale blue roofs huddled on a patch of land jutting from the shore. With the mountains mirrored in the water surrounding it, the village looked as though it were floating.

One of the local guides told me that the coloured roofs were made of tin or aluminium, covering or entirely replacing the original thatchwork, an icon of traditional Japanese architecture. Upkeep had become too expensive, and the risk of fires or snow collapses too much for elderly inhabitants to bear. But what is really sad, she said, is that no one wants to live here any more. Rural Japan is dying.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

On Tokyo's new Hotel Okura, for The New York Times

In a Renewed Hotel Okura, Japanese Historians Still See a Loss

By ROLAND KELTS 



The old main wing of Hotel Okura in Tokyo, now demolished. The new main wing is scheduled to open in 2019.

TOKYO — The outcry over the demolition last year of the 53-year-old Hotel Okura in Tokyo surprised no one more than Japanese historians and architectural specialists.

Monocle, the global lifestyle magazine, had circulated a petition, savetheokura.com, to register the “outrage from admirers of its unique design.” Tomas Maier, the creative director of Bottega Veneta, an Italian luxury brand, filmed a video memorial and started a social media campaign, #MyMomentAtOkura.

The hotel’s modernist postwar lobby artfully balanced elements of traditional Japan, like lacquered plum-blossom-shaped tables and chairs, with visions of what was then futuristic: a lighted world map displaying global time zones. It was frequented by United States presidents including President Obama, and other heads of state, celebrities, artists and designers. It played a central role in the 1960s James Bond novel “You Only Live Twice.”

Friday, December 18, 2015

Hatsune Miku to tour North America in 2016, for The Japan Times




My 2015 kicked off with a January concert by Hatsune Miku, Japan’s digital pop star, in Las Vegas. It is wound down with a visit to Miku’s creator, Hiroyuki Itoh, at his company’s head office in Sapporo, Hokkaido.

I’ve long learned to temper my skepticism toward Japan’s cultural presence in the United States. As a half-Japanese American kid, I never thought I’d see sushi in supermarket aisles, manga in malls, or Pikachu and Hello Kitty balloons soaring over Manhattan in the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, as they did again last year in that distinctly American matsuri (festival).

I also never imagined that a Japanese virtual singer (Miku) would be the featured musical act on an iconic American TV talk show (“Late Show with David Letterman” in 2014).

Now the resilient Miku, an 8-year-old piece of musical software whose content is user-generated, is about to headline her first North American tour.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Jake Adelstein on the death of Shigeru Mizuki

Goodbye to Japan's Manga King


My comments:
<<“I’ve always thought of Mizuki as an innovator and something of an outlier in the history of modern manga—a striking combination of a cartoonist in the more conventional manga-ka mode, largely established by Tezuka (creator of Astro Boy), and an illustrator more akin to Dickens’s Boz or Hogarth, incorporating their stinging critiques of societal hypocrisy and historical violence. His backgrounds are often meticulously detailed and almost photorealistic, while the main characters, or narrative witnesses, are drawn in more simplistic outlines and minimalist designs.

“I attended an exhibition of his World War II works in Yokohama a few years ago and came away feeling that he was sui generis—there’s simply no one like him, in Japan or elsewhere. His obsession with spirits and the supernatural can be found embedded in later manga and animation like Pokemon and (Hayao) Miyzaki epics Totoro and Spirited Away. And his recently translated magnum opus, (which chronicles Japan’s history up to and after World War II) Showa: A History of Japan, will likely remain unsurpassed as a graphic storytelling document of an entire historical epoch.”>>

Monday, November 16, 2015

Autumn in Kyoto

Otagi Nenbutsu-ji, Arashiyama, Kyoto. Nov. 2015.

Friday, November 13, 2015

On Viewster and Anime fashion, for The Japan Times




Back in the Stone Age of streaming media, the most notorious and popular of pirate anime websites suddenly went legit. In January 2009, after securing distribution agreements with Japanese studios and a licensing deal with TV Tokyo that included episodes of the global hit series Naruto Shippuden, the San Francisco-based fansite Crunchyroll banished all illegal content and started offering paid-subscription packages.

In three years, the site turned a profit and began funneling earnings back to Japanese producers. In 2013, Hollywood mogul Peter Chernin’s investment arm, The Chernin Group, acquired a majority stake in Crunchyroll to the tune of an estimated $100 million.

This did not go unnoticed. Media giants like Hulu and Netflix leaped onto the streaming-anime bandwagon, with the latter’s CEO Reed Hastings announcing earlier this month plans to co-produce anime titles in the near future. So called over-the-top content (OTT) — online, on-demand and delivered via ISPs by third-party outlets — is the now and future of global media.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

On to Singapore for The Singapore Writers Festival & NUS


Roland Kelts
US/Japan



Roland Kelts is featured in the following SWF event(s):

THE JAPANESENESS OF THINGS
31 Oct, Sat 4:00 PM - 5:00 PM
TAH, Kumon Blue Room
FESTIVAL PASS EVENT

UNRAVELLING HARUKI MURAKAMI
1 Nov, Sun 2:30 PM - 3:30 PM
TAH, Chamber
FESTIVAL PASS EVENT

NEW JAPAN RISING: VOICES FROM THE EDGE
1 Nov, Sun 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM
TAH, Kumon Blue Room
FESTIVAL PASS EVENT

Arigato, Smith College

26 October 2015



Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Monkey & Murakami in Manila, in the Philippines Inquirer

Want to satisfy your Murakami and manga cravings? 
Check out Monkey Business
Japan Foundation, Manila hosts a forum on the new literary journal, with contributing editor Roland Kelts and artist Satoshi Kitamura talking about what makes Japanese literature and popular culture click


HARUKI Murakami and Banana Yoshimoto are familiar names in Japanese contemporary writing to Filipinos and the West, more familiar perhaps to the younger generations nowadays than, say, the modern writers such as Yukio Mishima, Jun’ichiro Tanizaki, Kobo Abe, Shohei Ooka, Shusaku Endo and the Nobel laureates Yasunari Kawabata and Kenzaburo Oe.

Older lovers and readers of Japanese fiction and literature may say Filipinos should read the modern writers more (Ooka, for one, wrote the celebrated “Fires on the Plain,” about Japanese soldiers in the Visayas during the Second World War; and Endo, who wrote the novel “Silence,” which no less than Martin Scorsese himself is adapting into a movie, tackled overtly Catholic themes).

But even if younger Filipino readers are enamored of Murakami and Yamamoto, they may also be missing out on other writers in the Japanese contemporary writing scene who are just as qualified to land a best seller on various lists in the West as much as Murakami and the latest hit manga writer and illustrator.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

On Japan's "ghost homes," first column for the New Statesman

Out with the old: the ghost homes of Japan


Japan’s shrinking population has produced a different kind of housing problem.

By ROLAND KELTS

I recently visited Aizuwakamatsu, a ­rural rice-farming region in northern Japan. The scenery was storybook Asia: precipitous hills, dense with greenery, dipping into narrow-cut rice paddies hedged by brooks and streams. At the onset of dusk one evening, our ­minivan rounded a hillside overlooking the Tadami River. A cluster of homes emerged through the mist, pastel green, pink and pale blue roofs huddled on a patch of land jutting from the shore. With the mountains mirrored in the water surrounding it, the village looked as though it were floating.

One of the local guides told me that the coloured roofs were made of tin or aluminium, covering or entirely replacing the original thatchwork, an icon of traditional Japanese architecture. Upkeep had become too expensive, and the risk of fires or snow collapses too much for elderly inhabitants to bear. But what is really sad, she said, is that no one wants to live here any more. Rural Japan is dying.