Thursday, March 27, 2014

Anime Japan 2014

The Tokyo International Anime Fair (TAF) and the Anime Contents Expo (ACE) finally reunited this past weekend in Odaiba.  It was called Anime Japan 2014, and it worked.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Fukushima and distrust

Japanamerica contributor, Eve Pearce, on the ongoing complexities of the Fukushima meltdown.

Don’t blame it all on the tsunami

The fallout from the Fukushima disaster is more than a matter of dealing with the results of the devastation caused by the tsunami, the explosion in reactor number 4 and the resulting meltdown and radioactive contamination. Amid the widespread destruction and disruption to life in the affected areas, the need to maintain economic viability has resulted in, among other emergency measures, the support of local food production by the lowering of permitted radioactivity levels, which has helped to create distrust of the government and its policies. This is not allayed by government secrecy over the results of radiation monitoring and decontamination measures, despite demands for greater openness. In these situations, where there are also conflicting reports about how long the cleanup will take and how serious and widespread the contamination will be – just as in wartime, ‘truth is the first casualty’ – in this post-disaster situation, the truth is increasingly difficult to pin down.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Katana collectors in the USA

Japanamerica contributor, Danica Davidson, on Japanese sword-love in the US.

The Japanese sword is unique in the world for its creation, durability and aesthetics. There is no sharper sword in existence, but they are not simply weapons: their detail and craftsmanship also make them works of art. While the sword is a significant cultural icon in Japan, interest in it is also alive and well in America.

Each year hundreds of people travel to America’s main Japanese sword shows in Chicago, San Francisco and Tampa. This past year the Chicago show, known as Midwest Token Kai (“Sword Group” or “Sword Club”) was put on by Mark Jones and Marc Porpora. Roughly 70 vendors were there selling swords, sword fittings, and various pieces of Japanese artwork.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

On the "King of Kawaii," Sebastian Masuda, in NYC, for my Japan Times column

Masuda’s mission to take Harajuku art global

New York is not a city one automatically associates with the Japanese concept of kawaii — lovably, irresistibly, dependably cute. But if Sebastian Masuda, the so-called “king of kawaii,” has his way, the mean streets of “Goodfellas” may one day emanate a candy-colored glow.

Or at least his street will. Best known for founding the iconic Harajuku fashion shop-cum-global brand 6%Dokidoki in 1995, Masuda wears many hats, both career-wise and atop his head. Before becoming a fashion guru, he was an actor in Tokyo’s avant-garde theater scene, which is where he picked up the Western moniker for his persona, “Sebastian” (he keeps his Japanese birth name unpublished). In 2009, he led a tour to promote kawaii fashion in cities across Europe and the United States, hosting workshops, seminars and events to explain what he calls its “uniquely Japanese aesthetic appeal.” And since 2011, he has been the artistic and conceptual director for global pop star Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, helping create the mega-hit YouTube video for her single “Ponponpon” (nearly 62 million views as I write).

On Fukushima, 3/11 & "Nuclear Nation" for NPR

My conversation with Madeleine Brand on her show, "Press Play."

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

On the 3rd anniversary of Japan's 3/11 disasters for The New Yorker

I first saw “Nuclear Nation,” a haunting documentary about the Fukushima meltdown, at its New York première, late last year. It felt very Japanese to me. Instead of looping the most sensational footage—frothy waves demolishing harbors and main streets, exasperated talking heads—“Nuclear Nation” chronicles, through three seasons, the post-disaster struggles faced by so-called nuclear refugees from the tiny town of Futaba, one of several officially condemned and abandoned communities near the site of the disaster.

The opening sequence of the movie is eerily similar to that of “Akira,” Katsuhiro Otomo’s award-winning animated sci-fi epic from 1988. In both films, a howling wind sounds in the middle distance as the camera focusses on and fetishizes elaborate industrial infrastructure. When the wind suddenly fades to silence, catastrophe ensues: in “Akira,” we see the nuclear cratering of eighties-era Tokyo urban sprawl; in “Nuclear Nation,” it’s the implosion of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and the subsequent poisoning of farmlands, fisheries, and rural homes. One is a harrowing fiction echoing Japan’s historical nightmares at Hiroshima and Nagasaki; the other is a somber document of an ongoing and very present horror in and around Fukushima, one whose third anniversary is being marked today in Japan with moments of silence and prayer, official memorials, and televised updates on the most current statistics and predictions.