Posts Tagged ‘NHK’

Taro Okamoto towers above 2011

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

Taro Okamoto's struggle to complete the "Tower of the Sun" is the subject of a new NHK drama.

Last year was samurai Ryoma Sakamoto’s year, as a huge surge of interest, largely generated by an NHK dramatization of his life, lead to countless product tie-ins. This year the dead celebrity du jour looks set to be artist Taro Okamoto, who will also be getting his own NHK show in celebration of the 100th anniversary of his birth. A slew of exhibitions are also sure to revive the public’s interest in this iconoclastic painter and sculptor.

The NHK drama is titled “Taro’s Tower,” in reference to “Tower of the Sun,” which Okamoto created for Expo ’70 in Suita, Osaka. The first episode, which aired on Feb. 26, focused on the period between 1967 and 1970 when Okamoto battled to complete the tower in time for the World’s Fair. The structure is one of his most iconic works, and though it’s rather weather-worn, it still stands in the Expo Commemoration Park in Suita, Osaka.

Inside the “Tower of the Sun” there used to be a structure called “Tree of Life,” which represented the strength of life heading toward the future. Staircases winding round the inside of the “Tower of the Sun” allowed you to view it up close. Since “The Tree of Life” no longer exists the Taro Okamoto Memorial Museum has commissioned a 1:20 scale model of the art work. Standing just 2.5m tall, the replica, made by model shop Kaiyodo, allows visitors to see details that you couldn’t with the 50-meter original.

Other museums are also holding special events in memory of Okamoto. The National Museum of Modern Art will be holding a 100th anniversary exhibition, which kicked off March 8. The show’s theme — confrontation — references the fact that Okamoto challenged the values of traditional Japanese society. About 130 works, including paintings, sculptures, photographs and design, will be on display.

At Taro Okamoto Museum of Art in Kawasaki, an exhibition titled “100 years old Admirable Taro” will run until April 3. The curators have chosen 27 items from their collection of 818 works. Of particular note is a primitive shrine that Okamoto crafted out of traditional materials in celebration of folk art.

Though the art world is buzzing with Okamoto-related exhibitions, the craze for the artist hasn’t yet shown signs of reaching the same dizzy heights of last year’s Sakamoto boom. As yet we haven’t found any anniversary tie-in products, we did stumble upon these rather groovy Okamoto Children’s Day koinobori (carp kites), which were on sale as limited editions last year. Let’s hope they re-release them in time for this year’s Children’s Day.

“Tower of the Sun” photo by Ryan McBride [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Pulsations (09.20.10)

Monday, September 20th, 2010

Here are the latest Pulsations, links to fresh stories and visuals about Japan, shout-outs to fellow bloggers, and highly clickable stuff that we think you might enjoy.

In no particular order, they are . . .

  • Eikaiwa Underworld: Lessons Taught, Lessons Learned (from Japan Subculture Research Center): Repeat after us: “Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes.”
  • Paying and Avoiding NHK (from Mutantfrog Travelogue): Tired of NHK knocking on your door from NHK? Click on.
  • The Lead Poisoning Thesis (from Frog in a Well): Did toxic makup reeeally contribute to the fall of the Tokugawa regime? Do tell.
  • Addictive ads (from Pink Tentacle): Pre-Don Draper advertising in Japan: “Defense for country, tobacco for society”
  • The Premium Pricing “Problem” (from Néojaponisme): Japanese are renowned for paying top dollar for imported luxury goods, but is it their fault?
  • Modern Times (from Ampontan):  The Terminator needs Japan’s support for the California bullet train project, but should a country be lending money it doesn’t have to a “deadbeat subnational government”?

NHK engages its viewers in a ‘global’ debate

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

The first show will address the issue of child poverty in Africa

The first show will address the issue of child poverty in Africa

NHK, Japan’s national public broadcaster, has just launched an ambitious project to hold a worldwide debate on global issues. The first episode of “Project Wisdom” will be aired on April 29 and will incorporate views expressed by both experts and members of the public on the project’s Web site. The topic is “Hope for African Children!” highlighting areas such as child mortality rates, malnutrition, literacy levels and AIDS orphans, and visitors to the Web site are encouraged to both view the opinions of others around the world and pitch into the debate themselves.

The experts for the program have been given the rather clunky moniker “Wisdoms,” and the Web site states they are “leaders with an influence across the world, social entrepreneurs dedicated to addressing serious problems worldwide . . .  ” People such as Vijay Mahajan, professor at University of Texas in Austin and Silvanus A.B. Malaho, a philanthropist and executive director of Kenya Volunteer Development Services.

While all of this seems to be fulfilling NHK’s goal of increasing the sense of global community in Japan while at the same time engaging people in other countries, the fact that there has been as yet (excepting this short article) been no coverage by foreign media of the project throws doubt on whether the corporation can truly fulfill its second goal. While the English version of the Web site appears to solicit opinions from foreigners, I have to wonder how many non-Japanese speakers will stumble across the site.

Continue reading about NHK's "Project Wisdom" →

Japan Inc. testing the Twitter waters

Monday, March 8th, 2010

A cafe in Roppingi Hills urges passersby to follow its Twitter account: @hillscafespace

A cafe in Roppingi Hills urges passersby to follow its Twitter account: @hillscafespace

A year ago, Japan made up only 0.7 percent of Twitter’s global population. Over the course of 2009, however, estimates show the number of users in Japan grew by six to 10 times, with the current number standing somewhere around 4.5 million people. Japanese is now the second most-used language on the network after English – some 14% of of the 50 million tweets per day worldwide are in Japanese.

Naturally, much of that is the usual chitchat and link-sharing, but Japanese corporations and organizations are playing with the potential for word-of-mouth exposure, PR and retail growth. For smaller companies, Twitter allows them to bypass traditional channels and hawk their wares directly to consumers. The majors are using the micoblogging format to widen their reach and project a friendlier, more casual image.

Although Asian Fortune 100 companies lag behind the U.S. and Europe in sheer numbers of corporate Twitter accounts, those that are tweeting average more followers per account. And hundreds of Japanese companies are jumping on the bandwagon.

Many are taking tsubuyaku, the Japanese verb of choice for tweeting, rather literally. The word means mutter or murmer, and that is just what many seem to be doing, often to tens of thousands of followers.  While some big-name retailers, such as Muji, are announcing Twitter-only sales, others seem to be aiming simply to foster camaraderie and boost engagement through the so-called “casual tweet.” Udon chain Katokichi sends out personalized replies to messages about the noodle dish. Hamburger chain Mos Burger has about 30,000 followers on Twitter, but with a large portion of its posts commenting on the weather and the time of day, it’s not exactly pushing the hard sell. Tsutaya predictably sends followers  movie recommendations, but mixes those with chatter and quickie film quizzes, like “What was the name of the Jedi weapon in the Star Wars movies?”  Some restaurants, like are giving discounts to customers who tweet about their meal there on a sliding scale based on the number of followers the tweeter has.

Continue reading about Twitter and business in Japan →

“Ryomaden” romanticizes (and monetizes) history

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

Every year NHK, Japan’s broadcasting behemoth, pours money into a year-long historical television series known as the “taiga drama.” The subject this year is Sakamoto Ryoma,  a 19th-century samurai often credited with bringing Japan into the modern age. History often portrays Sakamoto not only as a vital component in the country’s unification, but also as a “Renaissance Samurai,” a forward thinker who embraced new inventions (Smith & Wesson pistols, western-style boots) and new ideas (industrialization, the democratic process). By the end of the year, his image will be burnished even further, since the series’ starring role is being played by Masaharu Fukuyama, a handsome and extremely popular celebrity known for his clean-cut image.

Pairing Fukuyama with Sakamoto will prove to be a lucrative mix, and many in the tourism and entertainment industries have been prepping for a windfall of Ryoma-related commerce. The official Sakamoto Memorial Museum in his native Kochi prefecture has been inundated with hundreds of licensing requests, and regional tourism agencies have projected over 20,000 fans signing up for package tours of famous sites from his life. Telecommunications powerhouse, Softbank, recently used Sakamoto imagery in their very popular commercial series (granted, Softbank’s been a fan for years). And let’s not even get started on the video games, theme restaurants and custom-made boots that already trade on his name.

Yes, “Ryomaden” will help push 2009′s “samurai boom” into the next decade. From undergarments to soda to high-street fashion houses, echoes of Japan’s feudal past continue to convince a large – and increasingly female – audience to open their wallets. Does this stem from a national longing for heroes, a reaction to Japan’s evolving gender identity issues or something else? Hard to say, but at this pace we should expect boy bands sporting chonmage by summertime.

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