An axis for artistic and creative-types of the Asian persuasian… Redefining Otaku Culture.

Exhibit in Kyoto features collaboration of anime and 400-year-old Rinpa school of painting


sub1 のコピー

RocketNews 24 (by Kay):

This is what happens when you combine centuries-old traditional Japanese painting with modern anime, and we love it!

If you’re interested in traditional Japanese art, you may be familiar with the Rinpa school of painting, which has a history that can be traced all the way back to the 17th century. It so happens that this year marks the 400th anniversary since one of the school’s founders, Hon’ami Kōetsu, established an artistic community (geijutsumura) in the Takagamine area of Kyoto, and an exciting commemorative event titled the “Rinpa x Anime Homage Exhibit” is now going on in the very same city of Kyoto, courtesy of brilliant artwork produced by the anime/comic merchandise retailer CHARA-ANI.

But before we go on, here’s a little bit more background on Rinpa art. The Rinpa school, which has a heavy emphasis on painting but also includes other crafts such as ceramics and lacquerware as well as calligraphy, is thought to have been founded by Hon’ami Kōetsu and Tawaraya Sōtatsu around the early 17th century and later consolidated in the latter half of the century by the prominent artist brothers  Ogata Kōrin and Ogata Kenzan. The name Rinpa is actually a combination of the last syllable of Kōrin’s name and the word “pa” for school.

The school’s art style is known for its bold design compositions, use of silver and gold leaf in the background, and repeated use of recognizable patterns. While natural scenes including flowers and trees are often depicted, animals and people from folktales are also common subjects, like the deities depicted in the famous ”Wind and Thunder Gods” folding screens (Fūjin Raijin-zu) by Sōtatsu.

▼ The magnificent Wind and Thunder Gods folding screen by Sōtatsu:


So, taking all of that into consideration, we think you’ll understand why we might be excited by the idea of a collaboration between anime and the Rinpa school, which has a history of producing such notable works of art. And what’s attracting particular attention in this “Rinpa x Anime Homage Exhibit” are the works featuring the long-loved characters created by the manga master Osamu Tezuka himself!

The glittering gold and silver, along with the texture of Japanese paper, have turned Tezuka’s characters into breathtaking, timeless works of art.

▼ Here’s Tezuka’s phoenix (Hi no Tori), a perfect subject for Rinpa-style art, depicted in brilliant gold.



▼ The father and son lion duo from Kimba the White Lion (Jungle Taitei) looks full of life in this piece.


In addition to the collaboration with Tezuka anime, you’ll also be able to see on display Rinpa-style art featuring the busy-as-ever Hello Kitty, as well as characters from Lucky Star (Raki☆Suta).

The best part is that you can actually order and purchase some of these illustrations at the exhibit, and they apparently have some stationery and smartphone accessories on sale as well.

The Rinpa x Anime Homage Exhibit will run at the Kyoto Loft department store in the Mina Kyoto shopping complex until January 17, 2016 (except for January 1, when Mina Kyoto will be closed). It could be a fun destination for art and anime fans who are in Kyoto for the new year!

Source: CHARA-ANI websitePR TIMES press release

Massive ‘Star Wars’ tambo āto artwork displayed in Japanese village’s rice paddy field

With the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens at the end of this year, a Japanese village has decided to pay homage to the iconic space film franchise by George Lucas. The Inakadate Village in Aomori Prefecture has created an elaborate display in their paddy field dedicated to the series, with the Star Wars logo prominently displayed with C-3PO and R2-D2. The traditional Japanese art form is formally called tambo āto, where images are illustrated by arranging rice patches in paddy fields.

Enjoy the video above.

Japanese teen whose chalkboard art went viral gets an art commission before a high school diploma

CA 1


A while back, we took a look at an amazing piece of artwork by student and Twitter user Rena Rena. Almost finished with her last year of high school, Rena realized her opportunities to indulge in youthful abandon were about to become that much scarcer, so she grabbed a piece of chalk and drew an amazing scene of Frozen’s Elsa standing on a snowy mountaintop.

Two months later, it looks like Rena’s life has indeed become so busy that she has no time for such ambitious amateur chalkboard art projects. On the bright side, that’s because she’s now doing professional chalkboard art, having been commissioned to create the cover to the newest book from one of Japan’s most celebrated fantasy authors.

Even if you’re not an avid reader of Japanese literature, you may have some experience with the works of Miyuki Miyabe. A recipient of both the Naoki and Yamamoto Shugoro Prizes, the Tokyo native has had a handful of her works adapted to TV and film. Among her titles best known to Western audiences is Brave Story, a 2003 fantasy novel that served as the basis for an anime theatrical feature, manga, and video games.

Publisher Kadokawa is just about to release Miyabe’s newest book, The Castle of Kingdom Gone (Sugisarishi Okoku no Shiro in Japanese). Amazon Japan describes the novel as centered on a pair of middle school students who come across a mysterious sketching of an old castle, and discover they can enter its world by adding pictures of themselves to the drawing.

Between Miyabe’s renown and Kadokawa’s financial resources, they probably could have taken their pick of artists for the novel’s cover, and the pick they made was Rena.

View image on Twitter

As Rena revealed in this tweet, she’s landed a professional project even before leaving high school. While her Frozen fan art was lighting up social media, it caught the attention of Kadokawa’s executives, who decided “Her art would be perfect for Miyabe’s new book,” and approached the teen to formally offer her the position of cover artist.

▼ Kadokawa tweeted this side-by-side comparison of Rena’s inadvertent job application and the drawing she made for The Castle of Kingdom Gone.


View image on Twitter

And here’s how the final cover will look.

View image on Twitter

Amazon Japan is currently taking preorders here for the book, which is priced at 1,728 yen (US$15) and scheduled for release on April 24. Ordinarily, we’d say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but as for judging this cover itself, it’s an awesome piece of artwork, and perhaps just the first step in Rena’s budding artistic career.

Kumiko: The exquisitely delicate side of traditional Japanese woodwork


RocketNews 24:

A few weeks ago we introduced you to the world of traditional Japanese woodwork, a technique that uses no nails or hardware, just precise joints, to keep furniture and even buildings together. This technique is also used to create intricate, wooden, functional artwork, known as kumiko, which is used within Japanese style-rooms to create a stunning atmosphere.

The traditional handicraft has been passed down for centuries, however, the trade is sadly dying out. In response, artisans are taking the age-old concept and applying the designs to more modern-day household items, such as chairs and lampshades. The results are nothing short of exquisite!


According to Tanihata Co., a kumiko workshop in Toyama Prefecturekumiko has been around since the Asuka era (600-700 AD). The craft was originally used almost exclusively for sliding doors, room dividers and ramma (the decorative wooden piece above many doors in traditional Japanese buildings). While providers like Tanihata still make these products, modernization has brought a decrease in demand for such traditional room components, so craftsmen are broadening their horizons.

Ramma, the decorative section above doors and walls


Regardless of what they are making, the time and care put into each piece never changes. If you thought making buildings and furniture in the traditional Japanese style was painstaking, prepared to be wowed.

Just like furniture-makers, kumiko artists are very particular about the wood they use. While, it’s easier to use mass-produced particle board, you lose the ability to be as precise, the elegant atmosphere of real wood, and of course, the great smell! When choosing wood, they prefer to use that of coniferous trees, namely cedar and cypress, because they grow straight and the wood has a high-quality fine grain.

▼ Kumiko is often made of wood from tall, thin, Japanese cypress trees.


Once the wood is picked out, cut and planed, they make the frame for the piece, whether it be a coaster or a ceiling lampshade. Next comes the difficult and intricate part of the process, which makes kumiko what it is. Hundreds of small pieces of wood are thinly sliced and shaved with a variety of tools, such as old-fashioned knives and saws, plus new machinery too. These tiny pieces have to be precisely cut down to the micron (1/1000 mm) or they won’t fit together perfectly! Once cut, the pieces are carefully assembled by being slid into place in an elaborate design within the frame.

▼ A variety of machinery and hand-tools are used to make and assemble the delicate pieces.


The designs for kumiko pieces aren’t chosen randomly. In fact, many of the nearly 200 patterns used today have been around since the Edo era (1603-1868). Each design has a meaning or is mimicking a pattern in nature that is thought to be a good omen. The designs are not just pretty, they also distribute light and wind in a calming and beautiful way.

▼ The Shippou design. In Buddhist scripture, shippou refers to a set of treasures (which includes gold, silver, lapis lazuli, quartz, coral and agate), and the never-ending, circular design represents harmony.


▼ The goma design is suggestive of nutritional and abundant sesame flowers, which are thought to promote longevity. This design is often used for ramma.


▼ Sanjyu-hifu is a design that utilizes thin strips to create diamond shapes. It’s thought to mimic very fertile water plants, a good omen for prosperous offspring and good health. With this is mind, sanjyu-hifu is often used in hotels and wedding halls.


▼ The Asanoha pattern takes after the hemp leaf. Hemp plants are known for growing quickly and straight-up, as well as for being sturdy plants. For this reason, the design has come to be used commonly with baby clothes too.


▼ These are some of the more common designs.

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 18.15.49

As we mentioned earlier, artisans are turning their focus to bringing their trade to the modern world, while still sticking with the traditional roots of kumiko. With this in mind, they have been creating beautiful art that can be used on a daily basis in any home.


▼ You can even get kumiko chairs!


lamp 2

round lamp

Due to the drop in demand for traditional Japanese interior decoration, such as ramma,the kumiko trade has also seen a decrease in the number of young craftsmen. But hopefully, with the technique being applied to modern living, more young people will step up to the challenge and carry on this intricate and beautiful craft for future generations.

Possible ISIS threat appears to target Taiwan, infringes on copyright

RocketNews 24:

On 24 February a Twitter account named @KhilafahTimes posted a threatening message to the world apparently on behalf of the extremist group known as ISIS, ISIL, or Da’ish. Although it doesn’t directly name a city, the accompanying image depicts the city of Taipei with the landmark Taipei 101 in flames and several other smoldering buildings.

Also troubling is that despite the brutal acts of violence this group has become known for, their list of offences has just grown even longer. Now they are also guilty of the worst crime known to the MPAA: unauthorized usage of another’s work.

The picture used in the tweet was actually created by European digital artist Jonas De Ro in a series about post-apocalyptic cities. Although De Ro’s DeviantArt page allows people to use his lower resolution images of his works, he also asks that they provide a link back to his page.

This is something the tweet clearly failed to do, and even if they did we’re pretty sure De Ro also reserves the right to decline use by certain groups he may not want to be affiliated with.

▼ Image: Jonas De Ro, Deviant Art…see that wasn’t so hard was it?

Residents of Taipei should rest a little easier knowing that it appears their city’s image was apparently chosen only for the fact that all the others by the artist looked as if the destruction occurred decades ago. Here’s how the threat would play out with De Ro’s Hong Kong piece.

▼ Hmm…
Image: Jonas De Ro, Deviant Art

It would certainly suck to have your artwork coopted by those who don’t share your political ideology. Then again they say that there’s no such thing as bad publicity and the bright side of this is that we can at least all enjoy the excellent art of Mr. De Ro.

Jonas De Ro
Deviant Art
Official Site

Zelda and Pokémon ceramic plates will add a touch of class to any gamer’s dining room

WP 6

RocketNews 24:

Even if you’re not familiar with the term, you’ve probably seen, and can recognize, what’s known as the Willow pattern. A mainstay of European ceramic tableware since the 1700s, the design takes cues from Chinese porcelain and features a characteristic blue and white color scheme.

Given its long history, even modern examples of Willow pattern dishware tend to feature quant depictions of trappings of life from a bygone era. Sailing ships and windmills are common subjects, but one artist felt the Willow pattern would also be an appropriate platform for showcasing the video game art of yesteryear, and created these plates featuring old-school artwork from Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda and Pokémon.

Despite the self-effacing nature of the drawing, though, it’s clear that Moss has a deep respect for the artistry that goes into creating video games. As a matter of fact, he’s even lending a bit of legitimacy to the art form himself. Although most of Moss’ publicly displayed work, as seen on his website here, is done in the style of movie posters, he recently decided to try his hand at illustrating two ceramic plates, and here are the impressive results.

WP 2

If you came into the series with Ocarina of Time or Twilight Princess, it may take a moment to realize what you’re looking at, but that’s a Zelda scene done in the graphical style from before the franchise went polygonal. Specifically, it seems to be based on the pixel art from the 1993 Game Boy title Link’s Awakening, the visual style of which was in turn a derivative of that used in 1991’s A Link to the Past, the sole Zelda installment to be released for the Super NES.

Speaking of Nintendo properties that used to be on the monochrome Game Boy, here’s Moss’ Willow pattern rendition of Pokémon.

WP 3

Not only is the plate’s central area filled with lovingly recreated retro sprites, there’re extra nods to the series around the lip of the plate, which is decorated with Poké Balls and even more pocket monsters.

And to prove these aren’t just flat graphics manipulated to look like they’re on plates, here’re a few alternate angles of the dishes.

WP 4


Doodles by legendary Japanese author Osamu Dazai


RocketNews 24:

From the Heian period to today, Japan has had more than its fair share of great writers. While Ki no Tsurayuki and Murasaki Shikibu are this humble writer’s favorite members of the Japanese literati, today we’re talking about someone a bit more modern: Osamu Dazai. Famous for his first-person and often morose stories, such as the world-famous novel No Longer Human, Dazai was one of the more troubled figures of Japanese literature–and he eventually died in a double suicide when only 38 years old.

Considering his turbulent life, it’s probably no surprise that his classroom doodles, drawn in his English and Ethics notebooks, are so fascinating! Even if you’ve never read a single word by the author, you still won’t want to miss these drawings.

Dazai (1)

On first glance, you might miss the doodle in the notebook above, but be sure to look closely at the left page–the profile of a slender male face with an absurdly large nose can be seen at the right edge.

Dazai (2)

As you can see in the pictures, Dazai apparently loved drawing these men with large noses–some could even be called “handsome middle-aged men,” at least in the opinion of Japanese website Karapaia.

Dazai (4)

It’s not clear who exactly was being depicted in Dazai’s numerous scribbles, but he almost seems to have been more interested in these faces than his studies! Which may well have been the case as Dazai apparently became a horrible student after his favorite author committed suicide.

Dazai (5)

Dazai (6)

Dazai (7)

The notebooks were preserved and uploaded to the Internet for all to peruse by the Hirosaki University Library after they were donated by a son of Masafumi Ono, a scholar who wrote about Dazai. The Ethics notebook was partially used, with the first 73 pages filled with regular notes and the remaining pages containing the bulk of the late author’s doodles.

Dazai (8)

Dazai (9)

Dazai (10)

Dazai (11)

And here are a few doodles from his English notebook as well. It looks like he found the class about as engaging as some Japanese students do these days, and, as with the Ethics notebook, filled up many pages with his sketches.

Dazai (3)

You can view high-resolution images of every page of both notebooks on the Hirosaki University Library website. The English notebook is here, and the Ethics notebook is here.

In4mation 2014 Summer Lookbook

Image of In4mation 2014 Summer Lookbook


Despite entering the fall months, In4mation puts us onto its late summer lookbook. Taking inspirations from its deep-rooted Japanese ties, the Hawai’ian brand took a thorough look into the island’s strong East Asian connections. In regards to designs, hand-drawn illustrations are paired with logo-driven designs that are an ongoing nod to Japanese’s strong visual language.

Among Art Director’s Keith Kanagusuku’s highlights range  include the ‘Lost in Translation’ T-shirt, based on the Tokyo Transit system and the Micha Oni-style “Respect Locals” design done by Ronnie Hamada. The collection is available now at select retailers globally.



Image of In4mation 2014 Summer Lookbook

 Image of In4mation 2014 Summer Lookbook

Image of In4mation 2014 Summer Lookbook

Image of In4mation 2014 Summer Lookbook

Image of In4mation 2014 Summer Lookbook

Image of In4mation 2014 Summer Lookbook

Image of In4mation 2014 Summer Lookbook

Image of In4mation 2014 Summer Lookbook

Image of In4mation 2014 Summer Lookbook

Image of In4mation 2014 Summer Lookbook


SHANGHAI TANG: Jacky Tsai Cultivates “A Garden of Vibrant Dreams”

Image of SHANGHAI TANG: Jacky Tsai Cultivates "A Garden of Vibrant Dreams"

Chinese luxury label Shanghai Tang recently celebrated its 20th anniversary by teaming with artist Jacky Tsai to produce a special collection of apparel and artworks titled “A Garden of Vibrant Dreams.

Clothing and accessory options for both men and women include traditional qipao dresses, box clutches, cashmere shawls, a porcelain dining set, lifestyle dining products, iPad and iPhone cases and skateboards.

Accompanying the capsule collection is a series of six art pieces centering around a mystical dimension and a modern optimistic approach to Chinese art such as a Lotus Porcelain, Flying Tiger, Ginger Flower, Carved Dragon, Petrol Rainbow and Mix Landscape.

We were fortunate enough to meet with the artist and hear his thoughts on the milestone collaboration:



Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background?

I was born in Shanghai, moved to London in 2006 for my Master Degree in Central Saint Martins, after my graduation, I decided to pursue my art career here. Since then, I’ve been based in London for the past 8 years.

What are your thoughts on the intersection between fashion and art?

I think luxury fashion products are just like pieces of artwork, but only very few fashion brands can achieve a high artistic level. That’s exactly what my collaboration with Shanghai Tang is about, beautiful products with special art value behind.

How different is designing for fashion items and accessories as compared to sculptural or canvas-based art?

It’s almost the same for me as I treat fashion items as part of my art creations, the only difference is that art is a kind of self-expression, where I only listen to my own voice. But fashion is for the end users, you have to listen to the customers’ feedback, and thankfully with Shanghai Tang, I also work with a group of designers who are experts in their respective product categories who gave me a lot of guidance during the development process.

You have substantial experience working across a variety of mediums. Which medium do you feel most comfortable working within?

They are all comfortable for me, but I have to understand the craftsmanship and research a lot before I create an artwork on a specific medium, otherwise the art and medium will not be compatible.

How do you look to integrate traditional elements of Chinese art into a contemporary approach?

I believe the most of traditional Chinese art elements can be very modern, sometimes I just need to twist the colour a little bit, or adding a small western element into the traditional Chinese art painting, these traditional elements will then look very contemporary when complemented the right way.

What are some of the misconceptions of Chinese art within the greater, global art sphere?

I have to say there is too much ‘cultural revolution’ art in last 25 years that are seen or widely talked about in the global art sphere, but this is just a small part of Chinese Art, we have so many beautiful art forms that are yet to be discovered by western audience.

How was it working with Shanghai Tang and how did you approach the project?

Shanghai Tang is definitely my favourite Asian luxury brand, and I feel very privileged to work with them. The process was very smooth; we have great chemistry and understand each other so well as we have the same aesthetics. The collection completed after 9 months of hard work, but we are all very pleased with the results.

How much of your creativity and art direction is rooted in formal training versus cultural or heritage influences?

My cultural influences affect my art direction significantly. Though I’ve been living in London for 8 years, I still experience the cultural difference every day. I think subconsciously that’s a big part of the reason why I’m always doing the “East meets West” art to merge both my backgrounds together.

To get a feel for the Tsai’s visual direction for the collection, check out the video below. For more on the artist and the collaboration, head over to SHANGHAI TANG’s website.



Image of SHANGHAI TANG: Jacky Tsai Cultivates "A Garden of Vibrant Dreams"

Image of SHANGHAI TANG: Jacky Tsai Cultivates "A Garden of Vibrant Dreams"

Image of SHANGHAI TANG: Jacky Tsai Cultivates "A Garden of Vibrant Dreams"

Image of SHANGHAI TANG: Jacky Tsai Cultivates "A Garden of Vibrant Dreams"

Image of SHANGHAI TANG: Jacky Tsai Cultivates "A Garden of Vibrant Dreams"

Image of SHANGHAI TANG: Jacky Tsai Cultivates "A Garden of Vibrant Dreams"

Image of SHANGHAI TANG: Jacky Tsai Cultivates "A Garden of Vibrant Dreams"

Image of SHANGHAI TANG: Jacky Tsai Cultivates "A Garden of Vibrant Dreams"

Image of SHANGHAI TANG: Jacky Tsai Cultivates "A Garden of Vibrant Dreams"

Image of SHANGHAI TANG: Jacky Tsai Cultivates "A Garden of Vibrant Dreams"

Ninja restaurant designer creates tiny villages in bonsai trees


RocketNews 24:


If you’ve ever wanted to see villages and merchant markets from your favorite role-playing games come to life, then we’ve got quite the collection for you. These are the amazing three-dimensional artworks of Takanori Aiba, a Japanese artist who also designed Ninja Akasaka, the famous ninja restaurant in Tokyo and the 1958-themed Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum.

Aiba is now drawing on his experience in architecture and combining it with his origins as a maze illustrator to produce stunning worlds within the tiny branches of bonsai trees and out of the crevices of unique rocks. From Ghibli-style seaside towns to a bustling hotel built inside the body of the Michelin man, these elaborate designs will simply take your breath away.

Takanori Aiba began his career in 1978 as a freelance maze illustrator, with his maze designs featured in Japanese fashion magazine POPEYE for ten years. In 1981, he turned his attention to designing art spaces, resulting in the hidden doors and surprising entrances of the Ninja Akasaka restaurant and the atmospheric alleyways of the Shin-Yokohama Museum. The breadth of his experience is clearly displayed in his latest project featuring these amazing miniature villages.



This one is called Hawaiian Pineapple Resort. Front, side and rear views show the elaborate attention to detail, with bridges and stairways leading the eye into the nooks and crannies of the building. If only tree houses like this existed in real life!




Hawaiian-Pineapple-Resort-with-Sunset (1)

The Lighthouse Series features two lighthouse designs, each created around two different Japanese suiseki.


Suiseki are small, naturally occurring rocks with unique shapes that resemble mountains, islands or waterfalls. They often reflect nature so perfectly they’re traditionally appreciated on their own in bowls or trays.


Aiba builds upon the natural lines and ridges of the suiseki to create his stunning designs.



Suiseki forms the basis of several other Aiba designs, including one for lovers of steam-punk called “The Rock Island”.






The vertical paradise below is known as “Ice Cream Packages Tower”. We pity the lighthouse keeper who has to walk up all those steps!




In an ode to Bibendum, more commonly know as The Michelin Man, Aiba takes inspiration from the company’s 1898 slogan, Nunc est bibendum, “Now is the time to drink”, once used to describe the Michelin tyre’s ability to “drink up obstacles”. This modern incarnation of Bibendum, entitled “Hôtel de Michelin”, suggests it’s still the time to drink, only now it’s inside the belly of the beast in an exquisite hotel.


The artwork he creates in the planning stages is just as beautiful and intricate as the final design.


Aiba’s bonsai designs play on the relationship between humans and nature. While traditional bonsai reflect the beauty of nature in miniature form, these artworks add themes of humanity and harmony to the continually evolving landscape.



Close-up views show the details on the street lamps, turrets and stairways. We can just imagine tiny workers treading the walkways and napping in shady corners of their homes!




Takanori Aiba has had an impressive career, continually using his creativity and imagination to surprise us in all sorts of different forms and mediums. We can’t wait to see where he takes us to next!

Sources: Tokyo Good IdeaBonsai Empire