BBC: David Bowie’s love affair with Japanese style

A man walks past a 3D wall portrait of British musician David Bowie, created by Australian street artist James Cochran, also known as Jimmy C, in Brixton, South London, on 19 June 2013. The artwork is based on the iconic cover for Bowies 1973 album, Aladdin Sane.
The iconic Ziggy Stardust look has been immortalized in a piece of street art in Brixton

BBC:

David Bowie, who died this week, was a well-known Japanophile, adopting many elements of Japanese culture into his stage performances.

He was someone who knew how to express himself both with music and with fashion,” Japanese designer Kansai Yamamoto told the BBC.

Someone like that may not be so rare these days, but he was one of the pioneers to do both.

Make-up artist Pierre La Roche prepares English singer David Bowie for a performance as Aladdin Sane, 1973. Bowie is wearing a costume by Japanese designer Kansai Yamamoto.Yamamoto designed for Bowie through both his Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane eras

Mr Yamamoto, the creative force behind some of Bowie’s most iconic stage outfits, first got to know Bowie in the 1970s, when the singer was often visiting Japan, and trying to break into the US market.

I don’t know why he was so attracted to things Japanese, but perhaps it wasn’t so much Japan or Japanese-ness itself. He knew when he looked good in something.

“When you wear something and you look really good… you feel confident and good about yourself. I think my designs and costumes had that effect on him.”

Japanese designer Kansai Yamamoto waves to the audience after his fashion event 'super energy !!' in Tokyo on June 12, 2015.
Kansai Yamamoto said his relationship with Bowie “went beyond nationalities, beyond gender”

Helene Thian, a fashion historian and lifelong fan who has written extensively about Bowie, agreed. She said Bowie had often been noted as having had “this beautiful androgynous face and body, which suited Kansai Yamamoto’s unisex style”.

‘Shapeshifting’ androgyny

Bowie’s Japanese style had already been developing through his interest in Japanese theatre.

In the mid-1960s, he studied dance with Lindsay Kemp, a British performance and mime artist who was heavily influenced by the traditional kabuki style, with its exaggerated gestures, elaborate costumes, striking make-up, and “onnagata” actors – men playing female roles.

Lindsay Kemp performs in 1974
Lindsay Kemp, performing here in 1974, had been influenced by the intensely stylized productions of Japanese traditional theatre
20th October 1981: Ennosuke Ichikawa, Japan's most distinguished exponent of the three hundred year old art form, Kabuki. Ichikawa prepares his costume and make up before leading a prestigious cast at Sadler's Wells.The dramatic makeup used by kabuki became part of the Ziggy Stardust look

Bowie was a natural “shapeshifter“, says Ms Thian, and his training with Kemp and onnagata style helped him as he explored ideas of masculinity, exoticism and alienation.

He even learned from famed onnagata Tamasaburo Bando how to apply traditional kabuki make-up – its bold highlighted features on a white background are evident in the lightning bolt across the Ziggy face.

It wasn’t trying to be literal interpretation” of onnagata, said Ms Thian, “but rather inspired by its gender-bending androgyny. That’s what makes it so powerful, it’s more evocative.”

‘Quick change’ master

Mr Yamamoto said he wasn’t sure why he and Bowie had such an affinity, but that “something resonated between us, something that went beyond nationalities, beyond gender“.

Through his style and performances, he said, Bowie “broke one sexual taboo after another“.

What he did in terms of bridging the male-female gap continues to this day,” he said, including in the increasing acceptance of gay relationships in Japan.

Among his most famous outfits for Bowie was Space Samurai, a black, red and blue outfit adapting the hakama, a type of loose trousers which samurais wore and which are still worn by martial arts practitioners.

This picture taken on February 27, 2015 shows a costume created by Japanese fashion designer Kansai Yamamoto and used by David Bowie, during a press preview of an exhibition dedicated to the British singer at the Philarmonie in ParisYamamoto’s outlandish costumes became a central element of Bowie performances
An outfit worn by musician David Bowie is displayed at the 'David Bowie is' exhibition at the Victoria and Albert (V&A) museum in central London on 30 March 2013
The dramatic cape could be whipped away on stage mid-performance

He also sometimes wore a kimono-inspired cape with traditional Japanese characters on it which spell out his name phonetically, but also translate to “fiery vomiting and venting in a menacing manner“.

Ms Thian says Bowie was also “absolutely the first” Western artist to employ the hayagawari – literally “quick change” – technique from kabuki, says Ms Thian, with unseen stagehands ripping off the dramatic cape on stage to reveal another outfit.

David Bowie performs his final concert in 1973 as Ziggy Stardust at the Hammersmith Odeon, London. The concert later became known as the Retirement Gig
The kimono robe also influenced some of his fashion, such as this Ziggy outfit which is a shortened version with a classic Japanese print on it
A costume designed by Japanese designer Kansai Yamamoto for David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust character is display at the Victoria and Albert museums' new major exhibition, 'British Design 1948-2012: Innovation In The Modern Age' on 28 March 2012 in London, England.
The elaborate clash of prints on this knitted bodysuit can also be seen as a reference to yakuza (organized crime syndicates) tattoo patterns, Helene Thian has written

‘A very beautiful man’

It wasn’t just his appearance – references to Japan are scattered through Bowie’s music – his 1977 album Heroes even features the track Moss Garden on which he plays a Japanese koto, a kind of zither.

These days, an artist in Bowie’s position might be accused of cultural appropriation – stealing another culture for his own purposes – but Ms Thian says it was never seen that way in Japan.

David Bowie performing in his 'Angel of Death' costume at a live recording for a Midnight Special TV show made at The Marquee Club in London to a specially invited audience of Bowie fanclub members in 1973
Bowie often wore androgynous or women’s clothing in his Ziggy Stardust phase

Bowie was born to be the ultimate diplomat and artiste,” she says.

He took his creativity and fused it with his impulses to meld East and West and come up with a healing of the world in this post-war period.

This was “a homage to Japanese culture and the Japanese loved it“, she said, as Bowie challenged the tendency of Western fashion at the time to lump all Asian styles together as “Orientalism“.

‘Eternal hero’

Indeed, Japan embraced Bowie back, and he remains an icon there, with his glam rock style influencing generations of bands and musicians.

Photo of Hotei Tomayasu playing with David Bowie onstage at the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo in 1996
Hotei shared with the BBC this photo of them playing onstage together at Bowie’s 1996 Tokyo gig

Renowned rock guitarist Hotei Tomayasu, best known outside Japan for composing the theme for Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill films, told the BBC: “[Bowie] is the one who truly changed my life. My eternal hero and inspiration.

Bowie is also known in Japan for his role as Maj Jack Celliers in the 1983 iconic film Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence, directed by the renowned Nagisa Oshima.

The film, set during World War Two in a Japanese camp for prisoners, pits Bowie’s character and another soldier against two Japanese officers, one of whom is played by the famous musician Ryuichi Sakamoto.

Tweet by Miu Sakamoto recalling her meeting with Bowie when she was a little girl, 11 January 2015

On Twitter, Sakamoto’s ex-wife Akiko Yano recalled how Bowie carried their young daughter – Miu – on his shoulders when the family visited the Roppongi neighborhood in Tokyo with Bowie in the 1980s.

Miu Sakamoto tweeted this picture of herself as a little girl shaking hands with the singer, saying she vaguely recalled meeting “a very beautiful man“.

(He is) no more. A world in which David is not living still feels totally unreal.

Link

30 common characteristics of people who fall in love with Japan

 

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RocketNews 24:

 

Chances are since you’re visiting our site, you probably already have an interest in Japan or other Asian countries. But have you ever had a friend who knows next to nothing about Japan, but you just have a feeling that they would come to love the island country given the right incentive?

If so, you may recognize some characteristic qualities of that friend in the following list written by Japanese blogger and all-around-life expert Madame Riri. This time, she’s come up with some common traits of foreigners who grow to love Japan based on her own observations from time spent abroad.

Do you find yourself conforming to any of the following patterns?

 

In English, we’ve got a lot of terms for lovers of Japan. We’re sure you’re all familiar with at least one Japanophile, whose deep interest in Japanese culture leads him or her to study Japanese and visit the country several times. Maybe you also know a “weeaboo/Wapanese,” who tries a little too hard to sound like he knows what he’s talking about and borders on the slightly obsessive side with his huge anime DVD collection. The term otaku has even made its way into the English lexicon, despite its negative connotations in Japanese. But before those people had any connection to or knowledge about Japan whatsoever, was there some kind of hint that would predict their later infatuation with the Land of the Rising Sun?

The following list by Madame Riri tries to answer just that. As you’re reading, remember that the list refers to people who don’t know much about Japanese culture yet, but if you were to, say, introduce them to some cultural aspect or bring them to Japan just once, then BAM!–the spark of love towards Nippon will grow by leaps and bounds.

Madame Riri also stresses that these items are to be taken with a grain of salt. This list is not meant to imply that every Japanese person shares these common features, nor that people who have these commonalities are guaranteed to fall in love with Japan. They’re just personal observations that she has noticed in many people who fit a general trend.

Enjoy her list!

 

1. They like one or more of the following: manga, anime, or video games.

Yep, let’s just get this one out of the way nice and early.

2. They are vegetarian. Or, they’re health conscious and take great care in what they eat.

We think what she’s trying to say here is that these people place a high value on fresh, seasonal food and take great pains with presentation.

 

▼A traditional Japanese breakfast

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3. They think that a society with men in charge is for the better. 

Despite slow progress, Japan remains a male-dominated society, with women largely expected to quit working once they start a family.

 

4. They think characters like Hello Kitty are adorable.

Along with that, they have ridiculously large collections of character goods, like one 29-year-old Brit Natasha Goldsworth:

 

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5. They harbor good feelings toward unassuming people,  even if their own list of career achievements is impressive.

Maintaining a sense of modesty is emphasized, as in Japanese culture.

 

6. They like polite people, and are personally always thanking people with a smile. 

Tied in with Japan’s culture of extreme hospitality, or omotenashi.

 

7. They would choose fish over meat, given the choice.

But that’s not to say they don’t go wild for yakiniku, either!

 

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8. They somehow feel at ease when they see shy people, or people who can’t express themselves well. 

 

9. They get irritated when others aren’t punctual or can’t keep promises. 

In other words, they’ll probably get along well with people from the country where station staff have mastered the seven-minute-art of cleaning the bullet train:

 

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10. They aren’t religious, but believe there’s a god out there somewhere. 

If asked, most Japanese people would say that they have no religious affiliation, though they do regularly participate in several Buddhist and Shinto (arguably more of a spirituality than a religion) practices.

On the other hand, Japan does have a comic about young Jesus and Buddha living together as roommates in modern Tokyo

 

11. They think that couples will do better if the women walks a little behind the man (metaphorically speaking). 

See #3 above.

 

12. They dislike parties that last for a long time. They’d rather go home early. 

Perhaps along the lines of Japanese work-related drinking culture (see nomikai), which is a necessary but usually time-restricted aspect of Japanese work culture.

 

▼A typical nomikai

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13. They often feel like shouting, “Don’t just talk about yourself but listen to others, too!” 

Group harmony is valued over individualism, perhaps?

 

14. They have slightly unconventional hobbies. They are probably seeking approval from somewhere. 

 

15. They live by a sense of the changing of the seasons–appropriate flowers are displayed during each month, only vegetables in-season are consumed, etc.

 

▼Extra points if they love cherry blossoms!

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16. They constantly check up on the latest technology.

 

17. They can’t not go to the latest popular travel spots.

 

Case in point: What happened to Mt. Fuji after becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site last year:

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18. They don’t get along with people who tend to think that America and Europe are the center of the world. 

 

19. They have a weak stomach. They often get stomachaches.

We’re not quite sure what she means by this one…

 

20. They enjoy taking baths–it’s the height of relaxation.

 

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21. They are skilled at working with their hands, such as when wrapping Christmas presents. 

Furoshiki add a nice touch to any present, don’t you think? 

 

22. They are often told that they are too serious.

The key word here is majime, which suggest a strong sense of earnest diligence.

 

23. They think people should be praised for working hard and long. 

 

24. They don’t like to smell sweaty, but they don’t like to use perfumes, either. Unscented is the best. However, they do enjoy sniffing a waft of fragrant shampoo.

 

▼We recommend Shiseido’s popular Tsubaki Shampoo, made with oil from the camellia flower.

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25. They often find themselves saying, “I’m busy,” or, “I don’t have time.”

 

26. They tend to be on the soft-spoken/taciturn side. 

Madame Riri is definitely referencing Japanese adults here, and not the crowds of squealing high school girls ubiquitous in Japan.

 

27. They are often called “kind” by others.

A bit vague…

 

28. They always wash their hands before eating when eating out. Or they kill germs with hand sanitizer.

Japanese people are very fond of cleanliness before eating. If you’ve ever been to Japan or to an authentic Japanese restaurant, you’ve probably noticed that the server provides you with a hot, wet towel (oshibori) to wipe your hands with before dining.

 

▼But the real question is, can any of you fold an oshibori bunny??

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29. They are economical and hate wasting things. 

There is also a very specific Japanese word for this trait–mottainai.

 

30. They think that small details are very important regarding business matters. They believe that the success or failure of something depends on what extent they have emphasized the particulars.  

So–have we got anyone humming “I think I’m turning Japanese yet? Your friends may need just a little nudge, and soon you’ll have all the enthusiastic travel companions you could ever want on your next trip to Japan!

 

Check out this link:

30 common characteristics of people who fall in love with Japan

Link

Lady Gaga just “Out-Cuted” Japan

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Sorry, Japanese pop stars. Tonight, you were defeated. You had a worthy adversary. But you were no match in a ridiculous cute battle with Lady Gaga.

In English, “kawaii” is typically translated as “cute,” but abroad, it’s become shorthand for teeth-hurtlingly adorable anime, manga, and video game characters, as well as ridiculously colorful fashion. (In its native Japanese, the word can also have more of a muted nuance—such as “precious.”) Kawaii is the type of cute Lady Gaga is drawing from for this get-up.

Lady Gaga Just Out-Cuted Japan

And tonight, when Lady Gaga, who’s a big Japanophile, appeared on Japanese music show M Station, she was kawaii’d out of her mind, with her big-eyed anime make-up she’s worn in the past and her Japan-inspired outfit.

Appearing on the same show was Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, who is noted for her ridiculous fashion and ridiculous music videos. Currently, she’s the crown princess of kawaii.

Lady Gaga Just Out-Cuted Japan

However, next to Lady Gaga, she seemed somewhat tame!

Lady Gaga Just Out-Cuted Japan

Lady Gaga Just Out-Cuted Japan

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu was defeated by Lady Gaga,” wrote one Twitter user. There’s already a thread on 2ch, Japan’s largest forum, in which Gaga’s “overwhelming victory” is being heralded.

Lady Gaga Just Out-Cuted Japan

Twitter is buzzing with Japanese fans calling Lady Gaga’s M Station performance and appearance “incredible.”

Check out this link:

Lady Gaga just “Out-Cuted” Japan