Designer Yusuke Seki constructs a walkable platform made from 25,000 ceramic pots, bowls, and cups

Yusuke Seki - Ceramics

Beautiful Decay (by Hayley Evans):

Tokyo-based designer Yusuke Seki has constructed a stunning, walkable platform made from 25,000 pieces of scrapped pottery and porcelain. The structure is part of the Maruhiro Ceramics gallery, located in Hasami, Nagasaki prefecture, a region known for its production and distribution of tableware dating back to the 17th century. Each fragment was collected from local factories that had disposed the ceramics prior to the glazing process, deeming them defective. After restoring the pieces and assembling them like bricks mixed with poured concrete, Seki infuses them with a renewed creative purpose. A statement from Seki’s website further explains the history and the design approach that drives the platform:

“A renovation of the pre-existing flagship shop, Yusuke Seki’s design marries an architectural knowledge to the artisanal know-how of the region, and in so doing, creates an entirely location- and situation-specific experience. Seki’s vision is to posit the designer as interpreter. His methods seek to amplify Hasami’s heritage by drawing out and translating the potential of the complete local environment, unifying its people. A minimal design interference, a modification in the level of the floor, not only utilizes the pre-existing space to alter the perspective and experiences held by the users until the present, but also gives birth to an entirely new sense of flow within.”

In a fascinating exploration of space, Seki has designed the stacked ceramics so that they enhance the customer’s interaction with the displayed tableware. Low shelves placed on the surface allow visitors to peruse from below, and if they so wish, they can climb up the stairs to the top of the platform for a closer look. The very act of walking on the ceramics creates an embodied experience of tradition and history; delicate materials, once discarded, are made strong, creative, and participatory, signifying the endurance of and respect for a time-honored cultural art form.

Visit Seki’s website to view more of his works.

Yusuke Seki - Ceramics

Yusuke Seki - Ceramics

Yusuke Seki - Ceramics

Half-Japanese/half African-American beauty chosen to represent Japan at Miss Universe 2015

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RocketNews 24:

Whoever said that Niigata Prefecture is home the most beautiful women in Japan may need to think again. For the second year in the row, the Japanese representative for the Miss Universe competition hails from Nagasaki, with last year’s crown holder being Keiko Tsuji. As cool as that is, the real story of the year is that the 2015 representative, Ariana Miyamoto, is half Japanese.

It’s no surprise that Western features are considered beautiful in Japan. Heck, some women are actively seeking a foreign partner in order to produce absolutely adorable “haafu” (half-Japanese) babies. Sometimes, due to their alluring features, haafu are not always treated the same, or even as Japanese, as their native peers. Miss Nagasaki faced her fair share of race-related challenges too and although some people are against her acting as a representative for Japan due to her mixed heritage, she is also receiving a lot of support.

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The final of the 18th Miss Universe Japan contest was held in Tokyo on March 8. As you’d expect, Miss Nagasaki faced some tough competition of equally beautiful and graceful young ladies, but it’d be a stretch to say that she didn’t stick out. However, it really was only her looks that set her apart, being born and raised in Japan, she is not only a Japanese citizen, but she identifies with Japanese culture and considers herself Japanese.

Twenty-year-old Ariana was born to a Japanese mother and an African-American father in Sasebo, Nagasaki, the location of a major American naval base. After junior high graduation in Sasebo, she spent her high school years studying in the US. Upon returning to Japan as a young adult she set her sights on becoming a model.

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Working part-time as a bartender, Ariana hesitantly entered the pageant scene, feeling that with her “foreigner look,” she would never make it far. How wrong she was!

But she’s not just a 173cm (5’6″) bombshell; Ariana is described as a saishoku kenbi, “a woman blessed with both intelligence and beauty.” Growing up in Japan, she is no stranger to Japanese culture and even has a 5th degree mastery of Japanese calligraphy. She lists her hobbies as cooking and “touring,” having obtained her motorcycle license, a rare thing for a young woman in Japan.

▼ “Watashi ha watashi” (lit. “I am myself.”)

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In an interview she revealed that the most influential person in her life is American pop-star Mariah Carey.

“She went through a lot of difficulties before becoming a popular singing sensation… She faced some racial hurdles, similar to myself, but she overcame them and became a top star, so she’s been a big influence on me.”

It’s wonderful that she has such a strong woman she can look up to, as well as a lot of very supportive friends, fellow contestants and fans. But unfortunately, not all Japanese people are excited about a half-Japanese girl representing their country. Being a very homogenous society, some people still have a time considering haafu as truly Japanese.

Although this should be a joyous occasion for the young beauty, Ariana is facing challenges that no other Japanese Miss Universe contestant to date has had to face, with those opposing Ariana voicing their dissent online with statements such as “She has too much black blood in her to be Japanese.”

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As sad as it is, luckily, Ariana also has a very supportive fan base who are making an even bigger impact on social media with praise and congratulations.

“Don’t lose to discrimination and with a strong heart do your best to go win the Miss Universe prize.”
“Having a different ethnicity in you doesn’t make you ANY LESS JAPANESE!”

Ariana appreciates the support that helped her get to this point and promised, “The world competition is going to be tough, but I’ll believe in myself and continue doing me best!” 

She has a long road ahead of her before the Miss Universe pageant in January of next year. She will be trained in walking, talking, make up, style and even physical training. We would love for her to win the world competition, because who better to represent the world (and universe) than a woman with a racially diverse background? Good luck Ariana, you have our vote!

▼ Here’s an interview with Ariana (Japanese).

Cost efficient robots will run a Japanese hotel

 

Courtesy of mnn.com and Huis Ten Bosch.

Audrey Magazine:

When I think of robots, the word “helpful” doesn’t exactly come to mind. Sure, they could be developed to take on simple tasks like vacuum your home, but that’s about as comfortable as I get with robots. Maybe Hollywood is to blame for my negative viewpoint, but I when I think of robots, I picture man-made machines that could possibly malfunction and cause problems rather than solve them. Lucky for me, other than simple household items or toys, I haven’t seen or experienced significant robotic interactions in the United States.

However, the same can’t be said for Japan where there is continuing development and use of robots. This summer, the Henn-na Hotel in Nagasaki, will open its doors and guests will experience an ideally normal, pleasant hotel stay. The only difference? The hotel will be predominantly run by advanced robots.

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According to mnn.com, guests will probably have no interaction with human hotel workers. These robots, or “actroids” will speak Japanese, Chinese, Korean and English. Although this high-tech and high end hotel will have 90% of its operations run by robots, there will still be humans present should malfunctions in the system occur.

So why use robots when people would have to stand by anyway? It is cost efficient. Unlike human workers, robots have no salary, no sick days, no need for health insurance, etc. Ultimately, no humans, no human concerns for the company.

Technology is constantly changing in our fast-paced world and yes, technology is an essential tool for us today. Economically, I understand the Henn-na’s decision to use robots. However, doesn’t that take away from the human experience of being warmly welcomed as a guest? Wouldn’t you want an actual pleasant greeting into the hotel and the front desk telling you their opinions on what restaurants to try or what recommended attractions are close by? Lastly, can we say we trust those people that are running and controlling these robots?

 

Nagasaki theme park to open futuristic hotel staffed by robots

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RocketNews 24:

Once you’ve tired yourself out playing with your rideable 4-metre tall robot from Amazon Japan and experienced the neon assault to the senses that is Shinjuku’s Robot Restaurant show, you’ll also be able to visit a hotel in Japan with robot staff once the new Hen-na Hotel opens this summer.

As well as robot receptionists, porters, cleaners and waitresses, the aptly-named Hen-na Hotel (literally meaning “strange hotel”) in the Huis Ten Bosch theme park, Nagasaki, will also feature a whole host of futuristic technology aimed at reducing energy consumption and human staffing levels, therefore keeping room prices down.

Huis Ten Bosch is a pretty unusual place already – a little slice of (theme-park) Netherlands that landed on Japan in the early nineties, it contains entire replica Dutch streets, a mock-up of its namesake royal palace in The Hague, and a replica of a Dutch ship that was cast ashore on Japan’s coast in the 17th century.

▼ Clearly, all it needs is a futuristic robot hotel! Welcome to Japan, folks.

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Upon entering the Hen-na Hotel, which opens this July, you’ll be greeted by robot staff at check in. Your bags will be carried to your room by a robot porter, and you can even be served coffee by another robot! Sadly, no press images of these myriad android staff members were yet available, so we’re just going to play it safe and assume they all look like Baymax.

▼ Artist’s impression of the hotel, which is scheduled to open in July this year.

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▼ Not pictured: robot receptionists, robot coffee-wallas. Pictured: apparently irrelevant robotic arm.

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Rooms in this self-styled “low cost” hotel will be rented on an auction system, starting from 7,000 yen (US$60) per room per night. With the cheapest rooms in the other three Huis Ten Bosch hotels starting at around twice that price, you could save some serious money at the park’s new “strange hotel”. Which should leave you with a bit of spare cash to spend on wooden tulips, postcards of windmills, and other authentic Japanese souvenirs.

Get to know actress, writer and filmmaker Ayako Fujitani

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 Audrey Magazine:

When her latest film Man From Reno won the top prize at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival this summer, Ayako Fujitani was initially confused. “Dave [Boyle, the director,] told me, ‘We won!’ and I said, ‘For what?’” she remembers. She laughs. “I had forgotten it was a competition! The project had come such a long way from the [initial] Kickstarter [fundraising campaign]. We had such a tough time even finishing the movie, and we were super happy to even get in the L.A. Film Festival. So when we won, we were super shocked and surprised, in a good way.”

This is the second time the hapa actress (born to Japanese aikido master Miyako Fujitani and American action star Steven Seagal) has worked with Boyle, the first experience being in his 2012 black- and-white indie romance Daylight Savings, in which she had a supporting role as Goh Nakamura’s ex- girlfriend. After that wrapped, Boyle was working on a crime film that started out as a pair of simultaneous mystery stories with vastly different protagonists, a Japanese writer and an elderly sheriff. The sheriff character, who’d eventually be played by Pepe Serna, came from an unproduced screenplay Boyle had written previously, but the Japanese writer Aki was a new addition and written with Fujitani in mind.

I think she has a unique cerebral soulfulness about her that was perfect for the part of Aki,” says Boyle. “While the sheriff’s storyline is more of a traditional police procedural, Aki’s is a bit more emotional and character driven. She is the classic amateur sleuth, but she has secrets of her own that make her darker than your average heroine.”

Aki is a very successful Japanese mystery novel writer who’s not happy about her success for some reason,” explains Fujitani of her bilingual character. “She runs away from her book tour to San Francisco — and runs into a real mystery.”

During post-screening Q&As during the film’s festival run, Fujitani remembers Boyle joking that after she got involved, the Aki character suddenly became super dark. “Before, the character didn’t feel too much regret or sadness,” says Fujitani. “But if she was happy, no one would really care about what she goes through.”

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[Once] we realized how game Ayako would be to push the character further and further into the darkness, she made all three of us [Boyle and co-writers Joel Clark and Michael Lerman] braver as writers to make the character rougher around the edges. Her fearlessness gave us confidence,” says Boyle.

Though Fujitani wouldn’t describe herself as the type of actress who practices method acting, it was difficult for her to get Aki out of her head. Part of the reason was because they shot many of the film’s foreboding scenes in a hotel room in San Francisco, which was right next door to the actual hotel room where Fujitani stayed during the weeks they were filming in the city. “When you’re basically on the set in the same hotel room the whole time, it’s almost impossible to forget the character,” she says. “It helped my acting a lot, to get into the maze of this world, but I felt like I had no way out.” She laughs.

So after I finished the movie, it was like, I need to go to Hawaii or something!”

A relaxing vacation wasn’t in the cards, however, because Fujitani, also a filmmaker herself, has been working on numerous projects that take her back and forth between the U.S., Japan and Korea. Her short film The Doors, shot entirely on an iPhone 5 without any special lenses, recently played at the Asian Film Festival of Dallas. (It was originally made for the Olleh International Smartphone Film Festival in South Korea.) She also co-wrote a four-episode short film series, A Rose Reborn, a collaboration between acclaimed Korean director Park Chan-wook and the Italian fashion house Ermenegildo Zegna, which stars Daniel Wu and Jack Huston. She is currently developing another Korean short film, a dark comedy that follows a nervous, picky, routine-driven businessman.

She’s very confident and has a great eye and ear for unusual characters and interesting dialogue,” says Boyle of Fujitani’s work as a writer and director. In fact, he often relied on Fujitani’s instincts when it came to the Japanese-language scenes in Man from Reno, which also stars actors Kazuki Kitamura, Yasuyo Shiba, Hiroshi Watanabe and Tetsuo Kuramochi. “We worked with a lot of great translators during the scriptwriting process to make sure the Japanese version would be up to snuff, but a couple of days before we started shooting, Ayako and I did a last brush up that did amazing things for the movie,” says Boyle. “Having her ear at our disposal was huge.”

Man from Reno, which has also won awards at the San Diego Asian Film Festival and Wichita’s Tallgrass International Film Festival, has a theatrical release planned for next spring. Next up, Fujitani is off to shoot a film with Japanese director Takashi Miike, known for bloody cult films such as Ichi the Killer, Audition and 13 Assassins. “After I had been in Korea for a while, I visited Japan, and as soon as I arrived and turned on my Japanese cell phone — which is never on when I’m in another country — I get a call from Miike’s producer,” says Fujitani of the role she seemed fated to get. A fan of Miike’s work, Fujitani said yes before she even read the script. She plays a nurse in a medical drama about doctors from Nagasaki, Japan, going to Kenya. “This is a departure for him,” she says. “It is definitely not one of the horror, crazy-in-a-good-way films that Miike is known for.”

 

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Japan’s 30 best travel destinations, as chosen by overseas visitors

 

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RocketNews 24:

 

It’s time once again for travel website Trip Advisor’s list of the best places in Japan, as chosen by overseas visitors to the country. One of the things that makes Japan such a fascinated place to travel is its extreme mix of historical and modern attractions, both of which are represented in the top 30 which includes shrines, sharks, and super-sized robots.

 

30. Shinsaibashi – Osaka

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Starting things off, Osaka’s Shinsaibashi shopping district has something for just about everyone (as you can see by this photo that shows what appears to be everyone in the city browsing along its covered pedestrian walkway).

 

29. Nishiki Market – Kyoto

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Also known as “Kyoto’s Kitchen,” you might not find much in the way of souvenirs here, but it’s a great place to pick up ingredients for dinner or soak up the local atmosphere.

 

28. Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology – Aichi

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We suppose they could have just called it the “Toyota Museum,” but then people might think the focus is just on cars, and not the broader theme of technology and innovation in general.

 

27. Video Game Bar Space Station – Osaka

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There’s a certain simple, pure fun to hanging out with some friends, sitting on your couch, and knocking back a couple of cold ones as you play some old school games. Unless your couch is old and lumpy, you sold off your old consoles, or you’re out of beer. Thankfully, this Osaka bar is here to help.

 

26. Kaiyukan – Osaka

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Rather not kill time in Osaka by killing zombies? The local aquarium, the Kaiyukan, is an awesome way to spend an afternoon. Don’t miss feeding time for the facility’s massive yet tranquil whale shark.

 

25. Sensoji – Tokyo

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Tokyo’s most famous temple, located in the Asakusa neighborhood, remains one of the best ways to see Japan’s traditional side while staying in the capital.

 

24. Centar Gai – Tokyo

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Sensoji too sedate for you? The collection of shops and restaurants known as Center Gai, right across the street from the famous Shibuya Scramble intersection, is a chance to experience Tokyo’s cacophony at its most colorful.

 

23. Dotonbori – Osaka

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Osaka’s foremost entertainment district is at its most dazzling after dark, where the light from the towering walls of neon signage reflect off the canal and enwraps you in its glow from all angles.

 

22. Nara Park – Nara

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The spacious Nara Park is one of two places in Japan where visitors can mingle with freely roaming packs of deer (the other being Hiroshima Prefecture’s Miyajima Island).

 

21. Jigokudani Yean Park – Nagano

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It’s important to read things all the way through. For example, Jigokudani (Hell Valley) sounds like a terrible place to visit. Tack Yaen (wild monkey) on the end though, and you’ve got Trip Advisor’s 21st most popular destination.

 

20. Meiji Shrine – Tokyo

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The Shinto counterpart to Buddhist Sensoji, the structure itself may not be the most impressive shrine in Japan, but the gorgeous forest path that leads up to it will make you forget just how close you are to the heart of the busiest city in the world.

 

19. Mori Art Museum – Tokyo

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Even if you’re got only a passing interest in high art, the vires from the attached observation deck, high above the Roppongi Hills entertainment complex, is a great way to get a grasp of the massive scale of Tokyo.

 

18. Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum – Nagasaki

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As the second city to be devastated by a nuclear bomb, Nagasaki’s Atomic Bomb Museum is a grim reminder of the horrors of war.

 

17. Nijo Castle – Kyoto

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Instead of for protection, this Kyoto landmark was created to show the wealth and power of the shogun, and as such has a lower structure and more expansive gardens than other castles in Japan.

 

16. Robot Restaurant – Tokyo

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Modern decadence, on the other hand, is perhaps best encapsulated at this Shinjuku eatery where food is delivered to your table by bikini-clad waitresses piloting bikini-clad giant robots.

 

15. Kenrokuen Garden – Ishikawa

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Decidedly more refined is Kenrokuen, long considered one of the three most beautiful gardens in Japan.

 

14. Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama – Kyoto

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We’re not sure why Iwatayama ranked higher than Jigokudani Yaen, but we’re guessing it might have something to do with its closer proximity to the already attractive tourist destination of Japan’s previous capital. Whatever the reason, though, can you ever really have too many monkey parks?

 

13. Sanjusangendo Temple – Kyoto

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Too hyped up from the monkey park? This temple, with its one thousand statues of Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy, ought to calm you down.

 

12. Matsumoto Castle – Nagano

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One of Japan’s most impressive original wooden fortresses, Matsumoto Castle’s location in the middle of Matsumoto City makes it an easy visit for those also looking to hike in the mountains of nearby Kamikochi.

 

11. Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium – Okinawa

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More whale sharks also means more votes for tropical Okinawa’s showcase of aquatic life.

 

10. Shinshoji Temple / Naritasan – Chiba

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We’re happy to see Naritsan make the list, since we’re big fans ourselves.

 

9. Hakone Open-Air Museum – Kanagawa

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This outdoor collection of sculpture also happens to be near some of Japan’s finest hot springs and most beautiful views of Mt. Fuji.

 

8. Shinjuku Gyoen Park – Tokyo

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One more reason why you shouldn’t believe people who tell you, “There’s no greenery in central Tokyo!”

 

7. Kiyomizu Temple – Kyoto

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Some people complain about this hillside temple being crowded. It is, but that’s only because of how incredibly beautiful and awesome it is.

 

6. Mt. Takao / Okunoin Temple – Tokyo

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With hiking courses, beautiful foliage, and tales of tengu raven spirits, Mt. Takao is worth a visit for anyone into fitness, nature, or folklore.

 

5. Todaiji Temple – Nara

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In contrast to the cute deer running around outside in Nara Park, Todaiji houses the solemn 15-meter (49-foot) Great Buddha.

 

4. Kinkakuji – Kyoto

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Kyoto’s famous Golden Pavilion continues to attract visitors year-round.

 

3. Miyajima Island / Itsukushima Shrine – Hiroshima

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Miyajima’s torii gate rising out of the sea is something you’ll only see in Japan, and is the reason why it’s been gracing the covers of travel guides for decades. Add in the appeal of the deer that wander around town, the hiking trails that lead to the top of the island’s Mt. Misen, and the amazing views one you get there, and you’ve got Trip Advisor’s number-three choice.

 

2. Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum / Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

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Less than an hour away from Miyajima, Peace Memorial Park includes the A-Bomb Dome, Children’s Peace Monument, and the Peace Flame.

 

1. Fushimi Inari Shrine – Kyoto

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The top spot went to Fushimi Inari Shrine, and the seemingly endless tunnels of torii gates that cover the hillside it’s built on. Long overlooked due to its distance from other Kyoto attractions it’s still just a short train ride away from Kyoto Station, and one of the most unique experiences travelers can have in Japan.

 

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Source: Trip AdvisorIT Media

 

Check out this link:

 Japan’s 30 best travel destinations, as chosen by overseas visitors

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Live-action Attack on Titan film casts lead role, sets filming location and start date

 

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Despite being filled with man-eating giants and heartless bureaucrats, people around the world can’t get enough of smash hit anime and manga Attack on Titan. But while fans wait patiently for the rumored continuation of the animated TV series, production is moving ahead on the franchise’s live-action theatrical feature, which now has a filming location and an actor chosen to play Titan-hating protagonist Eren Yeager.

 

Tapped to play the leading role is singer-turned-actor Haruma Miura. Although the 23-year-old Miura is several years older than the teenaged Eren, the actor does have aproven track record in live-action versions of anime and manga, having previously appeared in adaptations such as high school gang story Crows Zero II, high school yakuza story Gokusen, high school romance Kimi ni Todoke, high school hacker thriller Bloody Monday.

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RocketNews 24:

 

Thankfully, Attack on Titan fans probably don’t need to worry about Miura’s list of previous roles convincing producers to move the upcoming film’s setting from a walled city in a fantasy world to a posh boarding school in suburban Tokyo. The film lists Hajime Isayama, creator of Attack on Titan and the author of its original manga, as a supervisor for the project.

 

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Producers have also decided on a filming location, with the crew headed to Hashima Island in Nagasaki Prefecture.

 

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More commonly known as Gunkanjima, the island was originally the site of a coal mine and company town. When the mine was suddenly closed in the 1970s, families relocated to mainland Japan with such haste that the island’s dwellings became a ghost town almost instantaneously.

 

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Gunkanjima has even been getting international attention these days. Aside from being used as the lair of the villain in the James Bond film Skyfall, Gunkanjima has been at the top of was opened to the public in 2009, shooting to the top of desired destinations for many adventurers and urban ruin explorers (although if your schedule precludes taking a plane to Japan and a boat to the island, you can also tour it by Google Street View).

 

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Producers say the live-action Attack on Titan is on track for a 2015 release, consistent with comments made when director Shinji Higuchi’s involvement was announced. Shooting is scheduled to start on Gunkanjima early this summer, and while we know it’s just a movie, we’ll still sleep better knowing there’s an ocean between us and the Titans.

 

Check out this link:

Live-action Attack on Titan film casts lead role, sets filming location and start date