Tag Archives: Japanese artist

Japanese artist + British band = great video

2 Nov

There is a Japanese artist / comedian who goes by the stage name “Tekken“.

He’s quite easy to recognize on TV since he wears black and white face paint and has a goofy hairstyle.

It says 「金」 (“gold”) on his forehead.

He is an excellent artist and he’s especially known for his amazing flip-animation stories. He draws hundreds…sometimes even thousands of pictures in a sketchbook, and flips them causing them to “move” like a TV cartoon.

Well, his flip-animation story (movie) titled 「振り子」 (“Pendulum”) has become the official music video for a song by a British pop band called “Muse“.

I’ve never heard of that band before but I have seen Tekken and his work on TV here in Japan many times.

You should watch the video. It’s very good…a bit of a “tear-jerker”. It shows a teenage couple falling in love, getting married, having a child, a growing old together. Not all of their days are happy…and near the end of their lives the husband regrets mistakes he’s made.

It’s here:

100th birthday of Taro Okamoto

26 Feb

Do you know who 岡本太郎 (Taro Okamoto) was?

Taro Okamoto,
26 Feb 1911 - 7 Jan 1996

He was a Japanese abstract artist and sculptor.
He is quite famous in Japan.
His most well-know piece is probably the huge sculpture that he made for the “World Expo ’70” in Osaka titled 「太陽の塔」 (“Tower Of The Sun“). It still stands at the site of the expo in Osaka.

「太陽の塔」 ("Tower Of The Sun") by Taro Okamoto

I haven’t been to the “Taro Okamoto Museum” but I have seen three of his pieces many times…because these three pieces are displayed in public here in Tokyo.

These are the 「若い時計台」 (“Young Clock Tower“) in Ginza, Tokyo:

「若い時計台」 ("Young Clock Tower") by Taro Okamoto

The 「子供の木」 (“Children’s Tree“) which stands in front of the 「子供の城」 (“Children’s Castle“), which is a fun, educational activity-center for young children in Tokyo. I took my children to this place a few times when they were young and I saw this sculpture in front of the building.
I knew immediately that it was by Taro Okamoto because it matched his distinctive style.


「子供の木」 ("Children's Tree") by Taro Okamoto

And I’ve also seen his painting titled 「明日の神話」 (“Tomorrow’s Myth“). This painting is Mr. Okamoto’s depiction of the atomic bombing of Japan in World War II.
This painting had been in Mexico for about thirty years and was only returned to Japan a little over two years ago.
It’s now on display inside 渋谷駅 (Shibuya Train Station) in Tokyo.


「明日の神話」 ("Tomorrow's Myth") by Taro Okamoto

Well, if 岡本太郎 (Taro Okamoto) was still alive he would be 100 years old today.

I learned that today is the 100th anniversary of his birth when I accessed the Google search engine earlier today and noticed that the logo looked like Mr. Okamoto’s artwork.

Google's logo to commemorate Taro Okamoto's 100th birthday.

Japanese Van Gogh

14 Mar

Probably every Japanese person knows who 山下清 (Kiyoshi Yamashita) is.

Have you ever heard of him?

He’s a famous Japanese artist. Often called the “Japanese Van Gogh“.

He died in 1971 at the age of 49…but if he was still alive today, last Wednesday would have been his 88th birthday.

Kiyoshi Yamashita was born in Tokyo on 1922 March 10 (his birth name was Seiji Obashi).
He suffered an illness as a young child that stunted his mental growth and he was diagnosed as mentally handicapped (some people now believe he was autistic).

In elementary school he was bullied because of his mental handicap and slow speech. So his mother enrolled him in a boarding school in Chiba, Japan for special needs children.

In 1940, Japan was at war and Kiyoshi Yamashita was eighteen years old and now potentially eligible for the Army draft.
So he ran away and began a life as a vagrant wandering around Japan and painting the scenes he saw.
When he was eventually forced to register for the draft he was found unfit due to his handicap, but he said that he enjoyed life on the road and he continued wandering for a fourteen years.

His art style is mosaic. He cuts pieces of colorful paper and glues them to a canvas to create a beautiful scene.
An amazing fact is that he would remember a scene that he saw and recreate it on his canvas later. He was able to memorize all the details that he saw…which is why many people believe he was autistic (the disease that Dustin Hoffman’s character had in the movie “Rain Man“).

Life on the road wasn’t always easy, of course.
He often had to beg for money to buy food. But he spent his money as frugally as possible and at one point he was arrested for vagrancy and the arresting officer found ¥10,000 in his bag that he was able to save up (which was a considerable amount at that time).
But when the police officer accused him of stealing it, Mr. Yamashita wasn’t able to explain himself clearly.
According to Mr. Yamashita’s biography, the officer beat him and pocketed the money.

At one point after Kiyoshi Yamashita stopped roaming the country and settled back down in 1954, he was given a chance to teach an art class for other mentally handicapped people.
He told them to never feel inferior and if they believe in themselves they can be like an Army general.
So, from that quote and also the way Mr. Yamashita had a habit of dressing without a shirt, he was given the nickname 「裸の大将」 (“The Naked General“).

There is a TV series in Japan based on his life. The series is titled 「裸の大将」 (“The Naked General“).

Ad for the TV series 「裸の大将」