Today there was some snnshine (gasp) so we cycled across London, to visit the "Hyper Japan" exhibition of contemporary Japanese culture at the Olympia event hall.
I love looking at traditional Japanese buildings and gardens, such as this beautiful temple, photographed in late February this year, below. (thanks to Frank Hanna)
But today's cultural scene, based largely on city life, is also interesting, and I've been looking for a show about contemporary Japanese culture since I went to a mind blowing exhibition of new Japanese fashion at FIT in New York last year. This came as near as I've ever seen to fashion from another planet.
So I arrived at Olympia 2 exhibition hall, grabbed some octopus balls for breakfast .... (hm, was that really a good idea?)
.... and then I looked around.
A lot of the stalls were selling soft toys and toy-like ornaments and decorations. I believe that in the past, when Japan was a closed society, Western visitors were intrigued by the Japanese love of toys, and perhaps this is still a characteristic? Although we all like toys now.
I was seriously tempted by the largest cat bus shown in the picture here. The cat bus is my favourite character from "Totoro" and I do dream of having my own cat bus (a real one). I'd have used this one as a cushion. But the stall holder didn't take credit cards so my resolve to de-clutter is still intact, because I didn't buy.
Many of the stalls sold food or ingredients. Of course there was sushi, and there were sushi making classes, but my eye wasn't delighted by most of the food.. The exception was this tray of wonderful macaroons in fascinating flavours and colours, elegantly decorated.
Animation, anime, manga and video games took up most of the space.
Here's the Yugioh trading card stall.
Some of the players were even more amazing than the games.
I always like to learn something new, and so for me one of the highlights of the show was a talk by Helen McCarthy about the dazzlinglyy talented Osamu Tezuka, creator of Astroboy. His sense of graphic design was so remarkable that I wish he'd designed fabrics and wallpapers - not necessarily with anime characters but just because he could put shapes together so perfectly and beautifully.
I've just been to "Watch Me Move," the (highly recommended) Barbican animation show and seen Astro Boy and other Japanese movies so this feels like fate nudging me into finding out more about Tezuka. I'm starting by purchasing Helen's book.
Wandering round the stalls and trying out some of the workshops (calligraphy, manga drawing, etc) took a couple of hours, but the live talks and demonstrations brought the exhibition to life. Two cheerful guys demonstrated a robot hand operated by a special glove and won the audience over even though they didn't speak much English.
Kanon Wakeshima, cellist and artist talked about her work, and commented on videos of her songs, including this delightful steampunk animation
It's a show of contemporary Japanese culture, so there was almost nothing about traditional Japan, although I spotted some little girls participating in a photo shoot
Ten percent of the show's ticket price, together with profits from certain stalls, went towards the Aid for Japan charity. The most memorable part of the exhibition for me was a display of words and photos about the continuing plight of those most affected by the terrible events of last March. The organisers want to gather at least 1,000 messages of support from the show's visitors to send to the victims. Here are a few. I was glad to add my own message.
I'll be looking out for an exhibition of traditional Japanese art, design and culture. I'd like to figure out in my own mind the ways in which contemporary Japanese culture has evolved from the ideas of the past.