Dec 26

WIT Life #144: Manga restrictions and contemporary art challenges


WITLife is a periodic series written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03). She starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she shares some of the interesting tidbits and trends together with her own observations.

I hope everyone had a nice Christmas celebration, whether it was with a strawberry shortcake or more traditional fare.  Soon it will be time to get ready for Oshougatsu‘s toshikoshi soba and osechi ryouri!  If you want to enjoy these holiday foods but not have to prepare them yourself, there are places around the city that will be offering free toshikoshi soba samples on New Year’s Eve (Village Yokocho is one), and osechi ryouri is being sold at Japanese supermarkets and by catering companies.  I don’t know whether they are still accepting orders, but if you are interested it is worth checking out!

In other news, two articles in last week’s Wall Street Journal talked about aspects of Tokyo’s art and pop culture scenes.  One discussed how the city government is attempting to restrict sales of manga with “extreme” depictions of sex.  This ordinance originated with conservative governor Shintaro Ishihara, but has been openly opposed by Prime Minster Naoto Kan.  Motivating Kan’s critical stance is the fact that several manga artists and 10 major publishers have said that they will boycott the huge Tokyo International Anime Fair scheduled to take place in March.  On his blog he wrote, “Upbringing of youth is an important matter.  But at the same time, it’s also important to present Japan’s anime to the world.  I would like people concerned to make an effort so Tokyo won’t need to step down as the host of the International Anime Fair.”   This annual event typically brings in over 100,000 visitors, and next year it will be celebrating its 10th anniversary.  Seen here is this year’s official character Att-kun, who bears the letters TAF (Tokyo Anime Fair) on his shirt.

Last weekend’s edition of the Journal featured an article about how contemporary artists in Tokyo don’t receive the same favorable reception domestically as they do abroad.  In contrast to the rest of Asia, this style of art is not popular in Japan, as people who could afford it tend to prefer luxury items such as “expensive cars and watches.”  As a result, bargains can be found as these works are much cheaper than comparable ones in other Asian countries.  The article also references the “Nobody’s Fool” Yoshitomo Nara exhibition currently being held at Asia Society, as well as Japan Society’s upcoming (March 18-June 12) “Bye Bye Kitty!!!” exhibition featuring Manabu Ikeda as well as 15 other emerging and midcareer Japanese artists.  I have not had a chance to check out the former yet, but hope to before it closes on January 2nd.

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