Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘japanese’

px7pz2qvff3jtvnpho3qfa

Image: GamesRadar
This video game for children is all about joy, love, peace … and being silly.

I know almost nothing about video games, other than that my grandchildren are fascinated by them. But a recent article in the Los Angeles Times opened my mind to how important they can be.

Todd Martens writes at the Los Angeles Times, ” ‘Meow!’

“Artist and unconventional game developer Keita Takahashi has just overheard a feline through the telephone line. He laughs and begins asking questions about said cat. It’s the moment Takahashi seems most comfortable and chatty during our long-distance interview, a detour from discussing his latest game, which is about explosions, golden poop and, ultimately, how to be better people.

“ ‘Wattam,’ the long-awaited work from the developer behind the endearing cult smash ‘Katamari Damacy,’ itself a jubilant celebration of fun and optimism, is also about seeking out the joy in the everyday, namely the objects that surround us and can sometimes be taken for granted. If it existed in the world of ‘Wattam,’ for example, a random cat’s meow would be cause for celebration, a reminder that beauty and joy is not only everywhere but too often fleeting.

“Yes, that’s heavy stuff for a game in which a walking and talking mouth might devour an anthropomorphic apple and then turn the latter into a human-like piece of feces that wants to spread love, but Takahashi’s metaphorical approach to game-making is one in which play is utilized as an expressionist tool. …

Objects are simply excuses to explore interactions, to show that a toilet, a telephone, an acorn, an octopus toy, an onion, a nose, a castle-sized cake and a bounty of other random things can and should live in harmony.

“ ‘Wattam,’ Takahashi says, was inspired by watching his two younger children play. He wanted to create something that presented a more hopeful view of the world.

“ ‘Kids are so great,’ the Japanese developer says. ‘They can enjoy everything, even small things. They can run around and be happy and then suddenly cry or get angry. But they can get that happy feeling back so quickly. That’s unbelievable. That’s like a different creature.’ …

“In ‘Wattam,’ as in ‘Katamari Damacy,’ there’s an underlying sense of rebuilding the world, of correcting a past generational mistake. … Objects are drawn in the bold, rounded colors of infant toys sprung to life; they slowly and awkwardly wobble, bumping into one another and even crawling and climbing all over one another.

“There are occasional missions — retrieve a receiver to stop a telephone set from crying, or create a body of water to prevent the season of summer from being sad — but mostly ‘Wattam’ is about wonder: What happens if I climb a tree? What happens if I explode? What happens if I get eaten? …

“When he lays it all out, it becomes clear why one of the core abilities of ‘Wattam’ is holding hands. Solutions in the game can come just from creating giant dance circles, of watching the hand of a flower touch that of a crown. But be careful of the latter: ‘[inventory] descriptions tell us that those who wear a crown — those who flaunt their power — are ‘susceptible to losing it.’

“Upon arriving in Vancouver and discovering its diversity, Takahashi marveled that the city functioned without everyone warring with one another.

“ ‘For me, it was very impressive,’ he says of the shift in cultural points of view. ‘There were so many different races of people in Vancouver. They speak different languages, like different Asian or European languages. They speak English. They work together. …

” ‘I just believe that while differences make so many problems, it’s differences that make our cultures more deep, more nice, and make our perspective more wide. I just wanted to make a video game about our differences, but a game that would get over our differences.’ …

“While Takahashi’s ultimate goal for ‘Wattam’ may be to strengthen communication between us, he’ll be content, no doubt, if the game’s audience simply finds a greater appreciation in all that surround us.

“ ‘When I find a very nice very small object — beautiful fruit at the grocery store, or nice plants in the flower shop — I’m just happy,’ he says. ‘I don’t need to go on vacation. … I’m happy to just be in a peaceful environment. I’m happy to walk around the city and take the bus.’ ”

More here.

Read Full Post »

Art: Chiura Obata
Upper Lyell Fork, near Lyell Glacier, 1930, color woodblock print. The Japanese-American artist suffered from hostility and interment but was grateful for America’s natural beauty and always gave back.

Maria Popova has an inspiring post at Brain Pickings about a Japanese-American artist who felt grateful for Yosemite and other natural beauty in his adopted country — despite experiencing cruel prejudice, discrimination, and internment.

Popova reports, “Called to art since childhood, Chiura Obata (November 18, 1885–October 6, 1975) was trained in the traditional Japanese ink and brush painting technique sumi-e from the age of seven. When his family readied him for military school at age fourteen, he ran away, left his home prefecture, and traveled four hundred miles north to Tokyo, where he apprenticed himself to a prominent painter for three years.

“Shortly before his eighteen birthday, Obata left for the United States and settled in San Francisco, working as a domestic servant while pursuing an arts education. He was soon supporting himself with illustration work for Japanese-language magazines and newspapers. But the American Dream was not on offer — instead, Obata was met with the era’s prevalent racial animosity toward Japanese immigrants. …

“Perhaps it was this anguishing disappointment with the human world, with its seething cauldron of xenophobia and racism, that made Obata turn his heart and his paintbrush to the natural world. On his first trip to the High Sierra in 1927, watching ‘beautiful flowers bloom in a stream of icy water,’ Obata wrote to his wife, Haruko:

I only feel full of gratitude. …

“By the end of the decade, his paintings had garnered considerable attention. … But neither Obata’s stature in the creative world nor his appointment as an art instructor at U.C. Berkeley protected him from the swarming hostility of the country he had made his home and the recipient of his rare gift. In December of 1941, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, locals fired shots at the art supply store Obata and his wife owned in Berkeley. …

“By the spring, Obata was detained at one of California’s internment camps for Japanese Americans, where he founded an art school using his own funds and donations from friends at the university. Six hundred of the interned became art students and went on to produce work of such quality that it was being exhibited outside the camp by the summer. ”

More at Brain Pickings, here, where you can see other work by this wonderful artist.

Read Full Post »

My friend was born and raised in Hawaii. His parents were Japanese-American. His mother was sent to an internment camp during World War II. It’s a complicated story how she got released and ended up in Japan for the war’s duration. Something like a prisoner swap. She returned to Hawaii after the war and raised a family.

My friend was invited to talk to fifth graders about his mother’s experience in the camp. He was reluctant. It’s painful to think about. Would young children get it?

In the end, he went, and it was a good experience for him as well as for the kids. I think he had an impact on how they think about differences in our multicultural society. And their curiosity and understanding was a comfort to him.

Here is what he put on Facebook this spring.

“Last week I spoke to two classes of fifth graders about my mom’s experience in a Japanese-American relocation camp during World War II. After the talk, one of the students asked me why the Japanese-Americans had been relocated to camps but the German-Americans hadn’t. Wow, I could have hugged that boy for asking such a perceptive question, and I was also touched by how the students were able to draw a parallel between the Japanese-American discrimination decades ago and the anti-Muslim sentiment that’s currently been gaining so much traction in the U.S. and elsewhere.”

My friend posted a family photo that he goes on to describe. It is not the photo I put below.

“This photo, taken in the mid 1930s, is of my mom and her younger sister when they were growing up in downtown Honolulu, before they were forced to relocate to a camp in Arkansas. My mom looks like she’s around the age of the students I was talking to last week, and when I showed those students this photo I got a little emotional imagining my mom as a young girl being in that classroom too, listening to me tell her story. In such ways, our stories really do have such raw power to connect people through different generations and cultures, which, I suppose, is why I first became interested in becoming a writer all those years ago.”

America has always needed people like my friend’s mother — people who carry on and return benefits to the place that harmed them. And there are lots of them. Even in the town where I live, a couple who suffered internment during the war became quietly known for philanthropy to both the Nisei Student Relocation Commemorative Fund, Inc. and our town, donating all their reparation money to local high school scholarships.

Photo: Dorothea Lange
Some Japanese-Americans who suffered from internment in World War II
still chose to return kindness for hurt after the war.

Read Full Post »

As Maria Popova likes to point out, J.R.R. Tolkien maintained there was no such thing as writing for children, and Maurice Sendak said much the same thing. I myself have found that the “children’s books” Popova recommends to her Brain Pickings readers work as well for me as for my grandchildren.

Here she describes a book about the beauty of imperfection: “Wabi sabi is a beautiful Japanese concept that has no direct translation in English. Both an aesthetic and a worldview, it connotes a way of living that finds beauty in imperfection and accepts the natural cycle of growth and decay. Wabi Sabi is also the title of a fantastic 2008 picture-book by Mark Reibstein, with original artwork by acclaimed Chinese children’s book illustrator Ed Young, exploring this wonderful sensibility through the story of a cat who gets lost in her hometown of Kyoto …

“A true wabi sabi story lies behind the book: When Young first received the assignment, he created a series of beautifully simple images. As he went to drop them off with his editor, he left them for a moment on the front porch of the house. But when he returned to retrieve them, they were gone. Rather than agonizing over the loss, Young resolved to recreate the images from scratch and make them better — finding growth in loss.” More here.

(Remember the mortification of John Stuart Mills when his maid mistakenly burned the manuscript of Thomas Carlyle‘s first volume of the seminal French Revolution? I like to think that Carlyle’s starting from scratch on volume one after completing volumes two and three made made volume one better, as Ed Young found with his art. It’s still painful to think about how Mills felt.)

Art: Ed Young
Illustration from Wabi Sabi by Mark Reibstein

Read Full Post »

I went to the Museum of Fine Arts to see an exhibition on 100 years of American ceramics. It was a lovely show, but I would have liked to see an example of the late Anne Kraus’s mysterious tea cups there. If Warren McKenzie could give her a whole show at the Northern Clay Center when I was living in Minneapolis, I know it’s not just the gal on the street who thinks Kraus is major.

The MFA ceramics show was a very small show, tucked away in a corner. It hardly seemed enough to justify the admission fee and parking.

So I took a walk through a really big show there, one on the Japanese artist Hokusai (you know: “The Wave”). Unlike the ceramics show, this one was crowded and almost too extensive to take in, but I enjoyed what I saw — especially some colorful wall hangings.

I took photos both outside the museum and inside (a sign said it was OK — just not to use a flash). My Hokusai photos are mostly of large-scale reproductions. The originals were small and harder to shoot through glass.

The show is running until August 9, and if you go, I recommend that you pause for the wall of slides at the entrance, which is delightful and gives one a sensation of watching the art coming into being, like a waterfall swishing down a landscape.

natural-water-pitted-stone

Indian-outside-the-MFA-by-Dallin

MFA-dining-room-glass sculpture

Hokusai-at-MFA-Boston

Hokusai-bird

tubby-time-Hokusai-style

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: