Tag Archive | Japanese

Eye On Design: Kyoto Table By Shiro Kuramata

Kyoto Table
Photos By Gail

Born in Tokyo in 1934, Shiro Kuramata studied at the city’s polytechnic high school and Kuwsawa Design School. He revolutionized design in postwar Japan by considering the relationship between form and function, adhering to minimalist ideas but embracing surrealism as well. During the 1970s and 1980s, Kuramata began to use new technologies and industrial materials. He was inspired by Ettore Sottsass and joined the Memphis Group at its founding in 1981.

Kyoto Table Detail
Kyoto Table, Detail

The Kyoto Table (1983) is an example Kuramata’s innovative use of concrete and glass to create minimalist form with surface interest. Kuramata’s furniture and interiors have been influential both is his native country and abroad.

Photographed in the Met Breuer in NYC.


World’s Largest Rilakkumo Plush Bear

Giant Rilakkuma Plush Bear
Photo By Gail

Do you fantasize  about owning a Plush Bear that’s as tall as, and likely (hopefully) much, much rounder than you are? If so, then your search is over, and all you need to make that dream a reality is 1,300 American dollars! Here’s what I can tell you about the World’s Largest Rilakkuma Plush:

“Brought to you by San-X Japan, Rilakkuma is loved for his cuddly cuteness and tendency to to be lazy. Rilakkuma is big in Japan, big in America, and now . . . BIG in your house! This gigantic jumbo plush measures in at 6 feet tall and weighs 24 lbs. He’s so big, you could probably just use him as a chair. But if not, he definitely makes the comfiest BFF ever. Includes signature zipper and blue polka dot material inside.”

$1,300 you say? I say: worth it.

Spotted in It’s Sugar on Broadway in Downtown NYC.

Japanese Confectioner Malebranche Launches Maru Cha Cha Cookie With a Fun Party At The Whitney!

Maru Cha Cha Packaging
All Photos By Gail

Food and Art go together; so what better venue could there be for throwing a cookie launch party than an actual art museum? We were recently invited to the Whitney Museum of American Art on Gansevoort Street to celebrate leading Japanese French-style confectioner Malebranche’s U.S. launch of its Maru Cha Cha matcha-based  biscuits, and the evening was a terrific mix of food, art and Japanese culture.

Whitney Museum Exterior Elevation
Whitney Museum with the High Line in the Foreground

The event went beyond the traditional cocktail party to include not only cocktails and delicious passed appetizers, but also tastings of the unique Maru Cha Cha cookies, including an indulgent Trifle dessert recipe by James Beard Award-winning Chef Michael Anthony. Guests had the chance to meet and mingle with the Japanese brand-influencers behind Malebranche  (a high end bakery in Japan) and to learn what Matcha — the key ingredient in the Maru Cha Cha biscuits — is all about.

Malebranche Interior
Above and Below, Inside a Malebranche Bakery Cafe in Kyoto.

Malebranche Interior

Maru Cha Cha Signage

According to a post by http://inthekitchen.org, Matcha is a powdered green tea made from the young tea leaves that are ground in a stone mill. Matcha can be enjoyed in thick (koicha) or thin (usucha) variations. Koicha, the base of Maru Cha Cha biscuits, is made with higher quality matcha, resulting in a richer flavor and allowing you to taste the inherent sweetness of the green tea.

“We believe that, as of late, Japanese cuisine and culture are gaining immense popularity in the U.S., but we barely see the Japanese biscuits or snacks,” said Satoshi Isohata, director of Malebranche. “As our Maru Cha Cha biscuits are inspired by Kyoto culture and tradition, we hope that they will become a new treat of choice for New Yorkers’ daily routines and, at the same time, one that will give them a taste of Japan.”

James Beard Award Winning Chef Michael Anthony
Chef Michael Anthony Addresses Party Guests

Similar to green tea, matcha holds even greater nutritional value. And since you are consuming the entire leaf, rather than drinking a steeped tea, you get a higher concentration of antioxidants. These antioxidants of matcha are proven to help fight cancers, reduce the risk of heart disease, boost calorie burn and even offer some anti-aging benefits. In addition, matcha is rich in the amino acid L-theanine, which can help you focus and reduce stress and anxiety.

Biscuits and Tea

Beyond the benefits of matcha as a main ingredient, Maru Cha Cha biscuits are gluten free, do not use animal fat and are a great treat to snack on alone or paired with tea and coffee. The simple ingredients include rice flour, sesame oil, cocoa butter and matcha.

Steak Tartare

Some of the savory snacks we enjoyed at the party included  flavorful Steak Tartare (pictured above).

Charred Broccoli
Charred Broccoli with Shaved Parmesan

Chicken Salad
Chicken Salad

Maru Cha Cha Trifle Dessert
Maru Cha Cha Trifle Dessert Recipe By Chef Michael Anthony


While we took our desserts out onto the terrace to enjoy the lovely views, we were treated to an authentic Japanese live performance of Ikebana — the Japanese art of Flower Arrangement! The Ikebana artist took the display from the state you see above…

Maru Cha Cha Ikebana Completed

To this beautiful finished composition! It was fun to watch it all come together!

Maru Cha Cha Party Jazz Band

There was also a Jazz Trio! They really thought of everything to create a very memorable — and delicious — evening!

Maru Cha Cha cookies are available for purchase in specialty stores, including Dean & DeLuca, for a suggested retail price of $8 per 10-piece box and $14 per 20-piece box. They are also sold at Bon Marché in Paris and by Malebranche in Kyoto, Japan.

Maru Cha Cha Party Crowd

Everyone Had Fun!

Whitney Terrace View

And just look at that view!

Recommended Viewing: We Are X, The Death and Life of X Japan

We Are X Movie Poster
Above Image Courtesy of We Are X Film Dot Com. All Other Photos By Gail

When the most popular heavy metal band in Japan came to New York in October of 2014 to play a show at Madison Square Garden, they managed to sell out the legendary arena, despite being virtually unknown in America. X (known stateside as X Japan), got their start in the 1980s as a glam metal band, doing their best to shock audiences with their outrageous stage show and equally over-the-top, gender-bending physical appearances that included flamboyant rock fashions, wildly theatrical hairstyles and Kabuki-esque make-up. But what critics who initially dismissed the band as all style and no substance didn’t realize was that these guys could play their asses off, and were selling the type of rebellious image that repressed Japanese audiences couldn’t wait to buy. Now, an award-winning documentary, We Are X,  aims to bring the myth and enigma that is X Japan into your consciousness.

X Japan Concert Ad

Critics say that the mark of a good documentary is when its story is accessible to, and can be fully enjoyed by, audiences who are completely unfamiliar with its subject matter. Using the career-milestone Madison Square Garden concert as a jumping off point, and circling back to that show (which I attended) at the film’s end, Director Stephen Kijak (Stones in Exile, Scott Walker: 30 Century Man) has succeeded wildly at crafting a career-spanning Rock & Roll fable that will surely hook those who’ve never even heard of X Japan right from its opening credits.

Yoshiki at MSG
Yoshiki on Stage at MSG

Told primarily from the viewpoint of founding member Yoshiki; X Japan’s drummer, composer and charismatic leader, We Are X is both the story of the band’s groundbreaking 30-year career, and also the life story of Yoshiki, who turned to music as a child as a means to cope with the suicide of his father. Forming X as a teenager with school friend Toshi, who became the band’s lead singer, Yoshiki was driven to succeed by existential questions that haunted him from his father’s death; namely “What is my purpose?” and “why am I here?”

Yoshiki and Stephen Kijak
Yoshiki and Stephen Kijak Discuss the Film at a Post-Screening Q&A Here in NYC

Embracing a ‘Do or Die’ sensibility, X Japan became not just an innovative and successful rock band, but a cultural force as powerfully influential as that created by The Beatles decades before them. Not only have they achieved phenomenal record sales and concert attendances, but band members’ personal brands are associated with products as diverse as credit cards, wine, comic book superhero alter egos, and dolls made in their own likenesses. X Japan is also credited with spearheading the uniquely Japanese Visual Kei movement.

X at MSG
X Japan on Stage at MSG

The band’s great successes, however, were tempered with equally great tragedies. As a counterpoint to the celebratory  moments, the film carefully explores the suicides of two seminal band members, Hide (in 1998) and Taiji (in 2011), which shattered the lives of both X Japan’s surviving members, and devastated their fans, one of whom was driven to suicide because of the news. We Are X is a true life Rock & Roll story that really has everything.

Yoshiki and Toshi
Yoshiki and Toshi Rocking It Back in the Day!

Despite the intense personal/personnel drama, career challenges and many heart-rending moments, We Are X is also good fun, and thoroughly entertaining. One of my favorite parts happens towards the film’s end, when Yoshiki and Toshi are reunited in 2007, ten years after the singer abandoned X Japan to join a mind-controlling cult. Yoshiki recalls hanging out at the Palladium in Hollywood, where the friends were approached by two guys looking to buy drugs. One of the men asked the duo if they knew where they could score some X (meaning the psychedelic drug, Ecstasy). Yoshiki, whose grasp of the English language is obviously much  better now than it was back then, laughs when he recalls replying to the guy, with complete sincerity, “We are X!” Hilarious.

We Are X opens in theaters nationwide on Friday October 21st, 2016.

Grade: A+

X at MSG
X Japan On Stage at Madison Square Garden, October 2014


Sunset in My Heart By Mr., at Lehmann Maupin

Gallery with Crowd
The Joint Was Jumpin’ at Lehmann Maupin for the Opening of Sunset in My Heart (All Photos By Gail)

Fans of this rad blog may already be familiar with Japanese artist Mr. from This Exhibit — which was way back in 2012, but seems like it was just yesterday! Mr.’s latest exhibit, up now at Lehmann Maupin Gallery, is called Sunset in My Heart, and it features a new series of vibrant Manga paintings that still embrace the Superflat style, and yet break new aesthetic ground for this enigmatic artist.

As It Was That Day, 2016
As It Was That Day, 2016

For Sunset in My Heart, Mr. has returned to his expressive and experimental roots as a young artist, incorporating abstract elements like graffiti, and using distressed and sullied canvases. Mr. prepares the canvases by burning them, walking over them, and leaving them on his studio floor to collect dirt and debris. This new treatment of the canvas is directly connected to the artist’s early interest in the 1960s Italian art movement Arte Povera that inspired his first manga paintings he produced on store receipts, takeout menus, and other scraps of transactional detritus.

Pinkish Gold, 2016
Pinkish Gold, 2016

These recent works reflect the artist’s intensely personal reinterpretation of popular visual culture and the increasingly mediated ways we engage with one another. Mr.’s oeuvre has elevated anime and manga subculture by embracing its cultural significance rather than critiquing its frivolity. In addition to painstakingly recreating the tantalizing graphics and slick finish of manga comic book characters, Mr. physically becomes the characters through cosplay performances — dressing up as fictional characters — at his openings and events.

Time Gently Passing, 2016
Time Gently Passing, 2016

This recent body of work reflects Mr.’s impulse to push the seemingly kitschy nature of these imaginary realms into a gritty and abstract painting style in order to explore personal, global, and environmental themes of destruction. While the manga-style characters continue to appear in Mr.’s work, their significance has shifted from playing up lolicon—the fetishization of young, fictional female characters—toward a more platonic realm, known as moe, or love for an icon that does not carry sexual associations.

Small Fairies Have Arrived, 2016
Small Fairies Have Arrived, 2016

These new characters represent positive beacons of strength that overcome all adversity. This reflects the artist’s creative impetus to embrace pleasure and beauty in diverse forms, instead of giving in to the personal and national despair that emerges after catastrophic loss and destruction, as it has in Japan since 2011. The title, Sunset in My Heart, reflects the simultaneous yet conflicting feelings of melancholy and hope, which also encompass the complicated nature of the human condition.

California, 2016
California, 2016

Party View

Upon entering the final gallery room, we were surprised and delighted to see, through doors opening onto a rear patio, that there was a party going on!

Festival Scene

With colorful paper lanterns, folks dressed in kimonos; balloon animals, Japanese posters and very interesting music,  the energetic vibe was certainly comparable to the wild shenanigans we enjoyed at the opening reception for this This Exhibit, which is to say that it was just insane. We learned that this party was designed to recreate a Japanese summer festival! Here are some photos of the festivities!

Mr. Party

Posters like these covered the walls and even the ground, so that fans would feel fully transported to another place, far  far away.

Kiddy Pool with Balls

Here is an inflatable kiddie pool filed with colorful balls. We are not sure if we were supposed to take one of these balls as a souvenir, or if they were just part of the art. Should we have taken one? Probably.


We gently pushed our way to the front of he crowd to see that Mr. was there;  dressed as a Japanese school girl, inspired directly by one of his paintings, and performing Japanese Pop Song Karaoke. Here, he takes a dramatic pause mid-song to roll on the ground.

Mr. Sings Hotel California

Here, he performs “Hotel California” by The Eagles. There is an MC on his right, who is interpreting the scene. Art!

Mr. Paints Face

Suddenly, Mr. decided to cover his face with dark blue paint. Perhaps this was an indication that he was feeling melancholy.

Japanese Chef

There was also a chef making a variety of  delicious dumplings  for the hungry crowd. These had shrimp in them. Yummy!

Mr.’s Sunset in My Heart will be on Exhibit Through August 12th, 2016, at Lehmann Maupin, 536 West 22nd Street, in the Chelsea Gallery District.

Paper Lanterns

Discovering the Art of Keiicha Tanaami: Visible Darkness / Invisible Darkness

Dream Furor Colligendi, 2014
Dream Furor Colligendi, 2014, By Keiicha Tanaami (All Photos By Gail)

You never know what you will discover on a Saturday afternoon art crawl in the Chelsea Gallery District. What happens more than you can imagine is that Geoffrey I fall in love with the work of an artist who is new to us, despite them having a career that spans decades. Sometimes, that artist has already passed, and we have occasion to mourn a great loss at the same time that we are welcoming a lifetime of beautiful art into our own lives. Because when it comes to art, it is just impossible to know everything.

Detail from Dream Furor Colligendi, 2014
Detail from Dream Furor Colligendi

In this case, we stopped in to the Sikkema Jenkins & Co Gallery and were blown away by Visible Darkness / Invisible Darkness; a wonderful collection of large scale, fantasy paintings by Japanese pop artist, Keiichi Tanaami, who is still creating new work at 80 years old. Wow!

Installation View
Detail from The Last Supper

To me, his work reminds me of a mash up of Takashi Murakami and the surreal, adult animated series Superjail. If you know what that means, great. If you don’t, it doesn’t matter.

Two in the Cloudy Sky, 2014
Two in the Cloudy Sky, 2014

You could stand in front of one of Tanaami’s canvases and talk about what you see until you run out of words.

Pleasure of the Mimicry, 2015
Pleasure of the Mimicry, 2015

With work this beautiful and thought provoking, I was not surprised to learn that he is one of the leading pop artists of postwar Japan, and has been active as multi-genre artist since the 1960s as a graphic designer, illustrator, video artist and fine artist. He was also the first art director of the Japanese edition of Playboy magazine!

The Last Supper, 2015
The Last Supper, 2015

Video Screen

There was also a video monitor (seen above) showing animated works, with one image morphing into the next — very cool!

Sadly, this exhibit, Visible Darkness / Invisible Darkness, ended on the day of our visit, but you can learn more about the life and career of Keiicha Tanaami by visiting his Wikipedia page at This Link and see more images like these at Right Here!

Detail from The Last Supper, 2015
Detail from The Last Supper

Butterfly Gates

Butterfly Gates
Photo By Gail

These superb Wrought Iron Gates (circa 1900) by Emile Robert (French 1860 -1924) are rendered by hand in the curvilinear Art Nouveau style, which originated in northern Europe in the late 1890s and flourished until World War I. The revival of interest in wrought iron work in this period was inspired by the beautiful, ornate, Rococo gates and fences around the main square and garden of the French city of Nancy, an early center of the Art Nouveau style. The butterfly motif in these gates is indicative of the main influences of Art Nouveau design: observation of the natural world and motifs popular in Japanese art.

Photographed in the Brooklyn Museum.