Archive for the 'Japanese Culture' Category

PiKAPiKA the Movie

Tuesday, March 11th, 2008

“Pika Pika” is a Japanese onomatopoeia with a meaning akin to that of our twinkle, sparkle, or glitter. It has come to be used as a term for a memetic movement of “light doodles” which are spreading around the internet. These are created by using a flashlight or led lightsource to draw images in the air, the trails of which become a single image in long-exposure photographs, and then turning a sequence of these images into an animation.

The Pikapika project started by Tochka, a Japanese creative group, has now collaborated with the Japanese internet company So-Net to create the light-doodle-animation extravaganza that is “PiKA PiKA the Movie”.

The project’s blog on So-Net has quite a few different pikapika videos, including some behind the scenes footage. It’s interesting to see how the seemingly random flashlight wavings of a bunch of people wandering around turns into complex and charming collaborative animations.

Modern Art Temple

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2006


Happy New Year Anybody! Here’s an interesting article on PingMag about a modern twist on a very Japanese classic. Thomas Heatherwick, a lauded young UK designer, was asked to come up with a design for a buddhist temple to be built in Kagoshima, Japan: [Gmap]. They took him to Kyoto to see the temples that everyone thinks of when they think, “Oh, Japan is all about some temples.”; and (like in a Zen koan read with a British accent) he was enlightened… and decided to make something completely different. His design is earthy and flowing and not unlookinglike a splash of rock carved from sedimentary wood. To me it looks begging-to-be-climbed.



Sunday, December 18th, 2005


This is a treat from Japan for anyone who enjoys secret spots, abandoned or lost bits of civilization, anthropology, or just an interesting piece of history. This is Hashima Island. It was nicknamed Gunkanjima ??? (battleship island) because of the impression its high walls and skyline gave from the water. It’s a comparatively tiny speck of land off the country’s westernmost coast, [Gmap] but it has a fascinating and unique history.

Forty-odd years ago, this little blip was the site of the most densely populated community on earth. It was a coal-mining community complete with apartment blocks, schools, temples, drinking establishments, movie theatre, hospital, a brothel, and plenty of shopping. A self-contained community which at one point contained the tallest building in the whole of Japan, all built around a profitable mine.

Then one January day it was all over. Coal was no longer profitable enough to justify continuing the mine (thanks to the magic of petroleum), and the operation was closed down. Within a few short months not a single person remained. They left their tools where they had last used them, and their houses and belongings intact. Only the residents became conspicuously absent.

For someone who enjoys exploring abandoned spaces this seems to be a pretty much unbeatable locale. A fully intact miniature city; a modern ghost-town; a perfectly-preserved snapshot of an autonomous culture at a moment in history. The fact that it is an island that most Japanese don’t even know about, and that it requires a boat-ride and special permission to get there means that it is virtually untouched since the day the last worker left. Only time and the elements have continued to alter it.