Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2014

Tokyo’s annual gay pride parade will be held tomorrow. From 11 A.M. to 6 P.M. at Tokyo Yoyogi Park Event Square & Stage. The parade, which is the third to be held, is designed to bright awareness to problems facing LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) and other sexual minorities. There will also be various booths, food, and performances available.

More information can be found on the official website.

 

Exploring the “hidden legacy” of World War II internment camps

Most documents and research on the internment camps for Japanese-Americans during World War II focus on the political situation of that time, the harsh conditions within the camps, and the forced “Americanization” of the inmates. However, there remains an untold story of how Japanese traditional performing arts survived and were even practiced in the camps, despite the political environment of that time.

Shirley Kazuyo Muramoto-Wong, a Japanese-American koto instructor based in California, has spent the last 20 years tracking down, researching, and recording the stories of students and teachers of such arts as koto, shamisen, and kabuki, who kept Japanese tradition alive in the face of hardship. Her journey started when she discovered that her mother, also a koto player, learned how to play the 6-foot long instrument in the Topaz and Tule Lake camps, despite the fact that internees were only allowed to bring in what they could carry.

Her upcoming documentary, made with Pauline L. Fong and independent filmmaker Joshua Fong, “Hidden Legacy: Japanese Traditional Performing Arts in the World War II Internment Camps,” explores how such traditional arts managed to flourish.

“During WWII when 120, 000 Japanese and Japanese-Americans were put into these 10 camps, all of a sudden, there was a concentration of all the Japanese in one place!” wrote Muramoto in an e-mail. “Even though organizations such as the JACL [Japanese American Citizens League] working with the federal government, were trying to get Japanese-Americans to assimilate into American culture, the situation actually stimulated the practice of Japanese cultural activities.”

Although most people would imagine that the authorities running the internment camps would discourage, even stamp out, Japanese culture, that was not exactly the case. In fact, the inmates had the freedom to practice Japanese arts within the camps, depending on the individual WRA (War Relocation Authority) administration overseeing them, as evident from a letter written by an Issei shakuhachi–a type of bamboo flute–performer, Kitaro Nyohyo Tamada:

“The WRA does not intend to promote ideals and cultures of nations with which we are at war, so long as patriotic music is not played.  Japanese music may be played in the center but it will not be sponsored by the government. Paid teacher or special room or quarters cannot be provided for them.”

That very month, a Japanese traditional concert was held at the camp where Tamada was incarcerated.

“Most of the WRA authorities also recognized that if they did not allow their prisoners to keep themselves occupied, they would become stressed and even violent, so they allowed Japanese cultural activities to go on,” said Muramoto.

Japanese Americans managed to keep their cultural arts alive in the camps. Photo courtesy of Reiko Iwanaga.
Japanese Americans managed to keep their cultural arts alive in the camps. Photo courtesy of Reiko Iwanaga.

For Muramoto, tracking down all of these performers and teachers was not an overnight task. Some have already passed away while others may find it too painful to open up about a traumatic experience in their lives. Even Muramoto’s mother has refused to speak on camera. Most of the people interviewed were Nisei, second-generation Americans who are younger and much less traumatized than their older relatives who lost everything. On the other hand, some were able to open up since the experience happened more than 70 years ago, enough time for some wounds to heal.

“Some people, I did have to work to gain their trust before they would be comfortable talking to me, but I think it’s totally understandable that they would be reluctant to talk about that painful period in their lives,” said Muramoto.

Some of the artists who came forward to be interviewed were concerned that the arts they practice and their cultural traditions would die out with them. With widespread interest over aspects of Japanese culture such as anime and sushi, Muramoto believes that such a thing would not happen but does not dismiss the idea.

“Other cultures, such as the Native American culture, who have had their civilizations and arts run over with the taking of their lands, are losing their cultural arts and languages every day. These kinds of arts may not survive. That’s why I advocate that if a person feels something for a particular art, that they should pursue it, even if it is not of their blood heritage. This will ensure that it stays alive, that it will survive a little longer,” she said.

The upcoming documentary fills in some of the gaps that scholarly work, which mainly focuses on the political aspects of the internment or assimilation of Japanese-Americans so that they could be more “American,” has failed to cover. Up until now, the only scholarly work found by Muramoto is by Minamo Waseda, a professor at Tokyo Geijutsu Daigaku, who wrote a piece called, “Extraordinary Circumstances, Exceptional Practices: Music in Japanese American Concentration Camps.”

The film is almost completed, according to Muramoto, but they lack the necessary funds to cover fees such as post-production costs, music clearances, and DVD manufacturing. Funds are being raised on Indiegogo until April 23, 2014 and those who donate can receive perks such as a koto lesson from Muramoto herself. Showing times will be uploaded on the documentary’s website as they are decided.

A Look at Japan’s Annual Penis Worshipping Festival

The Kanamara Festival (かなまら祭り) is held on the first Sunday in April every year at the Kanayama Shrine in Kawasaki, Japan. The shrine is just a three-minute walk from Kawasaki-Daishi Station on the Keikyu-Daishi Line.

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The festival centers around penises, which appear everywhere, as candy, on hats, and on clothing. Phallic-shaped objects or anything which has to do with sex are sold all around the shrine.

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In recent years, the festival has gained popularity among foreign residents in Japan, who flock to the festival in great numbers to see the penis-shaped objects. Don’t be surprised if half of the people you see are foreign. The staff are very friendly and can speak basic English.

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This fellow greets visitors as they enter the shrine.

 

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He’s a literal dick-head. As I posed for a picture with him, he whispered into my ear. “You’re cute. I love your freckles. Can I take you out to dinner?”

“No, thank you,” was my reply.

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As the beer and the chu-hi started to flow, things got a little wild at the festival.

 

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Even the men show their love for the penis. Some give offerings of money.
Even the men show their love for the penis. Some give offerings of money.

Despite the blatant sexual objects and the hilarity of it all, the festival has a much deeper meaning than just large penises being waved around with the cheery blooms in the background. Kanamara Shrine has long been a place for prostitutes to go pray for protection against sexually transmitted diseases and prosperity in business. In addition, people visit the shrine to pray for easy childbirth, marriage, and matrimonial harmony.

Legend has it that a demon hid in the vagina of a young woman. On her wedding nights, both of her husbands had their penises bitten off, in a fashion reminiscent of a scene from Teeth. Determined to ensure that her third marriage was a charm, she sought the services of a blacksmith who fashioned an iron penis, which broke the demon’s teeth. The iron phallus is enshrined here.

 

The demon likely symbolizes an STD, rather than a castration. Either way, both are painful.
The demon likely symbolizes an STD, rather than a castration. Either way, both are painful.

The festival now serves as a way to raise awareness and funds for AIDs. All the proceeds from the sales as the festival go toward HIV research or other charitable causes such as the reconstruction for the 2011 earthquake.

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The most popular objects sold at the festival are the large penis and vagina-shaped lollipops, which visitors suck and slurp on as they walk around. The crowds around the lollipop stands are thick, and the sweets usually sell out by mid-afternoon.

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Expect to push and shove if you want to get your hands on some dick.
Expect to push and shove if you want to get your hands on some dick.

The highlight of the festival is the parade of portable shrines called mikoshi (神輿), which contain large phalluses. As the mikoshi head through the shrine gates, they bob up and down in a rhythmic movement. “The way they move is interesting,” remarked one visitor standing next to me. 

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The large, pink penis was pulled by transvestite women.

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Here a Shinto priest prays and bows to one of the iron penises enshrined in the mikoshi. Many visitors pay their respects at the shrine.

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In addition to penis-shaped objects everywhere, there is an abundance of little children.

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It's never too early to start.
It’s never too early to start.

All in all, the Kanamara Festival is an event where people show their love for the penis. Although Japan may blur out the genital parts in pornography, this country has an open attitude when it comes to sex.

Rakuten stops selling whale meat, but will still sell thermometers

 

Following the March 31st ruling at the International Court of Justice in which Japan was ordered to stop its practice of hunting whales, the country’s largest e-commerce website, Rakuten, announced that it would ban the sale of whale meat on its website, Kyodo News first reported.

The company requested that all merchants who sell whale meat remove the items from their online shops within the next 30 days.

Despite an international ban on whale hunting, Japan continues to hunt whales under the guise of scientific research. Much of the meat ends up on restaurant menus, super markets, and souvenir shops. Rakuten boasts a large market of whale meat products. You can order less than a kilo of thick, red slices of whale sashimi for around ¥3, 240 ($32) or even slices of whale bacon that can be shipped straight to your doorstep

“The removal of thousands of ads for whale products is a very welcome step and a clear recognition by Rakuten that selling the meat of endangered and protected whales and dolphins is seriously harmful to both its global reputation and customers’ health,” said Clare Perry, a senior campaigner at the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA),

The EIA had published a report on March 18th titled Blood e-Commerce, which investigated Rakuten’s profits from allowing the sales of whale meat and ivory on its website. The report revealed that a June 2013 search for “whale meat” on Rakuten Japan revealed 773 products for sale, while a broader search for “whale” generated 1, 200 hits. The International Whaling Commission protects all the species that the meat was derived from—minke, sei, and Bryde. The report also discovered that the whale and dolphin meat being sold on the website contained high levels of mercury.

Although Kyodo News reports that Rakuten’s new policy covers the sale of whale and dolphin meat, in addition to other parts such as skin, bones, and appendages, there’s no news on what the company will do about the large market of elephant ivory on its website. Or the meat of endangered seals and sea lions, which are packaged in cans of tasty curry.

 

A Not-So-Neat Collage of Daily Life: The Work of Kon Wajiro

 

Jessica Tomoko Perez is a Japanese and Korean culture enthusiast, living and working out of NYC. She is a former contributor to #Quakebook project: ‘2:46: Aftershocks: Stories from the Japan Earthquake’.

 

I had the pleasure of attending “Design and Disaster: Kon Wajiro’s Modernologio” exhibit, housed at the Arnold and Sheila Aronson Galleries at Parsons The New School for Design in downtown New York City. “Design and Disaster,” a very fitting title, explores the intersections between seikatsu (daily life) and the aftermath of tragedy – in this case, the Tokyo earthquake of 1923.

The exhibition, which premiered just two days after the third anniversary of the Great Tohoku Earthquake and triple-disaster in 2011, was open to the public until March 27th. Kon Wajiro’s work is a sociological survey of urban life, touching upon the often looked-over and taken-for-granted intricacies of daily routine.

As you enter the exhibition, the pieces are separated and titled by section. Each section displays several pieces — mounted on a lightweight, rectangular, shelf-like construction, suspended from the ceiling by wire. As you walk through the exhibit, the displays themselves, though mostly still, sway delicately.

Section One, which offers a peek into life immediately following the earthquake, shows a collection of photographs. These photos depict the barakku (barracks) that were set up to house survivors of the tragedy. Kon, both design and architecture-savvy, collaborated on a barracks design project with buddy, Yoshida Kukichi. Their goal was to decorate both the interior and exterior of these barakku. I wondered if any of the ones depicted here were the result of their work. To successfully envision and create a new space called ‘home’ — as temporary as it may have been, is the literal manifestation of design and disaster. At the time, Kon, observing the way in which design met necessity, met ideas of comfort, and of functionality, praised the people of Tokyo for their ingenuity in the building of these barakku.

 

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Section Two is a transition toward a more calculative and analytic approach to understanding the urban developments in mid 1920’s Japan. Kon studied the customs, fashion, and social mores of Tokyo and Ginza. His public surveys brought him to Koenji and Asagaya, among other places. His illustrations depict the study of pet ownership in these areas, street mercantilism, and clothing. In a time of increasing consumption and capitalism, what struck my interest was the way the external makes its way into the psyche of a people; how it slowly transforms and shifts the private and the public, blending the two. One of the most stunning pieces was an info graphic piece on Western and Japanese clothing for both men and women. Definitely worthy of a few reblogs on Tumblr, if you ask me.

 

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This view of architecture and the decorative as the intermediary between the personal and the public shows itself from the photos of emergency housing, to the sketches of the personal wardrobe. What objects people kept in their homes and the manner by which these objects, these building blocks are organized, show us a time and place where we are the architects, builders, and interior designers. The remaining sections, depicting fragments of life — a chipped serving bowl here, the wear and tear of a high school students’ uniform there, are the cut-outs of a collage that come together in a not-so-neat way that is easy to appreciate.

Ultimately, Kon’s collection, though inspired by the tragic, offers up hope where the current generation turns around to the blueprints of the past behind us, hoping to build something great and lasting before us. Then, and now, as we exist day by day in the present, we materialize our constantly evolving lived experience to build something beautiful for the future.

To quote Kon Wajiro: “I believe the work of decoration is to fill people’s living spaces with dignity….People usually call the production of beautiful colors and harmonized patterns decoration, but I think that such formal approaches lead to merely ephemeral expressions, and are not the real work of decoration. I think the work of decoration is to express the real and practical ways of people’s life.”

Three years following the Great Tohoku Earthquake, it is my hope that those who are still without permanent shelter, who cannot return home, who miss their loved ones, who seek those yet to be found, can fill their living spaces, their minds and hearts with dignity and warmth.

 

For more on Kon Wajiro, please check out his book here, available on Amazon.

“You can’t lose at Muse” no longer true. Iconic Roppongi club lost in war on dance

Roppongi’s iconic dance club, Muse (ミューズ), became the latest victim of the crackdown on illegal dancing–the so-called “War on Dance”— when police announced on Sunday morning that it had raided the club and arrested manager Yuki Takano (37), a disk jockey, and two DJs. Their crime: setting up a DJ booth, playing music, and allowing the customers to dance. The police are also looking into other clubs allegedly run by the group including a so-called “girl’s bar”* in the neighborhood, to see if those establishments were also involved in other heinous illegal activity, such as customers sitting with the female bartenders behind the bar counter..

The Tokyo Police were not aMUSEd with this club's after hours dancing and shut it down. Another club shuttered in the war on dance.
The Tokyo Police were unaMUSEd with this club’s after hours dancing and shut it down. Another club shuttered in the war on dance.

The arrests are in violation of the Entertainment Business Control and Improvement Law (風営法, a set of archaic rules created in 1948, which prohibit dancing after midnight. The law had been gathering dust in the books for years, until the Osaka police began enforcing it rigidly in 2012.  In Tokyo,  when a man was beaten to death last year at Club Flower in Roppongi, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department also began to aggressively apply the laws, making raid after raid.  Since then, the police have been cleaning up the area and arresting the club owners violating the law. Muse is only the latest in a long string of clubs that have been busted this year for illegal dancing. In July the police raided the infamous Gas Panic nightclub and arrested the manager and disk jockey for operating without a license. In May, Vanity Lounge, was targeted and three employees were arrested in suspicion for violating the entertainment laws. Vanity reopened under a different name, V2, and labeled itself as a “restaurant”. The crackdowns have taken away much of what had made Roppongi the vibrant nightlife district sandwiched between the gentrified areas of Roppongi Hills and Midtown it had once been. Businesses have taken a hit, including the McDonald’s near the crossing, a meeting place for those who want to line their stomachs with a protective coat of Big Mac grease before a night of heavy drinking or a refuge for those waiting for the first train to arrive.

MUSE in it's heyday. Free entry for women and a 3,000 yen payment  + business card requirement kept the place "upscale." Or as they used to say "High-Touch."
MUSE in it’s heyday. Free entry for women and a 3,000 yen payment + business card requirement kept the place “upscale.” Or as they used to say “High-Touch.”

Although Muse is located only ten minutes away from Roppongi Station, it is known as a far less sleazy venue when compared to its neighbors. **A sign on the doorway requires that visitors, namely males, be between 24 and 39 years old, and have a business card to present to the bouncer. Flip flops, shorts, and gym clothes have no place on the dance floor. And most importantly, servicemen in the military who want to have a bit of fun tonight have to turn back around and head straight back to Gas Panic, because Muse has a strict “no servicemen allowed” rule. These rules filtered out enough of the “riff-raff” that the foreign customers were usually all  high-income expats working at foreign companies in Tokyo, or financially savvy and business card holding English teachers. Of course, none of these rules apply to females who are often allowed in without even flashing an ID card. My experience going to Muse was that I was waved inside before I could even reach into my purse to grab my passport. Females don’t even have to dish out the 3000 yen entry charge that males have to pay (Editor’s note: When will the discrimination against men in Japan ever end? This matriarchal society needs to change). This policy balances out the male to female ratio, compared to other nightclubs. Still, this doesn’t change the fact that Muse was still undeniably a meat market and a popular pickup spot. It’s unknown how long Muse will remain closed or whether it will open in time for Halloween celebration this weekend. But for now, warming up with a couple of cocktails from the nearby Lawson and buying an ice cream cone at Hobson’s before heading into Tokyo’s less sleazy alternative to the clubs in neighboring Roppongi—that is simply out of the question.

*”Girl’s bars” are essentially hostess bars that use a loop hole in the Entertainment Business Control and Improvement Law to operate past midnight. The female bartenders, who often work as hostesses before midnight, sitting next to customers, move to standing bar tending positions and speak with the customers over the bar counter. If the women sit with the customers past midnight, they are in violation of the law. 

** (Editor’s noteThere have been allegations that females working at MUSE were pressured to date some of the bar’s more wealthy clientele under dubious circumstances. MUSE management was unavailable for comment)

Meet 281: Japan’s Anti-Nuke Lone Ranger turning protest into art

282 takes a stand.  ©Lilia Sonntag
282 takes a stand.
©Lilia Sonntag

Soft-spoken and shy, one Japanese man comes off as extremely eccentric at first sight. Far past sundown and in Tokyo’s humid summer night, he hides his face behind a pair of dark sunglasses and a white face mask. His real name is unknown, but you can call him 281_AntiNuke—or if that’s too much of a tongue twister, 281 or Nuke-san for short. As unassuming as he is—if you ignore the white face mask and the sunglasses, which stands out far too much—many are fascinated by him. One documentary maker has made him the subject of his upcoming film. He has been featured in publications such as The Economist and Rolling Stone Japan. A documentary is soon to be released on his mini-crusade. He’s left his mark all over Tokyo: large anti-government, anti-nuclear stickers which have been stuck mostly on public property. His work is even good enough to be highlighted at a Tokyo art space called The Pink Cow. But with all this fame come danger: Japan’s online right wing community have made him their next target. Sending him constant death threats, they are determined to unmask him and have him arrested in order to silence him.

While Japan’s online right wingers—or netto uyoku—target him, 281 targets TEPCO and the Japanese government for their irresponsibility following the events before and after the Fukushima meltdown, but his anger at the two has never always been there. One can understand that anger as the Japanese government and the nuclear industry began to push to move nuclear reactors back on-line while almost every day  new revelations of disastrous radiation leaks and mismanagement from the Fukushima Nuclear power plant—run by TEPCO–are reported.

Before March 11, 2011, 281 lived the average life of a Japanese male.

“Before the earthquake my art was limited to drawing art for myself or for my friends. I didn’t really live my life as an artist,” he said.

His participation in the political sphere was virtually nonexistent—at least minimum if one counted the fact that he dragged himself to a voting station whenever an election came around.

His attitude towards politics took a 180 degree turn after the nuclear accident. The weeks following the meltdown were registered with shock, but soon that feeling was replaced with outrage.

“As I watched news reports from foreign media outlets, it took me at least two weeks to understand the situation, but I was slow to notice what had happened,” he said.

Inspired by artists such as Taro Okamoto, whose depiction of the effects of an atomic bomb are famously shown on a mural in Shibuya station, and Chim Pom, who added to the mural after the accident, 281 wanted to find an outlet for his anger and a way to contribute to the anti-nuclear movement. It was then that he turned to street art.

But his art came with a risk.

Nuclear Rain--nobody wants it.
Nuclear Rain–nobody wants it.

“They (the right wing) love to search. In other words, they try to gather information on the Internet.”

As word of his street art spread, Japan’s netto uyoku—online nationalists—have mobilized to take him down. While there are those who would classify his works as art, others denounce them as prank posters and vandalism. Revealing his identity can mean arrest for defacing property. 281 hides behind his disguise and when meeting The Japan Subculture Research Center, warned us against photographing anything identifying features. His main means of contact with others is through Twitter. Still, that hasn’t stopped Japan’s net uyoku from sending him death threats or even putting his official website offline. His scheduled appearance at the opening party for his art showing was canceled at the last moment—despite assurances that there was a back entrance through the kitchen should the art space be overrun by anyone wishing to carry out a death threat.

Although activists like 281 who risk their safety to put on their message, the anti-nuclear movement is a losing battle. On December, 2012, the pro-nuclear LDP was voted back to power, and Shinzo Abe was given another chance to lead Japan.

“I was shocked and disappointed at Abe’s win,” 281 said.

When Abe made his comeback, shutting down and dismantling Japan’s nuclear power plants was taken off the agenda. The LDP are staunch supporters of nuclear energy, and during their campaign to take back the lower house, they stated that they would restart all of Japan’s offline reactors after ensuring that the facilities are safe. Last December, the LDP was voted back into power, giving them a majority in the lower house. The number of seats for Japan’s traditionally anti-nuclear left-wing parties dwindled to almost nothing.

“It was as if everyone forgot the accident,” 281 said, in response to the willingness of voters to bring back the very people who champion the benefits of nuclear energy.  For months, the Abe’s cabinet has enjoyed a support rate hovering over 70 percent.

The truth is written on the alley walls.
The truth is written on the alley walls.

281 is also fighting to keep his art seen on the streets. Many of his stickers in the Shibuya area have been covered up by other graffiti from other artists or scratched off, likely by the owners of the buildings themselves. This defacement of his work, 281 says, is symbolic of how the government and TEPCO have tried to cover up and erase the nuclear meltdown.

Nonetheless, the criticism, threats, and the near disappearance of the anti-nuclear movement in Japan doesn’t stop 281. At night this nameless, faceless activist roams the streets putting up his art and hoping that his message will be heard. Last month his work was featured in a public art space, The Pink Cow, for the very first time. In addition to his earlier pieces such as the little girl in the raincoat—of which 162 different variations exist as of now—other pictures show how 281 is branching out and addressing non-nuclear issues. For example, one piece which invokes images of Nazi Germany shows Abe standing on a hybrid between a campaign car and a military tank. Beside him is a solider manning a machine gun. Other pieces criticize big companies such as Uniqlo for corporate greed or former Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda for his strong support of raising the consumption tax.

While the memory of the nuclear meltdown fades from the public consciousness, 282 walks a lonely road to remind people what has happened and warn them of what may happen again.
While the memory of the nuclear meltdown fades from the public consciousness, 282 walks a lonely road to remind people what has happened and warn them of what may happen again.

Although the crowds which once loudly denounced nuclear energy in front of the Prime Minister’s building no longer gather with the force they had a year ago, this lone artist will continue to oppose a source of energy that he believes Japan must give up. He is waging a quiet war using the streets of Tokyo as his art gallery, his battleground and his voice. Judging by opinion polls which suggest that most Japanese people do not trust the nuclear industry or nuclear power, he is speaking for more than just himself.

Special thanks to Roth Management for coordinating the interview http://roth-mgmt.com/

All photos were taken by ©Lilia Sonntag. 

281_AntiNuke’s work can be seen at http://www.281antinuke.com/ or on https://twitter.com/281_

Omedeto! You’re a cookie, a camera, a cell phone cover!

 

In Japan customized services are booming and many companies are now offering online tools that allow you to design your own one-of-a-kind personalized product. Customers can add stickers, words, and even upload their own picture–taking corporate enhanced narcissism to the very next level. Today the Japan Subculture Research Center will introduce you to five noteworthy customized services and demonstrate how they work by pasting Jake Adelstein’s face on everything. (Editors note: Angela, why my face? I thought it was supposed to be your face, since you’re cuter, in a smurf-like way.) 

Uniqlo customized t-shirt

As Japan’s biggest clothing retailer and with stores dotted across the globe, millions of people likely have at least one of article clothing from this brand in their closets. However, Uniqlo currently operates a create-your-own t-shirt service that guarantees that you won’t make the fashion nightmare of wearing the same exact thing as the girl who sits behind you in math class. By going through the website listed below, you can choose the cut and color of the shirt, how big you want the design, and what you want to put on it ensuring an endless number of combinations. Below we chose a simple white, short-sleeved t-shirt and decided to put the design on the very front.

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Simple enough, but we took this boring t-shirt and made it extraordinary by placing Jake’s mug on the front. A thought bubble added an extra touch to the design.

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Et voilà! Our very own customized Jake Adelstein t-shirt. Paired with a pair of black jeans and a copy of Tokyo Vice, you can make yourself look as thoughtful and intelligent as Jake Adelstein himself.

Of course, customization is not only limited to what you wear. Panasonic allows you to customize even your laptop and computers. Their customizable digital camera comes in three different boring colors of black, red, and white, but a little extra cash can set you apart from all the other photographers out there. Below we decided to customize a black LUMIX DMC-XS1.

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Unfortunately, due to the large file size of a picture, we had to settle with the next best thing: Jake’s name in flattering pink! We then added a golden star since the upcoming Tokyo Vice movie has not yet earned him a golden star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (Editor’s note:the movie has not been made yet and I’m not the star. I’m not even making a cameo appearance). For the time being he can at least have his name and a golden star printed on something else.

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Or if you don’t have the guts to do the equivalent of an electronic tattoo, you can settle for a customizable iPhone case. The Japanese are known to add straps, glitter, sticker pictures and jewels to their cell phones in order to make them more unique. With the spread of smart phones came decorative plastic casing to protect the phone from cracking. On this website we scrolled past the premade designs offered by the website and click on what we really wanted: the do-it-yourself section.

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We decided to create a case for the iPhone 5, since it seems that everyone has that exact model of phone these days.

We then added a picture of Jake and some text and now the iPhone looks as if it had been upgraded.

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Or you can customize your own junk food. The company that produces Jagalico, a popular potato stick snack that comes in multiple flavors such as cheese, salad, and butter soy sauce, allows you to customize your own Jagalico container. Here we created our special edition, Jake-flavored potato snack using a picture of Jake plus a couple of the stickers that the website had to offer.

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Judging by the cool sunglasses and the thumbs up, Jake Adelstein definitely approves of this.

1. Cookies! For those with a sweet tooth who are looking to customize a snack, you can opt to create your one-of-a-kind Bisco cookie through the Glico company website. Bisco is a light crunchy biscuit filled with cream. For years the cookie has been sold in a bright red packaging with the picture of a little boy on the front. However, you can now enjoy this cookie with your own face on the front. Like the create-your-own Jagalico above, you can choose from many different stickers to compliment the picture you upload.

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Inexpensive wedding gift idea: instead of giving kitchen utensils, set yourself apart from the other guests by gifting a bride and groom with Bisco cookies celebrating their marriage, as shown by the one below. Birthday-themed stickers are also available—saving time and hair-pulling for those whose friend has an upcoming birthday.

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We also took a more professional direction and made a Japan Subculture Research Center-themed cookie.

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Editor’s  note: Angela-chama, it’s “JSRC” not “JRSC”.  😛

As shown above, the possibilities of taking an ordinary thing and making it completely extraordinary are endless. Japan’s customized goods boom is a lifesaver from those who want to see their face on everything and for those who want to give someone a new and unique gift.

Editor’s note: As a thank you for our underpaid, wise-cracking, editor lampooning reporter at large, we had her design her own Bisco cookie. (The costs of making which we’ll probably deduct from her paycheck leaving her in debt to JSRC.)

This Bisco masterpiece was created with photos of Japan Subculture Research Center reporter, Angela Erika Kubo, hard at work interviewing someone for a story.

If you'll work for cookies, we have a job for you.
If you’ll work for cookies, we have a job for you.

For your convenience, here are links to the site mentioned in the article. You may need some Japanese skills to navigate the sights. Good luck and happy bisco!

1.  Uniqlo T-shirt

2.     Panasonic Camera

3.     iPhone Cover

4.     Jagalico Potato Snack

5.     Bisco Cookies