Beginning Eras of Anime (Japanese Animation)

Anime, or Japanese Animation, had its start in the beginning of the 20th century. Anime is Japan’s competitor against the high-budget Hollywood in America; Anime allowed Japan to create films under tight budgets and without location restrictions.

First Era of Anime
Recently discovered in 2005, the earliest known Anime was created around 1917; it consisted of 50 frames sketched onto a strip of celluloid. The clip is about 3 seconds in length and depicts a young boy donning a sailor suit writing the kanji for moving pictures (katsudou shashin) on a board. He then turns toward the viewer, removes his hat and salutes. It is unknown who created the clip.
This is one of the few complete clips that have survived from this period of animation. One of the reasons for the demise of most clips was due to these reels being sold to smaller cinemas – after they had their run – and being disassembled to be sold as strips or frames.
One of the pioneers of early animation was Kitayama Seitaro; he used a chalkboard method technique and eventually moved onto paper animation, sometimes using pre-printed backgrounds. Kitayama Seitaro went on to start his own animation studio called Kitayama Eiga Seisakujo which eventually closed down due to lack of financial success.

Second Era of Anime
Kitayama Seitaro had several influential students while his film studio was still in operation. Ofuji Noboro, Yamamoto Sanae, Kimura Hakuzan and Murato Yosuji were his most influential students during the late 1910’s and early 1920’s. The Great Kantou earthquake in 1923 destroyed most of Seitaro’s studio. With Seitaro’s studio destroyed and knowing how lucrative animation production can be, the students spread throughout Japan and founded their own studios.

During this era, the Monbusho (Ministry of Education) began supporting and encouraging films that contained educational value. This created a high demand for animation films and created a lasting place in academic, political and business use.

The War Era of Anime
When the Japanese government began enforcing its policy of strict nationalism in the 1930’s, strict control and censorship of all published media began to shape the Anime landscape. Animators were pushed to create films which promulgated the Japanese spirit and national affiliation. The films were shown in News-Cinemas and as News-Cinemas boomed, so did these Anime films.
Disney played an important role in molding the Anime of the era. Due to the lack of financial backing of animation studios, Japanese animators fell short of producing the same quality as Disney and were often pale in comparison.
Also at this time many of the smaller studios closed or were merged with larger studios – by the end of this period only 3 large studios remained. The merging of production companies allowed for bigger projects, which gave Anime a leg of its own to stand on.
Momotaro’s Divine Sea Warriors is the first notable animation of length made in Japan. After the war, the rapid economic success of Japan allowed Japan to emerge as a world leader in animation. Today Anime is one of the biggest industries for Japan.

Rice Field Art in Japan

Every year, farmers in the rural town Inakadate, Japan creates rice field art by using red rice in with their regular rice in special patterns. A few others fields in rural Japan also followed the trend of this beautiful rice field art.
Check out some of the fields below:

Yokohama Triennale 2008

13 September - 30 November 2008

Artistic Director
Tsutomu Mizusawa (Chief Curator, The Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura & Hayama)

Daniel Birnbaum (Rector of the Städelschule Art Academy and Director of the Portikus, Frankfurt am Main)
Hu Fang (Artistic Director of the Vitamin Creative Space, Guangzhou)
Akiko Miyake (Program Director, Center for Contemporary Art (CCA) Kitakyushu)
Hans Ulrich Obrist (Co-Director of Exhibitions and Programmes and Director of International Projects, The Serpentine Gallery, London)
Beatrix Ruf (Director, Kunsthalle Zürich)

Yokohama Triennale, Japan’s largest international exhibition of contemporary art, is proud to make further announcements to present Yokohama Triennale 2008, its 3rd exhibition taking place from September 13th to November 30th.

Established in 2001, the Yokohama Triennale has become a forum for new cultural production in the contemporary art scene. Featuring works by some 70 artists from approximately 30 countries and set in the cosmopolitan port city of Yokohama, Japan, this year’s exhibition aims to reaffirm the boundless energy that art affords us. The exhibition will greatly take advantage of Yokohama’s social and geographical characteristics as well as the unique spaces of the venues to display an incredible array of works by various international artists, many of which incorporate performance-like elements that bring out the physicality of their creations. Symposiums, workshops, and various other opportunities for interaction and exchange will be held in conjunction with the exhibition, providing further points of encounter for people, art, and the host city.

Yokohama Triennale 2008 aims to tie in with the Sydney, Shanghai, Gwangju, and Singapore biennales, all of which will be held around the same time as the Yokohama Triennale. Under the banner Art Compass 2008, plans are under way for a worldwide publicity campaign and Grand Tour program encompassing all of these international exhibitions.

Says Director Tsutomu Mizusawa on the theme “Time Crevasse”:

“Art shakes up our everyday perceptions. It gives us glimpses of the ‘abyss’ we normally fail to notice, or perhaps pretend not to notice. It can horrify us, give us courage, console us, or provide us with what we need to face life. Art arises when we confront that abyss squarely and, by waiting attentively at the edges of ‘time crevasses,’ we scrupulously register various forms of mutual differentiation - individual or social differences, differences of nationality, gender, generation, ethnicity, religion, and so on-including the particular circumstances in which we ourselves are currently situated. Art has the power to dispel the temptation to let ourselves fall into such crevasses. It is also an act of bridging those gaps so that people can communicate and interact through them.”

As the Yokohama Triennale 2008 prepares to kick off this autumn, it will offer an opportunity for honest reevaluation and reaffirmation of art’s essential value and power today and in the future. This forum for artistic expression will be maintained not only for the sake of mere novelty to be consumed like information, but rather so that, by confronting and accepting the myriad ‘crevasses’ etched in their histories, people can work toward achieving a better mutual understanding of a deep and far-reaching kind.

Central and Waterfront Sites in Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan
- Shinko Pier Exhibition Hall
- Red Brick Warehouse No.1
- NYK Waterfront Warehouse (BankART Studio NYK)and others

Organizers- The Japan Foundation - City of Yokohama - NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) - Asahi Shimbun - The Organizing Committee for the Yokohama Triennale

Contact E-mail:

Yokohama Triennale Office
c/o The Japan Foundation Ark Mori Bldg 20F 1-12-32 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo 107-6021, Japan

Worldly Pleasures on Paper: Japan's Ukiyo-e Paintings

April 3, 2008; Page B19

Beginning in 1996, Boston's Museum of Fine Arts invited scholars from Japan to assist its staff (led by Anne Nishimura Morse) in analyzing, evaluating and cataloging a major collection of sensuous, hedonistic and occasionally erotic Japanese paintings that had slept unseen for over a century. After almost 10 years' work, the participants concluded that the Boston museum owned the world's largest and best collection of ukiyo-e paintings from Edo (now known as Tokyo) -- paintings that paid tribute to the "floating world" of live-for-the-day pleasure, as opposed to the fixed, eternal Buddhist ideal of ascetic and unworldly selflessness.

Once the cataloging was done, the MFA sent 69 of its prized ukiyo-e paintings or groups of paintings on tour, first to three art museums in Japan (where they had never been publicly shown), then to three other museums in North America. San Francisco is the final stop. Because of their fragility, these works will probably be put to rest again for many years.

The traveling sample is made up primarily of paintings on silk or paper fixed to hanging silk scrolls, but there are also impressive sets of folding screens, hand scrolls and theater posters, all painted on paper. Most of Boston's ukiyo-e (you-KEY-oh-ay) paintings came from the collection of Dr. William Sturgis Bigelow, who acquired more than 700 during his stay in Japan in the 1880s. Prints in this style are quite common; paintings are rare.

Edo was founded in the early 17th century as a samurai counterpart to the imperial capital at Kyoto and the commercial center at Osaka. It rapidly outgrew the others both in population and power (there were more than a million residents by 1750), becoming the formal as well as the de facto capital of Japan in 1868.

During the reign of the Tokogawa shoguns, hundreds of thousands of Edokko townspeople lived in incredibly crowded conditions. For them, escapes to open country, walks along the river and under the trees, became an essential part of life. Partly because this garrison city had a heavily male population, its military rulers established an enclosed "pleasure zone" in the northeastern quarter of Yoshiwara where prostitution was licensed and legal. Around the brothels where some 2,500 prostitutes lived and the "houses of assignation" where they met their clients sprang up teahouses, restaurants, theaters and lower-class bordellos. Near the gates of the district were Edo's Kabuki theaters, offering vivid, day-long entertainments to hundreds of people of both sexes. It was to scenes of pleasure like these that captivated, captivating ukiyo-e artists directed their attention for 160 years.

Paintings in all three formats (hanging scrolls, handscrolls and screens) depict people on pleasure outings, often in different seasons. Small and large groups are shown strolling along riverside paths, visiting restaurants, admiring the cherry blossoms of spring and the maple leaves of autumn. Women gaze at a snow-covered garden or the moon, fish off a porch, smoke long red pipes. Men gamble and visit bath houses. Parties gather for a picnic, an herb-gathering expedition, a string trio, a pleasure cruise. Genteel ensembles enjoy the performances of colorfully costumed dancers.

Professional dancers and actors gave rise to a whole subgenre of ukiyo-e. Three hanging scrolls depict women performing identifiable dances, which set their elegant robes swirling in voluptuous curves, blown by the wind of the artists' imagination. A set of 12 gold-leafed screen panels and an early 18th-century handscroll both depict troupes of Kabuki performers parading, preparing and performing. Three large, bright posters of actors, some in violent motion, were broadly painted on paper to hang outside theaters. A long, wonderfully composed and expressive hanging scroll by Utagawa Toyokuni depicts the most famous Kabuki actor of his time in the seven roles he played during the Edo season of 1814-15.

A variant on the "pleasure outing" theme is made up of linear, bird's-eye vistas of the main street of Edo's officially sanctioned pleasure zone. There are three of these here -- two on long, unfolding screens of 1688 and the early 18th century; one on a flawless hanging scroll painted by Toyokuni in 1795. Although these vistas show all manner of Nighttown denizens and visitors, the stars in each case are the oiran, the highest-class prostitutes, who could earn their bosses the equivalent of thousands of dollars by entertaining a single client. They parade in extravagant costumes and needle-stuck coiffures, bending themselves into S- and Z-curves before the gaping gaze of mere males, surrounded by their own entourages. What they are doing is traveling from their brothel home to their meeting place with the wealthy partner of the night, along with attendant geishas, chaperones and servants. But all Edo regarded them as queens, as iconic images of female beauty. Men longed for them; women tried to imitate their style.

At least 30 of the hanging scrolls on tour from Boston are specifically "pictures of beauties" (bijinga): upscale pinups, the movie stars and fashion models of the Tokogawa Shogunate. Seventeen of them are identified by the Boston curators as "Edo courtesans," who had a higher standing in the culture than mere wives or geishas. Idealized images of them were regarded as the apex of ukiyo-e art. (These so-called courtesans have little in common with comfortably maintained mistresses like Madame du Pompadour or Verdi's Violetta Valéry. They were virtually the property of their brothel-masters, and were forbidden to leave the walled and moated precinct.)

Some elements of the implicit standards of female beauty may seem alien to Western eyes: long, flat elliptoid faces painted white, with tiny eyes and mouths; two-dimensional bodies swathed in loose, flowing kimonos; "unnatural" poses and attitudes, assumed by invisible bodies as pliable as wire. But the end results may still strike the eye as lovely, primarily because of the languid, elegant S- or C-shaped curves the women assume, and the extraordinary appeal of their costumes -- two or three layers of kimonos bound by a wide sash, or obi, each painted in a different, often brilliant color (flashes of red are everywhere) and a delicate pattern of orchids, willow, waves, webs, seaweed, cranes, chrysanthemums, or butterflies. These fine silk gowns are blown open and about in exotic, erotic Art Nouveau curves. Their hems puddle out on the floor like upside-down lilies. The increasingly complex coiffures are decorated with six, eight, 10 long hairpins made of wood, tortoise shell, bone or silver. The gowns, poses and hairdos of these willowy, unattainable, high-rent beauties take the place of the bodies we cannot see.

At least most of the time. The exhibition includes three 18th- and early 19th-century handscrolls, each containing a dozen elegantly composed and meticulously painted images of pale, pudgy men and women having sex, in a variety of attitudes and positions. Many famous ukiyo-e print-makers and painters contributed to this immensely popular genre, known as shunga or "spring pictures." Dr. Bigelow bought and donated more than a hundred such scrolls to the Boston museum.

But the three Japanese art museums that welcomed this collection (and the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth) either rejected or censored these three erotic works. San Francisco, like Boston and Toronto, lets it all hang out -- although with a "parental guidance" warning posted on the gallery door. Perhaps these museums' curators, like many citizens of early Edo, sensed an unbroken continuum between the pleasures of moon-viewing and the pleasures of sex.

Another reason for including the controversial handscrolls in the exhibition is to remind viewers why the Pleasure District was created in the first place; and of the ultimate destination of the promenades made by all these extravagantly garbed and coiffed "comfort women." Some of them had been sold by their parents as servants to brothel-keepers when they were 7 or 8 years old. After 10 years or so at the top of their trade, they were often bound to their masters for life by debts for their clothing and upkeep. One man's pleasure can be many women's pain.

Mr. Littlejohn writes about West Coast cultural events for the Journal.

Two Pinoy teen artists win top intl honors

By Katrice R. Jalbuena, Reporter

Two young Filipino artists took home top honors in an international picture contest held in Japan recently.

Bernardo Matudan, a third-year student from Batasan Hills National High School, placed first and 12-year-old Jamille Bianca Aguilar, second, in the 15th Annual World Children’s Picture Contest.

The contest was organized by the Ie-no-Hikari Association, a Japanese charitable corporation dedicated to the cultural promotion of rural communities.

The yearly competition is sponsored by the Ministries of Foreign Affairs; Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology; Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries; Nippon Hosei Kokai (NHK); the International Society for Education through Art; the Japan Federation of Art Education Teachers; and the International Raiffeisen Union.

Philippine Ambassador to Japan Domingo Siazon Jr. reported to the Department of Foreign Affairs that Bernardo received the gold prize for his work, “Time is Gold,” while Jamille Bianca won the silver prize for her work entitled, “The Different Side of Me.”

During a ceremony held on March 24 in Toranomon Pastoral Hotel in Tokyo, the works of Bernardo and his 19 gold prize co-awardees were selected from more than 50,000 entries from 66 countries. The judges included experts from the National Museum of Art in Tokyo and the country’s premier universities and art associations.

Jamille Bianca won the silver prize along with 39 other young artists for her work.
Siazon invited Bernardo to the Philippine Embassy on March 27 to personally congratulate him on his win. He encouraged the young artist to continue honing his artistic skills and developing his math skills to fulfill his dream of becoming an engineer.

Bernardo was accompanied by his teachers, Maria Hazele Pineda and Nobel Pineda. His award-winning piece, which he created using a ballpoint pen, and the other entries may be viewed at Ie-no-Hikari’s website at

Ie-no-Hikari will start accepting applications for the 16th Annual World Children’s Picture Contest from June 1 to September 30. Details will be made available on the group’s website.