hypertext, words and more

Japanese History

  • – Japan’s delinquent girl gangs. The Sukeban were massively influential in popular culture. Influences were wide across manga, anime and even films. For example, the film Sukeban Deka (1987) inspired several characters in Kill Bill such as O-Ren Ishii and Gogo Yubari.

  • House

    House is a rare piece of cinema, too few have seen. It’s a fucking thrilling Japanese art-house horror film. It has a strange and violent surrealism on par with what you could call, a bad trip. Beyond that, it’s an incredible odyssey of explorative special effects that influenced generations of filmmakers from Steven Spielberg to Ari Aster to Edgar Wright. Nobuhiko Obayashi, left no stone unturned in the art department. Rotoscoping. Rotating sets. Animation. Puppets. Analog frame splicing. Sound effects galore. Legendary locations. Lens and lighting tricks and of course — loads of gushing squirting blood punctuated by levitating severed limbs. Pure magic. Here’s the trailer cut from Criterion:

    Of course Obayashi went all out, because he basically had creative carte blanche with the studio. Which makes total sense when you think about the timing of its release in theaters. Chuck Stephens at Criterion writes:

    What Toho Studios was hoping for when it hired Obayashi was a homegrown Jaws: a locally produced summer movie roller coaster sufficiently thrill-chocked to at least partially deflect the ongoing onslaught of Tokyo-box-office-topping New Hollywood hits from Messrs. Spielberg and Lucas—something fast and loud, with tons of fun packed between screams. In the Japanese cinema of the mid-1970s, “fast,” “fun,” and “homegrown hit” were in short supply. Adults-only pinku eiga (pink cinema) had taken over, and even master genre filmmakers like Kinji Fukasaku found themselves struggling to sustain the successes of the yakuza and other action flicks that had proved so lucrative earlier that decade. The radical glories of the country’s 1960s New Wave had managed to last well into the early 1970s (thanks mainly to the independent funding and screening initiative known as the Art Theater Guild, where Nagisa Oshima would produce such form-shattering works as Diary of a Shinjuku Thief and The Man Who Left His Will on Film), but by 1976, the most trailblazing new Japanese film was the one no one in Japan was allowed to see: Oshima’s sexual-passion-as-radical-politics treatise In the Realm of the Senses, whose shameless thickets of pubic hair ran head-on into the nation’s final visual taboo and which remains to this day banned in its country of origin. (Meanwhile, former Nikkatsu action director Yasuharu Hasebe’s ultrasadistic rape fantasia Assault! Jack the Ripper!—which strictly adhered to that quaint follicular technicality—went on to become a major pinku eiga box-office success that year.) 

    The greatest thing about this is, 5 years later Spielberg produced Poltergeist, which is basically an American bastardization of House. Don’t get me wrong, I love Poltergeist, but there was clearly a studio rivalry going on. While Poltergeist borrows very little in terms of story or surrealism, it borrows enough. House stands apart on its own from the other adjacent haunted-genre films that came after it. Jonathon Barkan at Bloody Disgusting writes:

    House is a film that needs a shelf of its own. In no way can it be perfectly described in all its visual glory. Words are truly inadequate to do it justice. The film is atypical – not like The Old Dark House or The Haunting, but not as abstract or pretentious as earlier Cronenberg/Lynch films. Despite including all the usual Bava-isms, and regardless of his knack for staining the surreal on film, it’s still amazing that he could have dreamt up such imagery.

    Obayashi really is one-of-a-kind. He has quite the resumé to prove it too. Mr. Obayashi is currently ill with cancer, but he is still very much so active. In fact, last I could find, he was shooting a film about “how the atomic bomb came to be dropped [on Hiroshima].” Really looking forward to that film release.

    Until then, I’m going to re-watch House while packing up my own apartment, as I’m moving in three weeks. Wish me luck 😅

  • Kintsugi

    Example of Kintsugi repair using the Crack method.


    Kintsugi art dates back to the late 15th century. According to legend, the craft commenced when Japanese shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa sent a cracked chawan—or  tea bowl—back to China to undergo repairs. Upon its return, Yoshimasa was displeased to find that it had been mended with unsightly metal staples. This motivated contemporary craftsmen to find an alternative, aesthetically pleasing method of repair, and Kintsugi was born.

    There are three types of joinery available in Kintsugi:

    • Crack – using gold resin, lacquer or dust to fill
    • Piece method – there may be a missing ceramic altogether, and is replaced entirely with gold/lacquer
    • Joint call – ceramic piece replacement via a non-matching fragment and gold lacquer to achieve a patchwork effect
    Piece-method example:
    Joint-call method:
  • Ikigai

    As we humans often do, we dwell on our purpose here — here, meaning this pale blue dot of ours. When I ponder these things myself, I tend to go down the wiki-hole looking for any sort of answer. An inkling of direction. I suppose it’s a bit egocentric to through humanity’s encyclopedia.

    We don’t have a Hitchhiker’s Guide or Encyclopedia Galactica (not yet at least). Nevertheless, the web’s grain has a mystique. An allure — and I, like many of you are drawn to it. Periodically, it connects me with wonderful new things. Friends, cat GIFs, and news. Other times, it brings us terrible things. Fearful, dreadful nightmares, and trolls.

    Recently I came across a wonderful word I’ve never read or heard before — Ikigai. The term is of course, Japanese. Many define it as, a purpose in life. To quote Wikipedia’s author(s), it is “a reason for being.” This particular entry was terse and a bit obtuse, so I searched the web deeper for its history and origin.

    It turns out, Ikigai is a linguistically ripe Japanese term. The word in-of itself has several meanings. It’s also a compound of two important Japanese words. Iki (生き) and kai (甲斐)— which themselves are culturally rich and diverse in meaning.

    Iki, has interesting origins. According to The Structure of Iki the word has origins tied to the Tokugawa (or Edo) Period — which is unsurprising as the Edo Period was known for economic growth, an incredible arts and cultural renaissance. The word iki can literally mean “chic,” or “aesthetics”. The yabo, or city dwellers of Japan were purists and considered farmers or samuri to be devoid of iki — I’m not surprised that Japan wrestled with othering in their historied past. Pretty much every society on the planet has dealt with the problem, some more than others.

    Kai on the other hand is a bit more abstract. I’ve read that some consider the word to mean “ocean” or “shell” — or literally an “armored shell”. Some more imaginative compounds elude to a “beautiful structure.”

    In my search for more answers, I discovered ikigai has become the subject of a western health trend (rolls eyes). I’m quick to disregard this dumb trend. Even if Okinawans has the most living centenarians.  The culture-preying western societies (America included) indulges in re-appropriation pretty much only for the sake of health or dieting tips. It is relentless and in my opinion — stupid. Exploring cultures, is one thing. Stealing, is another.

    I bring this up, because I have a interpretation of ikigai I want to share with you.

    Growing up myself, my brothers and I were completely enamored by the cosmos. We used to debate celestial objects, origins and talk of life on other planets. We watched Cosmos, we made rockets. We dreamt of space. We were young and full of adventure — just figuring it all out you know? Enter Richard Feynman. In college, I used to listen to his lectures for fun and on those late nights (the You’veTube heydays), pondering my place in the universe — Feynman calmed me down, reminding me I’m not at the center of the universe. This quantum soup we’re all swimming in… we’re just barely holding on here on Earth.

    He gave such great lectures, and was just filled with joy to talk about the mysteries of nature. To me, Feynman completely personifies the definition of ikigai so wonderfully. He spoke with such an innate understanding of his purpose here (and the purpose of physics for that matter). Perhaps he was just a grateful dude. But, I know I’m not the only one that feels that way about him