Tokyo is trending: the rise of J-Pop

From the Sweet Lolitas to the anime addicts, expect to see much more of these Japanese fashion tribes across London in the immediate future. We’re heading for a Tokyo takeover. Do you want to know more? Read on….

While the emergence of K-Pop, the South Korean pop music phenomenon, was big news late last year, in 2012 it’s J-Pop that is taking centre stage with London’s teens – and bringing with it a Japanese street-style scene.

As Japan is the world’s second largest music market behind the US, its latest export already has a massive cult youth following and London’s club scene has been quick to embrace the trend.

New Bloomsbury Lanes club night Japan Underground boasts live bands and music from top J-Pop and J-Rock DJs. The launch night, themed on the cult Samurai fighting game Sengoku Basara, sold out and the venue’s next night, on February 4, is set to be a Japanese tribute to the best of the West – with a full DJ set of remixed dance-floor hits and a Queen cover band.

But music is not the only aspect of Japanese culture that has engrossed London’s youth. Current J-Pop icons, such as nine-strong girl group Morning Musume and oshare kei three-piece ALiBi, have found fame as much through their eccentric fashion. Self-confessed queen of kook Kyary Pamyu Pamyu started life as a style blogger before turning to music, while Ayumi Hamasaki – known as Ayu to her fans and the Empress of J-Pop to the media – embodies a constantly changing image which earned her Japanese campaigns with London-based brands Rimmel and Aquascutum last year, as well as becoming the first J-Pop artist to have a number one album for 13 consecutive years since her debut.

Iconic Japanese street fashion, most notably hailing from the Harajuku shopping district of Tokyo, is being adopted by many style tribes, from the black lace grunge of Gothic Lolita to the glam rock aesthetic of Visual Kei and the purveyors of all things cute and fluffy, Kawaii. But, J-Pop artists aside, several Western pop stars have moulded their image in the same quirky way. Style extremist Nicki Minaj and blue-haired chameleon Katy Perry are currently helping to make the look mainstream.

This season the unique Japanese street style has also trickled into high fashion circles. On the spring/summer 2012 catwalks the look was championed by eclectic London Fashion Week designers Meadham Kirchhoff, who layered frilled blouses with teddy bear pinafores and paired knee-high socks with pom-pom Geta sandals. Miu Miu also teamed A-line patchwork skirts, crop tops and off-the-shoulder capes that reflected the doll-like styling favoured by Lolitas.

But for the devoted Londoners – for whom Japanese styling is more than just a fashion trend – there is a Far East fest coming to the capital. Next month, Japanese culture convention Hyper Japan heads to Brompton Hall, celebrating everything from sushi and sake to J-Pop and Harajuku. From the Sweet Lolitas to the anime addicts, expect to see much more of these Japanese fashion tribes across London in the immediate future. We’re heading for a Tokyo takeover.

Article written by Emma McCarthy, published on Evening Standard (23/01/12)

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Bye Bye Kitty!!! – Beyond kitsch, kawaii and otaku in Japanese Contemporary Art: An illustrated talk by David Elliott

Kitsch, otaku (“geek”) and kawaii (cuteness, sometimes super-girly hyper-cuteness) – are all stereotypes frequently attributed to contemporary Japanese culture. It is true to say that Japanese society often embraces such images of itself, and some Japanese artists, such as Takashi Murakami and Kaikai Kiki, respond to, or exploit, these trends, making them even more widespread. Yet is this the whole story? Does this kind of work actually represent the most significant and powerful art being made in Japan today?

David Elliott, founding director of the Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, who spent five years in Japan, thinks not. He sees an intensely reflective, self-critical, controversial, even political, spirit within contemporary Japanese art that is less easy to appreciate than the stereotypes but more rewarding to grasp. It was this which led him to curate the successful exhibition Bye, Bye Kitty!!! – Between Heaven and Hell in Contemporary Japanese Art held at the Japan Society in New York earlier this year. This fascinating exhibition concentrated on diverse work by talented young and middle generation Japanese artists, many of whom have not yet been well enough represented on the international art scene.

In this talk, David Elliott will offer an overview of this exhibition and the artists he chose for it, mapping them in the social context of modern and contemporary Japan. Complementing his talk will be a discussion with sociologist and Japanese contemporary art specialist Adrian Favell. Together they will further explore how significant the exhibition is today, reflecting on Japanese aesthetics, social realities and global reactions.

This event is organised in collaboration with TrAIN Research Centre.

17 October 2011 from 6.20pm

The Banqueting Hall (Chelsea College of Art and Design)
16 John Islip Street
London SW1P 4JU

This event is free to attend but booking is essential. To reserve a place, please email your name and the title of the event you would like to attend to event@jpf.org.uk.

 

Matureness and Unmatureness in Contemporary Japanese Art and Culture: Aging and Kawaii

A really interesting event held at Birckbek College.

Matureness and Unmatureness in Contemporary Japanese Art and Culture: Aging and Kawaii
A talk by Prof. Inuhiko Yomota
Respondent: Dr. Sharon Kinsella

6pm Friday 25th March
Room 251
Birkbeck College Main Building
Malet Street
London WC1E 7HX
FREE AND OPEN TO ALL
but booking is essential, please email lapcsf@gmail.com

In this special event for LAPCSF, celebrated critic Inuhiko Yomota will contrast the culture of kawaii—so prevalent in manga, anime, and East Asian pop culture in general—with the aesthetics of aging within Butoh dance and other performing arts. Traversing from the figure of the girl warrior in the anime Sailor Moon and Henry Darger’s Vivian Girls, to the “immortality” of legendary Butoh performer Kazuo Ohno, this talk promises to be a tour de force from a unique voice in cultural criticism.

Prof. Inuhiko Yomota’s publications range over film history, literature, manga, and even food culture. His One Hundred Years of Japanese Cinema has been translated into German, Italian, Korean, and Chinese, while his books on kawaii and manga have been published in Chinese and Korean translations. Among the prizes he has been awarded for his writing are the Kodansha Essay Prize, the Kuwabara Prize, and the Saito Ryoku’u prize. He has also translated works by Paul Bowles, Edward Said, Pier Paulo Pasolini, and Mahmoud Darwish into Japanese. He is Professor of Motion Picture History and Comparative Literature at Meiji Gakuin University, and he has been a visiting professor at Konguk University, Columbia University, the University of Bologna, and Tel Aviv University, among others.

Dr. Sharon Kinsella is author of Adult Manga: Culture and power in postwar Japanese society and Girls as Energy: Fantasies of rejuvenation in contemporary Japan. She is lecturer in Japanese Visual Culture at the University of Manchester, and has previously held positions at the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, MIT, and Yale.