Wednesday, 21 January 2015
In early 2011, I was preparing an article on Roppongi Art Night. This was later cancelled because the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake struck shortly before the event was scheduled to be held. In preparation for the article, I did a short email interview in Japanese with Antenna, a team of two Kyoto-based artists who use a character called Jappy as a motif in most of their work.
Antenna: We will try to mix traditional images and images of modernity by contributing a portable shrine to the art festival.
CBL: Will you be featuring your Jappy character a lot?
Antenna: We often use this character as the main motif in our creations. Do you mean by this that the Jappy portable shrine will be the main focus of Roppongi Art Night?
CBL: Yes, I heard that Jappy will be carried around Roppongi.
Antenna: Jappy will be shown in Roppongi. However Jappy wiil not be one, so you will see many configurations of Jappy carried around Roppongi. Many different kind of Jappy will show up through the streets of Roppongi, carried on omikoshi (portable shrines).
CBL: As a kind of God, what are Jappy's special powers?
Antenna: As Japan is a polytheistic religion, Japanese think that god exists in everything. This has been the pantheistic way of thinking since ancient times. As Japanese believe there are many gods and goddesses, it is not a special thing to see Jappy as a god. We even thought about carrying Jappy on a toilet. I think it is very difficult to explain due to the cultural differences between monotheistic faith and paganism. In popular polytheism people believe god is in everything in Japan. This way of thinking has continued since ancient times. That the number of Shinto gods was extremely great can be seen from the existence in Japanese philosophy. of the phrase "Yaoyorozu no kami," meaning "eight million gods." If you look at Jappy through the lens of "Yaoyoruzu no kami," it is not very special to think of Jappy as a god. I think it can take this position and still put Jappy on a toilet bowl on a portable shrine. I think it is very difficult to explain. There is a big difference between monotheistic faith and paganism.
CBL: Jappy is very Japanese with many traditional Japanese aspects. Is this ironic or are you just very, very patriotic?
Antenna: There are both elements of satire and patriotism. We have built modern Japanese society, which put a big strain on original culture by rapid Westernization. The symbol of this distortion is Jappy. However, we see the possibilities of making interesting culture from mixed Western and Eastern elements through these distortions.
CBL: Roppongi is very international. Won't there be some kind of confusion, tension, or culture shock when Jappy meets Roppongi and Roppongi meets Jappy?
Antenna: We think that Tokyo is a tolerant city that can accept many different things. Jappy as a symbol of Japan will fit Roppongi, which is also a symbol of Japan.
CBL: What do you want foreigners in Roppongi to think about Jappy?
Antenna: We will be happy if foreigners who see jappy think "kawaii!" (cute). Young Japanese people often say "kawaii." This feeling of "kawaii" is a very important thing to get in touch with Japanese culture and understand it.