Tag Archives: Japan

Tokyo Rising

Photo credit: Palladium Boots

When I got to work on Monday morning almost all of my subscriptions featured something on the 9/11 anniversary. While each of the stories had their own significance, the ones that spoke of how the event affected the role of the arts thereafter resonated with me the most. While at first the primary rationale for most of the art produced after 9/11 was primarily a reactionary one and in a sense a way of coping with the extremity of the event, we have seen over the years how the arts have also become a way of building resilience and hope for better times.

This tone was also evident in the recently produced short promotional documentary Tokyo Rising, produced by the footwear company Palladium Boots. The film chronicles the creative forces in Japan at work in the aftermath of the earthquakes that hit the northern region of the country earlier this year. Focused on several groups of people in Tokyo, Tokyo Rising paints a picture of the state of country’s capital through the eyes of the creative pioneers at work in the metropolis today.

Photo credit: Palladium Boots

Presented in five short parts, the film runs for about thirty minutes and is available to watch for free on the Palladium Boots website. It is hosted by Grammy Award-winning music personality and producer Pharrell Williams. Throughout the five parts, Pharrell takes us through Tokyo and introduces us to a few of his fellow Japanese creatives, giving them the opportunity to speak freely about their experience of the earthquakes and how they responded to the event in their particular form of media. He travels through Tokyo, guided by his friends to seedlings of culture scattered about the urban landscape.

Photo Credit: Palladium Boots

The film does not focus so much on the aftermath of the earthquakes and instead focuses on the emerging culture that resulted from the events. More so, it is a commentary on how the nature of contemporary Japanese culture is changing and how the current generation of creatives is responding to questions about cultural identity, social change, and the responsibility to cultivate a spirit of unity in the face of devastation.

Interestingly enough however, the film is essentially sponsored content, put out as a marketing tool by Palladium Boots. Although the commercial undertone is certainly evident and highlighted by the rather blatant Palladium insignia watermarked on the video, it promotes the type of marketing that not just effectively communicates the brand’s beliefs but also incites an emotional response from the viewer.

Photo Credit: Palladium Boots

I was personally interested in the story of 3331 Arts Chiyoda because the repurposed school building in which it is located was the site of an Art Fair called 101Tokyo, which I had interned for in my senior year of college. Exhibitions and spaces that open dialogue and provide a wide angle on issues and are crucial to understanding the reality of this event.

Photo Credit: Tokyo Art Beat

The site of 3331 Tokyo in 2008, during 101Tokyo Contemporary Art Fair Photo Credit: Xinjiro Tahara

My only qualm with the documentary is that it provides a perhaps narrow view of post-earthquake contemporary arts and design in Japan, as it focuses only on Tokyo, which sustained far less damage than other areas hit by the earthquakes. It would have been interesting to see the role of art and culture in areas outside of the urbanized centers. While Tokyo certainly possesses its own unique brand of Japanese culture it is not necessarily representative of the rest of the country, particularly the areas directly affected by the quakes.

There are indeed multiple layers to this film visually and thematically. It is a well made piece of storytelling, and was I think a smart move for Palladium Boots on the business end of things. It also encourages viewers to investigate the role of contemporary art and culture in urban Japan in light of the recent earthquakes. It is a unique portrait of a city that is pushing the boundaries of art and design as catalysts for social change and as evidence of resilience in the face of devastation.

Here’s a trailer for Tokyo Rising.


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100 Days Later

Sunday marked 100 days since the earthquake and tsunami hit Japan with such devastating force.  The story is no longer part of the 24 hour news-cycle, but of course the tremendous task of rebuilding continues and the country is moving forward with stoic resolve.

I found myself thinking of my last trip to Japan, when I visited the famous Meiji Shrine and was struck by the special significance of my time at this most sacred place in Toyko.

The shrine was built to commemorate the late Emperor Meiji’s important role in the Meiji Restoration.  Construction commenced in 1915 and the shrine was formally dedicated in 1920 only to be destroyed in air raids during World War II.  A public fundraising effort rebuilt the shrine in 1958, which only adds to its cultural and historical significance.

What’s special about the Meiji shrine are the thousands of notes visitors leave, detailing their wishes, prayers, or hopes for the world.  It must’ve been overwhelming to see the  thousands who flocked to this site in reverence after the tsunami hit.

Though we hear less about it today than mere months ago, the story is far from over.  I was very pleased to see a group of foodie bloggers, including Stacie Billis and Marc Matsumoto, have come together to create a cookbook for Japan called Peko Peko with proceeds to Global Giving’s efforts in Japan.  And Reuters is hosting a 2 day “Rebuilding Japan Summit” this week in Toyko, which I hope will bring important news to this side of the world about the successes on the ground and the work to be done.

Although the Emperor was referring to war in this “tanka” or poem, his words seem hauntingly appropriate now:

The seas of the four directions—
all are born of one womb:
why, then, do the wind and waves rise in discord?
Photo credit Dale Storer

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Our Gratitude for Your Help

Photo credit edwinasharp.blogspot.com

We want to express enormous gratitude to the thousands who rallied to support Japan and Greentea Design’s fund- and awareness-raising efforts these last ten days.  Thanks to your work through email, Facebook, Twitter and your own websites, we are honoured to be making a $6,248.00 directed donation to the Canadian Red Cross to help with relief and rebuilding in Japan following the devastating earthquake and tsunami.

Moreover we were touched by the many notes sent our way detailing your connections to Japan, the personal ways you are helping, and your appreciation that social action is being taken.

There is much work to be done and we won’t let this disaster fade from our consciousness.  Look for periodic updates on the blog and Facebook page.  Here are a few ways to continue to help and keep up to date on emerging issues, efforts and successes on the ground as the country moves forward.

  • Like your local Red Cross’ Facebook page for real times updates (Canadians click here, Americans here). There are 186 countries with Red Cross and Red Crescent organizations including Japan.  Your local Red Cross is best able to lend effective and efficient disaster management support to its Japanese counterpart.
  • Humanitarian Coalition represents the joint efforts of Care Canada, Oxfam Canada , Oxfam QC, and Save the Children. Humanitarian Coalition unites in cases of humanitarian crises for a greater impact and response.
  • Global Giving in the US is raising $4M to fund various relief organizations including Save the Children and International Global Medic to provide emergency services to survivors affected by the earthquake and tsunami.

For Kids and Youth – Paper Cranes for Japan

Students Rebuild and DoSomething.org have come up with a wonderful fund and awareness raising campaign for kids and youth to benefit Architecture for Humanity.  Kids can turn their origami paper crane into dollars for reconstruction – and eventually an art installation – by mailing them to Students Rebuild.  Cranes are sacred in Japanese mythology and a symbol of hope; and folding 1000 is said to grant you one wish.  Each crane received will result in a $2 donation to Architecture for Humanity and its teams of pro bono professionals in Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto who are partnering with other organizations to mobilize around a long-term reconstruction effort. The 100,000 cranes these organizations hope to receive will be woven into an art installation – a symbolic gift to the youth of Japan from their global counterparts.


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$10,000 in 10 Days

By a simple click of your mouse, Greentea Design will donate $1 on your behalf to the Red Cross to support relief efforts in Japan. With your help we hope to raise $10,000 in 10 days as a donation for all those affected in the disaster area. Greentea has close ties to Japan and we want to help those that have helped us in the past.

For each person who either “Likes” our Facebook page, follows us on Twitter, or sends an email to japanrelief@greenteadesign.com by March 27, 2011 Greentea Design will donate $1 to the Canadian Red Cross.

I have visited Japan many times over the years and have been inspired by the people, culture, and history of this special place.  Please join us in spreading awareness and raising funds in support of Japan’s relief efforts. Forward this to your family and friends, since the smallest acts put together can have a big impact.

If you want to make your own donation to the Red Cross (and for more information about them) please visit their website (here for Canadians, here for the US). For more information on other NGOs and aid organizations at work in the area, please visit our Facebook page.

Thank you very much,

Dale Storer
Greentea Design


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Washi: Paper Perfection

The world has tons and tons of paper that are force fed daily into printers, faxes, and copy machines, cash registers and ATMs, so these machines can spit them out in a constant stream. We send them flying, they come to us in stacks of mail, we stare at them in bulletin boards. We buy them in reams and rolls, we write notes, read them, discard them, without giving their genesis a second thought. We see the pictures and the letters but we never see the paper.

Paper has become so much a part of our daily drudgery that we have taken it for granted. Paper-making for the most part is an industry  that mass-produces the glut using big machines, and even bigger technology.

But there are parts of the world where paper is not an industry but a craft, an art; not manufactured by machinery, but created by hand, using techniques learned by tradition that is passed down by families through the generations. Certain districts in Japan, like Mino, Echizen, and Tosa, are such places. Japan after all has been a center of paper-making since the 8th century, and the same methods and techniques used back then are still used now.

Although the term washi literally means “Japanese paper”, it has come to refer specifically to paper made the traditional way. Washi have a wonderful translucence and lightness, and gorgeous textures from the plant fibers used in it. You’ve got to hand it to tradition for creating objects of such great beauty, delicacy, and strength. If it can make paper this awesome, why mess with perfection?

Image from anjamarais.wordpress.com

Image from ritournelleblog.wordpress.com

If want to know more about Japanese paper-making, visit the Washi page at infomapjapan.com.

Here are some awe-inspiring applications for washi.

Origami! Of course! Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Washi ningyo, "paper doll". Image from creativedoll.blogspot.com.

Washi is used in lamps and lanterns. This one is made from specially made seamless washi. Image from ubushina.com

Washi parasol. From new.uniquejapan.com

Beautiful work by Muraki Chisato on washi, depicting sakura blossoms. There are naturally occurring "holes" in the paper, which from a distance look like petals drifting down from the branches.


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