Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Lost in Translation

What do you think of when you think of Japan?  I'm sure most of us have the people of Japan on our minds right now because of the ongoing struggles and heartache with the aftermath of the tsunami.  I can't even imagine what they're going through and my thoughts are with them a great deal.

But as a culture, what do you think of?  Do you think of the frenetic pace of Tokyo?  Do you think of the ancient Samurai?  Do you think of Hello Kitty?  :D

A lot of my ideas about Japan, right or wrong, come from movies.  There are two from 2003 that stick out for me - "Lost in Translation" and "Kill Bill Vol. 1".  Now, these two movies couldn't be more different if they tried, but they both deal with modern Japanese culture (with some sword play thrown in, at least in "Kill Bill").  "Lost in Translation" is far more realistic - Charlotte (Scarlett Johannson) wanders, confused but interested, through Tokyo and Kyoto while her husband is there on business.  I know I'd feel the same way - you want to take in everything this amazing city has to offer but everything is, well, in Japanese.  That's a pretty big language barrier for most of us.

Of  course, my first introduction to anything Japanese, like a lot of people my age, was with the Sanrio line of products, mainly Hello Kitty.  I still have the Hello Kitty notepads and tiny paint sets that I purchased at Coach House Gifts in 1981 with my allowance money - they're in a box somewhere, unfortunately, but at least I still have them.  Here is a more recent Sanrio-esque (Q-Lia) acquistion, purchased, ironically in Toronto's Chinatown district (maybe they think we North Americans can't tell the difference?).  I love it, especially the little stickers!  :D

I unfortunately can't tell whether or not this vintage newspaper clipping is for the real Sanrio products or not, but it looks like it, yes?  I also don't have a year with which to gauge (Sanrio was founded in 1961).

Also around 1981 or '82, I purchased this RAD pin for my jean jacket that's from the Police's "Ghost in the Machine" album (I was a HUGE Police fan in middle and high school) - look closely and you can see that it's from their Japanese import.  I felt SO cool walking around with this on; too bad I actually was NOT cool in the slightest.  :D

Japanese ephemera is really fun to work with in collage, too!  Here are some pieces I've made with it:


  1. Hello Kitty rocks! So do your collages!!

  2. I love your collages! I especially like the one with the crane.

    As a child, I learned about Japanese art and culture from Aged Mum, who was in her day an elementary school teacher, and kept her hand in during her stay-at-home mother years by teaching us things like origami and celebrating Girls' Day with my Brownie troop. I then taught both my daughters origami, many years later.

    For the record, there is no Asian ancestry in my lineage, so I don't know where Mum got the interest, but I'm glad she passed it on to me.

  3. Thanks Eileen and Anne! :D And thank you for your Japanese back story too! I always find it fascinating to learn why certain items or subjects fascinate others - I learn so much that way! :D