Japan Calling Italy, Design Style

In a globalized world in which it gets easier and easier to chase the vestiges of a nationalism and traditions in spite of a complex reality, it's not always easy to see the beauty of the Other; even less letting oneself be influenced by it.


The discovery of Moe- The Work of Patrick Galbraith

We have previously discussed Patrick Galbraith and his Moe Manifesto, defining moe as attraction toward characters from games, anime or manga. An interesting interview for Otaku USA Magazine reveals more on the topic, starting from the book title: Why a Moe Manifesto?


Japan Porn Boom. Hentai in the Times of the Internet

The spark for this article came from a collaboration with the Museo delle Culture in Lugano for the exhibition L'art de l'amour au temps des geishas, opening November 5 at the Pinacothèque de Paris. An extended version appear in the show's catalogue.

It's impossible to discuss pornography today without considering the impact of the Internet in its mechanisms of production, distribution and fruition; but also how, as critics and spectators, we witness a progressive 'pornification' of the real. Furthermore, thanks to the Web, cinema, video clips, manga and video games, pornography made in Japan has become a transnational phenomenon, and the country's export is among the most active in the sector.


Japan and Takeaway Christmas

Christmas in Japan is not a stay-at-home holiday: from refined cake design to KFC chicken buckets, consumerism gives its best on Japan's Christmas menus. 


Giuseppe T. Gervasio: Interpreter Today, Tomorrow – Who Knows?

Translating the Untranslatable – part 2: What underwear (doesn't) say.

(Translating the Untranslatable – part 1)

Ah, underwear, daily life's sweet sorrow. As you wake up, after the shower: the rite of opening the wardrobe and explore in search of underwear, as if exploring an interdimensional portal to another galaxy – a parallel universe of unlikely hues, stretch or things, impossibly elaborate ornaments and unbearably tacky patterns. No one can escape this daily rite... unless you work in the porn industry, where underwear is banned as not to leave marks on the skin... or so I'm told! Now, getting back to the article's headline: do you think underwear speaks? And if so, what does it say? Do they need an interpreter? My answer is: absolutely yes! Consider how they call to you when you're getting ready for work: you'll be immediately drawn to the most comfortable pair; when you go to the gym, you gravitate toward simpler designs just in case you end up under the eye of your peers; and what about underwear for a romantic date? The underwear you choose will immediately tell you how the evening will turn out! (...though often it will lie!)

Regardless, the underwear I want to tell you about is literally of intercontinental proportions! It was November 2012 and I was in Rome to coordinate the Japanese – Italian translating for the Mostra Internazionale del Cinema, when a professor from the University of Venice contacted me by phone. We didn't know each other too well, but we had collaborated previously in various events around Venice and I had appreciated both her mastery of the language, and the many ways in which she knew how to make learning Japanese accessible – no small feat. She told me that around mid-December one of the world's greatest entrepreneurs, hailing from Japan, would be giving a lecture at Ca'Foscari University. The institution was looking for a professional translator who had studied in the University itself... and I fit the bill! The businessman's company produced all kinds of products, from pins to clothes, from games to luggage, all the way to... underwear! They had also opened a retail point in Venice as well.

The event's setup was handled by the professor above with absolute professionalism. A week before the event I received all slides both in the Japanese original and translated by her and a team of students. The slides tell the story of a business that moved past traditional branding, taking instead its social responsibilities seriously. The day of the conference comes, and I get excited in interacting with a Japanese savvy public. I show up early and end up chatting with the professor and her colleagues while waiting for the special guest. He finally arrives aboard a motorboat, wearing a heavy coat and accompanied by a cohort of smartly dressed Japanese.

Along with the assistants we got the formalities out of the way – mostly getting over my guests' surprise at having to deal with a non-native Japanese translator – yet a look at the glossary under my arm was enough for our honor guest to understand I'm not going to skimp on the translating.

We were first led to a conference room, where a briefing took place. We then finally get some face-to-face time alone with the honor guest, who details us on the speech he's going to give to the Ca'Foscari crowd.

The time for the conference comes, and the usual 'interpreter's crisis' strikes at full force. Maybe the three coffees and the liter of water I drunk during the briefing weren't the smartest idea ever... at east I'm wearing comfy underwear!

I'm not a superstitious person, but I have my own rituals. One of them is the habit of wearing underwear made in the country the speaker hails from. Yes, if I am translating from English or Italian to Japanese, I'll be wearing 'made in Japan' underwear; or Bloomingdale briefs if I'm translating into English. Once NASA called me, telling me my white, blue and green underwear could be seen from space along with the Great Chinese Wall.

I know, some will wonder what I wear for multilingual translations! In such cases I mix and match the underwear with white shirts, ties, pens from various countries... or 'stolen' from colleagues.

As I imagined, the Main Hall was packed with students and professors. The introductions are taken care of by the professors doubling as moderators, including the vice-president and other lauding the special guest's presence to the event. Ten minutes later, it was our turn – me and the guest, alone on stage.

As I translated I basked in every word said by this man, who embodied the spirit and determination of a real entrepreneur. According to him, our urban way of life led us to purchasing according to perceived needs rather than actual usefulness. Originality is prized over practicality and function in all aspects of life.

His speech was, of course, far more articulated; still, how many times we buy a more expensive option just because it's flashier? This is not a judgment, but an encouragement to live more at peace with oneself and others.

Don't worry, I didn't forget! The dark side of the underwear is about to show up any minute! Right then, during Q&A!

One of the professors asked the public to interact, and we were inundated by all kinds of questions – more or less technical and businessy. The guests skillfully manages to address all with humility and accuracy, an example for all present. Then he arrives: the little know-it-all student! The one you see and you know he wants everyone to know he has the most (metaphorical) junk in the trunks. I recognized him immediately, as I was the same in school! The question, more or less, was: “So, you want everyone to address your business as if it was Steve Jobs'? Everything one could need with your brand on it?” The deceptively simple answer was: “Surely not. In life variety is good. I am wearing Donald Duck pants today.” As of these words, a veritable opera resounded in my mind:

Prelude: Ring of the Nibelung.

First Act: Rustican Shit Act (if I get this wrong I'll be stoned with green tea).

Second act and grand finale: Madamn Butterfly (if I get this right maybe I might get a chance at some thong action someday).

The difficulty was given by 'pants' meaning underwear in Japanese and British English but trousers in American English. Quite a difference (only one contains what the Japanese call 'the golden spheres', which I'm not going to explain further).

So, I grab courage by the horns and enunciate in a tone halfway between Ungaretti and Littizzetto pretending to be a Lolita:


Hilarity ensued. I was afraid I'd be having an accident on stage, but those who p***ed themselves probably were the students. I think they, however, saw the very serious meaning underlying the guest's funny answer.

So, wrapping up...

Are you curious to find out whether the guest stood up and really wore Donald Duck pants, or I was de-eared with a katana, the spoil sent to my family by mail?

Relax, I wasn't wrong: it was the underwear... a good interpreter does not rely only on their ears.


Still, a question: better a thong today or a bloomer tomorrow?


A Cat Named Toto: Kakuta Mitsuyo's World Beyond Words

Mitsuyo Kakuta is the author of many novels, including Taigan no Kanojo (The Woman On the Other Side), winner of the prestigious Naoki Prize in 2005. She debuted in 1990 with Kofukuna Yugi (A Merry pastime), winning the Kaen Prize, and many other works of hers have been turned into successful films. She currently lives with her cat Toto, a gift from mangaka Rieko Naibara. As it suffers from a heart condition, Toto needs constant care and attention – something that changed the author's life around.


Loli-Moe from Japan to the US: from J-Art Pop to East-coast Hip Hop

Pharrel Williams' latest video It Girl has caused a commotion on the music scene: some consider it 'an animated epic', others labeled it as 'Pokémon-inspired', other found it uncannily disquieting. What's so special about it? The video is born from the meeting between the hip hop world and otaku culture: the protagonist is an anime-inspired, wide eyed girl. Co-directors are fashion designer Fantasista Utamaro and Takashi Murakami's mysterious pupil, Mr., who also participated in his mentor's 2001 show Superflat and 2005 show Little Boy. In a 2007 interview, Mr. defined himself as a lolicon: “I always loved manga, since I was a child. In high school, however, I developed my artistic side, I didn't want to be just a consumer any longer. I was embarrassed about being an otaku. In Japan there are many otaku with a 'lolita complex' and one of these, while I was in high school, killed four girls. I had the same complex – I still do – but the event made me understand I didn't want to be part of that world. I didn't want to be associated with that kind of people” (Source).


Con l'anima del riso. Variazioni e sensazioni

"Milano per due giorni capitale del sakè". Dovrebbe incominciare così un articolo che si rispetti sul Festival del Sakè organizzato il 20 e 21 settembre dall'associazione La Via del Sakè nei chiostri austeri, mondani e modaioli dell'Umanitaria, in pieno centro. 


Jake Adelstein – Interview

Courtesy of Jake Adelstein

An interview with Jake Adelstein, reporter and writer. Author of Tokyo Vice. An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan (US, 2009 – Italy, Einaudi 2011), a memoir but also a breathtaking story of yakuza, crime, politics and reporting. Now a movie with Daniel Radcliffe.

Friendly, extrovert. One would never imagine that Jake Adelstein, the guy we're web interviewing today, is one of today's bravest reporters, and the name behind a memoir narrating the relationship between yakuza, crime, politics, and reporting. Through his investigations, Adelstein managed to better Tadamasa Goto, one of yakuza (Japanese mafia)'s most dangerous linchpins. We have to -virtually- chase him across the world in order to snag an interview with him. His bestselling book, Tokyo Vice, is set to become a movie with Daniel Radcliffe playing the main role, and filming is scheduled to begin soon. “It's a project I've been working on for years. I refused many offers and finally decided to rewrite the script with J.T. Rogers, a former schoolmate and talented playwright”, he explains. Adelstein's life story is truly stranger than fiction.


Tottoro? Fa il bigliettaio...

Cronaca di una giornata al Ghibli Museum

Non so se è stato un colpo di fortuna che ci ha permesso di riuscire a prendere i biglietti per il museo con un breve anticipo, a confronto dei mesi di attesa indicati dal sito internet, o il fatto che comprarli direttamente in Giappone al konbini è più veloce ed è un metodo che non tutte le persone interessate a visitare il museo conoscono, fatto sta che siamo riuscite a prendere i biglietti a solo due settimane dalla partenza.

Per una persona che ama i film dello studio Ghibli, andare nel museo di Tokyo è un'esperienza bella e divertente. È un mondo a parte, separato dalla realtà. Nel momento in cui si entra sembra quasi di essere dentro a uno dei film dello studio, in uno di quegli edifici un po' strani che sono tipici di molte delle opere prodotte.


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