Manga Time at Musée Hergé

IMG_0856This is me in Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium. A great place for a fan of manga and bandes dessinées. Tout le monde knows Tintin, the journalist, his dog Milou, and his friend, Captain Haddock. This museum for Georges P. Remi alias Hergé (1907-1983), the great comic artist from Bruxelles, is at an hour’s ride from Bruxelles Centraal. The museum explains on Hergé’s life and career, and how they are intertwined with the adventures of his hero in knickerbockers.

IMG_0860Tintin travels around the world to fight against villains, criminals, and dictators. His stories first appeared in the youth journal “Le Petit Vingtième”. In 1935, Tintin even made it to Shanghai, occupied by the Japanese. Hergé had made a Chinese friend, who inspired him to design a volume in China. In fact, the Japanese behave badly and ultimately lose the battle against the fearless blue pullover.

IMG_0872“The Blue Lotos” has been translated in many languages and still sells today. In contrast to the 1931 story “Tintin au Congo”, which depicted the local Africans in a strange manner and even provoked criticism of prejudice and racism, “The Blue Lotos” ridicules Western views on East Asia and colonial thinking. Tintin helps the local Chinese against the Japanese occupiers.


As a professional manga artist, Hergé exercised Chinese writing, as well as the drawing of Chinese locations, clothing, and faces for “The Blue Lotos”. Some of his attempts are exhibited in the museum. In general, Hergé inserted many motives from the newspapers into his stories, e.g. technological items like the moon rocket, submarines, or the Concorde.


After two hours of fun, have a good bite at the restaurant “La Petit Vingtième”, or a delicious café crème … Enjoy the cover pages in the restaurant – one of the originals, drawn in 1939 (“King Ottokar’s Sceptre” (??)) was recently sold for € 540,000 to a rich collector.

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Paris – Cité de l’Art Japonais !!

IMG_0534aJapan in Paris, France. La Cité de l’amour, mais aussi la cité de l’art japonais. Only a couple of hours from London St. Pancras, and cheap, if you book the Eurostar in advance and a nice Paris Hotel online. If you want to learn more on Japan, why not combine it with a few days in the Capital of the Grande Nation? Several ongoing expositions in Paris feature Japanese Visual Art. First, go to the museum “Art Ludique” on the Quai d’Austerlitz. The exhibition there entitled “Drawings from Studio Ghibli – The Layout Secrets that help to understand the animation of Takahata and Miyazaki” explains the structure of many Ghibli anime frames and the relationship between characters and their background. The catalog is affluent, many visual examples to enjoy: Kiki, Chihiro, Princess Mononoke.

IMG_0565After a well deserved café crème, hop on the Métro and check out the Pinacothèque at Place Marianne. The exhibition “L’art de l’amour au temps de geishas” (The Art of Love in the Time of the Geishas, until February 2015) features shunga (erotic) woodblock prints from the Tokugawa Period. What I learned is that there is always a “third element” on these pictures. Unlike cheap pornography, the Japanese artists depict e.g. persons observing others in the act, thus opening up a second, different perspective. Sometimes babies or servants are present and distract from the supposed “central” motive  – or emphasise it.
IMG_0550      Paris is  certainly a wonderful location to display erotic art from Japan, but the most impressive exhibition at the moment is in the “Musée Quai Branly”, right behind the Eiffel Tower. It is entitled “Tatoueurs – Tatoués”  and will run until October 2015. Japanese yakuza bodies and artists working on other peoples’ skins (or collecting them) cover a remarkable share of the global show. But it also exhibits tattoos from cultures in South Asia, the South Pacific, South America, or from 19th century jails and army camps in Central Europe.

Japan – Empire of Signs: Roland Barthes’ famous equation definitely includes Japanese art on human skin: traces of beauty, suffering, loyalty, groupism, discipline, self-control and self-expression at the same time. Japan is also the home of vague and ambivalent communication (“no de wa nai deshouka”?). Paris, the capital of love, helps us to keep up.

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Manga History in Fukuoka City Museum

IMG_0111SAZAESAN TEN. This was the poster for the recent Sazesan-exhibition in Fukuoka. I had the pleasure to check it out during the “Asia in Today’s World”-Summer School in Kyushu. Did you know that the manga artist Hasegawa Machiko invented her characters there? And that their “fishy” names stem from her long walks along the Momochihama beach in 1947? The Isono-Family is an icon of postwar Japan: Sazae means “turban shell”, her parents are called Fune (Ship) and Namihei (Shallow Wave), her husband Masuo is named after a “trout”, her siblings are Wakame (Seaweed) and Katsuo (Bonito). The youngest family member, Sazaesan’s kid, is naturally called Tarao (Cod).

IMG_0245Hasegawa Machiko’s four-panel-strips (yon koma manga) are still hugely popular today – the exhibition mainly invited visitors to read genga (originals): Enjoy good old Japan, rising from the ruins of WWII! Wooden houses and sandals, traditional kimonos and gender roles (Sazaesan as a housewife), warm-hearted Japanese neighborhood before the economic neurosis of “Japan Inc.”.

These manga are an echo of the past, and yet a pillar of contemporary manga culture. Hasegawa was so successful in Fukuoka that she soon moved to Tokyo to work for Asahi Shimbun. In 1985, she got her own museum in Setagaya, which contributed many objects to this exhibition. But Fukuoka hasn’t forgotten her. There is a permanent Sazaesan-Street with a small monument reminding us of Kyushu’s famous daughter. Interesting remark for researchers: HasegawIMG_0247a (1920-1992) was influenced or even inspired by the American comic series “Blondie” by Chic Young (1901-1973). Obviously, manga was already born as a global mass medium.

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Japan in Victorian England in Manga

Unknown-2I am preparing a Third Thursday Lecture on the “Chōshū Five”. This group of samurai came to London in 1863 to study Western science. They were hosted by Prof. Alexander Williamson, chemist at University College London, who himself had been learning from Justus Liebig in Giessen and Auguste Comte in Paris. A manga and a film designed by artist Yukimura are now honoring this early example of global academic cooperation.

Choshu Five Manga CoverThe five samurai later had splendid careers in the Japanese government and industry. While today, the number of Japanese students going abroad is decreasing, these samurai took high personal risks for the modernisation of their country. Leaving Japan was still forbidden in 1863 – ten years earlier, intellectual Yoshida Shōin had been was thrown off Commodore Matthew Perry’s steamship and later exectuted by the bakufu at the age of 29.

N.B. Both manga and film also hint at the “one-track-mind” of the young men pushing science and  industrialisation in Japan. They believed Britain to be “civilised” and completely IMG_0468overlooked the poverty of the working class. Remember: At that time, philosopher Karl Marx  was just writing his book Capital (published 1866). What, if the samurai had also met the thinker? He was buried on Highgate Cemetery in 1883, today a great monument of Victorian England.
Needless to say: Manga has also dignified Marx himself many times and quoted his writings – just like his memorial stone: “Workers of all lands, unite!” And the mangafication of Marxist writer Kobayashi Takiji’s novel The Crab Canning Ship (1929) on a strike of poor sailors recently became a bestseller in precarious Japan. There are many historical lessons to be learned from Japanese manga and popular culture…

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BLACK JACK screening on 13 April, 18 May !

BJ movie96 poster visualDear friends ! BLACK JACK comes to town. We’ll screen the anime version of Tezuka Osamu’s famous medical manga at Cinema City Norwich, screen 2, on

Sunday, 13 April 2014, at 16.30h   &

Sunday, 18 May 2014, at 14.15h.

All welcome ! Get your tickets in advance at the box office!

Why Black Jack? We had a great symposium at Tsukuba Hospital last September. They have a whole section doing “Art in Hospital” for patients and staff. Our question is now, if manga and anime, too, might be a good entertainment offer for people awaiting or recovering from surgery. This is our first research step.


In the anime from 1996, the magic surgeon is confronted with a lethal virus and has to narrow down its possible origins.  Olympic gold medal winners collapse around the globe. A pharmaceutical company offers help, but more suspicions arise about the research of the enterprise. Can Black Jack and his cute assistant Pinoko break this case?

Still_033Black Jack is one of the most salient oeuvres of Tezuka’s “gothic phase”, which lasted from the late 60s to the middle of the 70s. The master came under the influence of the “dramatic pictures”, gekiga. Other examples from that time are “Ode to Kirihito”, which also tells a doctor’s story, and “The Book of Human Insects”. Master Tezuka, Medical Doctor himself, will save our weekends!  C U all there!

Pictures (c) Tezuka Productions Tokyo

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Manga Region of Japan?

IMG_5404Hey Manga-Fans !

Ever seen this train carriage in Kyoto? Manga writer Taniguchi Jirō happens to be my favourite. Especially the time travel story Haruka na machi e/Distant Neighbourhood, which was recently turned into a live action movie by Sam Garbarski. It is about a Japanese office worker in his midlife crisis, who gets warped back to his youth in 1960s Japan. He falls in love again and discovers the secret of his parents. Can he stop his father from leaving the family?  Will he mature during his unexpected trip to the past?

Taniguchi is clearly “the psychologist” among the manga artists. He earned the nickname of “the Hergé of Japan” for his sober and clear drawing style. Tottori is his home town, therefore the advertisement is on a train carriage from Kyoto to the city of the big sand dune (see blog December CJS Blog). Taniguchi has also mangafied Kawakami Hiromi’s wonderful novel “The Sky is Blue, the Earth is White” – about a compelling love story of a young women with her former school teacher.  !!! Must-Read !!!

IMG_5405Taniguchi depicts faces and identities from their vulnerable side. This transpires even from the reproduction on the train carriage. His characters are hesitant, pensive, and seeking. I also love the way he draws landscapes, places, nature, even big cities like Tokyo in a realistic and almost inviting manner. If you want some more action or even crime, check The Quest for the Missing Girl about teenage prostitution in Shibuya.

In short, a confession: I would never have thought that my excursions to Japanese graphic literature would make me re-think my own relationship with my  parents… Taniguchi (who makes a short appearance in the film Distant Neigbourhood) has proved otherwise. Touché, monsieur !

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CJS at Sakaiminato Manga Museum

IMG_5460Whoever is born in the year of he fire horse (1966) in Japan, knows about the impact of superstition on society. In that year, birth rates dropped dramatically: Girls born in that period were foretold a severe destiny. The Japanese believe in prophecies – and ghosts, which is why ghosts are important characters also in folklore and manga. You meet many of them personally on a trip to Sakaiminato, the home of manga veteran Mizuki Shigeru. Already at the train station, we observe the master among his beloved yōkai (hobgoblins).

Hundreds of bronze figurines line up on the way from the station to the Mizuki Shigeru kinenkan (museum). Already on the train from Yonago, you can enjoy the announcements by his main hero gegege no Kitarō. Nezumi-otoko (rat boy) and neko-musume (cat girl) accompany us through the shops on the Mizuki Shigeru Road. Finally you learn, how Kitarō’s father came to live as a eye-with-limbs, and check out the master’s splendid collection of ethnological masks, tools, and souvenirs. Mizuki-sensei used to travel a lot, and he is still actively drawing today, at the age of 91… Respect!

IMG_5457In front of the museum, we meet the master with his grandmother, who obviously introduced him to the world of fairies, ghosts, and fantasy. Most of his oeuvres are on sale inside, including his famous piece on the German dictator Adolf Hitler. On your way back enjoy a fresh khaki or a rāmen soup of local recipe.

IMG_5468From Yonago, it is only two hours by train to Tottori, the home of manga artist Taniguchi Jirō, author of the time travel story Haruka na machi e (Quartier Lointain). There is no museum yet, but you can climb the biggest sand dune of Japan and enjoy the view on the Japanese West Coast! This is when you will definitely write your first haiku …

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The Spirit of the “Chōshū Five” in Norwich

DSC00790Thank you, Prof Yasuyoshi Saitō, Dr Herb Fondevilla, and colleagues from the University of Tsukuba Hospital, for your recent visit to Norwich. We checked out the Sainsbury Centre (picture to the left), then the “Arts in Hospital“-project at Norwich and Norfolk Hospital. With Emma Jarvis, we are already planning film screenings for patients next year, and further collaborative actions will follow !! yoroshiku !!

Saitō-sensei also conducted some research on UCL Prof. Alexander Williamson, who hosted the “Chōshū Five“ in the 1860s. Having studied with famous chemist Justus von Liebig in Giessen/Germany himself, Prof. Williamson trained five young Japanese engineers and scientists and led them to professional maturity. As they later contributed to the modernisation of Meiji-Japan, the story of the “Chōshū Five“ has been mangafied, and there is even a live-action movie, directed by Shō Igarashi in 2006. I’ll get the DVD soon … !!

DSC00670Dōmo arigatō, Saito-sensei and Williamson-sensei, for opening up this gate to Anglo-German-Japanese academic cooperation and research! On the right hand picture, you see the recently unveiled monument for Prof Williamson and his wife Catherine on Brookwood Cemetery in Surrey/UK.

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NNUH “Arts in Hospital” Project and CJS in Tsukuba

Exploring CULTURES OF CARE in ageing Britain and Japan  

Back in the famous science city Tsukuba ! First time since 1995. Wow !! What a calm and green place, growing and with a new train line to Tokyo. And a perfect place for interdisciplinary research, in collaboration with the “English city closest to Japan” …

IMG_5090On 4 and 5 September, the Faculty of Art and Design at the University of Tsukuba invited for a symposium on “Cultures of Care – Bridging Arts and Healthcare in Japan and the UK“. Our delegation: Emma Jarvis, arts coordinator at the Norwich and Norfolk Hospital, Dr Bernardo Bueno, School of Creative Wriring (here in action with the “Asparagus Group“), and Dr Ulrich Heinze/CJS. Japan, the aging society, is most interested in developments in the care and hospital sector overseas, including arts in hospitals. So we could contribute with some expertise.

IMG_5113Emma Jarvis (picture on the right) explained on her various projects going on in Norwich and Cromer with artists and animators, how they are designed and perceived. She is an artist (painter) herself and runs “Art in Hospital“-projects for several years now. She is also designing rooms and interiors. The Japanese were especially interested in the impact of colours and the design of walls, floors and furnitures to improve patients’ wellbeing. A Tsukuba delegation will come to Norwich in September and do some additional field research. Further exchange activities are scheduled for 2014. Many thanks to Prof. Saito Yasuyoshi and Prof. Herb Fondevilla ! Especially for the sushi replicas … ;-D

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THE BODY in Japan and its Mass Media

IMG_4607CJS Workshop at the Sainsbury Institute on 17 May

These young and dynamic researchers gave seven awesome papers at our annual Japanese Media Studies Research Workshop. Before our local football team, the Canaries, secured Norwich’s place in next season’s Premier League with an away victory in Manchester, we discussed the body and its depiction  in Japanese manga, film, anime, adverts, commercials, tattoos, butoh dance, etc. If all goes well, the papers will go into a special journal issue. Thanks to the audience and to all contributors from around the globe (left to right): Sheuo Hui GAN, Singapore; Alexander JACOBY, London; Stephanie OEBEN, Göttingen; Tullio LOBETTI, Italy/London; Ulrich HEINZE, Norwich; and the Oxford crowd: Fusako INNAMI, Joy HENDRY, Louella MATSUNAGA, and Paola ESPOSITO. Special thanks to Natsue Hayward, CJS, and her volonteers.

I will give another paper on the PERFECT BODY of Japan: Fujiwara Norika, on 11 June at SOAS London. The workshop is entitled Rediscovering the Diva; Considering the Impact of Female Star Personae on Japanese Film and Visual Media”. I will show pictures of Norika, some from my personal archive, and commercials, and suggest a reading. Are you tempted? Based on her two volumes “Fujiwara Body”, I will try and decode a few metaphors embodying her celebrity and charm – and naturally her sex appeal. Ah, Norika-chan, why don’t you answer my emails just once …??

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