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kao

sculpture critiquing Japanese cultural norms

the problem

This project started off as a conversation with my childhood friend, Jinya. A successful Japanese painter, he has worked with prominent Japanese artists such as Madsaki. We regularly have conversations to discuss our experiences and perspectives.


One day, Jinya and I had a conversation about Japanese societal norms and values. Although we both grew up in Tokyo and adore the culture, we realized that Japan tends to be its own worst enemy. Specifically, its rigid societal expectations and nationalistic views that lead to an inability to critique itself were preventing it from reaching its full potential in the 21st century. We decided to collaborate on a sculpture to address these issues.

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the story

For our project, we decided to critique the unrealistic expectations that Japanese society places on itself.


Japanese society expects people to be constantly collected and calm, even through difficult times. This prevents people from expressing how they truly feel and creates a culture that suppresses conversations around mental health.


One example of a manifestation of this issue is Japan’s toxic drinking culture. It has become such a huge problem that it spawned a social phenomenon called Shibuya Meltdown, in which Japanese “salarymen” overdrink and fall asleep in public spaces. Seeing people during rush hour who didn’t make it home the previous night, asleep in their own puke, has become fairly common.

cultural inspiration

For the base of or sculpture, we used a traditional wishing doll (daruma) because of its cultural significance.
Traditionally, one eye is filled in when making a wish and the other eye is filled in when the wish comes true.

modern inspiration

We also drew inspiration from collectible toys because of their symbolism and ties to Japanese popular culture.

ideation 

I started my creative process by sketching and writing down my ideas.

prototypes

I used a variety of materials and prototyping tools to develop the concept and experiment with forms.

miniature version

Miniature versions were built using 3D printers. I chose this method of production because of the small batch size.

final (miniature version)

In addition to the original version, I made a version using a 3D scan of my face

full scale version

I built a full scale version using 20lb foam and a 5 axis CNC mill. The surface was primed for painting.

final (full scale version)

The finished sculpture was sent to my friend’s studio to be painted and displayed.