We Never Get Tired of Toys!

The new exhibit at the Morikami, which runs through October 17, is a throwback to a simpler, gentler time, when monsters came in the form of giant lizards or creatures from outer space that tore up cities with their giant feet and laser rays.

What fun!

Kaijū! Monster Invasion! features more than 100 toy figurines from the 60s, 70s, and 80s, inspired by Japanese tokusatsu films and TV shows. Remember Godzilla terrorizing the people, as they ran from his fire-breathing wrath? Before the days of 3D animation, CGI and other digital effects, it was a stuntman, in what was probably a really hot rubber suit, moving about on a miniature set. Back then, the special effects were called tokusatsu eiga, typically using an fx technique called sutsumeishon, or suitmation.

While my teenage sons might not be impressed by it, it seemed real enough and scary enough to me. (I was born in 1968; you do the math.)

The popularity of the show, which opened June 1, is already evidenced by the 100-plus hits the Morikami’s video  garnered on YouTube in only three days. Visitors, bloggers and sci-fi lovers are appreciating the loveable charm of Kaijū! Monster Invasion!

I mean, seriously, who gets tired of toys? No matter the age or gender, everyone can relate to a good, plastic action figure ready to tear apart the city in your imagination. The show is actually part of one person’s extensive, private collection, so just consider it playtime with culture – over at the house of the friend who has the really good toy box.

To see Tom Gregersen, senior curator of the Morikami, explain the delightful allure of Kaijū! Monster Invasion!, click here.

Kaiju! Monsters!

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Looking Forward at “Japan Through the Eyes of a Child”

For years, the Yamato-kan was the little Japanese house where you put on paper slippers and learned about early Florida and how Japanese settlers ended up there.

But yesterday, the Yamato-kan officially became more about today than yesterday. The ribbon-cutting ceremony unveiled a new permanent exhibit called “Japan Through the Eyes of a Child,” which invites you to step into a 3-D world as seen by a younger generation.

It’s a classroom, a living room, a shopping area and a train platform, all in great detail and accuracy, so you feel like you’re there – a child in modern-day Japan. You don’t have to be in elementary school to appreciate a day of make-believe. Although a “test” class of chorus singers from Morikami Park Elementary gave it a thumbs-up yesterday, after performing as part of the festivities.

More about this new, interactive exhibit in the next blog… Grand opening for the public is Nov. 7! All kids 17 and under are free! Learn more at www.morikami.org.

Larry Rosensweig and Cheiko Mihori

Former museum director Larry Rosensweig with Morikami trustee Cheiko Mihori

Larry Rosensweig Bonnie LeMay Beverlee Kohnken

Larry Rosensweig, Bonnie LeMay and Beverlee Kohnken walk through the classroom

Morikami Park meistersingers

Morikami Park Elementary singers entertain the ribbon-cutting audience

Rebecca Feldman and Brianna Plasky

Rebecca Feldman and Brianna Plasky, singers from Morikami Park Elementary

Wendy Lo with kanji chart

Wendy Lo, education coordinator at Morikami, with kanji chart in Japanese classroom

Japanese kitchen

JTEC's Japanese kitchen is modern with cultural touches

When is a Tea Kettle a Paradox? When On Display at the Morikami

Tom Gregersen is the Senior Curator and Cultural Director at The Morikami Museum, and after 30+ years of selecting and displaying the Museum’s exhibitions, he’s the resident expert on all things Japanese art, antiquities and artifacts. So it says something that he felt a “sense of discovery” about the upcoming exhibit, “Elegance in Iron: The Art of the Japanese Tetsubin.” The show opens Tuesday and runs through Dec. 6, 2009.

It features more than 90 tetsubin, or Japanese cast-iron teakettles, from the 19th and early 20th centuries. Iron teakettles were a big deal back in the day because they symbolized a break with the Japanese traditional way of preparing tea, instead opting to prepare it the Chinese way by steeping tea leaves. Oh, the humanity!

Tom’s sense of discovery came as he drafted the text for the corresponding catalog (on sale in the Museum Store for $25). The teakettles’ paradoxes? 1) They aren’t as old as they appear. Their “aged” features of chips and nicks were done on purpose to give them a well-worn look by the craftsman. 2) Some of the kettles sport Chinese motifs, even though they aren’t … well… Chinese. Again, just for looks. 3) They were only used for 150 years – a short period of time in Japanese history.

Tom himself is a bit of a paradox. With a Danish last name and no visible vestige of Japanese heritage, I wondered what kept him immersed in and curious about Asian art and history. He was introduced to Japan by a high school girlfriend, who had traveled there, and he ended up studying it in college, falling in love and making a career of it.

And the girl? He married Sandy about 37 years ago.

Elegance in Iron catalog cover

Elegance in Iron catalog cover