Kansai Creative: Happiness ☆ Hijioka • 関西クリエイテブ:ハピネス☆ヒジオカ

Now, this guy really makes me laugh.

Going by the name of Happiness *star!* Hijioka, he's Osaka Yanen! • 大阪やねん!, and he knows it (and plays off it well). Browsing his works at Gallery Hokk in Horie, I couldn't help but laugh. Hijioka San keeps a blog (here) with Illustrations in it, and he had a number of pictures on display at his exhibition. One was a picture of a love hotel with kids playing in the fountain out the front, and a very embarrassed couple leaving the hotel trying to ignore them.

His works are all done in a very rough wobbly-line style, but the uniqueness of his drawings make his stuff cool. At his exhibition he had lots of sketches of the Kita ku neighborhood, which were without the attached humor usually included in his works with characters. I thought these everyday neighborhood pictures were magnificent, especially with his style applied. He has done lots of tourism work for Osaka, and a few of his drawings, like the poster in the photo above, are all the sights and characters just crammed into one work. It's totally Osaka, and GREAT, because Osaka is a great place. No arguments accepted.

Hijioka San keeps cats, who he talks to quite a bit in his blog. He mentioned to me that he's been a freelance Illustrator for 10 years now, and he's making enough to eat. I think he was chuffed about having a foreigner visit his exhibition, and got me to sign his youseigaki. He's had foreigners visit some of the exhibitions he's been in, but said they couldn't speak Japanese. He also admits his English isn't good (see the illustration below).

Keep an eye on his blog (here) if you wanna learn some real Kansai Dialect. Go the Happiness *star!* Hijioka!

Work from Maido Ookini, a Kansai Dialect, 100 Person Exhibition

Translation: *sweat sweat* "All of a sudden a foreigner is here... konichiwa is ha... haro~ isn't it"

Nijyuuyon Seki, Kanmaki • 二十四節記、上牧

A Short walk from Kanmaki Station • 上牧駅 on the Hankyu Kyoto Line is a place Called Nijyuuyon Sekki. My wife catches the Hankyu daily, and everyday as the train passed Kanmaki she would see these 3 interesting buildings and wonder what they were. We live in Takatsuki, the station before Kanmaki, and so decided to bike there one weekend.

Nijyuuyon Sekki is actually a group of buildings created by the Relife Corporation, a construction company with their office on the premises. The designs of the buildings themselves are taken from old European country houses, and all have a very warm, inviting feel to them. Stonework and wooden furnishings, simple glass windows, iron wrought fences, the outdoor oven; it's all classic stuff.

Sharing the premises are a few other businesses, which apparently sympathize with Relife's company principles. There's a bakery called Panetteria La Sulegna (including the outdoor oven, cooking bread right in front of you!), a flower shop, a variety Store called Raro and a cafe restaurant called C.O.N.T.E, which has open fireplaces. And kick-ass sandwiches.

It's not creative in the normal way I would use the word (imagination, original ideas, etc.), but it's a great place to soak up a bit of a different feel, which is what creative types need now and then. Consider it a break from the normal creative stuff. The buildings are what you should really head there to see, as they're a new look at an old life. Take your partner to C.O.N.T.E. while you're there too!

Gallery Hokk, South Osaka • ギャラリーホック、大阪南

I head to Horie each week for a class I have there on Monday nights. I've started taking detours weekly to visit Gallery Hokk, which I prefer to most other galleries because they feature a lot of Illustrators. It's run by Kyoda Creation, a creative group in the same building.

I originally went there to see "Maido Ookini!" A Kansai Dialect, 100 Person Exhibition, Part 2 • まいどおおきに!関西弁100人展 2, which was GREAT. I was actually being quite rude I though, snickering at most of the pictures. But I couldn't help it! There was some really funny stuff in there, like a bunch of blue aliens that watched you as you walked past, rabbits selling takoyaki and a kid pulling a cart with all Osaka's main attractions in it. I really need to catch up on my Kansai ben • 関西弁, because the exhibition made me realize I don't know half as much as I should; I had trouble understanding lots of it.

Keep an eye on Gallery Hokk, it's usually exhibiting some pretty cool Illustrators. If you head there in the evenings or on the weekends, you'll probably find the creators present, and quite happy to talk about what they're doing.

Gallery Hokk is perfect if you're wondering around Yotsubashi and the Horie area.

Beyer, South Osaka • バイエル、大阪南

You know, it's amazing some of these places: You're walking down a shotengai thinking "Where the HELL am I going?". An old coffee shop, a Takoyaki stand, a drycleaner, etc; and then there it is: practically GLOWING in it's surroundings. The place you're looking for. From JR Tamatsukuri, a 5 minute walk down the Hinodedori Shotengai • 日の出通商店街 is Beyer, a bookstore, cafe and library all rolled into one.

When I visited Beyer, there the space was also being used as a gallery, and the owner, Umeda San, has his office tucked away up the back on the first floor. It's the little things that make places creative, it really is. Also personally, I'm a bit fan of places that do everything at once.

I don't think I've ever been to a library/cafe before. Beyer's library is located on the second floor of the shop, and has an excellent selection of books for creators. Though I was with company and, because of that, didn't have a good look around, the selection of Graphic Design titles was great, with a mixture of English and Japanese available.

Sumiya San from Itohen took the four of us to Beyer (see previous article) because they sell quite a few German books. On the table in the middle of the shop a box of Christa's letter pressed postcards were available, and though I'm not sure of the exact history, Umeda San and Christa seemed to know each other well.

I would recommend Beyer for someone wanting to get away somewhere quiet for an afternoon. You can also get there quite easily from Tsuruhashi Station (it's only a little longer to walk), if that's more convenient for you. Go and check out the book range, the exhibition, and browse the library!

A Visit from Germany • ドイツからの訪問

Well, well, well,WELL! I am lucky enough to be part of an extending network now. Sumiya San from Itohen invited me to meet Christa Schwarztrauber, a letter press printer from Germany, who was travelling in Japan for a couple of weeks.

Sumiya San (the only guy in the pic above) already had an aquaintance with Christa (seated left), and had been to visit her in her printing studio "Handsatzwerkstatt FLIEGENKOPF" in Germany. Straight off the plane she came to visit him in Osaka, before making her way to Kyoto where she was staying for a few days. 2 other friends of Christa came to meet her all the way from Tokyo: Chie Tanji (seated in the middle), who lived in Germany for a year and spoke quite good German, and Tamaki Hirakawa (seated right), who runs LUFTKATZE in tokyo, publishing some very, very wonderful childrens books and Illustrations. Hirakawa San had been studying German hard core for the past few months anticipating Christa's visit. For 2 weeks last year she worked with Christa in her studio, and is one of the reasons Christa came to Japan.

I got a present too!

This is a accordion fold palm-sized book with the lyrics to the old Japanese song "Sakura" in both Japanese and German. Christa said that most of Japanese friends have contacted her through her website. Tanji San said that the first time she visited Christa in her studio, Christa pretty much started the conversation with "So, what are we gonna make?". Tanji San now sports custom letter pressed business cards: very cool! (I'm so jealous.)

Hirakawa San brought some samples of the work she does at LUFTKATZE. I brought an oversized postcard from her; a woodblock print of 'SUPER'. She told me that each print had it's own unique colour, and that no two prints were alike. Oh yeah; I LOVE analogue! Here it is, now on display in the office. I also scored a bonus letter pressed placemat (design handcrafted by Hirakawa San).

The one thing that really hit me during the day was that Christa dosen't speak English. Unusually, I found myself speaking Japanese, waiting for it to be translated into German by Tanji San, and then listening to the reply in Japanese. Basically, in the company of a foreigner I had to leave my English at the door. I've never felt more Japanese in my life!

After a chat and a cup of tea we went to lunch and then moved on to Beyer, a very nice cafe/gallery/bookstore near Tamatsukuri station on the JR loop line (actually, my next blog entry is about Beyer. Check it out!)

All in all a great day, met great people, and I owe it all to Sumiya San. Thank you very much.

Hirakawa San sent me a great link regarding Christas activities in Japan, which you can view here (Japanese only). Have a look.

Tsunagari D! Creative worldwide!

Itohen, North Osaka • いとへん、大阪北

Yay! It's Itohen, a central hub for small, but great things in Osaka.

If you check out there website (here), the first thing you notice is that it's not just Itohen, a cafe, bookstore and gallery space; at the back there's a cosy office, where the 3 staff members run Skky Design in their available time. It's even more than all this though. There's workshops, live events, parties, and most importantly, a network of creative people.

The place was originally founded about 5 years ago by Mr. Ajisaka, a teacher at a technical college in Osaka. At the entrance there's a message stenciled in gold letters which sums up one of the aims of Itohen: "Think Local". Right now, it's an important stance to take; I AGREE! (You can think local too, by sending me an email and telling me what's creative in Kansai.)

Not just a cafe: as a customer, you sit amongst the books and works and soak up the atmosphere. Not just a bookstore: Itohen is stocked with self published material, and books that are hard to come by, with both an international and local selection. Not just a gallery: If you visit Itohen on the weekends, the artists are there, and will answer your questions and tell you why they've done their stuff. They're all local too, trying to make a go of it. Not just a shop: Itohen runs all kinds of workshops! There's Japanese sweets • 和菓子 making classes, flower arrangement and udon making classes as well.


Right! So if you haven't been to Itohen, you're missing out. I suggest you get your bottom into gear and head there right now. It's a 15min walk from the Umeda area or a 7min walk from Nakazakicho Station on the Tanimachi Line.

Itohen | Skky

Piperoids! • パイプロイド!

When I found these guys, they were in a basket with the label 'Made in Kyoto'. As I happened to be visiting Kyoto for the day I though it would be an awesome souvenir to take home. Made right here in Kansai!

I chose Rob, a robot with scissors for hands, and he came together with Skip, a cute looking sidekick. Kinda looks like a duck. If you check out the website (link below), there are more characters to choose from, a classic range of robots and a couple of limited edition dogs as well. Great stuff.

Piperoids are the creation of a company called Koto, who develop entertainment devices along with the technology that goes with them (for example, they jointly developed WonderSwan with Bandai).

Check out the Piperoids Website to find out where to get one!