Jam Retro Printing • レトロ印刷ジャム

It's retro. It's sexy. Sure, it smudges a bit, and registration is never good; but it's retro & sexy. It's JAM printing.

JAM never fails to surprise me with their prices. They're too good, to be precise. You'll get some funky stuff from them cheaper that you can produce it yourself. To keep the prices down, they have a selection of cheap stock and limited (though not suffocating) range of colors to choose from.

You will need some technical skills to deal with Jam though: they don't just take word files. The color separations yourself, and then put in the easy to understand templates provided online (Adobe Illustrator format).

The results can be very cool though. The never-perfect registration is all of a sudden an excellent reason to purposely offset your designs. With multiple color choices you can overlay colors to create unique combinations - reds and blues make purples! They've just recently got in a white ink as well. I bags it first.

The colours tend to smudge a bit, and Jam dosen't reccomend going crazy with 4 colour double sided designs. But within moderation, and a bit of a plan in the back of your head, you can do some good stuff. You can always check out their site (here) for the low down.

Jam Printers: pumping out most of the creative fliers you see around the place in Kansai.

Nourinkaikan, South Osaka • 農林会館、南大阪

A google search for 'Nourinkaikan' brings up the current location of the actual Agriculture and Forestry Assembly Hall, which is NOT the building pictured above. It appears that this is the building it used to be in. This Agriculture and Forestry Assembly Hall • 農林会館 is, unlike the name suggests, a rather creative place (though I'd like to say that I also imagine that the government Agriculture and Forestry Assembly Hall can be creative at times).

First time I went there I was hunting the gallery Nadar, which is in the basement. As you can see from the picture below though, the Kanban(s) • 看板 out the front really caught my eye. It's almost like all the shops are in competition to see who has the coolest one.

Inside the Nourinkaikan there a few really creative places: Design Books and stationary Flannagan, 2nd hand books Berlin Books, cool graphics and toys Comes Mart, as well as a bunch of independent fashion labels, and a few nice restaurants. You can wonder through at your leisure; to visit each shop for a few minutes you're probably best off spending a few hours there.

The building is a lovely old place, and the landlord obviously takes care of it. The hallways are white and narrow, but the shops inside are spacious and full of life. On each floor, there's also what looks like a massive vault (you know, huge thick metal door with a combination lock), and though they don't have shops in them, it's cool to check out.

The Nourinkaikan is another excellent use of an old building in Kansai (also check out the Kyoto International Manga Museum).

Brad Howe, Hyogo • ブラッド ハウ、兵庫

Brad Howe is Kansai Time Out's official designer at the moment, and It was through a bit of luck that I bumped into him at the monthly KTO party, which he normally doesn't attend. It wasn't that long before we both had permission from our wives to meet up one night and get drunk.

I claim responsibility for making Brad hoarse. I took him to Torikizuku • 鳥貴族 which was especially loud even for a Friday night; forcing us to yell at each other. We moved on, but only to a smoky smoky izakaya, and then finally to a nice beer bar on the other side of Hankyu in Umeda.

Brad comes from Sydney in Australia, and has his qualifications from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, otherwise know as RMIT. I know that it's the best university in Australia for Graphic/Illustration Design. Illustration is quite obviously his strength. Brad draws with a very high level of realism; a very good sense of proportions, which bring life to his characters, and an attention to detail in things like shadows which really gives depth to the work. Adding just a hint of wonky perspective and some nice colour choices, Brad's stuff has a very original flavor (see on his website, here).

Most people, like I myself did, will probably find it interesting that his Illustrations contain quite a bit of very... un-japanese stuff for a person living in Amagasaki, Kobe. Brad is well aware that it's seen as strange though. "I actually get a large part of my freelance work from the states. Most people are interested in working with me because I live in Japan." Brad was actually invited to participate in an exhibition up in Tokyo. "Yeah, they were pretty disappointed when I rocked up. Apparently from all the African American characters in my Illustrations they thought I would be... African American."

I asked Brad how he is going finding work here. "There's not a lot for me here, actually. When I first came to Japan I contacted a lot of design companies, met some really interesting people and saw some great places, but it never lead to what I was hoping for." One interesting phenomena that Brad mentioned was about the emails he was sending out in Kansai to other design firms. At first he really tried hard to send emails in Japanese, and found that he wasn't getting good results. On a friend's advice to 'stop trying to be Japanese', he tried sending mails again in English and found that this time he was getting much better results.

Turns out it wasn't until he turned his focus outwards and overseas that he started to get networking jobs. For a while he was surviving on freelance design alone, doing work for the famous magazine, Wax Poetics which lead on to more work from various small record labels.

Since having a kid, Brad has had to find himself a more stable income, and teaches part time while designing for Kansai Time Out. This year he's looking to get back into pushing for some freelance work, and wants to see if he can make himself a bit of a name again.

A pleasure to have a beer with Brad, and the first entry for Hyogo in Kansai. I have to get over there more!

Lingua Comica 3 • リンガ コミカ スリー

I was chatting to my old boss Matt (Sweatshop Union, see the past entry), when he mentioned that he had an order from some guy who needed some shirts printed. Normally this sentence would not surprise me, because Matt prints T-shirts for a living. When I asked 'What for?', Matt said there was some exhibition in Kyoto called Lingua Comica going on.

Lingua Comica is the Asia-Europe Foundation's idea originally, and this year they are collaborating with the Kyoto Manga Museum to bring everyone the 3rd installment. In a nutshell, the project brought together 14 emerging artists (chosen from 100 applicants) and paired them up for 2 months online and then 8 intense days at workshops in Kyoto. The goal? Comics/Manga!

What I saw at Lingua Comica 3 was the results of the pairings, including their notes and sketches, the translations of their text and the final finished pages. At the moment there is no printed comic, but there are plans to have one out this year for purchase.

After a brief correspondence with the Manga Museum an interview with Tsuyoshi Ogawa was organised for me.

As an artist, hes participated in exhibitions before, but this was Ogawa's first time doing strait manga. He described the experience as having his preconceptions of manga 'stripped bare'. The participants were lucky to have guidance from from the workshop facilitators, Kosei Ono, Titus Ackermann (Germany), Tanitoc (france), Dae-joong Kim (Korea), JM Ken Niimura (Spain).

Oogawa was paired with Cliodhna Lyons from Ireland. He said that the main initial form of correspondence was mail, and that it was quite hard. "When you're communicating with someone you've never met, and in another language, it can be tough. Slight variations in language can produce misunderstandings, and working out how to remedy these was hard". Cliodhna and Oogawa talked about food quite a bit, "as you can see from our final work", he says, laughing. "I felt better talking about food because it's a very concrete subject". It turns out that Cliodhna was a vegetarian. Oogawa sent her a picture of an Okosama • お子様 lunch, one of those kids meals found in Japan (the one he drew for her was served on a train, with a Japanese and Irish flag stuck in the pudding). "An Okosama lunch is interesting; it's a special Japanese lunch for kids, but all the food is western. Cliodhna was surprised when she saw it!"

Cliodhna then explained how in her family, they collected blackberries, made jam and then had a party and she invited all her friends over. This back and forth discussion lead to the idea of the two of them creating a 'Comics Food-pedia'. Oogawa did a comic on how to use chopsticks, and Cliodhna did a comic on table manners.

I asked how everything was translated. Oogwa said his english was "quite rough"; at the Manga Museum, there's a female research student who comes in especially to translate manga. She helped Oogawa a lot with his mails, checking that what he wanted to say was coming through properly in the English mails he had written.

Everyone was very thrilled at the opportunity of working with a person from a different country and very proud of seeing their works finalized and displayed here in Kyoto. Each pairing had it's own style and results:
• Emma Rios (Spain) and Hwei Lin Lim (Malaysia) drew their own characters on the same page together (seamless artwork!).
• Sofia Falkenhem (Sweden) and Maki Sato (Japan) created juxtaposed stories; a child leaving the country to go to the city, and a child leaving the city to go to the country—both bewildered.
• Matei Branea (Romania) and Budi Wijaya (Indonesia) split their pages up into different areas, Matei drawing very comical cartoons and Budi focussing on typographic elements. Possibly the most interesting blend.

The facilitators of the event focused on the importance of communication between participants, emphasizing the importance of the event and the necessity of growth of understanding between the pairings. They wanted everyone to go home with something they would be proud of; and the effort was successful.

I asked Oogawa which couple he found to be the most interesting. "Iyaaaaa", was his answer (it's a 'hard to answer' sound in Japanese). Everyone's strengths were different, and that was what he found interesting. "One person who draws really cute stuff can't do fine details, and the person who does fine details can't draw cute stuff."

One very cool thing right up the back of the exhibition was the product of a workshop with participating students from Kyoto Seika University. It was a large piece of paper that was divided into squares, and each square had an individual illustration in it. Some illustrations joined together at the edges, some didn't. I asked if there was any order, and Oogawa told me that the illustrators put the first illustrations in and all the participants started filling in the boxes on either side. The theme seemed to be something like 'kill the cat', and especially where the students had mimicked each others illustrations in a comically humorous way, I personally felt like this could be it's own exhibition it was such a good idea.

From the very first point where I was told about 'some exhibition' in Kyoto, I knew this would be a great, going to see Lingua Comica 3! And what do you know, it turned out to be a goldmine of creativity; something in Kansai we can all be proud of.

Kyoto International Manga Museum • 京都国際マンガミュージアム

It's like, one of those places that is BOUND to pop up somewhere in Japan, but when i actually heard about it, my first thoughts were "Really, eh? A Manga Museum! Who would've thought?"

The second shock I got was when I visited the place. It's not an underground project by some well known artist, the Kyoto International Manga Museum was developed jointly by Kyoto City and Kyoto Seika University. The term 'international' is taken very seriously; their website comes in English, Korean and Chinese, lots of information throughout the museum is available in other languages, and whaddya know, they have an international manga collection, in a BUNCH of different languages. It's all donated as well!

The land and the building, the former Tatsuike Primary School, located a very short walk from Subway Karasuma-Oike, was donated by the city for the project. It still has the charm of an old school. The floorboards creak when you walk around. Lots of old school memorabilia is on display. Apparently it was put together with the consent and support of the local residents. It's an excellent use of an old, publicly owned building. The renovations are superb. The playground has even been AstroTurfed.

It's a hive of a place. Head there on a weekend, and it's really alive. They have a Manga Studio • マンガ工房 corner, where you can see the real artwork in progress (as long as you don't bump the table). I watched a nice young lass at it for a whole 10 minutes, and she was just putting bromide shadows on some bushes she had drawn. Hard work!

You can get your portrait done manga style, There's a good permanent exhibition of 100 Maikos by 100 manga artists, dontated to the Manga Museum when it opened. You can also go a see a Historical Manga Performance done with sliding pictures and excellently narrated! There are a couple of great galleries, there's a good kids corner, there's a cafe/bar out front...

It's like a supersento... no, no it's not. It's like an amusement park... no wait not that either. But it's kind of like both in a few ways; there's lots to do all in the same building, and you don't feel like leaving the place before you've had a look at some of them.

A short walk from Kyoto Subway Karasuma Oike, entrance ¥500 for Adults.

Happy New Year! • あけましておめでとうございます!

A happy new year to you all out there from Tsunagari D. Here's to a year of all things creative, and all things Kansai.

It being the year of the Cow and all, I made New Years cards using paper made from recycled milk cartons. The design contained a template that can be cut out and made into a little milk carton.

Enjoy your Ozouni and Osechi, and may the new year bring what you wish for!

My wife and I often refer to communal things in the house as 'Asadan', which is a combination of Asako and Duncan. This years New Years cards feature a Asadan Gyuunyuu • アサダン牛乳 design.