There is something to Japanese culture that seems to be intrinsically psychedelic to the western mind. The orient itself, one could argue, has a strange hallucinatory effect on western sensibilities, as a foreign land, an “antipode the mind”, which one can visit more easily than ever since the rise of YouTube and webvideo.
The garish colors of the psychedelic age haven’t disappeared from Japanese pop culture, and together with the flourishing of Japanese capitalism and consumer society it has created a prospering ecology of psychedelic video aesthetics, which produces at times what looks like a Philip K. Dickian style of advertising, at other times like a tripped children series, and sometimes just plain weird.
For the Japanese, many of these artifacts that seem to be deeply psychedelic in western eyes, are considered to be an integral part of mainstream pop culture, or of the kawaii genre. These artifacts are in fact rarely even considered to be psychedelic in the extreme anti-drug climate of Japan, where even psychedelic rock-groups take a distinct anti-drug stance.
This short list will focus on the more weird side of psychedelic Japanese videos. This is not to say that there is not a tradition of more transcendental, classic psychedelic aesthetic in Japanese culture. (See for example, this one). The “weird” genere is only a sub-genre in the wide spectrum of Japanese psychedelic videos.
While we would like to refrain from engaging in a questionable orientalism of the sort that romantically misinterprets a remote culture and tries to define it through the embarrassingly uninformed eyes of a stranger – we do like weird Japanese styled psychedelic videos very much. Indeed Japanese culture has had a huge impact on psychedelic aesthetic, which goes well beyond the videos done by Japanese artists.
So here, without further adieu, without trying to analyze or to explain, a number of our favorite Japanese styled psychedelic videos on the web.
Toastgirl is a Japanese performance artist, who began her career after one day, out of boredom, she decided to toast a piece of bread while holding a toaster on her head.
The rest is history. On her debut performance inMelbourne, Toastgirl made a toast on her head, while her friend’s band played. This was a sensation and she became widely known as toast-girl and has a strong following among young women inJapan(I’m not making any of this up. I swear!).
I love Toastgirl because her style mixes many of the elements of psychedelic weird stuff that’s coming fromJapan: she is childlike and epic alike. She has red hair and magical tottoro-like monsters that dance next to her. You can see her face appearing enticingly on consumer products in one of her clips (The beginning of this one) while in other videos she appears in frames that mix the aesthetic of the Marxist revolutionary group Japanese Red Army propaganda posters with childlike monster drawings. (1:18, in the video above)
I don’t really know what Nippon Kazauwa is, but to me it looks like a freaked out commercial for a hallucinogenic beverage made from the urine of amanita muscaria eating shamans.
Nippon Kazauwa is a sort of hyper-freaked parody of Japanese aesthetics in the western eyes. The guy who appears in this video doesn’t even look Japanese, but the Japanese styling is done to the extreme. After drinking the Nippon Kazauwa mushroom beverage our guy gets a crazy look in his eyes and starts talking to weird creatures. This is theNipponkazauwa shit that he is on, and it’s a completely weirded out one.
Chotto Torimasuyo (Hachimiri) / Holy Nite Mix
Hyper is a very relevant adjective when talking about Japanese psychedelia. Japanese psychedelic videos can be hypercapitalistic, hyperchildish, hypercolored, and of course they are often very hyperactive. This video doesn’t appear on any video hosting site that I could find, so you have to click on this link, and download it. If you do, it might prove to be your favorite of all.
I think this video could be a visual definition of the word hyper, and it only gets worse, in the second minute this gets to what I think actually earns the term “hyperhyper”.
Superflat First Love by Takashi Murakami for Louis Vitton
Takashi Murakami’s work is one of the best examples of the Japanese mixture of consumerism and psychedelia. In his “Superflat” series, which draws from Manga and Anime aesthetics, Murakami has brought the world of art closer than ever to the world of pop culture and consumerism.
This Superflat Louie Vittons commercial done by Murakami is a splendid mix of Ghibli style anime, magical Shinto-like creatures and psychedelic imagery. It always brings a smile to my face.
Katamari Damacy is a Japanese video game published by Namco for the Playstation 2 video game console.
“The game’s plot concerns a diminutive prince on a mission to rebuild the stars, constellations, and Moon, which were accidentally destroyed by his father, the King of All Cosmos. This is achieved by rolling a magical, highly adhesive ball called a katamari around various locations, collecting increasingly larger objects, ranging from thumbtacks to people to mountains, until the ball has grown great enough to become a star.”
There are a number of Katamari videos on the web, all of them incredibly psychedelic in style and for some reason they always feature an assortment of magical looking mushroom.
Dopeness Mogu Mogu / Evisebeats
Like Katamari, Mogu Mogu is also a voracious funny creature who likes to eat everything which is big enough to put in his mouth. Like the Katamari king he grows in the process and reaches the size of stars.
EEL – For Common People
You might have thought that kawaii and punk don’t go well together, however this clip comes to show this is not necessarily the case. InJapanyou can be both tough and childlike, punky and pinky at the same time.
Tanaken – Randy Teenage Psychedelia
Tanaken is a Japanese hip-hop artist. This video of Tanaken has a style that I would characterize as randy teenage psychedelia. It is a bizarre style to think of, but apparently inJapanit exists.
After watching all these incredibly psychedelic and funny Japanese video, one feels grateful for the existence of the Japanese people, but also easily forgets the devastating earthquake which hit Japanjust a few months ago. You can make a donation for helping Japan here.