Multimedia in Japan

"Japan is probably the most expensive country in the world for travel..."

Lonely Planet World Guide, Japan, Money and Costs


LEDs at DiorBefore I left, Jean-Pierre showed me a picture of screens at the Prada Epicentre in Aoyama, Tokyo. So I set off to find it. Big name labels are everywhere in Japan. In particular, on this street.

Dior had a wonderful screen made of LED strips. The strips were separated by gaps, so that you could see through them. It was surprisingly effective.

Louis Vuitton plasma screen catwalkLouis Vuitton obviously used the same architect that we did. This is the sort of look that the Fed Sq architects were suggesting for Fashion and Textiles. Interestingly, the designers don't try to account for the gap. The image is just split across the centre.

Prada Aoyama touchscreens: width=It was wet, it was cold, it was dark. I was tired. Finally, I found the Prada Aoyama Epicentre. It was amazing. The store was purpose built, along the same aesthetic as the Fed Sq atrium. All glass triangles in a crazy maze.

Inside were these crazy touchscreens and some projectors showing mood colours.

Multimedia in galleries

Museum of Western Art touchscreensMost of the multimedia that I saw in galleries and museums was pretty straight-forward. Explanatory video playing in small theatrettes or single booths, mostly in Japanese. The Hiroshima Peace Museum had brief sub-titles in English and some screens with snippets of text in a plethora of languages.

High resolution image from Museum of Western ArtThe Museum of Western Art in Ueno Park, Tokyo had a touchscreen set-up that allowed access to high resolution images of the collection.

After navigating your way though the collection, you could see a very high resolution image on a large LCD screen. You sat in a small darkened area, with enough space for two or three people per screen. You can't see it here, but there is another screen set-up opposite this one.

Touchscreen image from Museum of Western ArtYou could zoom in on chosen parts of the image, including a simple crop to fill the screen. From memory, there was a small amount of didactic text with each image. The images, being big and clear and right in front of you, were beautiful.

Museum of Western Art equipment set-upThe equipment was straight-forward, but impressive. Because it was dark, you couldn't really see it when you were in the room. There was a very large LCD screen with three computers in a very holey box.

The other thing that they had at this place was a little simulator showing how they had protected Rodin's Gates of Hell from earthquakes. You pushed a button and the whole model shook, showing that the sculpture shook much less than the surroundings. Simple and a bit of fun.

For my money, the best use of multimedia that I saw was at the Noritake Studio in Nagoya. Little video screens led you through the process of making Noritake bone china. At each video, there were real live artisans working on the various tasks. So, along with a little video showing how the casts are made, there was a man making casts. When they described hand-painting the china, there was someone actually painting the china. Wonderful!


Kyoto railway station mangaThe Japanese love their manga. It's not just for kids. And it isn't just in comics. It is everywhere, particularly in signage. If you think about it, these sorts of images are perfect for signage. They are simple, clear and universal. Done properly, they need no text.

Tokyo firemenThis is a fire hydrant cover in Tokyo. It is set in to the pavement, and they are all over the city. Dressed as little samurai firemen, they are clearly working hard on your behalf. Somehow, I can't imagine the Melbourne Metropolitan Fire Brigade going for something like this.

No parking sign in KyotoBelieve it or not, this is a No Parking sign in Kyoto. We saw lots of this little guy. He seemed to be the standard representation of a policeman. On the back of this sign there was kanji, which presumably spelt out a dire warning.

Cat with its tail caught in the Tokyo subway doorsMy personal favourite. This little guy is on the subway doors in Tokyo. He is telling you that if you aren't careful, you might get caught in the doors. On the platform side of the doors, there is another image, showing him hitting the closed doors head on. He is funny, but sympathetic. And he gets the message across. The doors aren't open for long.

Trust and public order

Festival in TakayamaJapan really is a very safe place. These signs survive because there is virtually no graffiti. There is also virtually no theft. This scene is from a festival in the small city of Takayma. It was very busy, with lots of strangers about. A prime place for theft in most places in the world.