Japan in Miniature

Japan has proven time and again that some of the biggest, world-transforming products and ideas can come from a landmass that is somewhat smallish. And since the advent of the transistor radio, they keep reusing this winning formula. How else can one explain the “small Muji” exhibition by Tanaka Tatsuya at Mujirushi’s flagship Ginza store?

I’m just being honest when I say that my feelings are so-so when it comes to Mujirushi shops. After all, the store’s name literally means, “Generic.” But including Mr. Tanaka’s creations in their latest promotional campaign was anything but bland or ordinary.

Tanaka’s artwork consists of miniature scenes and dioramas built from everyday items. Think staples, bath towels, and hot dogs with tiny custom figurines climbing all over them. The exhibition he put on for Muji includes a cityscape with power strips standing in for skyscrapers, and a plate of curry and naan posing as the Ganges River.

I first encountered Mr. Tanaka’s work through his wall calendars. Every month, I looked forward to flipping each page to discover the next big—I mean small—thing. I promise you that I am not a shill for “Big Miniature,” but you can find an online, daily version of his chronology products by visiting his “Miniature Calendar” site. There you will also find details on the Mujirushi show (running through April) and his other events around the country. You can also pick up a copy of one of his books at the show or buy the one I got on Amazon.

Miniature Trip Around the World, book by Tanaka Tatsuya

Tanaka is not the only person in Japan building cute, tiny things. I also happen to follow—which probably says more about me than I should reveal—the YouTube channel for Mozu Studios. I’m sure that they do other money-making stuff, but from the posted videos, you would think they spend all their days goofing off by recreating real Japanese interior environments (living rooms, offices etc.) hidden behind normal-sized electrical outlets. The detail is mind-blowing.

As you can tell, I’m kind of into this stuff. Maybe it’s because I’m fat. But their work is so impressive that if I were to pick up one of those previously amazing Sony Walkmans today, I would think, “Is this all you got?” If you haven’t stumbled on works by Tanaka and Mozu already, I encouraged you to seek out these and other similar artists building impressive miniature environments.

[Image Credits: Mozu Studios, Tanaka Tatsuya, and the author]

Tim Odagiri

Tim Odagiri is an author, software developer, and the host of Japan Everyday. He has published more than a dozen books and hundreds of articles covering technology, current events, and now life in Japan. Find his latest books at OwaniPress.com.

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