Musashi Mix Inq


Posted on November 1, 2010

Shadowland, ©MMX

My great uncle, Lt. Col. Steve Shizuma Yamamoto, is one of my heroes. While the rest of the family was locked away at Gila River Internment Camp, Steve was selected to become part of a special unit to fight in the Pacific. The US government shaped his language, culture and ethnicity into a weapon to fight the Japanese. As an officer in the Military Intelligence Service, Steve interrogated thousands of Japanese POWs at the detention camp in Papua New Guinea. The barbed wire fences made him feel right at home.

My family is from Hiroshima. When Steve landed on mainland Japan, he traveled to Hiroshima city to find the family and see the devastation first hand. At the border to the city, an MP told him that no one was allowed to enter. Undeterred, Steve borrowed a bicycle from a local kid and rode into Ground Zero—


After my grandmother passed away in the winter of 2008, I openned a ceder chest that had been locked for decades. I found many photographs and souvenirs that her brother, Steve, had sent her from the Occupation. Among these I found a few unlabeled 4x5 prints. My heart stopped. The desolate, burnt terrain. The branchless-black trees. A trolley smashed into a building. This is Hiroshima. I almost dropped them and ran, but the tears and reverence froze me solid. Steve never told me that he had brought a camera with him...



Posted on October 18, 2010

Pieta, ©MMX

And in the holy words, we say:

"[↑] [↑] [↓] [↓] [←] [→] [←] [→] [B] [A] [start]"





Happy 25th birthday Nintendo Entertainment System!

wiki: pieta

Filed under: Art, Culture, Occupied, Tech No Comments

The Commodore: Pandora’s Box in Reverse

Posted on October 1, 2010

The Commodore, ©MMX

On July 8, 1853, Matthew C. Perry arrived off the coast of Edo. The myth of Japan's complete isolation referred to the fact that Japan continued to deal with the West on its own terms. Perry was not satisfied with being confined to the port of Nagasaki and sought to communicate with the Shogunate in grander terms than mere trade. It was not until the Commodore was refused these demands that the black ships showed their true diplomatic power: unprovoked shelling of coastal towns.

Commodore Perry wood-block print, 1854

America's attempt to crack the oyster of the Orient drastically changed the trajectory of Japanese history. Among the exotic items that America gifted to the Emperor, such as a miniature steam engine and cannons, was the creed of expansionism. Despite the relative peace that reigned for centuries under Tokugawa, the Shogunate quickly learned that the only real power a modern nation wielded was not honor nor traditions but rather technology and conquest. Reverse-engineering modernity set Japan on a colonial path that would end where it began: with the atomic destruction of Nagasaki.

Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry

Tiānmìng: The Mandate of Heaven



Posted on September 24, 2010

Kinkakujikan, ©MMX

In the words of Rinzairoku, "When you meet the Buddha, kill the Buddha."

In the face of total annihilation, we fall in love with the beauty of our floating world.

There is a pervasive Japanese aesthetic know as mono no aware; the sadness of things. Beauty is found in its inevitable destruction. The sakura must fall. And yet after all of the bombings, Kyoto remained intact. The city with Japan's most precious treasures was denied its rightful end.

On July 2, 1950, at 2:30 am, the Kinkajuji (temple of the golden pavillion) was burned down by a monk named Hayashi Yoken. The original looked very different than the one visitors see today:

original Kinkakuji, 1885

Kinkakuji after the fire, 1950

But like the phoenix on its roof, the pavillion was reborn and gilded entirely in gold:

Kinkakuji, 2005

And so the temple shall remain, its bright and shining edifice a hollow and ritualized worship of a Japan that never was. There is no dignity in forever. Beauty is found in the passing.



Posted on September 21, 2010

Moses prayed on Sinai for 3 months until god forgave his people. Idolatry is hard to avoid as an artist. We craft. We create. We critique. If we are lucky, others see something of themselves projected in front of their eyes. In that moment, we share unspoken intimacy. The object becomes the subject and thus idols are born.

The chorus of sirens outside of my house awaken the reptilian parts of my brain that tell me to run and hide. But by tomorrow I'll forget—

• • •

Someone tried to blow-up my neighborhood this weekend. A well executed FBI sting led to the arrest of a man planting what he thought was a bomb on Clark Street.

The news of this incident still hasn't really shaken me. I've been waiting 9 years for something to happen. We've all been waiting.

"He wanted to transform the city… he wanted to make a statement and he wanted to replace the mayor of Chicago," said FBI special agent Robert Grant. "He was unhappy with the way the city was running [and] with things that were happening in other parts of world." [source]

• • •

Atone. Embrace your idols.


Musashi at Brunei

Posted on September 7, 2010

Musashi at Brunei, ©MMX

The Musashi was a Yamato-class heavy battleship and served as flagship for the Combined Japanese Imperial Navy from 1943-44. With her indomitable spirit, the Musashi terrified all who saw her on the horizon.

A major flaw in Japan's overall naval strategy was that big guns and big ships were not the key to victory. The sinking of the Musashi in October of 1944 was a tremendous blow, in steel and spirit, to the Japanese Empire.

Rising up from the sea, Kusunoki Masashige stands as the symbol of samurai loyalty in the face of annihilation, patron-saint of the Kamikaze.

"I 'm not dying yet; I have quite a few men to kill first." -Yojimbo


Purchase Print