Monday, January 26, 2015

The Story of Tokyo Rose

 A multitude of Tokyo Roses in Miwa Yanagi's Zero Hour. (c) Naoshi Hatori 

Commemorating the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, Japan Society launches its Stories from the War programming series this week with Miwa Yanagi's Zero Hour, a theatrical retelling of the legend of Tokyo Rose. Hayley Valk, a recent intern for Japan Society's Performing Arts Program, reports from Frederick P. Close's seminal book on the subject, Tokyo Rose / An American Patriot: A Dual Biography (Scarecrow, 2010).

Born on the Fourth of July

An immigrant to Los Angeles from Yamanashi Prefecture, Jun Toguri was overjoyed when his daughter Iva was born on Independence Day, 1916. Iva was American through and through – she loved baseball, had no taste for Japanese music but loved Big Band, and her extroverted personality won her many Caucasian friends but clashed with her father’s conservative Japanese style. Her childhood was spent in various cities in Southern California, as her father moved through the import-export business and eventually came to own grocery stores. Iva graduated with a degree in zoology from UCLA, but without many career prospects due to her gender and Japanese heritage.

In June 1941, Iva’s aunt fell ill in Tokyo. Since Iva’s mother Fumi also suffered from failing health, Iva decided to pay a visit in her place and travel to Japan for the first time. She boarded a ship with her friend Chiyeko Ito, not knowing that she wouldn’t return to the U.S. for another seven years.

An American in Tokyo

Six months after arriving in Tokyo, Iva heard the shocking news: Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor. She struggled to book passage on a ship leaving the country but, without the appropriate passport or funds, was stranded. The police regularly came knocking at her door to harass Iva and convince her to renounce her U.S. citizenship, but she refused again and again. Though she lived with her aunt for a time, this unyielding support of the enemy made Iva’s relatives and neighbors uncomfortable and in time resentful, and she ultimately decided to move into a boarding house found with the help of her Japanese language school. Meanwhile, her family back home had been interned.

Realizing that she would have to make her own way in Japan for some time to come, Iva continued learning Japanese, improving on the very little knowledge she possessed before arriving in Japan. She found several small jobs in these years, transcribing English for Domei News Agency, teaching piano to children from wealthy families, and doing office work for the Danish Minister. As Japan struggled in a time of severe rationing, Iva actively traded on the black market and smuggled goods to POWs, saving Allied lives. Finally, she began part-time work as a typist at Radio Tokyo.

Zero Hour

Early in Japan’s propaganda effort, three English-speaking POWs with broadcasting experience were brought to Radio Tokyo to develop programming. Charles Cousens, Ted Ince, and Norman Reyes were forced by the Japanese government to oversee an hour-long radio show called Zero Hour, containing music, skits, censored news, and POW messages. They searched for a female broadcaster to introduce the jazz music segments and deliver short scripted announcements, and came across typist Iva Toguri; fluent in English and with a raspy, unalluring voice, she was exactly what the program needed. Facing government threats, she was given little choice but to accept the position.

As the primary of multiple women broadcasting for Zero Hour, Iva became established under the identity “Orphan Ann.” She could sympathize with the stranded GIs as she greeted them, “my fellow orphans in the Pacific.” Though these comments ostensibly served the Japanese government’s objective of weakening the Allied forces’ morale, the POWs carefully scripted the show to subvert the negativity in favor of cleverly-worded encouragement. The preserved records of Iva’s Zero Hour broadcasts reveal that, in fact, she did little more than entertain GI listeners and announce the upcoming music selections.

Will the Real Tokyo Rose Please Stand Up?

Meanwhile, from very early in the war talk was flying about a radio personality known only as “Tokyo Rose.” According to GIs in the Pacific, Tokyo Rose was famous for demoralizing comments, rumors of unfaithful girlfriends back home, and leaking military secrets. She was described as a seductress with an English accent. Impossible to pin on any one broadcaster, the name was attributed in rumors to other broadcasters such as Radio Manilla’s Myrtle Lipton or even to Amelia Earhart. The popularity of the Tokyo Rose legend became so widespread that she was even common vocabulary back in the U.S., encouraged by movies, cartoons, and articles.

To this day, no records exist of any broadcaster introducing herself as “Tokyo Rose” on the air. Furthermore, no one woman’s voice or broadcast contents perfectly match all the myriad qualities and statements attributed to her. With the information available at this point, it is safe to say that no single Tokyo Rose ever existed. Rather, she existed as an amalgamation of various broadcasters born to fill a void in the GIs lives left by homesickness, hopelessness, and sexual frustration. A figment of collective imagination, she became all too real when successively propagated by GIs and the media.

Suspect Treason

Given these facts, the next mystery is why Iva Toguri ever claimed to be the “one and original ‘Tokyo Rose’” in the confusion that followed the war. Possibly out of a desire for the money to return home or the promise of fame, or perhaps just out of ignorance, Iva quickly dug herself into a hole she couldn’t escape from. After being promised $2,000 for the first interview as “Tokyo Rose,” Iva agreed to give many more, and signed her name over and over as “Iva Toguri/Tokyo Rose," which would cause her trouble for years to come.

On October 17, 1945, Iva entered Sugamo Prison under suspicion of treason against the U.S. Facing entirely false and fabricated accusations, Iva was treated far worse by her home government than by even the Japanese military government during the war. She was alternately confirmed as a U.S. citizen and therefore capable of treason, and denied the benefits of U.S. citizenship under the false accusation that she had renounced it in favor of the Portuguese citizenship she acquired after marrying Phil d’Aquino in her Radio Tokyo years. After a year in jail full of painful investigations, a lack of substantial evidence led the CIC and FBI to drop the case, and Iva walked out of Sugamo on October 25, 1946.

In response to civilian outrage towards Iva’s release spurred by Walter Winchell’s U.S. radio show, the Truman administration sought to save face and not appear too easy on traitors. The FBI reopened the case with an open call for witnesses. The witness testimonies were censored to make the strongest case against Iva, and she was returned to Sugamo and slated to return to the U.S. for further investigation. Because her case would be under the jurisdiction of the location she first set foot on U.S. soil, her destination was set for San Francisco, where she would be likely to encounter the greatest opposition. In 1948, after seven years abroad, Iva was reunited with her father in her home country.

Iva Toguri's Sugamo mugshot. Via

The United States v. Iva Toguri

Thanks to Jun, Iva was grateful to finally have legal representation from Wayne Collins, yet was still forced to spend almost two years in jail before and during the trial without having been convicted. She was charged with eight overt acts of treason, so vague they proved no anti-U.S. crimes in and of themselves. In desperate prosecution, Thomas DeWolfe and the U.S. government went so far as to bribe and coach witnesses, spend exorbitantly to secure testimonies, sabotage the defense, destroy records, and exclude all minorities from the jury.

The deceitful actions of the U.S. government only worked to confirm the verdict of a trial that was doomed at the core. The question was never, “Did Iva Toguri commit treason?” but instead, “Is Iva Toguri truly Tokyo Rose?”, Tokyo Rose automatically assumed a guilty identity. The eight overt acts of treason were ambiguously worded and lacked concrete evidence on either side. The judge eliminated the possibility of duress and, left merely with speculations of Iva’s intention, the jury found her guilty of one overt act: “speaking into the microphone concerning the loss of ships.” After 12 weeks, 800,000 words of testimony, and $500,000 prosecution (if not five or ten times more), Iva Toguri was sentenced on October 6, 1949 to a $10,000 fine and 10 years in prison.

“Pardon me, Iva”

Iva stayed busy during her next six years in Alderson Federal Reformatory for Women. She learned and worked in coding, medicine, and dentistry, and spent free time reading and making bags and other crafts to sell. She was well-liked for her poise and generosity, and developed strong relationships with her inmates and guards.

During her time in prison, Collins attempted to appeal the court’s decision and applied to President Eisenhower for a pardon, to no avail. The day before Iva was to be released from prison, she was informed that she would be deported and forcibly expatriated for treason. On January 28, 1956 Iva left Alderson, but, rather than join her family in Chicago, had to stay in California for two and half years before the effort to deport her was dropped.

Iva returned to Chicago and lived quietly until 1973, when unexpectedly a Boston pediatrician named Dr. Clifford Uyeda read a dissertation about her trial and resolved to achieve a pardon. He spearheaded an action committee with the support of the Japanese American Citizens League, scholars, and politicians. Journalists took up the subject anew, finally acquiring truthful statements from the witnesses that had been coerced by the prosecution. GIs and the state of California even supported the effort. Finally, on January 19, 1977, Iva Toguri was overjoyed to receive word that Gerald Ford, on the final day of his presidency, had pardoned her for the charges pressed thirty years earlier.


Iva lived the rest of her life in Chicago, grateful to have finally secured her U.S. citizenship. She managed her father’s business until her final years, and spent time visiting friends across the U.S. and supporting the arts. Though memories of the war influenced the rest of her years, Iva was never bitter about what had passed. She died of a stroke at home on September 26, 2006, at age 90. Still, the legends of Orphan Ann and Tokyo Rose live on.

--Hayley Valk

Hayley Valk is a junior at Barnard College majoring in East Asian Cultures with a focus on Japan. She has also worked as Stage Manager/Producer for numerous student theater productions at Columbia University. Hayley interned at Japan Society in the Performing Arts Department from Fall 2013 through Summer 2014. She is currently studying abroad in Kyoto, Japan under the KCJS: Kyoto Consortium for Japanese Studies program housed at Doshisha University and recently volunteered for the Kyoto Experiment International Performing Arts Festival.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Memories of Oshogatsu, Japan's New Year's Family Celebration

It’s December 31, and the house is spotless, the food has been prepared, and the celebration is about to begin. Tomorrow is New Year’s Day in America, but in Japan, it’s the beginning of Oshogatsu, Japan’s New Year’s equivalent.

"In the U.S., New Year's is just a single day, but the Japanese New Year’s is celebrated for an extended period of time, usually about three days." says Kazuko Minamoto, Deputy Director of education and family programming at Japan Society. "Most businesses in Japan are even closed for the first three days in January in observance of Oshogatsu"

Oshogatsu focuses on starting from a clean slate, so before the new year begins, everyone makes sure all business and housework from the previous year is completed. More like Christmas in America, Oshogatsu is typically spent with family, who often gather at grandparents’ houses for several nights. Great meals are prepared with each item of food symbolizing something.

"As a child, I enjoyed traditional New Year’s food – ozoni (rice cake in soup) and osechi (various special foods we only eat during Oshogatsu)," says Education Program Officer Yumi Nagasawa. "These days my family eats toshikoshi soba noodle, a meal that represents a wish for a long life."

Even the colors of the food's ingredients are taken into account. Lucky colors such as red and white are prominently featured in Oshogatsu dishes, also known as osechi ryori. The cooking takes days of exhausting work to prepare, so it’s not uncommon for modern Japanese people to buy the food pre-made from a high-end kaiseki restaurant.

Education Program Associate Owen Rojek took part in the full celebration for himself recently. "I spent the last two New Year's in Oita, a rural prefecture on the island of Kyushu, with my friend’s family, and it was a great and touching experience. Her immediate and extended family all gathered at her grandfather’s house and it felt like I was attending a large family reunion. Grandparents held great-grandchildren on their knees, siblings reminisced about their childhood, and everyone enjoyed beautifully prepared osechi ryori and copious amounts of alcohol."

While the adults of the house are busy cooking and cleaning, the children are free to play with their cousins that they may not get to see very often. They also receive otoshidama, money from parents and relatives enclosed in a small envelope.

"As a child, of course, my favorite memory is of otoshidama," says Yumi. "Part of the fun was to visit all my relatives, but it was also exciting to find out how much money I received. I learned how to use or save it wisely."

Learning the value of money is a very important part of receiving otoshidama, notes Kazuko. "I was able to save enough otoshidama that I received from my parents and relatives over many years to buy an audio stereo set when I was a teenager. It gave me a sense of accomplishment and taught me the importance of saving money (and patience that goes with it) when I was a kid."

As for the moment the clock strikes twelve, it’s a bit less climactic than it is in America. Rather than meeting up at, say, Times Square to watch the ball drop, families will head to nearby shrines to pray for success in the new year.

"As the end of the year drew closer, there was no big countdown like in the U.S.," says Owen, "but we all put on our coats and shoes and went to three local shrines to celebrate the New Year in an activity known as sansyamairi. We prayed for a good year and bought slips of paper with our fortunes for the New Year. This last time, I got daikiti, which means 'best luck' and is the best fortune you can get. After returning home, we went to sleep because we would be going to see the first sunrise of the year, another New Year’s tradition in Japan. After watching the sunrise from a nearby mountain, we returned home and ate ozoni, the traditional New Year’s day soup containing rice cakes and vegetables. Dinner was leftover osechi ryori, which was still delicious."

"We enjoyed hearing the sounds of year-end bell, Joya no kane – 108 times, says Yumi. "This is to cleanse the 108 kinds of human egos before welcoming a new year. My family lived close to a famous shrine, and we often went to give prayer on the first day (or very early morning around Midnight) to start the New Year with a good wish and a good new year’s resolution.

Kazuko adds, "On New Year’s Eve, I usually enjoy watching with family members the popular NHK’s Kohaku-uta-gassen, known in English as 'Red & White Year-end Song Festival,' a music program running since 1951 that features hit songs of the year."

Many Oshogatsu traditions have endured through the ages, and several are on display for children to discover and participate in at Japan Society’s annual Oshogatsu Family Festival this Sunday.

Guests can watch taiko drumming, lion dancing, pound their own mochi, write calligraphy, and participate in other fun events.

Having been a part of Japan Society's Oshogatsu event since its inception, Kazuko shared an element of volunteerism that few people may realize occurs:

"One of the most memorable and consistent scenes I have witnessed since we started Oshogatsu is how over fifty high-school student volunteers, including Japanese teens from Keio Academy and American teens from one-to-two local high schools who study the Japanese, work closely together to help children at the game and activity booths. Those students were hardworking, diligent, kind, and thoughtful to our younger guests and our presenters and performers. Keio Academy students looked very proud of their country’s tradition while American students truly enjoyed the festival atmosphere they couldn’t normally experience in their classroom setting. We are grateful for their assistance."

It’s an atmosphere unique to Japan, which makes the event such a unique opportunity for those who wouldn’t otherwise be able to experience it.

"I am still fairly new to Oshogatsu at Japan Society, having only experienced it last year," says Yumi, "but it is a wonderful opportunity especially for young children to experience a Japanese custom and tradition in a fun way. Traditions are acquired through experience, so Oshogatsu is a chance to experience and learn about Japan without being in Japan, and for family to create and share memories."

--Mark Gallucci

Photo by George Hirose.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Taking The First Steps To Learning Japanese

Mark Gallucci is a Japan Society Communications intern. In addition to receiving his Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from the University at Albany, he completed a study-abroad program in Kansai Gaidai University, Japan. As an English-Japanese tutor, Mark talks about his experience learning Japanese and shares some tips for self-study and classroom-based learning.

Coming from an English background, learning Japanese can seem like a daunting endeavor. It’s easy to look at the written language and be intimidated by the complexity of its three writing systems—hiragana, katakana and kanji—when compared to the English alphabet. But Japanese is a language like any other, and learning it is just a matter of taking the first step.

Before I finally decided to learn Japanese, I went back and forth several times. I was a junior in college, and I’d never had the chance to take Japanese classes in high school, which offered only Spanish, French, Italian, and German.

After a bit of research, I decided that self-study would be a great way to start. I found tons of websites and programs that could help, but before I could begin, I noticed that there were several different paths of study to choose from, depending on your priorities.

You can ignore the writing system and focus solely on speaking, you can choose to learn kanji later, or you can start with kanji. If you’re looking to watch Japanese TV or anime, or listen to Japanese music, you can prioritize speaking and listening skills. But if you’re looking to communicate with people in writing, especially online, or if reading manga or classic literature are goals, then a solid knowledge of kanji is vital.

It’s for that reason that I chose to learn kanji first. It may seem counterintuitive, as it involves learning what the characters mean before even learning the words they’re used in. But it also helps when identifying new words. For instance, if you don’t know a certain word but recognize one of the kanji used in it, you can make a reasonable guess as to what that word is.

As for how my choice turned out, two years and one semester of studying abroad in Japan later, I still need English subtitles when I watch Japanese TV, no doubt a result of prioritizing kanji over speaking and listening. On the other hand, I read and reply to messages in Japanese every day, and thanks to speaking practice with friends, can have long conversations with native Japanese speakers without having to resort to English to get my point across. And while I did end up taking several classes along the way, there were two resources that I found invaluable in my studies.

For kanji, vocabulary, and other things I need to memorize, I use Anki, a popular, completely free digital flashcard program that has tons of user-created decks, including ones for hiragana and katakana. This is a great tool for memorizing large amounts of information. For everything else, I use Lang-8, a platform for free language exchange – you write entries in the language you’re learning, and native speakers of that language will correct it for you. You can then return the favor by correcting entries written in your native language. It’s also common for language learners to exchange Skype info. There’s nothing more helpful than having a native speaker correct your Japanese as you talk.

What I love about both of these resources is that whether you’re taking classes or not, they’re both very useful and can adapt to your current skill level. Plus, they provide a nice mix of textbook learning and exposure to “real” Japanese.

The Classroom Path

Self-study alone may not be enough to reach your goals, and this is where classes come in. Having a native Japanese teacher answer questions and having a clear, stable measure of progression is something that only classes can provide. There’s also the routine. It’s a lot easier to skip a day of Anki reviews than it is to skip a day of class. Not to mention that if you’re just starting out and have no idea what to do, a class will have a set curriculum, and you don't have to figure it out on your own.

Should you opt for classes, the spring session at Japan Society's Toyota Language Center starts at the beginning of February, with thirteen levels of Japanese courses available, meeting once or twice weekly. Kanji courses and specialized courses are also offered. For anime fans interested in learning Japanese, they are offering for the first time a weekly beginners class that uses anime to teach basic vocabulary, sentence structure, and conversational skills.

But if you’re still on the fence, you can get a feel for the classroom environment with one of Japan Society’s free trial lessons taught by Language Center Director Tomoyo Kamimura.

In an interview about the classroom experience, Kamimura-sensei said of her students’ trial lesson experience, “They definitely got the sense of what it is like to learn Japanese and seemed to have enjoyed the lesson. Some are interested in signing up for a regular class. I always enjoy teaching and this occasion was no exception. I hope they got a taste of what it’s like to study and learn Japanese in this brief session.”

Part of that experience is working with other students, a point of focus for classes at Japan Society, and one which Kamimura says can be very effective.

“It kind of motivates you to stay in the class, because when you’re alone, it’s hard to have self-discipline.”

It’s this challenge that can cause people to quit learning a language midway, which is why it’s important, even for those who self-study, to talk to other language learners to compare progress.

Because there are several different areas to focus on when learning a language, there’s no “right” way to learn, but no matter how you’re learning, nothing’s quite like having a conversation in the language you’re learning with native speakers, a fact that Kamimura acknowledges.

“I have had several students who taught themselves through self-study. Many of them were not sure if they were doing it right, so they wanted to take lessons. Amazingly, some of them are very nearly fluent! For me, it may be possible to learn grammar from a book if you have a very conceptual, abstract mind-set. But in my experience, if you can arrange a language exchange with a Japanese student—I have paired up several people here—it works very well. You spend one or one and a half hours speaking only Japanese, then one hour speaking English. You have to get exposure to real Japanese, not just what’s on a screen or in a book. So I do believe in self-study to a certain extent.”

For me, the biggest benefit of taking classes was gauging my progress. When you’re studying in a very unstructured way, there’s no real measure of progress other than looking at past essays or entries you wrote and finding all the mistakes you made. After a while of self-studying , it felt good to take a class, learn new things, and see that my process really was showing results.

Additionally, for beginners who still aren’t sure where to start, classes can provide a foundation to build upon while simultaneously giving students an opportunity to meet new people who share a common goal, and learn from them as well.

“One good thing about taking a class with others, at Japan Society or at college, is, let’s say you hear people making mistakes, and you know the answer. The teacher asks a question, and someone answers it completely wrong, and you think, ‘Oh, that’s wrong, I think that’s wrong’ and the teacher explains why it’s wrong… So you learn from other people’s mistakes.”

After all, making mistakes leads to more efficient learning in the long run.

--Mark Gallucci

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Delight in the Details: A Closer Look at Japan Society's ‘Garden'

Manabu Ikeda's Foretoken.

Whether diabolical or divine, details in art capture (and sometimes overwhelm) the imagination, and can transform a single instant into an hours-long adventure of discovery.

A prime example of this is early Netherlandish painter Hieronymus Bosch's masterpiece Garden of Earthly Delights. According to Taschen’s recently released Hieronymus Bosch: Complete Works, the piece is "populated with grotesque scenes of fantastical creatures succumbing to all manner of human desire, fantasy, and angst… alongside traditional hybrids of man and beast, such as centaurs, and mythological creatures such as unicorns, devils, dragons, and griffins, we also encounter countless mixed creatures freely invented by the artist."

Bosch's thematic complexity, compositional density and artistic playfulness inspired the title of Japan Society Gallery's current exhibition Garden of Unearthly Delights, which showcases three Japanese masters of their craft, or takumi: Manabu Ikeda, Hisashi Tenmyouya, and the collective teamLab, all of whom are creating what the New York Times calls "Japanese art 2.0." 

In the artists' works, "the past, the present, and the future collide creating hallucinatory visions like The Garden of Earthly Delights," writes Director of Japan Society Gallery and exhibition co-curator Miwako Tezuka in the catalogue. "Just as Bosch did, the three Japanese artists allegorically depict urgent cultural and social issues in a manner informed by their contemporary environment—in their case, today’s world of spectacle an information overload."

Spectacle indeed. Though only showing 25 works, Garden of Unearthly Delights encompasses a vast treasure trove of stimulating and subtle wonder, the antithesis to the blaring lights of Times Square or the constant bombardment of advertising from our TVs, mobile devices and almost every surface we encounter on our commutes and travels. 

In honor of the Garden of Unearthly Delights closing today, here are some surprising, thoughtful and/or humorous details visitors may have missed.

Manabu Ikeda is known for the painstaking detail of his work, which often takes more than a year to complete.The exhibition's other co-curator Laura J. Mueller writes, "Ikeda, through the medium of his meticulously executed pen-and-ink drawings, creates dreamlike worlds on his canvas that visually explicate some of the major dilemmas that we face today--such as climate chaos and the resulting natural disasters--questioning mankind's role in both causation and correction."

Meltdown, pictured above, was created in response to Japan's 3/11 earthquake and tsunami. The waste spewing, ice-encrusted industrial plant hovering over an idyllic landscape is a stark commentary of mankind's impact on nature and the potential (or actuality) of cataclysm. To further heighten the tension, pure white silhouettes (a common motif throughout Ikeda's work) of animals appear in and out of their natural habitat, oblivious to the looming man-made disaster.

A giant snake rising in the mist and toadstools buried in the trees dominate Ikeda's Mountain and Clouds, but take a magnifying glass to the bottom right corner to find apparitions haunting the trees. Are these kodama, tree spirits from Japanese folklore, or is this an homage to Japan's tragic Aokigahara forest at the base of Mt. Fuji, also known as "Suicide Forest"?

Visitors entranced by the electric waves of Ikeda's impressionistic and relatively straightforward Imprint may have missed a barely visible torii, the iconic gateways to Japan's Shinto shrines, submerged in the darkest blue of the center stillness. 

A tiny bee and spider hitch a ride on the back of Ikeda's vegetative Grass Mantis.

Some visitors have said they spent hours scouring every inch of Ikeda's breathtaking 780 square foot Foretoken, pictured in full at the top of this article. In this work Ikeda cleverly reverses the kineticism (and perhaps symbolism) of Hokusai's famous The Great Wave at Kanagawa, an obvious source of inspiration. Hokusai's titular wave not only threatens three fishing boats with its awesome, all-consuming momentum, but dwarves the static and typically dominating Mt. Fuji in the background. In Ikeda's work, Mt. Fuji is nowhere to be seen, and the wave, literally frozen in time, is brimming with life, from birth to playful specters of death, as seen in the details above, as well as countless scenes of humorous, imaginative invention.

In not one but two places, skeletons enjoy the aftermath of a plane crash. Note the silhouetted vultures in the second detail enjoying the show.

Homages to icons of Japanese mythology abound like like this dragon and fisherman landing a giant koi (carp) using koinobori as bait.

And finally (but by no means completely) in terms of Ikeda's detail, Tezuka explains the ubiquitous hovering spirits, above, and their poignant meaning for the artist: "The deity riding the flying animal is chanting a Buddhist sutra, in this case 'Namo Amitābhāya' (in Japanese, 南無阿弥陀仏 or Namu Amida Butsu), literally meaning 'Homage to Infinite Light.' There are several such figures in Foretoken, and Ikeda has said that at least one of them was his grandmother when she passed away."

Hisashi Tenmyouya "appropriates imagery and creative techniques from traditional Japanese art, reinterpreting them in a shockingly contemporary manner with references to subjects such as modern warfare and street violence," writes Mueller. "Taking cues from Buddhist themes and imagery, Tenmyouya imbues his art (whether intentionally or subconsciously) with meditative and religious meaning."

Tenmyouya’s iconoclastic Neo Thousand Armed Kannon, above, painted shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the U.S., shows the beloved Buddhist goddess of mercy with her arms splayed behind her, each hand holding a menacing and militaristic gun or knife. Some have seen this piece as purely sacrilegious. But upon closer inspection, two hands at her chest hold something different, almost as an offering: a grenade in her left, and a can of spray paint in her right. Does this represent a possibility for art amidst overwhelming threat of violence? Does it symbolize an imbalance between destructive and creative forces in our world? Is it implying that art is dangerous—for the artist, for the viewer, for the establishment?

Much has been written about the "anti-Zen" garden in Tenmyouya's installation Rhyme, especially how there is no blood spilled in the epic mirrored battle scenes on the wall. The blood, however, has pooled amongst the skull-embossed rocks below, in the form of crimson sand, which was carefully, almost meditatively raked by the artist days before the exhibition opened. Is this anti-Zen? Or has the artist found an ultra-Zen method to process violence in art and life?

Another detail that may have been overlooked: only one of the dozens and dozens of yakuza-like warriors in the painting has eyes, and, to eerie effect, they are the same shimming goldleaf color of the background.

Finally, the most important detail of the exhibition: all of the people who came to Japan Society Gallery to explore and enjoy Garden of Unearthly Delights. Above are 25 of the hundreds of Instagram selfies taken by people in teamLab's immersive and interactive Flowers and People installation created exclusively for the exhibition.

The show may be over, but enjoy it one last time (or in perpetuity) with this video walkthrough brought to you by Japan Society Gallery.

--Shannon Jowett

Images (top-to-bottom): Manabu Ikeda, (b. 1973), Foretoken, 2008; pen, acrylic ink on paper, mounted on boards; 72 x 132 in; collection of Sustainable Investor Co., Ltd. © Manabu Ikeda, courtesy Mizuma Art Gallery. Manabu Ikeda, Meltdown, 2013; acrylic ink on paper, mounted on board, 48 x 48 in.; Chazen Museum of Art, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Colonel Rex W. & Maxine Schuster Radsch Endowment Fund purchase, 2013.24. Manabu Ikeda, Mountains and Clouds, 2012; pen, acrylic ink on paper, mounted on board; 24 x 27 3/5 in; Private Collection, Tokyo (courtesy of Mizuma Art Gallery, Tokyo), © Manabu Ikeda, courtesy Mizuma Art Gallery. Photo by Kei Miyajima. Manabu Ikeda, Imprint, 2011; pen, acrylic ink on paper, mounted on board; 24 x 36 in.; Collection of Mr. Harvey Sawikin and Mrs. Andrea Krantz; © Manabu Ikeda, courtesy Mizuma Art Gallery, photo by Kei Miyajima. Manabu Ikeda, Grass Mantis (Kusakamakiri), 2004; acrylic ink on paper, mounted on board; 9 1/16 x 11 7/16 in.; Chazen Museum of Art, University of Wisconsin-Madison, John H. Van Vleck Endowment Fund purchase, 2013.25. Hisashi Tenmyouya, (b. 1966), Neo Thousand Armed Kannon, 2002; acrylic, wood; 89 ½ x 68 5/16 in.; Takahashi Collection, Tokyo; © Hisashi Tenmyouya, courtesy Mizuma Art Gallery. Hisashi Tenmyouya, Rhyme, 2012; acrylic paint, gold leaf on wood; inkjet print on paper, mounted on wood; each 49 7/8 x 118 1/8 in.; Chazen Museum of Art, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Colonel Rex W. & Maxine Schuster Radsch Endowment Fund purchase, 2013.23.1-.2a-b; fiberglass reinforced polyester, calcium carbonate; variable dimensions; Chazen Museum of Art, University of Wisconsin-Madison, John H. Van Vleck Endowment Fund purchase, 2013.23.3a-g; installation photograph by Richard P. Goodbody. teamLab (est. 2001), United, Fragmented, Repeated, and Impermanent World (detail), 2013; interactive digital work, 8 screens; endless, 9:16; sound by Hideaki Takahashi; courtesy of the artist and Pace Gallery; images via Instagram. teamLab, Flowers and People—Gold and Dark, 2014; digital work, endless; courtesy of the artist and Pace Gallery; surrounding Ever Blossoming Life—Dark, 2014, and Ever Blossoming Life—Gold, 2014, both digital works, endless, courtesy of the artist and Pace Gallery; images via Instagram.