04 April 2024

Bashamichi Art Vision / 馬車道アートビジョン


In celebration of the 20th anniversary of the opening of the Minatomirai Line in Yokohama, The Bashamichi Mirai Project (馬車道みらいプロジェクト) commissioned local artist Yuichi ITO (伊藤有壱) to do a video installation on the iconic domed ceiling of the station on weekends during the month of March. Ito is a renowned stop motion animator, known for his ongoing NHK television series KNYACKI! (ニャッキ!, 1995-present). He has also made animated shorts set in Yokohama such as Harbor Tale (2011) and Blue Eyes in Harbor Tale (2014). In addition to his team at I.TOON Ltd, Ito had technical assistance from Yuichi MATSUMOTO (松本祐一), Akimasa OISHI (大石彰誠). 

Bashamichi Art Vision was designed to honour Yokohama’s deep ties to photography and film culture. The first commercial photography studio was opened in Yokohama by Renjō SHIMOOKA (下岡 蓮杖, 1823 – 1914) in 1862, and Shimooka is often called the father Japanese photography. In more recent history, Tokyo University of the Arts (aka Geidai) opened its Graduate School of Film and New Media in the Bashamichi district in 2005. Ito has been teaching at Geidai’s Graduate School of Film and New Media since they opened their animation department over 10 years ago. 

When I visited Bashamichi Station with my husband, Stefan Hotes, on Saturday, March 23, Ito told us that he had been thinking about doing such an installation for 18 years. Inspired by the design of space created by architect Hiroshi NAITO (内藤廣), Ito came up with the concept of making a modern version of the 19th century optical device, the Phenakistiscope (also known as Odoroki-ban in Japanese) projected onto the domed ceiling. 

 The installation consisted of 5 projected videos that each ran at about a minute and a half. The themes were as follows:
 ①      Minato Mirai Line 20th Anniversary Video 

 A collection of historical images of the port city of Yokohama. 

    Garden Necklace Yokohama 2024 Sequence 
         ガーデンネックレス横浜2024 イメージムービー 

 Ito is the designer of the Garden Bear character used by the city of Yokohama to promote its Garden Necklace events (events that take place at the beautiful city gardens, which have been included by foreign trends in gardening, such as the English rose garden style). 

    GREEN EXPO 2027 Sequence 2027
         年国際園芸博覧会 イメージムービー 

Yokohama will be hosting the World Horticultural Exposition in 2027 with the theme “Scenery of the Future for Happiness” with an estimated participation of 80 countries. The Expo will run from March 19 to September 26, 2027. 

     Art Video 1: “Phenakistiscope” 
        アート映像1 「フェナキスティスコープ」 

This projection used historic Phenakistiscope discs named horse 「馬」, flower「花」, and dance「ダンス」, which were really perfect for the location. The place name “Bashamichi” translates as “horse-drawn carriage way,” as it was the way that horse-drawn carriages would go on their way to and from the port when it opened. Professor Emeritus Machiko KUSAHARA (草原真知子) of Waseda University, a world-renowned collector and researcher, provided the discs for the creation of the installation. 

    Art video 2: “The Road Leading to the Harbour'” 
        アート映像2 「港へつづく道」 

The last installation was a collaboration between Ito and leading Yokohama photographer Hideo Mori (森日出夫). The Bashamichi area has long been known as “From 'Isesaki to Bashamichi and Bankoku Bridge to the harbour” 「伊勢佐木から馬車道、そして万国橋が港に連なる」. The theme is how the landscape of the port changes with the times… which was also the theme of Ito’s animation Harbor Tale, which they also collaborated on. The 20th anniversary edition of Harbor Tale with Book can be ordered here.

2024 Cathy Munroe Hotes

15 February 2024

MOVOP Animation Screenings & Exhibition


MOVOP is a collective of young animators under 30 who want to re-evaluate contemporary animation practices. The members of the collective include Fukumi NAKAZAWA (中澤ふくみ), Lina MACHIDA (まちだりな), Nana KAWABATA (川畑 那奈), Riku TAKAHASHI (高橋李空) / DOKUZEN, MARU AKARI, Hiroki KURASAWA (倉澤 紘己), and Aiko OKAMURA (岡村 あい子). 

 MOVOP is a neologism combing the English expressions ‘move up’ (上にあがる) and ‘move on’ (進む) and the Czech word ‘potok’ meaning brook or stream (小川). The letter ‘O’ between the letters M/V/P is also meant to evoke the gaps between frames that create the illusion of movement in animation.

The collective seems to be pushing back against the trend for animation to be completely online and digital. In their declaration, they talk about making things with their own hands and to create an archive of their works in physical form. They also want to create real spaces for young animators to engage in debate and discussions about animation practices with their peers.
In November, they published the inaugural edition of their e-zine on their website. I first heard about MOVOP because of physical postcards and flyers their distributed at the New Chitose Airport International Animation Festival in November. The first weekend of March, MOVOP will be holding their first screenings and exhibition at Digiti Minimi and co-hosted by Tampen

Program A 

 Kukkiri to Boyata / くっきりとぼやけた 
 dir. Lina MACHIDA / まちだリな, 5’23”, 2024 New work! 

dir. Riku TAKAHASHI / 高橋李空 / DOKUZEN, 2’58” 

 The Day It was an Excursion / えんそくだったひ 
 dir. Hiroki KURASAWA / 倉澤紘己, 5’49”, 2023 

 Deforming after Transforming (変形して奇形する) 
 dir. Fukumi NAKAZAWA / 中澤ふくみ , 8’47”, 2021 

dir. MARU AKARI, 1’, 2024 New work! 

 The Ship of Synapse 
Riku TAKAHASHI / 高橋李空 / DOKUZEN, 2’, 2023 

 Weather Map 
dir. Nana KAWABATA / 川畑那奈 ,9’09", 2021

Program B 

Mimimi and the Aliens (みみみとうちゅうじん) 
dir. Hiroki KURASAWA / 倉澤紘己, 5’55”, 2024 New work! 

dir. Riku TAKAHASHI /高橋李空 / DOKUZEN, 2’58” 

dir. MARU AKARI, 30”, 2020-2023 

 Carrots Don’t Wait (ニンジンは待ってくれない / Ninjin wa Matte kurenai) 
dir. Lina MACHIDA / まちだリな, 7’36”, 2023

 The Point of Permanence (永久点 / Towa-ten) 
dir. Nana KAWABATA / 川畑那奈, 10’04”, 2024 New work! 

 #_ hashtag underber 
dir. MARU AKARI, 6’, 2022 


Aiko OKAMURA (岡村あい子) 
Yume-utsutsu 『夢現』 
Jiga『自我』 New work! 

Fukumi NAKAZAWA (中澤ふくみ) 
Kandokoro wo Zurasu『勘どころをずらす』 New work! 
New work! Tadaka ga Yonde iru『ただかが呼んでいる』 

On the Saturday at 14:00 there will be a Guest Talk Event with Yū ISEKI (井関悠), the curator of the Contemporary Art Center, Art Tower Mito, artist Hirotoshi IWASAKI (岩崎博俊), and dancer / choreographer Nobunashi KON (のばなしコン). On Sunday at 14:00 there will be a Talk Event with member of MOVOP.

Tickets are available via the Peatix app: 
 For more information visit the MOVOP website / social media: https://movopanimation5.wordpress.com/ 

Cathy Munroe Hotes

08 January 2024

NIAFF 2023 Archive/アーカイブ: Dwarf Studios’ Talk /「ドワーフ」トーク


In addition to its feature film competition, the Niigata International Animation Film Festival (NIAFF) also shines a spotlight on the latest trends in the animation industry. One exciting development in the past two years has been the production journey of the innovative stop motion animation Hidari (2023), which has taken social media by storm. One of the stop motion studios involved in its production, Dwarf (Domo-kun, Komaneko, Pokemon Concierge), was also celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2023. 

At the centre of the Hidari project is director Masashi KAWAMURA (川村真司) of Whatever Co, an ambitious entrepreneur who grew up watching the words of creators Ray Harryhausen, Kihachirō Kawamoto, and Phil Tippett. He had a dream of creating a feature length stop motion samurai epic, so he partnered with Dwarf and Tecarat (Gon, the Little Fox, Pukkulapottas and Hours in the Forest) to take his creative vision to the next level. The stop motion is done at Dwarf and Takeshi YASHIRO (八代健志) of Tecarat designs and carves the wooden puppets.

They completed a short film as a pilot for the feature film project and this screening at NIAFF helped them get the word out about their crowdfunding campaign to get the funds to make the dream of a full feature length tale a reality. Check out the official YouTube channel to set how they made it. The pilot has gone on to win awards at festivals around the world.


The story is the legend of Jingorō Hidari (左 甚五郎), the Japanese equivalent of a Renaissance man who was a sculpture, carpenter, painter, architect, storyteller, and artist. As he name, “Hidari” (left) indicates, he was lefthanded and had a missing right arm. There are many tales as to how he lost his right arm, often involving jealous rivals. Yashiro’s puppet of Hidari has a giant, wonderfully intricate left hand that the animators use in many creative ways for fight scenes. 

The Talk Event at NIAFF 2023 featured Kawamura, Yashiro, and the acclaimed Dwarf Studios director Tsuneo GŌDA (合田 経郎) and producer Noriko MATSUMOTO (松本紀子). They also brought the puppet of Hidari for audiences to see the amazing detail that went into its design. The NIAFF archive clip starts with a slideshow of the Hidari event, then shows excerpts from the Dwarf Studios discussion about the magic of the technique of stop motion (komadori in Japanese) with two of the studios most well known original characters, Domo-kun and Komaneko on the display table. If you do not understand Japanese, please use the captions auto-translate function on YouTube for the language of your preference.


In the run up to the second instalment of NIAFF in March 2024, the festival is sharing highlights of last March’s festival every Tuesday on its YouTube Channel. Subscribe to see more. 

 2024 Cathy Munroe Hotes