The Japantown Mural Project is a celebration of the vibrancy of San Jose's historic Japantown neighborhood through artworks by 50 local artists.
The environment is a barren, undeveloped plot of land that once served as the City of San Jose's Maintenance Yard. Chain-link fencing is now covered with more than 60 large mesh panels of color.
It stretches a quarter of a city block along 6th and Jackson Streets in the heart of Japantown.
The subject matter is highly interpretive, including personal and commissioned works, and encompasses a wide variety of mediums and aesthetics. It also includes references to the site's former life; 100 years ago, it was one of San Jose's very first Chinatown settlements known as 'Heinlenville.' A majority of the artists maintain art studios in Japantown, have displayed their artwork in neighborhood galleries, or consider this wonderful place their home.
The Japantown Mural Project is truly representative of its own unique community and will be enjoyed and appreciated for years to come.
I've always been fascinated by Japanese mythological creatures. This 2d world of fantastic line and color is also imbued with a sense of quirkiness, the stories imbued with playful trickery. There are examples of gigantaur cats peeking into windows, and fierce looking monsters with tiny little animals hidden in their hair making one question their fierceness. There are even whimsical spirits alive in common place items like bowls and jugs, illustrated as conscious faces on inanimate objects. For the Japantown Mural Project, I wanted to delve into that fantastic world and create my own versions of some of the most auspicious of the creatures. It is said that one should never fully trust even the best of them, so they are traditionally illustrated as crazy and fierce. I wanted to try to find gentler versions of them and I played with notions of aikido, "the loving path". Mine is an attempt to bless the growing, reinvigorated Japantown...as it blooms ever more peaceful and beautiful. Featured in my piece is a:
Kirin (unicorn): A creature of great power and wisdom who avoids fighting at all costs and walks so softly it will not crush a blade of grass.
Hou-ou (phoenix): Appears very rarely, and to mark the beginning of a new era of peace and prosperity. Orginally, the hou-ou was two different birds. The hou was the male and the ou was the female. Together, merged as one bird, they represent a cosmic balance of yin and yang.
Hakutaku (mythical field beast): It is thought he can understand language, and that he has the power to expel bad spirits and ill health, drawings of the hakutaku were carried by a person going on a journey.
Minogame (tortoise): Is thought to be related to the axis mundi, the connection between heaven and earth. It is the support and strength of the world, and its image is also one of stability and longevity.
Shishi (lion): A shishi is a protector. When it’s mouth is open, it wards off bad spirits. When closed, it shelters and keeps in good spirits.
Benzaiten: The daughter of a dragon, she is the goddess of everything that flows: water, words, speech, music, and knowledge. She is thought to possess a pearl which can grant any desire.
Born and raised in San Jose, April Natalie Gee is an artist and composer in the Bay Area.
Japantown Community Congress of San Jose · Office of the Consulate General of Japan · Wesley United Methodist Church
Jack's Bar & Lounge · Dr. Stephani Nguyen of Japantown Dental · Kay's Shiseido · Dr. Jerrold Hiura & Lucia Cha
Contemporary Asian Theater Scene · Japantown Neighborhood Association · Union Bank of California · Chris & Minako Tsuji
Japanese American Museum of San Jose · Yu Ai Kai Senior Center · Banana Crepe · Halcrow Partners · Pan Pacific Bank · Alex Alsorady & Darcie Kiyan
Sophie Horiuchi Forrester · Helen Hayashi · Roy & PJ Hirabayashi · Aggie Idemoto · Reiko Iwanaga · Jeanne Katsuro · Tamon Norimoto · Kristin Okimoto
Jeffrey Oldham · John Ristow · Rev. Gerald & Kathy Sakamoto · Victoria Taketa · Leah Toeniskoetter · Joe Yasutake
Japantown Community Congress of San Jose · The City of San Jose Arts Commission · Dr. Jerrold Hiura · The Rast Family
Corinne Okada Takara · Ruth Tunstall-Grant · Cherri Lakey · DJ Ashford
Empire Seven Studios · The Arsenal · Sign-a-Rama of Downtown San Jose
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