at the 2012 Aqua Metropolis Osaka Festival


The 2012 Aqua Metropolis Osaka Festival offered a series of delights, including a giant inflatable kokeshi doll produced by the artist collective Yotta Groove.  There’s something both benign and menacing about the cute blankness of the kokeshi doll when it’s magnified to kaiju proportions.  Yotta Groove wasn’t the only collective active at the Aqua Metropolis Osaka Festival: there were also the ladies of Project Obachaaan (プロジェクトオバチャーン) with their amechan candy for the kids and wild collection of animal-print clothing.  This particular grouping was 47 strong and for a small fee (a kind of donation, I think) you could have your photo taken with all of them at once.  In hindsight, I greatly regret not doing this.  “Obachan” means ‘aunt’ in Japanese, and it’s a kind of cute and friendly honorific that’s often used when speaking with an older woman who is a bit of a stranger to you.  The Osaka Obachan, however, is particularly glorious and particularly notorious (you can find an in-depth account of the Osaka Obachan here), an infamy that the good folks at Project Obachaaan are affectionately putting to good use.

This is the second time I’ve seen Florentijn Hofman’s giant floating Rubber Duck, which does seem to get around.  Either there are multiple iterations of this piece, or — for a sculpture that’s famous for bobbing in place like a giant bath toy —  it’s got a ridiculous amount of flight time under its wings.  Sadly, however, Kenji Yanobe’s Giant Torayan and Lucky Dragon were absent from the festival this time around.  A river festival just isn’t the same without a mechanical dragon in a boat that breathes fire.

I’m not 100% sure who the mascot you can see in the Holga shot below was, but I think he had something to do with water purification or water treatment.  Osaka’s water comes from the Yodo River, which originates in Lake Biwa.  Between Lake Biwa and Osaka, however, is the city of Kyoto.  Kyoto gets Lake Biwa’s water first, and then after this water is used — in every possible way imaginable — it gets processed through a sewage treatment plant and then dumped back into the Yodo River.  This very same water is then sucked up again in Osaka where it’s treated, purified, and the cycle begins again.  I actually went out drinking once with an engineer who works at the Osaka water purification plant, so after a few beers I plied him with the obvious question about Osaka’s water quality.  The short answer is that he thinks the water’s fine, and — yes — he does drink it himself.

You might wonder why I’m posting about the 2012 Aqua Metropolis Osaka Festival now in 2013, and I’m afraid it’s the same old story.  When I take photos it often takes a bit of time for me to have the film developed, and then I need to scan the film, which takes more time, and then I need to upload the film, which takes even just a little bit more time.  And suddenly it’s six months after the fact, just like that.  Digital is quicker, for sure, but I just can’t get over the dreamy tonal pleasures of good film.


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