A pink taxi

A pink taxi

August 14, 2010

The summer of Bakugan

My younger son has picked up a hobby:  Bakugan. His interest originated from his older brother's past activity. It had been a school fad last year. We had found these strange looking japanese "marbles" in a Dubai toy store. The shelves were out of stock after a few months and the fad ended.

However, for my younger son, these magnetic plastic marbles that open dramatically when positioned on the magnetic card became a passion. His aunt gifted him a large collection from the United States. All summer long, all day, everywhere, he transported them, shared them, played with them, opening and closing them manually or with the card. In the garden, in the car, in the playroom, in front of the house and even in bed after the lights were off.

We have always appreciated Japanese culture. My siblings and I have practiced Shotokan Karate (they all earned brown belts and the youngest a black. I earned a purple because I started late!) My son has been attending judo for over five years with a Japanese Sansey who also instills the Japanese concept of respect, dedication and discipline (he has received a green belt). My daughter has begun with Aikido, a martial art designed for smaller and lighter sized people who can use the twist of the opponent's arm in attack and the art of "falling and tumbling" for defense. As seen in "Mangas, Sex and Arabic Books", my children are passionate Manga readers and also have seen the animated movies by the grandest Manga artist Hiroyuki Morita.

Therefore when we found "From Kyoto to Tokyo" show at our doorstep in Monaco, we didn't hesitate to educate ourselves about the background of Mangas, the Samurai culture and history, the foundation of the popular Japanese culture that is exported to us today. My children ran with their grandmother and I to the exposition in the large center of Monaco. The same venue that exhibited the Chinese Terracota soldiers, the Egyptian princesses, Grace Kelly and Andy Warhol.

The exhibit is divided into three: first the Samurai, with their colorful Kimonos, their regal helmets, their knightly armor and their bellicose swords and arrows. Also, their fine porcelains, their paravans with the paintings of their feasts, their theatrical costumes and masks. I asked my eldest read the headline descriptions and explain them to me so that he learns a little about Japanese history and culture. He did so willingly, knowing they were the ancestors of Naruto, his favorite Manga character.

The second section was about the sports, transport, cinema and artistic culture of Japan. To illustrate this were posters of the Tokyo Olympics, and the rapid trains and hundreds of drawings and sketches from the animated movies. There were some paintings and sculptures of contemporary Japanese artists amongst which a statue of steel by Murikami, my preferred Japanese artist.
The third section was presented in a very nippon way: tiny pavilions for each Manga Super hero (Astro boy, Goldorak Dragon Ball Z and Naruto). Goldorak made it on the poster of the art show because of its obvious robotic resemblance to a Samurai and also because it had been exported so successfully to France in the 80s.

Many of the pieces' provenance were from Victoria and Albert Museum in London (and some to my admiration were from the Nasser Khalili collection which otherwise has Islamic art). Had I visited the V&A collection that I would have ran past the Samurai to a more Western section of the museum. However, here, the exhibit was curated in such a fashion that it led us from one section to another, encouraging close examination, the darkness of the hall and the lighting of the exhibit done as if presenting jewels in their velvet cases. The Grimaldi family has educated us again. For Monaco has its gamblers, its tanners, its diners, its shoppers and its art aficionados.

Thus the time spent in France, between the Damian Hirst exhibit at Musee Oceanographic, the visits to Venet at Muy, the stop at Galerie Ferrero, the afternoon at Musee Matisse and the Samurai Manga exhibit had one constant other than Art per se, it was the Bakugan my son carried in his pocket. The summer of Bakugan.


  1. This was the summer of the 5-something in our family.We had three running about laughing,fighting,giggling and pushing!The triplets of cousins,two boys and a girl were discovering their surroundings and piling their first memories of a care-free life.
    One of them liked the "pakogum" and the 'Ben 10',as he maliciously pronounce it.The other cousin crosses to san Remo to get his"characters",and share them with no one.The girl,fighting her way as the only girl in the middle of 7 grandchildren,loves her little dolls and discovered the little Japanese fan at a Bangladishi shop in San Remmo.She walks around the gardens trying to wave away the heat of July.
    Their common denomenator was three footballs:gold,blue and red,that they kept hitting against the old gates of the garden.The older 10-year cousin was the team chief in the year of the Mondiale!