Even though the name kind of sounds like a pathetic attempt to regain popularity by saying “I am still cool!” (even though if you have to say it, then you clearly aren’t…) the “Still Cool Japan” event that took place on eBay a couple of weeks ago was newsworthy and intriguing.
If Sotheby’s were to meet the Tohoku Relief Fund in a Japanese Manga Exhibit at the MoMAT, “Still Cool Japan” would be their brainchild. Organized by Clara, a German blogger, and artists Nishitake Akira and Hebizo, the auction raised funds for the relief effort through tapping into the underestimated international market for one-of-a-kind Manga related paraphernalia.
Three auction sessions were held for one week each during June 28 to July 17. Proceeds of the event went to the Japan Red Cross Society, Save the Children Japan Tohoku Earthquake Relief Effort, and Hands on Tokyo. They managed to get big name artists within the Manga-sphere such as Eiji Shiroi, Naoto Yamakawa, Oguri Saori, Yusuke Mashima, and Hebizo.
They had a wide variety of genres while still managing to maintain the essence of quirky, unique Japanese art which appeals greatly to the international eBay consumer of Akihabara media. This collection of auctioned pieces included the likes of Oguri Saori and her famous Manga based on her own life experiences being married to a gaijin, to the comically bizarre and provocative piece by Yusuke Mashiba.
This event was a truly creative approach to fundraise and garner support and compassion from a diverse audience. The organizers of this event made a smart decision by tapping into the subculture of the Akihabara scene. People don’t really know the extent to which this subculture has a cult following until, like me, you’re in a rural town of the Midwest and you see a goth/alternative kid walking around and you have a conversation with him—the second he finds out you’re a Japanese person from Tokyo—bombards you with a stream of questions about obscure Akihabara/Harajuku artists and musicians you don’t know at all, and then berates you condescendingly by wondering out loud whether Japanese alterna-culture is wasted on Japanese people that don’t even appreciate it. So yes, the audience for this subculture goes wide across age, culture, and also goes down deep…
So, “Still Cool Japan” is kind of genius. By banking in on a pop-culture obsessed group of Japanophiles to fundraise for the earthquake relief effort, they get away with auctioning off glorified doodles for over $100 a pop. If that isn’t a business model taught at Sloan next year, we don’t know what should be.
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