PICA Things We Love Japanese Design Prints

New Awesome Shipping Price: FREE!

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Great news for our US, Canadian and Japanese customers: we now ship to you for FREE! No minimum order required. :)

To the rest of the world we now ship for a lower flat fee of US$5. You can still qualify for free shipping when you spend US$50 with FREESHIP50 coupon at checkout!

For more information on our shipping procedures and delivery times please visit our Shipping page.

Shop our awesome prints here: picathingswelive.com
Shop etsy: https://etsy.me/2wS5fZp

Sincerely eagerly awaiting your orders :)

Our Cute Take on the Lovable Well-Endowed Fluffy Prankster, Tanuki

Japanese Culture, PICA WorksAlyonaComment

Is that a cat? A dog? A raccoon? No. No. And not quite.

Meet Tanuki—a mischievous darling of Japanese folklore and the star of our new PICA print. Being still quite an unknown character in the West, Tanuki is often misunderstood and misrepresented as the urban trash-diving scavenger, the raccoon.

Raccoon dog. Photo by Cloudtail the Snow Leopard.

Raccoon dog. Photo by Cloudtail the Snow Leopard.

Tanuki (狸 or たぬき) is in fact a raccoon dog. Despite its name, the animal, other than some facial spotting, has nothing in common with the raccoon or a badger (another popular mistranslation). Raccoon dog falls under the Canidae family of dogs, wolves, foxes, and coyotes. One big giveaway is the lack of the notorious black tail rings. Originally native to the far East, the species have travelled across Russia, and can now be spotted in some parts of Europe. Fun fact: unlike their canine cousins, raccoon dogs spend their winters in hibernation—snuggly cuddled up to their partners until the coming of the warmer days.

But enough about its National Geographic description. In Japan, when someone mentions Tanuki, it is not the actual raccoon dog that one conjures up in their mind. Tanuki also happens to be an adorable magical prankster that falls under a class of spirit monsters called yokai (妖怪, youkai, ghost, demon, or monster) in Japanese folklore. Referred to as bake-danuki (化け狸, supernatural tanuki), he is more of a mischievous jovial character in comparison to the more traditionally malevenous monsters of the yokai family. He can be at times frightening, but for the most part he is often portrayed as also having a good side to him, bringing good fortune and prosperity to those who form a relationship with him. He is fluffy, skillful at deception, carrying giant testicles that allow him to achieve extraordinary feats, but more on that later.

Shôrei

Shôrei

Tanuki is famous for his shape-shifting, illusion-casting abilities. It is said that Tanuki often disguises himself as a human in a form of a beautiful woman or at times a Buddhist monk, with the one purpose to misguide and trick the unsuspecting folk. These transformations are believed to be possible with a placement of a leaf on his head. It is also possible to catch Tanuki in disguise as he is believed to become luminous when transformed and can accidentally show his tail if he loses focus. Another tell is that in rainy weather the clothes of his illusion would remain dry. In folklore Tanuki is often discovered well after the fact, when he falls asleep and transforms back into his animal form.

Tanuki Tea Kettle by Katsushika Hokusai.

Tanuki Tea Kettle by Katsushika Hokusai.

Tanuki, a skillful shapeshifter, can disguise himself into just about anything in hopes of tricking yet another victim. There are a number of tales that talk about Tanuki shape-shifting into objects for monetary gain or just plain trickery.

Tanuki is a master of illusion. He can make leaves appear as money, only to be discovered after he is long gone, as well as create illusions of unfamiliar surroundings to confuse travelling folk causing them to get lost.

Tanuki also loves good ol’ pranks that don’t involve any supernatural abilities. Some of them are drumming on his belly to draw people away from their path in the woods, or making sounds to make people think they are hearing thunder and lightning to create confusion—all in the name of mischievous fun.

Tanuki at Ensen-ji (円泉寺), Buddhist temple in Tokyo.

Tanuki at Ensen-ji (円泉寺), Buddhist temple in Tokyo.

Tanuki statue. Photo by Alexis.

Tanuki statue. Photo by Alexis.

Tanuki is a popular cultural icon in traditional and modern creative works in Japan. He has been the main subject of many literary works, legends, and traditional Japanese works of art. Today you may notice a ceramic statue of Tanuki placed outside business establishments in Japan akin to maneki-neko, the lucky beckoning cat, drawing visitors to come in and spend their money. Frequently he is depicted, in a modern 20th-century take by Fujiwara Tetsuzo (藤原銕造), as a plump round-bellied animal with big eyes wearing a straw hat with a bottle of sake and a promissory note of unpaid bills (though these items can vary), sporting an engorged scrotum—most featured aspect in the traditional Tanuki artistic depictions.

Tanuki no tawamure (狸の戯、錦絵).

Tanuki no tawamure (狸の戯、錦絵).

So among the many magical abilities of Tanuki, the most memorable one must be the expanding scrotum. It is said that Tanuki can stretch his scrotum to the size of eight tatami mats—often pictured stretching for various creative feats and tasks, and never in terms of any sexual connotation. The concept is thought to have come from Kanazawa’s metal workers, who in the olden days would use the skin of tanuki testicles to wrap gold as an aid in creating the thinnest sheet of gold possible. One needed to use the skin that could stretch, and tanuki’s scrotum skin could stretch up to the size of eight tatami mats (approx. 13 square meters). Later people would make wallets and lucky charms out of the skin as it was believed it could stretch ones money as it did it with gold.

Tanuki storefront statues.

Tanuki storefront statues.

Another reason Tanuki gained fame with his scrotum is due to the connotation that came from phonetically similar terminology of ‘kin no tama’ (金の玉, balls of gold) and kintama (金玉) for testicles, popularly associated with prosperity and good fortune.

Our Tanuki print might not have visually depicted the money beckoning feature, but you can’t say it’s not there somewhere. Still, it is a G-rated symbol of fortune nonetheless. Or a symbol of staying young, playful and wild as we also like to think. And much like the raccoon dog waking up with the coming of spring, today we are introducing our Tanuki print as the new addition to our family of colourful wall art illustrations.

It’s a new season outside, so why not go ahead and brighten up your walls with some much needed colourful whimsical folklore magic.

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Tanuki Prints

Shop here for the various colour combinations to suit your magical space.

Happy International Women’s Day!

ThoughtsAlyonaComment
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Celebrating all the mothers, daughters, sisters, girlfriends, inspirational role models, and dreamers out there! The world just wouldn’t be the same without the XX chromosome. So be bold, daring, and awesome as nature intended us to be. Happy Women’s Day! Everyday.

The dog is out! 新年快乐! 恭喜发财!

ThoughtsAlyonaComment
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Happy Chinese New Year! A year of rolling in the coins!

Today we are ringing in the year of the Earth Dog. This forever loyal companion urges us to be proactive and work hard this year. And as earth gives us metal, this year will hound us the well deserved wealth.

So this year go out there, do your best, and reap the shiny round rewards! 恭喜发财! (Gōng Xǐ Fā Cái! Wishing you a prosperous New Year!)

New Prints! Samurai Prints to Celebrate Bushido, the Way of the Warrior

Japanese Culture, PICA WorksAlyonaComment

Today we are revealing our new colourful pair print edition featuring our cute but fearsome samurai warriors in brand new PICA pop art colour scheme. Samurai is perhaps one of the most widely known Japanese cultural icons that has encompassed history spanning the greater portion of the last millenium. The warrior class—easily recognised by their ornate armour that has inspired many creative works of our modern pop culture, including the notorious Darth Vader gear ensemble—has long been the object of fear for their outwardly look and reverence for their historically renowned code of ethics known as Bushido (武士道, bushidou).

Our samurai prints featuring the kabuto (兜) helmet, the iconic part of the peculiar yet very versatile and practical samurai armour, boast the severity and genius behind the design meets function at its core. The entire attire was designed to allow its wearer a full range of mobility while protecting and shielding the body from enemy impact at all angles. The samurai gear has long since then become an inspiration to our modern battlefield wear, where the samurai code of ethics has left a much bigger cultural mark on our understanding of the true meaning behind the word ‘chivalry’.

Japanese traditional full armor

Japanese traditional full armor

But first, what is a samurai?
Samurai (侍), also known as 武士 (bushi, warrior; samurai), were the warrior class of the feudal Japan. Beginning in history as provincial warriors and rising to power in the 12th century as Japan’s first military dictatorship, the shogunate (将軍職, shougun-shoku), samurai dominance continued all throughout the history until the Meiji Restoration (明治維新, meiji ishin) of 1868 due to the abolition of the feudal system.

The samurai character 侍 in Japanese, meaning ‘to serve’ or ‘the one who serves’, referred to the Imperial Court guards at that time that were of noble birth and comprised the highest ranking social caste. They were a military class of well trained and well learned warriors, who believed in chivalry and lived by the guide of the unspoken code of ethics or moral principles, known as Bushido (武士道, bushidou): “the way of the warrior” or “precepts of knighthood”. At its source were the teachings and practices of Buddhism and Shintoism as well as the ethical doctrines of Confucius and Mencius. Loyalty to the sovereign, respect, self-discipline, ethics, and trust in fate are just a handful of dominant traits adhered to by the samurai warriors of the time. The Bushido code set a moral standard for the rest of the living in the feudal Japan era, guiding them by virtue of example of the samurai. This makes Bushido the core source of the moral code in a premodern Japan.

Samurai of the Chosyu clan, during the Boshin War period (1860s)

Samurai of the Chosyu clan, during the Boshin War period (1860s)

So let’s look at the moral teachings of the samurai ethics code to live by today.
The Bushido code is believed to be comprised of the eight virtues that had long become the core of ethics and chivalry in the premodern Japan. Not all samurai of course would live up to follow them, but the true esteemed warrior that was celebrated and revered with utmost respect by the society of that time would become the epitome of what chivalry means to us today.
 

01 | Rectitude or Justice (義)

義 (gi) or righteousness is perhaps the strongest virtue of the Bushido code. It is the power of being able to resolve to the true course of action based on one’s reason without wavering. It is to understand that the resolved action should only be made with true purpose and at the right time. “To die when to die is right, to strike when to strike is right.” Rectitude is the foundation or the skeleton of the Bushido structure. Without rectitude the status in becoming of true samurai character can never be obtained, regardless of how much learning or talent one was able to acquire in the process.
 

02 | Courage (勇)

勇 (yuu) or heroic courage is not simply being fearless, but being fearless in doing what is right. Doing what is right in itself is to have courage. A truly brave man is calm in the midst of calamity. He is never taken by surprise. He is able to distinguish the true course of action through his sound reasoning and true righteousness without hesitation, regardless of the consequences.
 

03 | Benevolence (仁)

仁 (jin) or benevolence, compassion is one of the Bushido virtues taking its roots from the Confucian teachings. A warrior possessing the power to command or to kill should also exhibit an immense ability for compassion. To be benevolent is to be mindful of others’ suffering, and to show mercy where mercy is needed. It is to bear sympathy, magnanimity, and love for the living; making benevolence the highest attribute of the human soul.
 

04 | Politeness (礼)

礼 (rei) or politeness, respect, etiquette is at the core of the social ethics in premodern Japan, also known as courtesy that is prevalent in its society to this day. Politeness through Bushido, though, is not just an empty shell of actions that are meant to make one seem respectful or courteous. Rooted in benevolence, it should only come of the regard for the feelings of others. Thus, in Bushido politeness in itself is nurtured in compassion and is a graceful expression of sympathy.
 

05 | Sincerity and Honesty (誠)

誠 (makoto) or sincerity, honesty, integrity, without which politeness, the fourth virtue, would only be an empty shell of socially acceptable actions. The word of the samurai—武士の一言 (bushi no ichi-gon)—had so much weight at that time that it was deemed beneath one’s dignity for it to be voweded upon or put down in writing. The true samurai of the Bushido ways failing to follow up on their word would view it as derogatory to their honour. Lying in itself was not regarded as a sin, but instead as a weakness, and thus highly dishonourable.

Bushido ethics of honesty and sincerity, however, had failed in attempts to be applied in business matters. Wealth itself could not be associated in the ways of honour. Subsequently money was seen as an object of menace to manhood, and even children of high-ranking samurai were raised to show ignorance of the value of coin. Money was thus to be ignored, making the warrior free of the evils where money was root.
 

Kabuki actors dressed like samurai. Hand-coloured photograph around 1880.

Kabuki actors dressed like samurai. Hand-coloured photograph around 1880.

06 | Honour (名誉)

名誉 (meiyo) or honour was in a way a cornerstone of the warrior’s reputation. It was believed that a true samurai would strive to attain a good name for himself by closely following the Bushido ways of the warrior. Life itself was considered worthless if honour and good name were not bestowed upon the samurai in its course. The fear of disgrace kept the samurai in check. Often the only way one could regain one’s lost honour is by the means of self-destruction that had to be carried out with utmost composure and coolness of temper.
 

07 | The Duty of Loyalty (忠義)

忠義 (chuugi) or loyalty, instilled by the Shinto doctrines, governed the principle function of the samurai; that is namely their duty to the sovereign. The duty of the samurai was to serve the Imperial Court, and put their loyalty towards their master even above that of their family. The duty of loyalty, however, is only a virtue in correlation with honour, the sixth precept. As a samurai, one just does not blindly follow one’s master. If the path before the warrior is righteously wrong, true samurai is willing to convince his master in his wrongdoing, even at the cost of his own life.
 

08 | Self-Control (克己)

克己 (kokki) or self-control would become the main building block in the character-building of the samurai. Bushido instills the moral teachings of ethics and chivalry as the core of the samurai behavior. With having the ability to yield power and pass judgement, one must also have had to learn to keep oneself in check. A true samurai would never show his emotions on his face. The most natural affections were kept under control. Thus, for the samurai to have self-control is to be level-headed at all times, never having one’s emotion affect his judgement.
 

These are the eight virtues of the samurai as originally interpreted in the book entitled Bushido: The Soul of Japan by Nitobe Inazo, first published at the dawn of the 20th century. Aside from the eight virtues as inscribed above, others less dominant yet equally influential were wisdom (智, chi), filial piety (孝, kou), and fraternity (悌, tei). Wisdom in particular was important as it was believed that a true warrior had to be well-versed in teachings of diverse facets of moral knowledge.

Bushido was a creation of the premodern Japan. But is it still present in the context of its modern society? Some might say that some of the values have long been forgotten and moved aside for the modernization of Japan towards industrialization and capitalism. Despite all that perhaps all of us can find something endearing within these virtues, and perhaps reintroduce them into our own moral code of ethics. Samurai were the epitome of chivalry in Japan at that time. Maybe it is time to bring the way of the samurai back, as I think we could all agree that we all could use a little bit more chivalry in our daily lives today.

Click here to shop our PICA Samurai prints. ( ´ ▽ ` )ノ

Happy, Happy, Happy ‪New Year!

ThoughtsAlyonaComment
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明けましておめでとう! С Новым Годом! 新年快乐! Happy New Year! to all corners of the world.

While sending the old year away with all the festive glory it deserves, we are welcoming the new year with new wishes and goals aplenty.

So as the clock strikes 12…

May this year be glorious, prosperous and full of cheer for you, for us, and everyone else under the sun!

From our family to yours with love.

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Oh, and if you haven’t done so already, be sure to check out our post on the art of celebrating New Year in Japan here:

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Oshogatsu, the New Year in Japan

New Year in Japan all about the food, the family, and New Year fortune. And in truly Japanese way, it is also curiously unique.

Happy Holidays! Happy Unwrappings!

ThoughtsAlyonaComment
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It’s that time of the year again! The smell of baked goodies filling the house. The bright cheery decorations adorning every nook and cranny, floor to ceiling. That festive music playlist you finally feel in the mood to listen to. The good ol’ films about giving, love, and a bit of mischief. Yes, it’s finally here! The grandest jolly merrymaking time!

And in the spirit of the season, from our PICA family to yours, wishing you a very Merry Christmas and Happy Unwrappings! We are forever grateful for all your love and support this year. Hoping that everything you wished for came, and in a nice pretty package to boot. And if you are like us and do the unwrappings with the New Year chimes, the fun is yet to come!

Oh, and if you haven’t done so already, be sure to check out our post on the peculiarities of celebrating Christmas in the land of wa (和), here:

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Merry Christmas! in Japan

We all know and love the spirit of Christmas in the West. But what about Japan? Does Japan celebrate Christmas? And if so, is it all the same as the one back home?

Our Happy PICA Birthday! We are turning 3!

Thoughts, PICA NewsAlyonaComment
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Today marks three years since we launched our first set of bright pop art prints into the world! And this year, our third, was definitely a very busy year for us. Settling down in a new place, let alone in a new country, has kept our days full with lots to do. Busy putting down the much needed foundation for a forthcoming creative new year. As I am typing this we already have a pair of new prints underway in their final stages of brand new colour scheme development for us to kick off the new PICA year on a creative note. *Spoiler alert* This time we are taking a new direction and going a bit more historical, channelling the upright warrior nerd in all of us. *End spoiler*

 

Ambitions aside, we are very excited to have made it into our 3rd year of our artistic endeavour, and endlessly thankful for all the support and feedback we have received from you! We are hopeful and eager to grow our toddler enterprise into something big one day, to continue to spread and share our love for colour and Japanese culture with the rest of the world. Because at PICA we believe that everyone should have a dash of happiness on their walls!

*making a wish and releasing the balloons*  ゝ(▽`*ゝ)

Kingyo, Our Newest Summer Collection Print!

Japanese Culture, PICA WorksAlyonaComment

This year to commemorate the summer coming to an end we are pleased to announce that we have a new addition to our summer-themed print collection. This aquatic blue baby is our nod to one of the most easily recognisable summer symbols in Japan—Kingyo (金魚).

Kingyo is Japanese for goldfish, with the kanji characters 金 (kin) standing for ‘gold’ and 魚 (gyo) for ‘fish’. But there is more to it than meets the eye. The characters are taken directly from Chinese, where 金 (jīn) correspondingly means ‘gold’ and 鱼 (yú) ‘fish’. Here 鱼 (yú) is also a homophone to 余 (yú) of ‘surplus’ or ‘in excess of’, making 金魚 also carry quite an auspicious significance.

Kingyo print yukata (summer kimono) from Furifu (ふりふ)

Kingyo print yukata (summer kimono) from Furifu (ふりふ)

Kingyo come in a variety of colours of white, blue, red and shimmering gold. The latter two are most synonymous with goldfish and contribute to the perception of ‘summer colours’ or 夏色 (natsu iro) in Japan. Thus, when it comes to the summer related products here, kingyo is often chosen as the main adornment on anything from yukata to windchimes, uchiwa, traditional wallets and summer toys, to name a few.

Kingyo. Photo by Chieko Uemura.

Kingyo. Photo by Chieko Uemura.

Being a member of the carp family, kingyo is a close relative to koi (鯉), yet easily distinguished by the lack of whiskers or barbels. Over time kingyo have been bred to obtain different colours and colour combinations, body shapes, and features. Wakin (和金) is one of the most prevailing kingyo kind today, closely resembling koi in its shape and red-white colouring of scales.

Despite the common misconception, kingyo or goldfish is an intelligent animal with excellent eyesight in perception of 100 million colours (one hundred times more than human) as well as learning skills that allow them to recall and distinguish between different people, and with active encouragement even master nifty tricks. With proper care goldfish is known to live for decades, which makes it for a great aquatic long-term companion for us.

Raising a goldfish to its full potential requires a suitable environment that is often mistaken for a fishbowl. In reality, a fishbowl is the worst place one can attempt to keep a goldfish in. Goldfish requires lots of space to move around in, in a well-filtered, high oxygen enriched water habitat. The misconception of using fishbowls as adequate goldfish housing might have originated from China using fishbowls as temporary display vessels. Historically Chinese raised goldfish in ponds, and would only move them briefly into small fishbowls to be admired by their visitors and guests.

Kingyo in the pond. Photo by Zamboni.

Kingyo in the pond. Photo by Zamboni.

Where did this golden creature come from?
Goldfish first became domesticated and selectively bred into the kind that we know and love today around 10th century China. Prior to that goldfish was raised primarily for food purposes. It wasn’t introduced to Japan until 1603 in Edo era (江戸時代, Edo jidai, between 1603 and 1868). By the end of the Edo era kingyo was available to everyone and consequently lost it previously appointed status of wealth and sophistication. It was around this time, at the turn of the 19th century, when kingyo became the lead character in the game that would since become the highlight of the summer matsuri (祭, festival) culture in Japan.

Goldfish scooping at Nezu Jinja Shikyousai. Photo by kisaxdots.

Goldfish scooping at Nezu Jinja Shikyousai. Photo by kisaxdots.

Kingyo Sukui
Kingyo Sukui (金魚すくい or 金魚掬い) is a traditional goldfish scooping game that largely became associated with the summer matsuri stalls in the Taisho period (大正時代, Taishou jidai, between 1912 and 1926). Here the participants would try to fish out kingyo from a large water basin into a bowl with nothing but a rice paper scooper. However, this is easier said than done. The paper scooper breaks easily and the fish is often too quick to catch, requiring perfect timing for successful scooping. (These days you can also often find bouncy balls replacing the fish.) If you do succeed though, you get to take that goldfish home. To this day the game remains to be popular equally with adults as with kids.

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Our Kingyo print celebrates this long history of kingyo as this splashy symbol of summer in Japan. The colours featured are also known to be the ‘colours of the summer’ or as previously mentioned 夏色 (natsu iro), depicted in kanji characters at the lower left corner of the artwork. Together with the Windchime Watermelon and the Katori Buta Incense prints, it makes for a triple-print Japanese summer print collection that assures the spirit of summer will live in your home all year long.

Click here to shop our PICA Kingyo print. ( ´ ▽ ` )ノ