PICA Things We Love Japanese Design Prints

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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.



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.


Tanuki Prints

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

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

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.


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

New PICA print! Just in time for Halloween!

PICA WorksAlyonaComment

It’s already the end of September, and that means Halloween is just around the corner. And just in time for your fall-themed spooky decoration extravaganza, we are introducing—for a limited time only—our very own Japanese-style Halloween print, featuring our favourite Daruma-san as the iconic jack-o-lantern and Maneki-Neko as one of the friendly ghosts.

This print is our way of saying that Halloween can be spooky and cute—a perfect addition to your space to help you get into the spirit of the season. So don’t miss out! After all, All Hallows' Eve is just a month away.

Click here to shop our PICA Halloween Daruma Jack-o'-Lantern print. ( ´ ▽ ` )ノ

For the Love of Gaming + New PICA Prints!

PICA Works, Thoughts, Japanese CultureAlyonaComment

How nostalgic. I remember this as it was yesterday. Growing up in the early 90s, Russia had just been introduced to the video gaming that the world has already known for some time. At the time, the new Dendy gaming system was the one and only we knew and loved. I remember the brightly coloured cartridges that the boys in my class were fighting for to exchange. I always wanted to get my hands on one, but my dad argued that it would ‘break our TV’. Not sure if he ever really believed that; perhaps he was worried that with the system I would be indefinitely glued to the screen. Can't say the system was cheap either. Coming out right after the Russian separation from the USSR resulting in one of the biggest price inflations in history, 39,000 rubles was not a small price to pay. So, alas, I had to live out my video gaming vicariously through my friends.

Dendy, the Russian Famicom clone. Photo by Nzeemin.

Dendy, the Russian Famicom clone. Photo by Nzeemin.

At the time I did not know that Dendy was actually a clone of a system that took Asia, and shortly after North America, by storm almost a decade earlier. One great thing of growing up in the post-Soviet Union Russia in the 90s is that I got to experience first hand all the awesome things that the bubble Japan had to offer to the world in the 80s, a time when I would be simply too young to appreciate. Sailor Moon was imported shortly after, leaving a lasting impression of the magical Japan. This is when my love affair with Japanese language and things began to take root. This is when as a kid I've made up my mind that one day I will learn to speak Japanese just as my favourite characters on TV did. I was 9 at that time.

So to commemorate my first nostalgic touch point with video gaming, I'd like to honour and pay respect to the very system that made the Dendy console I know growing up possible—Family Computer (ファミリーコンピュータ, Famirii Konpyuuta) or Famicom (ファミコン, Famikon).

Famicom console released in 1983, Japan. Photo by Evan-Amos.

Famicom console released in 1983, Japan. Photo by Evan-Amos.

The Famicom system came to life at the height of the video game crash of 1983, or as Japanese like to call it, Atari shock (アタリショック, Atari shokku). The crash came very close to devastating the entire North American gaming industry by bankrupting companies and sending it into a massive recession. This lasted for about two years, and in 1985 the industry began to recover mainly due to the widespread success of the newly introduced Nintendo’s NES.

So how did this all come to be?
In 1983 Nintendo unveiled a brand new gaming system that not only featured brand new technology, but also innovative product design. Designed to resemble a toy, to reinforce the family aspect of the system, the Famicom sported a bright red-and-white colour scheme, two hard wired controllers stored visibly at each side of the unit, and an eject lever “just for fun”.

The reaction to the new system was astounding. Within a year Nintendo ended up selling over two and a half million units. It was at this time that Japan proved to be a small market for Nintendo as it began toying with the idea of going abroad. They first approached Atari, the American video gaming authority since the early 70s, for a collaboration. Atari rejected it citing the recent video game crash resulting in an unstable video gaming market. This did not slow Nintendo down as the company decided to take matters into their own hands and introduce the NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) to the North American market.

NES, Nintendo’s North American console. Photo by Evan-Amos.

NES, Nintendo’s North American console. Photo by Evan-Amos.

The NES system was meant to look different from its Famicom predecessor. The toy-like design was scrapped in favour of a more clean and futuristic boxy design and grey colour scheme analogous to the home entertainment systems of that time. While the controllers got a small design update, the major feature change was the replacement of the top-loading cartridge slot of the Famicom model with a front-loading chamber, placing the cartridge completely out of view.

This was 1985, and the system sales proved to be tough. The video gaming crisis was still fresh on everyone's mind and few sellers were willing to take on the system. Nintendo found a way to turn things around by offering 90 days credit and accept returns on any unsold units. As a result, by 1986 the system was a North American hit and later world market success.

Famicom games. Photo by Bryan Ochalla.

Famicom games. Photo by Bryan Ochalla.

So where is Dendy in all of this?
While video gaming industry in the 80s and later in the early 90s were taking the world by storm, Russia has been completely overlooked. No one seemed to be interested in infiltrating the Russian scarce gaming market, until one company named Steepler changed things around. Using the technology, design and the cartridge format of the 1983 Famicom system, Taiwanese manufacturer created a “new” system that became known as Dendy and introduced it with much success to the Russian market in 1992. Regardless of whether it was a clone or the real deal, it was a well beloved system growing up, a true nod to the Nintendo’s technological genius almost a decade ago.

Say hello to our new prints!

To commemorate Nintendo’s contribution to the worldview of Japan and its culture in the 80s, we came up with two print sets, available in five colour composition choices, that are sure to make any true gamer nostalgic.

This first set of prints features the notable Famicom controller. It was this controller that I remember most vividly as it inspired the controller of the Russian popular Dendy console system.

The second set of prints is a nod to the Nintendo’s NES system—the system that forever changed the North American gaming industry in the 80s. I am sure these prints will bring up a lot of warm memories to anyone growing up in the West in the 1980 something.

The controller prints feature our classic PICA Pop Art colour choice variations, plus a special edition of the classic Pop Art style print combo. Enjoy!

Click here to shop our PICA Famicom and NES controller print collection. ( ´ ▽ ` )ノ

Support us by voting for PICA!

PICA Works, Featured, PICA NewsAlyonaComment

Robby and I are ecstatic to announce that our print has been chosen as top 12 finalists in the Art & Illustration and Paper Goods category and the top 60 finalists of the Canada 2016 Etsy Awards!!!

Please show support by voting for us here: https://etsyawards.com/ca/Finalist-...

Vote for this print!

Vote for this print!

It’s only 1 vote per person. Voting closes on June 6th, 2016. Your support is truly appreciated!

Our Etsy shop can be found here: http://picathingswelove.etsy.com/

Our Prints Fresh Off the Press!

PICA WorksAlyonaComment

Wondering what our prints look like when printed? These babies were printed on a high quality heavyweight 192 g/m2 stock Epson enhanced matte paper. The printer uses Epson UltraChrome HDR ink-jet technology, allowing for our colours to really come to life.

We particularly love the seafoam green. It’s rich, bright and beautiful! Definitely a plus for any creative space.

Tip: For the 8”x10” prints try using the white mat when framing. The matting helps with framing smaller prints, allowing the artwork to breathe and making the colours truly pop.


Shop our ‘green’ coloured prints collection here. Or check out our other colour collections to find the colour and the print that will inspire your space.

New Katori Buta Print!

Japanese Culture, PICA WorksAlyonaComment

Today we are launching our new addition to the summer prints collection: Katori Buta Print

蚊取り豚 (katori buta), literally translates as ‘mosquitto-removing pig’, is a small ceramic pig that is brought out in the summer to ward off bugs, mosquitoes particularly. Inside burns a green spiral incense, called 蚊取り線香 (katori senkou, ‘mosquito-killing incense’), derived from the 除虫菊 (jyochuugiku) flower. In small doses it repels bugs, but in large, kills them. The incense and the burner are a staple in many Japanese homes, and are customarily associated with the summer image in Japan.

A bit of fun facts and history about the incense itself.
Katori senkou was invented at the end of the 19th century by a trader at the time, Ueyama Eiichiro. He was the first person to import the seeds from the United States that claimed to grow flowers that could kill insects. The plant was called Tanacetum cinerariifolium, a Chrysanthemum. Ueyama gave the plant 除虫菊 (jyochuugiku, “bug-banishing chrysanthemum”) name, and began to cultivate it in Japan.

Soon Ueyama began to produce the plant’s active ingredient in incense form. However the effect would not last long. So in 1895 Ueyama’s wife, Yuki suggested to shape the incense in long spiraled sticks to create a longer-lasting effect. This classic shape, its deep green colour, and the iconic packaging with the trademark red rooster head are still kept today.

Kincho Uzumaki Katori Senko Mosquito Coil Set from Japan Trend Shop

Kincho Uzumaki Katori Senko Mosquito Coil Set from Japan Trend Shop

The katori buta itself is then used as a holder to keep the incense burning safely. There are other holders available on the market. But the pig is a classic favourite and is often featured in TV shows, commercials, anime and manga.


Our print features the classic white ceramic katori buta with the green burning katori senkō on the inside. Inspired by Japanese pop culture, we also added ミーンミーン (min min) writing in the top left corner of the print, setting the scene of the Japanese hot summer’s day. “Min min”, better known in Japan as ‘the sound of summer’, is the chirping sound made by the min-min-zemi [みんみんぜみ・ミンミン蝉] cicada species—one of the many species found in the trees in the heart of the summer season in Japan. Their classic almost deafening tune signifies the arrival of summer, without which the summer just isn’t summer in Japan. And with the temperatures rising up and above 35°C, it is the perfect time to leisurely sit outside alongside your katori buta as you break open a watermelon all the while taking in the warm sunlight rays and enjoying your very own outdoor summer orchestra.

Japanese summer memorabilia at Shibuya's LOFT. Note the 'watermelon penguin', 'ukulele white bear', 'shaved ice', 'takoyaki', and of course 'katori buta' on the top shelf!

Japanese summer memorabilia at Shibuya's LOFT. Note the 'watermelon penguin', 'ukulele white bear', 'shaved ice', 'takoyaki', and of course 'katori buta' on the top shelf!

Together with the 風鈴 (fuurin, windchime), うちわ (uchiwa, Japanese traditional fan), かき氷 (kakigoori, shaved ice) and すいか (suika, watermelon), 蚊取り豚 (katori buta) completes the Japanese summer ensemble.

We hope that just like the warm memories of the summer past, our Katori Buta and the Watermelon Windchime prints will keep you warm in the winter, reminding of the warmer days to come.

Furin: The Blissful Sound of Japanese Summer

Japanese Culture, Thoughts, PICA WorksAlyonaComment

Our new print is in! We'd like to welcome a new addition to our shop of Japanese things we love - the Windchime. And just in time for the summer!

When I think of Japanese summers, I imagine すいか (suika, watermelon), かき氷 (kakigoori, shaved ice), 花火 (hanabi, fireworks), 浴衣 (yukata, a light cotton summer kimono), and of course our favourite 風鈴 (fuurin), the glass windchime. Traditionally, in Japan the windchime has long been regarded as a symbol of good luck. The sound of the bell ringing is thought to ward off lurking evil spirits. Perhaps you noticed that most Japanese key chains are adorned by a small bell for the same reason. But I think there is another symbolic meaning behind the chime. A practical one at that. The tinkling sound of the windchime when played by the wind, reminds us of the cool gentle breeze on a hot summer’s day. Our windchime print is meant to remind us that those summer days are just around the corner. The print’s bright colours will warm up your space, and bring back the joy of the crisp melodic sound of the windchime, when rattled by the gentle movement of the air. The Japanese text, 「夏のそよ風」 (“Natsu no soyokaze,” “The gentle wind of the summer”), captures this very essence.

So how did we come to love it so much? 

During our stay in Japan, we decided it’d be ok not to invest in the AC. Houses and apartments in Japan usually don’t come with any appliances. Everything needs to be purchased at the time you move in. When we first settled, the weather was nice and cool. So after buying the refrigerator, washing machine and everything else under the sun needed for daily comfortable living, we decided to put off shopping for the エアコン (eacon, AC). After all, the unit aside, electricity in Japan is expensive, and running one would cost a pretty penny. We thought we’d rather spend that money on other fun stuff Japan had to offer. Then the summer came. It was easily above 35°C on any given day. And as the consumer demand for the AC rose, so did the prices. To save our cash, we found tons of alternative cool ways to keep our house cool. Pun intended. We wore Japanese specially designed water soaked scarves that keep your neck cool. Used gel-infused cooling seating pads for comfort. And with two retro-style fans that would blow the air about the room, it somehow became manageable. Not all, but most of the time. The time was also right after the 3.11 Touhoku Earthquake, and the government was actively promoting 節電 (setsuden, electricity conservation). So even if we owned one of those babies, we weren’t allowed to run it during peak hours, which is when you really need it. We were determined to brave the summer heat as we were.


One day as we were out and about shopping, we stumbled upon a special sale on a unique collection of windchimes that were painted in most amusing designs. One of them stood out to me. The top was painted to resemble a watermelon, and the string attached was painted red with black drops to suggest watermelon seeds. Watermelon windchime?! It was a fated love at first sight. I knew I had to have it. And I never looked back. 

The windchime made the living room window its permanent home. We had very little wind where we lived in the summer. And when a slight summer breeze would flow through our windows, the windchime created the most soothing sound. It was the sound of hope. Hope for a gust of wind that might visit our quarters and cool us down. The sound seemed to make the room cooler or 涼しい (suzushii, cool, refreshing) as Japanese would say. 

When I first started working on the print, I wrote a small copy that I had plans to include in the final design. My plans for the design changed, and I ended up not using it. ...もったいない (“mottainai,” “How wasteful”). Despite the change, I would still like to share it with you here, as I believe it perfectly captures the meaning behind our windchime print. So here it is: 

「夏のそよ風。風鈴の涼しい音と共に太陽の光を浴びる。」(“Natsu no soyokaze. Fuurin no suzushii oto totomo ni taiyou no hikari wo abiru,” “Summer’s gentle breeze. With the refreshing (cooling) sound of the windchime, I bask in the sunlight”).


Windchime is one of those things that holds a special place when one thinks of those summer days in Japan. It is a culturally accepted good luck charm, and a welcomed decoration on a hot summer’s day often seen in every window or porch. And in Japan, you do not feel prepared to take on the heat unless you have one hanging in your home.