Side note—Chris is my college roommate and close friend. He introduced me to almost all of the Japanese things I talk about.
Sometime at the end of 2013, Chris made me watch PONPONPON. It changed my life forever. Well, it did introduce me to quirky j-pop sensation Kyary Pamyu Pamyu and the kawaii style of video’s Art Director, Sebastian Masuda.
On March 25, 2015 Chris and I had the fantastic opportunity to meet Masuda in person.
He was giving a lecture called “Kawaii Meets Art and Fashion: An Evening with Sebastian Masuda” at the Japan Society in New York City. Chris met me in the City once I got out from work, and we took the E-Train up.
We were (fashionably) late, but we only missed the beginning of the talk. It was in an average sized lecture hall-type room, and the first thing I noticed were several harajuku cosplayers in the audience. I was in my work clothes and a black trenchcoat, so I probably looked boring in comparison. Parents also accounted for half of this audience, accompanying their teenage kids to the lecture. (They get thumbs up from me for being awesome.)
Masuda went through the history of kawaii culture, from its origins to present day. He explained the creation of 6%DokiDoki, showed photos the earliest kawaii fashion pioneers of Harajuku, and even reflected on the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunam and how it affected his life. In sum, the lecture was a very moving synopsis of his life’s work.
But Masuda is far from finished. He then unveiled his current project—the Hello Kitty “TIME AFTER TIME CAPSULE” which would be displayed (with other capsule pieces) at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Unfortunately, we were both extremely busy the day the NYC capsule event took place, and we missed out.
Then it was time for the quick Q&A session. The only question I can actually remember was by one of a father in the audience. He was dressed plainly—like me—and had gray hair. I was concerned with what he was going to ask.
Plot twist: He asked Masuda what he thought about Yasutaka Nakata—Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s producer—since Nakata wasn’t so ‘kawaii’ himself. What.
Masuda explained how he and Nakata were good friends, and they get together often. Nakata-san is more focused on music, but they get each other.
Then we all headed back upstairs for a mingle session. There was a table with some strange-tasting champagne (which Chris could not handle, but I downed) and lights snacks. Masuda was standing in the corner of the room with a translator, but a lot of people didn’t notice him yet.
Side story—Just a few months ago, Chris, Emma, and I made a spontaneous visit to the Jeff Koons exhibition at the original Whitney Museum. When Koons did his meet-and-greet session, we were so close to speaking with him until staff shuffled him into a back room out of reach. So with Masuda, I was already preparing myself for disappointment.
By the time we built up the courage to approach him, a small line had formed. I could picture the translator turning us away so clearly now.
But then—it was our turn.
Since Chris was studying visual arts in college, I turned to him to speak. Chris was pretty much speechless and starstruck. I told him to breathe.
Chris told Masuda how inspired and moved he was of his work, and then he asked about his opinion on Charisma.com, a new j-rap duo known for being anti-kawaii. Little did we know that Masuda was actually well-acquainted with them. Whoops!
Chris has also brought along his copy of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s single ‘Mondai Girl,’ but he declined to sign it. But Masuda was very polite and modest the entire time.
Then it was my turn.
The question I had in mind (about his view of Lady Gaga) completely slipped my mind, so I muttered how I appreciated his work and how I watched PONPONPON probably hundreds of times.
Then we left. Well, we used the fancy high-tech Japanese toilets first. Then we left. We couldn’t believe we had just spoken with him.
Back on the subway we went, reflecting on what had just happened. We had just spoken to Sebastian Masuda, one of the most influential Japanese visual artists of modern times and the pioneer of kawaii fashion and culture.
Then Chris and I ate at Go! Go! Curry back in Midtown, known for having some of the best Japanese curry in NYC. We knew we would probably see Masuda in NYC again soon, perhaps for an exhibition or another lecture.
interested in kawaii culture? Listen to Kyary Pamyu Pamyu? Let’s chat in the comments!
Mikey Dunn is a up-and-coming online personality who writes blog posts and publishes YouTube vlogs weekly.
On my blog you’ll find posts about anime, pop culture, and tech published here weekly. To see me in person, subscribe to my YouTube channel TheMikeyVlog! Also check out the About Me page and find me on social: @TheMikeyDunn.