Lifelike dolls created by legendary Goyo Hirata amaze Twitter users, leave us speechless

Japan is full of national treasures, from beautiful nature spots to old architecture, but one of the most interesting classes of national treasures is the living kind. Masters of their crafts, these national treasures often represent the heights of Japanese arts — including doll making! But we’re not talking about G.I. Joe figures or Barbie dolls, we’re talking about works of art that look less like toys and more like real people frozen in time.

Goyo Hirata was exactly that kind of artist, and once you see some of his creations, you’ll agree that he was definitely deserving of the status of Living National Treasure. Though Hirata passed away in 1981, his work is still celebrated today and no less amazing.

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These fan-drawn fused Pokémon are so cool we wish they were really in the game

When Pokémon graced our tiny Game Boy screens back in 1996 (or, depending on where you’re from,  1998 or 1999), we all thought that nothing could be better than these beautifully crafted 151 animal-like Pocket Monsters. But then a second generation of games came out and suddenly we were graced with 100 new Pokémon who pledged their loyalty and undying love to us, their trainers. Now in 2015, there are 721 different Poké-friends to collect and train and we couldn’t be happier with them…unless we could take two of our favorites and fuse them together, that is!

The concept may have been done before, but each artist brings their own personal fliar and the results are always fascinating. What makes the following combinations unique is that sometimes there are not two but three Pokémon fused together!

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You don’t want to meet these Dragon Ball Z villains in a dark alley at night

There are plenty of horror movie villains that scare us so bad we can’t sleep at night. These include the classics like Freddy Kruger, Jason, and Chucky as well as some newer terrors like Pennywise, Sadako, and Ghostface. Well, isn’t it about time to expand the roster of baddies that keep you up at night? They might not be household screamfest names yet, but what about Freeza, Cell and Evil Majin Buu?

Yes…the Dragon Ball Z villains. We are not pulling your leg (nor ripping it off painfully), but one artist has rendered these two-dimensional anime characters into truly terrifying creatures of the night. So, hide your kids and hide your wives, because it’s about to get super scary.

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If Darth Vader owned an iPhone, he’d probably keep it in a stunning wooden ukiyoe Star Wars case

There’s always been a strong connection between Japan and the George Lucas-helmed Star Wars franchise. From the samurai-influenced Darth Vader and Stormtrooper costume designs through to the film’s storyline, which borrows heavily from Akira Kurosawa’s 1958 film Hidden Fortress, Lucas himself is the first to admit he owes a lot of his creative inspiration to the Land of the Rising Sun.

So it’s nice to see that Japan is reciprocating the love with a number of Star Wars creations of their own. From samurai-styled figurines to ukiyo-e woodblock prints, these Japanese-styled homages to the epic American film franchise are the perfect way to get ready for the December 18 release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. And now you can carry the force wherever you go, with a gorgeous wooden iPhone 6 case that’s so beautiful even a Sith Lord would stand in line to buy one.

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Paints Without Names: Japanese set of nameless watercolors seeks to free young artistic minds

While visual arts and linguistics are both creative fields, skill with one isn’t necessarily a prerequisite for the other. After all, as long as you can look at three hues and pick the one best suited for the picture you’re painting, it doesn’t really matter if you know whether to call it fuchsia or periwinkle.

As a matter of fact, some would argue that coupling names and colors limits the imaginations of budding young artists, which is why these two Japanese designers have produced a set of paints for children that have no names on their labels, only splotches of their base component colors.

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The surprising and little-known Japanese art of gyotaku: culinary prints made with real fish

Japan has a fascinating art history. From early cord designs on clay vessels in the Jomon period (c. 11000–c. 300 BC) through to picture scrolls, ukiyo-e woodblock prints, and the distinctive style of animation that exists today, people in Japan have always found unique ways to capture the world around them for the rest of the world to see.

One little-known art technique from the 1800s is now making a comeback, and while its roots are firmly planted in Japan’s traditional history, it’s a method of printing that people all around the world can enjoy. All you need is paper, some paint and a nice-looking fish.

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Photographer captures serene moments in Japan’s traditional and modern worlds 【Photos】

Anyone can pick up a camera, but it takes a certain level of artistic talent to produce the kinds of photos that you’ll see below.

The work of Japanese photographer Takashi Yasui has been exploding in popularity on major Western websites recently, and for good reason. Yasui has a knack for capturing tranquil moments of time in both the natural world and urban cityscapes in his native Japan. In particular, he’s a master at manipulating light during dawn and dusk, adding an almost otherworldly quality to his vistas. Now take a moment to sit back and relax in order to completely appreciate the scope of Yasui’s craft.

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Adorable, whimsical pictures of animals painted by old-school Japanese masters

Japanese ukiyo-e painters from the Edo period (1603-1868) are now famous throughout the world for their exquisite woodblock prints depicting everyday Japanese life and the natural world. Such master painters are less well-known, however, for their humorous contributions to the art world, which often feature whimsical scenes of anthropomorphic animals. Fortunately for us, though, these types of pictures are experiencing a recent wave of popularity among Japanese Internet users, and these images are simply too cute for us to just pass up. We’ve got fish, cats, puppies, monkeys, and a few more surprises from the masters in store for you after the jump!

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The Snack Poster: Illustrations to spread the love for authentic Japanese foods

For those unaccustomed to Japanese food, even the most common edibles may seem quite odd and, well, unappetizing, at first glance. The first time you saw monjayaki, did you not think it looked a little…weird? Of course, not all Japanese cuisine is unappealing to the eyes, but even the delicious-looking food is still not widely known throughout the Western world.

A California-based Japanese food blogger is trying to change that. Gaining momentum from the success of her Ramen Poster, artist Fanny has come up with another hand-drawn infographic displaying some of her favorite Japanese street foods and snacks: The Snack Poster.

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Disney princesses return for round two as playful pin-up girls【Art】

Sometimes, we can feel a little put off when someone takes our childhood memories and adds an adult twist to them. We want to preserve our innocence by keeping things exactly as they were. However, when the work is this good, you just have to appreciate the final product. Besides, Disney was made for adults too, right?

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South Korean graphic designer pays tribute to Studio Ghibli films with minimalistic icons

We’ve seen many Studio Ghibli tributes from around the world–some in the form of still artwork, and others in even more ambitious video formats. Today, we’d like to share another fantastic tribute by a South Korean artist that’s sure to please anyone with an eye for some clean graphic design!

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Afro Buddha, usually only displayed one day a year,  gets rare extended viewing until mid-October

The Buddhist statues of Japan come in a wide variety of forms, representing the various manifestations and aspects of Buddhism and its many sects. Of all the iconic figures that can be found around the country, perhaps the grooviest are the statues of Amida with a giant afro!

Dubbed the “Afro Buddha,” this statue stored at Todaiji in Nara is also rarely available public viewing — it’s usually only on display for one day a year! But thanks to special circumstances, it is on display from now until October 18. If you’re looking for the funkiest Buddha in Japan, now’s your chance to see him!

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The awesome Nintendo and anime-inspired stairway art of Japanese high schools 【Photos】

Growing up in suburban southern California, my elementary, junior high, and high schools were all single-story structures. As such, my classmates and I went through our K-12 education without knowing the excitement of the romantic rendezvous and bare-knuckle showdowns that so often occur in the stairways of schools in TV shows, movies, and other works of fiction.

Still, we made do, as the student body just had to find alternate locations in which to swap spit or punches. One thing we definitely missed out on, though, was the opportunity to create awesome stairway art, like these students in Japan who decorated their school steps with the cast of Super Mario Bros., Love Live!, and Attack on Titan.

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We visit Tokyo’s Reversible Destiny Lofts, the apartments designed to make you live forever【Pics】

Incongruous in their grey surroundings, these multicoloured buildings looks like something in a children’s playground, or perhaps an outsized set of toy building blocks. But these colourful constructions are Reversible Destiny lofts—rental apartments in Tokyo’s Mikata City. And the inside of these eccentric properties is just as extraordinary and confusing as the exterior.

But what is “Reversible Destiny” anyway? And how is living in a playful apartment supposed to make you immortal? We sent a reporter from our Japanese sister site Pouch to find out.

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University students create giant artwork of an octopus attacking a temple, now seeking a buyer

Tokyo University of the Arts, a school founded in 1949 through the combination of a music and fine arts school, is one of the most popular art schools in Japan. It has produced a host of famous alumni, including numerous artists, directors, musicians, and designers, so it’s not entirely surprising to see the university making headlines.

But one of the pieces created for this year’s art festival is nothing short of amazing! This massive work of art, which features a giant octopus wrapped around a Greek-style temple, has captured the attention of people across Japan. Now that the festival is over, though, the students are asking if anyone wants to buy it! If you’ve ever wanted a piece of art to decorate your entire front lawn, hurry because supplies are definitely limited.

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Over 700 photos of men undressing! Because what manga artist doesn’t draw half-naked men, right?

This may be a rather random question, but are you capable of drawing a man in various states of undress? Most of us can probably visualize how it should look, but turning those thoughts into illustrations doesn’t always come at a snap of the fingers.

Coming to the rescue of budding illustrators and manga artists is a new pose reference book dedicated solely to men undressing. From T-shirts to kimono to boxer briefs, this is probably the most educational book we’ve seen filled with men stripping off their clothes.

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Osaka river turns into giant floating sushi train complete with oversized sushi 【Pics & Video】

Osaka is known throughout Japan for being a foodie’s paradise. The area has such a focus on food and dining and has given birth to so many well-known dishes that there’s even a famous saying: Kyo no kidaore, Osaka no kuidaore, meaning “Dress up till you drop in Kyoto, eat till you drop in Osaka”.

This October, the city will be showing us just how much their food culture means to them, with a giant floating sushi train carrying plates of gigantic sushi up and down the river, and we’re taking a sneak peek at video and photos of the trial run!

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Artist creates unique badass Stormtrooper covered in Japanese tattoos

Recently, we brought you news of the amazing Star Wars Movie Realisation Series of figurines, which have perfectly transformed Darth Vader, Boba Fett and Stormtroopers into awesome-looking samurai warriors.

But if you’re itching for a Japanese-styled Star Wars character of your own, you might want to do what this clever artist did and simply make one yourself. All you’ll need is a plain figure, some coloured pens and a little—make that a lot—of talent and patience.

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Cute collection of cats in the yokai world features magical powers, gods and flying catfish

The spirit world is highly revered in Japan. From sacred sites to encounters with shape-shifting animals, there are hundreds of tales involving other-worldly beings that hover around the shrines, temples and natural formations that dot the country.

This sense of mystery manifests itself in yokai; strange apparitions or supernatural monsters that exist in folklore and can often be seen in traditional woodblock prints. Ghoulish animals appear quite frequently, which has inspired one Japanese artist to create her own collection featuring mischievous cats, illustrating them as they get up to strange antics and perform magical stunts.

Cats in the yokai world are definitely still cute—just in a strange, creepy way!

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Manga materials website offers thousands of reference poses for budding artists to download

If you’re just starting out on the path to your goal of becoming a manga artist, it can be hard to properly visualize how your characters’ head, limbs, and torso should be positioned for a specific pose. Practicing by sketching with a human model is a time-tested way to hone your understanding of how to draw human anatomy and clothing, but it still poses a problem.

See, most art classes don’t feature models for such manga staples as, say, a girl in a sailor suit firing a pistol. An alternative would be to hire a model on your own, but that’s beyond the budget of many artists who’re still in the amateur stage of their artistic endeavors.

But as long as you can scrape together about 2,000 yen (US$16.26), there’s a new website that will supply you with thousands of reference photos to help kick-start your manga dreams.

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