This evening I attended Danny Choo’s Culture Japan Night at The Japan Foundation. I had seen the Facebook event page a couple days before, but had no idea what the evening was going to be about. But I knew I wanted to go because it was Danny Choo!
I first came across Danny Choo through his website, which features a lot of information on Japanese culture, anime and manga. It’s also a great resource for learning Japanese. All of which, of course, I am very interested in. Soon after I discovered Culture Japan on his YouTube channel and subscribed immediately to that. This is a great channel for anyone who has an interest in Japan.
You’ll also find several other short and interesting videos:
In 2013 Danny Choo was recognised for his work and now works with the Japanese government to promote Japanese culture. His famous mascot, and doll, Mirai Suenaga, has even become an official mascot for Japan Tourism. She is the face of his brand, but could soon become so much more! Currently, Danny Choo and his team are working on what they call the Smart Doll.
His vision is for Mirai Suenaga to one day replace our smart phones. Mirai would be able to teach us Japanese, notify us of Twitter and Facebook notifications through movement, and eventually much much more. Essentially she could become the new communication device, perhaps even a new type of social media. As Danny Choo explained in his talk, walking around with a doll on your shoulder is an ice breaker/conversation starter, which has already allowed him to meet and talk with many people. Interestingly enough, he does not intend to target just otaku or Japanese, as may be expected when you hear about dolls and robots. On the contrary, this would be a technology geared at everyone and anyone that could benefit from owning one, as Mirai would transcend the idea of being just a doll.
I will admit, as much as I love Japan and anime culture, I’ve never been the type to collect dolls. However, watching videos and hearing about the process that goes into making one was very interesting. It is most definitely an art form of its own. Here are a few dolls that were brought in from members of the audience:
I absolutely loved the details, from the face, right down to the clothes and the stand used to prop up the doll. But what is most fascinating is the simplicity and beauty it exudes despite its complex and carefully thought out structure. And to be able to pack so much technology in such a small figurine is truly impressive. If you’re interested in robotics and how the Smart Doll is being made, you can have a look on his website here.
All in all it was a really lovely evening. Danny Choo was fantastic, with a great sense of humour, and in my opinion quite inspiring. I was absolutely thrilled to have been able to meet both him and his wife.
And now, I’m really look forward to seeing the future of the Smart Doll, its potential and all its possibilities…