Click covers for info. Copyright (C) Rudy Rucker 2021.

Murakami Mushroom Figurine

Is this kawai, or what?

A collectible art piece by Superflat Japanese artist Takashi Murakami.


I got it for, like, $20 at Kid Robot on Haight Street in SF, right by the Booksmith.

I love the idea of artists mass-producing bright little objects. It's almost like blogging, somehow. Futurama: an artist makes something and scans it, or just designs it in CAD. In either case, the specs are posted on his/her website. User clicks on this, and click-whirr the desktop fabricator grinds into activity and, behold: a cute Argus-eyed mushroom.

Classical gloss: Argus was a hundred-eyed guardian whom Juno set to work guarding a certain cow, formerly husband Zeus's girlfriend Io. Normally only one or two of Argus's eyes would be asleep, but Zeus's homie Hermes sang Argus a little song about shephards in love that was so boring that all hundred eyes closed.

The big mushroom has four others under it. Maybe it's a family, and the big one is Dad (or Mom if you prefer), the next-bigger one is the spouse, and the three smaller ones are the kiddies.

I can almost hear their voices.

I bought the figuine by way of a casting call. That is, I need some curious critters for Bela, Paul and Alma (of Mathematicians in Love) to encounter when they leave the normal spacetime continuum and enter La Hampa — the not-so-criminal underworld. My feeling is that these cute shrooms have definitely made the cut.


Speaking of cute Japanese things, I was thinking about Hello Kitty the other day, as there was an article on her in the paper. I wrote about a 1990s encounter with the Kit in an essay in my collection, Seek!.



[Quote from Seek!, copyright Rudy Rucker (C) 2004]

Before my talk at the art museum, I had an hour to kill. Right past the museum was a giant building the size of a baseball stadium, only sealed up, and with fanciful towers on it. “That’s Sanrio Puroland,” Yoko had explained to me. “They are the makers of Hello Kitty. It’s a place for children. Like Disneyland.”

Hello Kitty is the groovy little mouthless cat that you see drawn on so many Japanese children’s knapsacks and stationary. In recent years she’s gotten pretty popular in the U.S. as well. She’s so kawai (Japanese for “cute”). The strange thing is that, as far as I could find out, there are no Hello Kitty cartoons or comic books. Hello Kitty is simply an icon, like a Smiley face.

Outside the Sanrio Puroland, I was drawn in my the crowd’s excitement and couldn’t stop myself from going it, even though it cost the equivalent of thirty dollars. But I knew it was my journalistic duty to investigate.

Inside the huge sealed building it smelled like the bodies of thousands of people — worse, it smelled like diapers. Lots of toddlers. I was the only Westerner. The guards waved me forward, and I went into a huge dark hall.

There was amplified music, unbelievably loud, playing saccharine disco-type tunes, with many words in English. “Party in Puroland, Everybody Party!” Down on the floor below were people in costumes marching around and around in the circle of an endless parade. One of them was dressed like Hello Kitty. I couldn’t pause to look at first, as young guards in white gloves kept waving me on. I wound up and down flight after flight of undulating stairs, with all the guardrails lined by parents holding young children.

Finally I found a stopping place down near the floor. In the middle of the floor was a central structure like a giant redwood, bedizened with lights, smoke machines, and mechanical bubble blowers. The colored lights glistened on the bubbles in the thick air as the disco roared. “Party in Puroland!” Hello Kitty was twenty feet from me, and next to her was a girl in gold bathing suit and cape, smiling and dancing. But . . . if this was like Disneyland, where were the rides?

I stumbled off down an empty hall that led away from the spectacle. Behind glass cases were sculptures of laughing trees making candy. And here were a cluster of candy stores, and stores selling Hello Kitty products. I felt sorry for the parents leading their children around in the hideous saccharine din of this Virtual Reality gone wrong.

[End quote]


Takashi Murakami is a lot hipper than that of course. He's playing with the genre, in somewhat the same way that I like to play with science fiction. His stuff is kawai but not trite, and sometimes it's a little transgressive. Check him out.

One Response to “Murakami Mushroom Figurine”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Down with cute Japanese critters! Goodbye Kitty! Take a look at our site to teach the world that hello kitty deserves to die.

Rudy's Blog is powered by WordPress