Osaka Brand Committee
Outenin Temple
Outenin Temple
digmeout (Dig-Me-Out) Installment 1
Avant-Garde x Entertaining x Open-Air Theater → Ishinha
Etching x Pastel → Sumako Yasui
Artist x Craftsperson → Yoko Matsumoto
Jokes x Art → Gendai Bijutsu Nitouhei
Sculpture x Flexibility → Kohei Nawa
Installations x Images → Chie Matsui
World Exhibition (Banpaku) x Future Ruins → Kenji Yanobe
Drive x Noise → Rogue’s Gallery
Self-Portrait x Art History → Yasumasa Morimura
 Listen (= Sound) x View (= Art) → Yukio Fujimoto
Yodogawa x Trash x Art→Yodogawa Technique
Biolgical field
Water city
Osaka Kaleidoscope
World Exhibition (Banpaku) x Future Ruins → Kenji Yanobe

photo: Kenji Aoki
We cannot talk about Kenji Yanobe without mentioning Banpaku, or the Japan World Exposition, which was held in 1970 on the hills of Senri, Osaka.
Although Yanobe was born in 1965 and was raised in the neighborhood not so far from the Banpaku site, he has almost no memory of the event itself. Rather, he clearly recalls sneaking into the site and playing there after the event was over. He also remembers watching the pavilions being gradually demolished. His childhood experience of witnessing such an extremely rare scene (which Yanobe calls “future ruins”) eventually became a critical factor that influenced his later career as an artist. Since he presented “Tanking Machine” in his solo exhibition in 1990, Yanobe continued to advance his successful career by producing attention-drawing artworks one after another. He created armament, vehicles, radiation protective suits, and others in similar motifs, many of which had a distinctive and unique figure by describing themselves as necessities for surviving the world’s terminal days. At that time, the keywords that inspired Yanobe’s creation were “delusion” and “survival.”

NURSERY SCHOOL, Chernobyl 1997
photo: Russell Liebman
photo: Shin Kurosawa

photo: Seiji Toyonaga

  In 1997, Yanobe started “Atom Suit Project,” for which he visited post-accident Chernobyl and other places wearing his home-made radiation suit. While his expressions evolved as he directly witnessed the scenes of catastrophes, such experience of having to face such harsh realities eventually made him reconsider his position. As we entered the 21st century, Yanobe established his new theme, “revival,” for his later creations.
In 2003, Yanobe held his retrospective exhibition titled “Megalomania” at the National Museum of Art, Osaka, which was then located at the former Banpaku site. For Yanobe, reflecting back on his past activities at the place of his roots was the turning point of his career.

Yanobe’s current activities are centered on his new character, “Torayan.” Torayan is modeled after a ventriloquist’s dummy which Yanobe’s father used at a related event of “Megalomania.” Although his body is only the size of a 3-year-old toddler, Torayan has comb-over hair and a little mustache and is dressed in a child-size radiation suit. For Yanobe, Torayan, who is neither an adult nor a child, is a very special being and has become a source of creative ideas and an occasional guide for a new direction.

Yokosuka Museum of Art opening commemorative exhibition: “Ikiru (Live)” 2007
photo: Seiji Toyonaga

photo: Seiji Toyonaga

Since 2004, Yanobe has presented his works featuring Torayan at various art museums throughout the country, including the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, the Toyota Municipal Museum of Art (Aichi), the Kirishima Open-Air Museum (Kagoshima), and the Toride Art Project (Ibaraki). Based on his own methodology that emphasizes cooperative work with local communities and people, Yanobe seems to be gradually carving out a new potential for art. In August, he also published a picture book, titled “Torayan-no Daiboken (the great adventure of Torayan).” By combining a documentary of artistic creation with fantasy, Yanobe created an unprecedented form of book that functions as a storybook and also as an installation tool.

From his picture book: “Torayan-no Daiboken”


It seems to me that Yanobe is making his attempt to completely change the conventional image of artists. As he continues his activities to inspire a number of people without relying on existing frameworks, I find a future image of an artist in the 21st century in Yanobe, who makes me so hopeful for what he may bring to our future.

November 8, 2007
Takafumi Kobuki, a freelance art writer

Kenji Yanobe Profile
Born in Osaka, Yanobe received “Kirin Contemporary Art Award” grand prize for his acclaimed work, “Tanking Machine (1990).” He has held and participated in a number of exhibitions both in and outside Japan, and worked on collaboration projects with Issey Miyake and Arata Isozaki. He also occasionally directs young artists as a curator. Yanobe continues his unique and energetic activities while focusing on the close relationship with history and people of the local community.

Performance schedule

Kenji Yanobe: The Great Adventure of Torayan -Phantasmagoria-
Dec. 7 (Fri.), 2007 - Jan. 19 (Sat.), 2008
Closed on Sunday, Monday, public holiday, and Dec. 23 (Sun.) - Jan. 7 (Mon.)
11:00 - 19:00 (11:00 - 17:00 for Saturday)
1-8-5 Tenmabashi, Kita-ku, Osaka-shi
TEL: 06-6354-5444

Picture book “Torayan-no Daiboken”
AKAAKA Art Publishing
Standard edition: 1,890 yen, Special edition: 3,990 yen *tax included

Author Profile
Takafumi Kobuki
Worked as an editor for an information magazine and became a freelancer in 2005. Writes art-related articles for Kyoto Shimbun, Bijutsu Techo, Pia Kansai, ELLE, artscape (online) and more.
Personal website: “Katte-ni RECOMMEND”
Personal blog: “Takafumi Kobuki: Art-no Kobujime”