“LIVING KANJI: Modernizing Script for a Changing Japan,” a transformative art project that its creators say explores gender bias and LGBTQ+ exclusion from the native Japanese language, will be featured in an upcoming exhibition at RELOAD Gallery in the Shimokitazawa area of Tokyo from January 11th to 14th, 2024.
The concept is the result of a collaboration between Tokyo creatives Hami (Miharu Matsunaga) and Adam Gothelf, along with visiting graphic designer Chiara Mendolia.
“Our goal is to create new logographic kanji that challenge 1,600 years of gender bias and LGBTQ+ exclusion in the Japanese written language,” said Gothelf.
“The title ‘LIVING KANJI’ reflects our vision of breathing new life into ancient kanji, transforming them to align with contemporary values of inclusivity and diversity.”
According to the trio, one of the key challenges was creating kanji for LGBTQ+ terms where no historical equivalents exist.
“Our project not only aims to integrate LGBTQ+ identities into Japanese culture but also to create the first-ever LGBTQ+ specific kanji,” said Chiara Mendolia.
The team also emphasized that “LIVING KANJI is not about replacing traditional kanji but sparking a conversation on a more inclusive Japan.”
“We aim to open discussions and envision what a more diverse and accepting society in Japan could look like, as envisioned by its people” said Hami.
Speaking on the ancient nature of kanji, Gothelf added: “A counterargument to LIVING KANJI is that words with ancient biases about women are often viewed as mere vestigial remnants trapped in time. However, they can still negatively impact modern women.
“This is particularly relevant given Japan’s ranking of 125th out of 146 countries in gender equality,” said Gothelf.
“So with this project, we hope to offer a fresh perspective on an ancient script, infusing it with modern sensibilities and inclusivity. In conclusion, LIVING KANJI is more than an art exhibit; it’s a cultural dialogue, an exploration of identity, and a celebration of diversity.”
- Hami (Miharu Matsunaga) – Creative Director & Art Director
- Chiara Mendolia – Graphic Designer
- Adam Gothelf – Copywriter