Needless to say that Japan undoubtedly IS the paradise for kigurumi, animal costumes! Here, it wouldn’t be odd for people to bump into all sorts of kigurumi characters on a daily basis, such as Gachapin and Mukku from the good old TV programme Hirake Ponkikki, baseball team mascots with big smiles or the red chili pepper character that hands out free Hot Pepper magazines outside train stations…. If you ever wanted to find out where these creatures come from, today’s article introduces you to diligent kigurumi maker Atsushi Tomura of Picopico. PingMag visited the artist’s home on the East Side of Tokyo to shake hands with his bizarre monsters…
Written by Chiemi
Translated by Natsumi
Actually, I found out about Picopico at a fashion show called “Dragon Castle” last winter, where the stage was designed to look like an underwater setting and Picopico’s marine creatures appeared one after another. For me personally, the seaweed character wavering at an amazing speed made the biggest impression…
Atsushi: Inside that seaweed was an actor from the Theater Gokiburi Combinat, who’s a real genius. I was very jealous of his talent too. (laughs)
So you weren’t inside the suits yourself?
I was wearing the octopus suit at the time.
Honestly, who wouldn’t want to wear this? The admired seaweed character of the “Dragon Castle” fashion show. This striking kigurumi was the reason that led PingMag to do this interview in the first place.
This cute octopus monster in a dream of pink, “Takorone,” was worn by Atsushi himself. According to the artist, amateurs can’t possibly deal with all these limbs…
Oh, really? Please tell us more about the other surreal kigurumi creatures there.
I bet you were surprised by the red sea bream and sole. I thought an ordinary fish would just be boring, so I came up with the idea of opening them up in the middle, to reveal the bones. I came across them in the Monster Diary and decided to actually construct them.
At the beginning this red sea bream monster “taideron” looks like an innocent normal fish – but then it opens up its body. Here the spread view…
Likewise, monster “Hiramerarsu” opens up into a fillet of sole. For your interest, it also throws used chewing gum at people. Argh! What kind of an surreal experience is that, being hit from a fillet…
Turtle monster “Kameguba” has the power to liquefy the massive Kasumigaseki Building in just 2 seconds. Good job!
Angler monster “Ankoruni” loves drinking, and he is a regular at the local monster bar. Along with buddy “Kameguba,” has has even been featured on a radio programme.
Monster Diary? What’s that?
My Monster Diary is just that – a diary of blank pages of which I fill one each day with a drawing of a monster.
Everyday!? You mean, you get different ideas every single day?
Sometimes ideas come easily, sometimes it takes more time. But basically, anything goes with monsters, so there’s no limit whatsoever. Draw a bizarre shape and add eyes and facial features, and that makes another monster. I even see one in my dreams from time to time.
By the way, as you have a kigurumi in the making at the moment: What is the process you go through in order to make it?
The rough sketch for “Nebar” who has natto on his head in the monster diary and…
… the one-tenth scale model made of oil clay, based on the original drawing.
For the kigurumi, I start by making a one-tenth scale model based on the sketch. Then I make the pattern based on this model. This is made using a pattern draping method, where I pin paper on to the model to determine the shape and then enlarge it ten times to get the full-size pattern. After that, I cut urethane according to the pattern and join them together with glue. And suddenly the monster comes together! These processes are really the same as for cuddly toys.
The pattern made using ordinary writing paper.
Urethane cut and stuck together according to the pattern ends up like this. So far, the monster “Nebar” has only been completed this much..
I see! But is it really that easy?
It is, actually! Because it’s a kind of cross between cuddly toy making and clay work techniques: The next process involves sticking fabric on the inner surface for reinforcement and treating the outer surface with liquid rubber. This requires 3 to 4 days, so it doesn’t take all that long, you see. A week is basically enough time to make a monster.
New winter boots? Ha! A cute kigurumi leg.
A half completed head – looks a bit scary!
Incidentally, how do you usually transport these kigurumi monsters?
I just lug them onto public transport! (laughs) When I took “Bekkosu,” which was used in the PV for a Japanese band called RIZE, on the train, everyone was staring – despite the fact that it was designed to be compact. (laughs) Also, once a month I serve as a monster waiter at an event in Shibuya. When I show up fully dressed, the streets take on a carnivalesque atmosphere…
I can imagine…. Is that part of your motivation to make kigurumi and cuddly toys?
Of course, there is the feeling of wanting to surprise people. But seeing your own drawings turn into a real thing is the most fulfilling element, I think.
Don’t even think about messing with this fella – “Double-the-work monster, Peramigory”.
A cuddly toy, laying around his creator’s room for entertainment.
The very first cuddly toy Atsushi made. Sweet, but still a bit scary if you look at its teeth…
Another cuddly toy with no name. Watch out! Its teeth are made out of plastic.
But seeing many children having fun is just as satisfying, wouldn’t you say?
Yes, definitely. Soon I’m going to do a mask making workshop using only paper and crayons at the Shiba Nursery School. For that, I thought about making a first impression in a monster suit – just to get the children excited! (laughs)
Atsushi and his Bekkosu on their way to the park to entertain the children… Surely, people spotting a man carrying what appeared to be a passed-out drunk monster were equally entertained…
Atsushi looking at his Bekkosu. Then, he is putting on the costume outside the park to avoid being seen by the children. Obviously that would spoil all the fun.
Japan is undoubtedly a kigurumi paradise. So, is there still anything that surprises you?
Finally, what are your future plans in terms of monster making?
I want to make monster statues for parks and stations instead of ordinary ones – making monster slides for parks would be nice too. That’s the first stage, and the second stage is to make a monster bigger than the Sphinx.
Atsushi with one of his mischievously smiling puppets.
Where would you place something that big?
Hmmmm, it has to be in Japan. Tokyo would be nice. Perhaps next to Tokyo Tower…
What a romantic idea! Atsushi, thank you for introducing your lovely kigurumi and monsters today!!
Picopico’s Live performance & Exhibition Information!
Picopico’s kigurumi band will be on the stage!
“6%DOKIDOKI PARTY NIGHT !”
Date: Thursday 23rd August 18:00 – 21:00
Venue: SHIBUYA LUSH
Admission:￥2,000（incl. 1drink + a small present!)
Tickets are available at 6%DOKIDOKI Harajuku
Picopico exhibition “Monster vending machine”
Date: Wednesday 1st August – Friday 28th September
Place: Gallery ART SPACE
Atsushi Tomura will be at the gallery on 11th August (15:30-17:30)