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YANOBE Kenji "Journey of Life"-Public Art at Osaka Airport Station, where magnificent life trails and the future were spinning out.


YANOBE Kenji "Journey of Life"

From March 20, 2024, Osaka Monorail's Osaka Airport Station had opened to the public with a large stained glass work, "Journey of Life," originally drawn and produced by contemporary artist YANOBE Kenji (1965-).This work was planned and produced by the Japan Transportation Culture Association and Osaka Monorail Co., Ltd. with support from the Japan Lottery Association's "Social Contribution Public Relations Project". With the Osaka Expo 2025 in prospect, there are high expectations for this work of public art as a presence to watch over people at the terminal where many travelers will come and go, and it will also enliven tourism in the area.

(Interview and text by ISHIGAKI Kumiko)





Artists who carry on the DNA of Expo '70s

Mr. YANOBE Kenji

Mr. Yanobe is a true Osaka native, born and raised in Osaka, and still based in Osaka. As a child, he used the site of the Expo '70 as his playground.


In his speech at the ceremony to unveil "Journey of Life," Mr. Yanobe said, "The abandoned robots and demolished pavilions at the Expo site looked like the ruins of the future, so I wondered what kind of people were piloting these robots? What kind of town was there? I was imagining a story. It was around this time that I learned to create things with my imagination, so you could say that the genes from the 1970s Expo nurtured me as an artist," he said.




"Journey of Life" is a work full of energy and light.

Visitors to "Journey of Life" will probably be overwhelmed by the scale and energy of the work.

The giant stained-glass windows, measuring 2.18 meters in height and 12.38 meters in width, depict guardian characters who protect people from environmental destruction, pestilence, and danger.


Center 《SHIP's CAT》 (2017-). On both sides are characters that protect the world from conflicts and infectious diseases 《KOMAINU-Guardian Beasts-》 (2019)

Mr. Yanobe's representative work, "SHIP'S CAT" (2017-), is based on the motif of a "sailor cat" that boarded a ship along with humans. Cats not only protected cargo from rats and prevented pestilence, but also healed people's hearts on long voyages. It is our hope that cats will continue to protect and guide people on their journeys even in this age of crisis.


Center "LUCA Ship" (2024)

The "LUCA Ship" character, unveiled in 2024, pays homage to OKAMOTO Taro's "Tower of the Sun".

The story is set up as "a spaceship that brought life to earth with the Big Bang a long time ago," in reference to the panspermia theory that the origin of life came from outer space. The spaceship is said to be carrying a space cat which is an ancestor of cats, and the story depicts the origin and mystery of life with a lot of humor.

It is not only a bright world that is depicted through pop and cute characters.


"Since the birth of life, we have faced and overcome many crises such as environmental problems, epidemics, and conflicts, but this is not a matter of course. The "Journey of Life" is not only a miracle of the origin of life, but also a warning against the destruction of the earth, which may be caused by human beings in the future" it is such a warning bell for the destruction of the earth.




Stained-glass works showcasing the skilled work of artisans

Painted glass is fired in a special kiln.

The "Journey of Life" was created by seven stained glass artisans from the "CREARE Atami Yugawara Studio" in Atami, Shizuoka Prefecture.


By adjusting the subtle thickness and transparency of the glass, he was able to "translate" the three-dimensionality and perspective of the characters depicted in the original drawings into stained glass works.


At "CREARE Atami Yugawara Studio," the process of adding new interpretations and values to stained glass works is called "translation".


Particularly impressive is the luminosity of the character's eyes, which are made by fusing layers of glass together. 

The eyes with their three-dimensionality and presence seem to evoke the emotions and temperature of the characters.


Mr. Yanobe painting

Mr. Yanobe's hand-painting is added here and there, including the cat's fur, making this work a fusion of the creativity of both the artist and the artisan.





The "Journey of Life" is a combination of 2,032 pieces of colorful stained glass in 52 different colors, which colorfully illuminate the station when the sun shines through them.



Rear view of the work seen from the crossing corridor connecting to Osaka Airport

The way the artwork looks depends on the time of day you view it and the weather that day.


When asked what time of day his works look their best, Mr. Yanobe replies, " Anytime". 

"The artwork can be seen from the corridor outside, so at night you can see it differently through the lights inside the building. It will be a place that heals people on rainy days, snowy days, happy days, and sad days."




About YANOBE KENJI's artworks that can be seen in Osaka/Kansai

For your information, you can also see public art, the actual characters depicted in the artwork, in Osaka and the Kansai region.


"SHIP'S CAT" and "Giant Torayan" which blow flames beside it, are on permanent display at the Nakanoshima Museum of Art, Osaka, and "Sun Sister" which holds the sun, is on permanent display at the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art.


"Sun Child," which expresses the wish for recovery and revival from the Tohoku earthquake, can be seen in Ibaraki City (in front of Minami Ibaraki Station), where Mr. Yanobe spent his childhood.

Please take a look at this article as well!


【Yanobe Kenji's Art Spots in Kansai】



"Journey of Life"

Address

3-569-3 Hotarugaike Nishimachi, Toyonaka City, Osaka Prefecture

Access from the nearest station

Osaka Monorail “Osaka Airport” Station Entrance outside the ticket gate


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