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Growing Radishes and Creativity

by Sheron Long on May 26, 2014

Radishes growing from the pages of a Japanese manga comic book, accomplished through the creative process of Koshi Kawachi (Image © Koshi Kawashi)

Radishes pop up in an icon of Japanese pop culture—manga comics.
© Koshi Kawashi

Take a Page from a Manga Comic Book

Creativity sprouts in likely places—i.e., anywhere:

In a Toronto street crack,

At the easel in a French atelier,

On a butcher-paper tablecloth in a Carmel cafe, or

Like this creative radish garden, within the pages of Japanese manga.

Planted by Tokyo artist Koshi Kawachi as part of his contemporary art series “Manga Farming,” the work places agriculture, a fundamental activity for the human race, in juxtaposition with a pastime of Japanese pop culture—manga comics.

A surprising seedbed? Perhaps. But manga—graphic novels of action and adventure, romance, sports, horror, business, and more—tell the tale of human life, the very life that is sustained by the food grown in the world.

Planting the Seeds of Creativity

Farming, even on the small scale of a vegetable garden, has more to say about creativity than you might think. Both involve a kind of  “playing in the dirt.”

Bed of radish seedlings, symbolizing how ideas pop up from a creative process that involves getting your hands dirty. (Image © S847 / iStock)

Like farming, creativity flourishes when you get your hands dirty.
© S847 / iStock

I don’t know how long it took Kawachi to create his artwork, but I imagine that it started with just the seed of an idea. Like real radish seeds nourished by rich soil, the seeds of creative ideas need a nurturing environment—time to grow, freedom to poke up in any direction, timely watering.

Pouring water onto radish seedlings sprouting from the pages of Japanese manga comics. (Image © Koshi Kawachi)

To grow a good idea, water well and wait a bit.
© Koshi Kawachi

Attending to Tender Ideas

When well-tended, the radish seed takes 25 days to grow into a leafy plant and bear the crunchy radish.

Radishes ready to harvest, symbolizing how farming is like the creative process in which good ideas yield fruit. (Image © HandmadePictures / iStock)

From seed to harvest—creative ideas, unlike the radish,
may not mature in a predictable number of days.
© HandmadePictures / iStock

Creativity works on its own timetable. But the creative process is more like growing veggies than not—caring hands must thin the crop, pull weeds outright, and support the good ideas as they grow.

Tying up radish seedlings that sprout from the pages of Japanese manga comics, symbolizing the need to take care of good ideas in the creative process. (Image © Koshi Kawachi)

Help out a sprout, and a flower pops out. That’s true of creative ideas, too.
© Koshi Kawachi

One of Kawachi’s good ideas was to plant the radish seeds like bookmarks on his favorite manga pages. Oh, I see the artist’s statement—he connected the seeds as symbols of necessary sustenance to the height of fleeting entertainment.

His ideas sprouted, grew, and flowered.

Flower on a radish plant seeded into the pages of Japanese manga comics, symbolizing a critical step in both the agricultural and creative process. (Image © Koshi Kawachi)

Radishes and creative ideas have to flower before they bear fruit.
© Koshi Kawachi

Crops on Display

When radish farmers spy the first red shoulders of the fruit, they know the payoff of the harvest is near—a literal feast for their tables.

Dinner plate with face made from black olives for eyes, red radish for nose, its green leaves for eyebrows, and a lemon slice for a smile, showing the fun of creativity. (Image © Julia Saponova / Hemera)

Creativity! It’s something to smile about.
© Julia Saponova / Hemera

Artists, however, often sense the completion of their work through a visceral feeling when it is just the way they want it—a feast for the eyes.

For one exhibit in the museum at the Matsuzakaya department store in Nagoya, Kawachi assembled dozens of manga farms, arranging them in long rows like those of a field, as solitary sprouts, and in aesthetic groupings.

Four manga farms on display, showing the result of Koshi Kawachi's creative process. (Image © Koshi Kawachi)

Kawachi’s manga farms on exhibit—a feast for the eyes with manga eyes staring back
© Koshi Kawachi

He encourages others to try the idea, following the manga farmer’s simple steps:

1. Read the manga.

2. Plant the seeds on the pages you like best.

3. Bring up vegetables.

Well, it might be necessary to repot the seedlings first. Even such repotting is part of becoming more creative. Artists will often tell you how their works start in one direction, growing and coming to lovely fruition only when redirected.

And so it is that out of the pages of Japanese manga comes a new chapter in understanding the creative process. Radishes and creativity—a fertile mash-up, one with crunch!

A single radish with leaves, symbol of what the creative process has in common with farming (Image © bajinda / iStock)

© bajinda / iStock

Follow Koshi Kawachi on Facebook

The Kyoto International Manga Museum has a collection of more than 50,000 manga. Stay in touch with current manga events online at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival


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