Japanese Miniatures That Capture a Moment in Time ・ Olympic Events and COVID-19

Tokyo Entertainment Covid-19 2021.08.06
These unique little scenes featuring face masks and Tokyo 2020 events are big on Instagram.
Over the past ten years, Japanese artist Tatsuya Tanaka has been creating miniature scenes, combining tiny figures and making use of everyday objects in novel ways, to create imaginative scenes of the world around us. But these days, this world we live in has changed in some strange and unexpected ways, and items like surgical masks―once just the gear of actual surgeons―have forced their way into the everyday.

Tatsuya Tanaka's latest works reflect reality on a number of levels, and that includes this year's unexpectedly controversial Olympic Games, currently being held in Tokyo despite rising COVID-19 cases and an ongoing state of emergency.
Tanaka's use of everyday objects is as inventive as ever, even as he takes on the mask―a symbol of the hardships and horrors that COVID-19 has put into motion. His popular Instagram posts see the mask transformed into the settings of a number of Olympic events, just as COVID-19 is an unavoidable backdrop to the Tokyo 2020 Games. Miniature swimmers line up along the edge of a blue mask, ready to dive into a pool so conveniently divided into lanes and fitted with a handy ladder. Volleyball players spike tiny purple balls over a white mask "net," while one tiny track athlete completes a high jump over another mask's elastic strap.
Tanaka's own commentary seems carefully measured and intentionally simple, and the caption on his Tokyo 2020 social media posts reads "take measures to avoid infection and watch the games." And while public sentiment regarding the Games is a mix of Tokyoites raging against the event going on during an explosion of new COVID-19 cases, a sort of melancholy disappointment that Tokyo 2020 ended up so half-hearted, and pride in the Japanese athletes still competing so admirably this year, social media is clearly a fan of Tanaka's miniatures. His Instagram post with four new Olympic-themed pieces has gained hundreds of thousands of likes, and commenters seem to agree that whether the Olympic Games are a good thing or not, Tatsuya Tanaka has really captured a moment in his art.

The long-awaited Tokyo 2020 Olympics will soon be coming to a close, but there are still a few more days of exciting, drama-filled sporting events to go. As Tatsuya Tanaka says, let's stay safe, take measures to avoid infection, and enjoy the Olympics as much as we can in such strange times.

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