Maywa Denki – Novmichi Tosa (JP) NAKI Series, TSUKUBA Series, ARCLASSY Series, Toy Series

products, 1993

Maywa Denki is an art unit by Novmichi Tosa. It is named after a company that his father used to run. The costume design takes after the typical working uniform of Japanese electric stores, symbolizing the small/medium-sized enterprise that supported the Japanese economy during its high-growth period. Its unique style is indicated by a term he uses: for example, each piece of Maywa Denki's work is called “a product” and a live performance or exhibition is termed “a product demonstration”. The products produced so far include the NAKI Series, fish-motif nonsense machines, the TSUKUBA Series, original musical instruments, and the ARCLASSY Series, proposal of a Maywa Denki life-style. As well as products and instruments, Maywa Denki has produced its Toy Series, including the Knockman Family, an easy-to-play toy for everybody. As an activity outside the scope of Maywa Denki, Novmichi announces Edelweiss Series, flower motif object art.

Although Maywa Denki is well known and highly appreciated for its art, its promotion strategies are full of variety: exhibitions, live stages, performances, music production, videos, writing, merchandising toys, stationery, and electric devices.

NAKI Series

Maywa Denki’s products started with the NAKI Series in 1990 when Nobumichi Tosa came across the personal question, “Who am I?”. He adopted the following methods to try to solve this:

“Compare yourself to a fish, and the world to a small sea where a fish lives, then, ask yourself ‘Who am I?, finding the answer from the point of view of that fish.

With the theme of ‘one item=one message,’ create a product to express the answer.
Give each one of 26 products an alphabetical model number.

Examine the results as a whole and feel the total image of one’s self.

This process is just like fishing. The fish (=the idea) swimming in the sea (=chaos in one’s brain) is landed onto the real world with the fishing technique (=reason) and fishing tackle (=mechanical engineering skill).
Nobumichi tried to understand the undersea world (=himself) by analyzing the 26 fish caught in the sea.“

Tsukuba Music

Because of the current diffusion of IT devices, such as samplers, synthesizers, and personal computers (Internet), music has been separated from “substance” (=a musical instrument) and is now considered “information.” The style of enjoying music has changed, and as a result, people talk about music like: “I know such a maniac song,” “I can remix the original song like this,” or “I have a lot of music data.” People take pleasure in collecting “information on the music” that can be heard only through the speakers.
Tsukuba Music is designed to draw people’s attention to the fact that “live musical sound is created from a substance,” this is what music used to be, although it has been totally forgotten. The Tsukuba Series is played by the movement of motors and / or electromagnets at 100V and makes a sound by practically beating/knocking a substance. The challenge involved here is to revive the sound of live music with the power of the machine There are three important elements in the production of the Tsukuba Series:
> 1. It is run at 100 V,
> 2. Sounds are produced with no speakers (acoustic instruments),
> 3. The style of play is ridiculous.

ARCLASSY Series

The ARCLASSY Series is a proposal for a new life by Maywa Denki products and is based on themes such as “Analogue beyond digital” and “nonsense gadgets”.

Toy Series

Equipped with funny mechanics, the various kinds of toys that Maywa Denki produces have both the glee akin to that produced by karakuri (traditional Japanese mechanical gimmicks) and cuteness akin to haniwa (ancient clay figures) and kokeshi (simple lathe-turned wooden dolls). They are sold worldwide, for example at the MOMA museum shop in New York.

Na-Cord is an electrical extension cord complete with fish head (male end) and tailfin (female end). It is one of Maywa Denki's signature pieces.

The Knockman Series Knockman The hearts will turn round as well. To start the knocking, release the right arm. Pok Pok Pok…To wind up the spring, hold the right arm and move the left up and down. A wind-up musical instrument with a drum head. A lovely greeting with a cute rhythm. Pok Pok Pok… Knocking his head, Knockman.
The fun sounds wind-up figures of the Knockman Family make are amazing, but understandable when you consider that these "one instrument per character" toys are actually spin-offs of the musical instruments built for Maywa Denki. has an eardrum, a brain, nerves and big fist on his right hand. He will knock on his head, and if you put them in a series, they will knock on each other’s heads.

Coron. Is his arm position ready for dancing? Then wind the spring on his back and let him start dancing and playing the sound!! It makes him happy, Coron, coron , goes the sound, while he shakes his bottom and dance!

Pololon. Make sure to tune the strings before the performance starts. Hold his right arm and move the left arm up and down, to wind the spring. Loose his right arm and he starts playing guitar. Polo Pololon, goes the sound…The tall and slim guitarist plays and swings with all his heart.

Cha-Cha. Hold the cymbal and wind the spring on top of his head. Release your hand and the beat starts Chap Chap Chap…stretching his neck and swinging his heart and ail.

Kerotama. Hold his body and wind the spring on his head. Release the hand then here comes a heart beat dancing!! A ball goes round the cheerful Latin guiro player ringing Guiiii Kororo…

Bitman is a portable display electronic device. Bitman does various dances, depending on the interaction with his owner. When the alarm goes off, Bitman will dance to music to wake up his owner.

Zihotch is a time-announcing wristwatch with “morning call” function. The user has to dial 117 to hear what time it is.

YUREX™ is a collaborative project between Maywa Denki and KAYAC. In Japan the nervous shaking of one’s leg is called “Binbo-Yusuri" and considered a sad habit. "Binbo" means "poor" in Japanese. But actually it draws out your inner beat while you concentrate. YUREX™ is the first device that enhances your concentration and your creativity by capturing and visualizing your “Creative Beat Pattern”.

Otomatone is a music instrument, which looks like a tadpole (in japanese otamajakushi is often linked to notes because of the shape). Everbody can play it by tapping or sliding the finger up and down the neck and by squeezing the face at the bottom to close or open the mouth, producing different effects.

Maywa Denki – Novmichi Tosa (JP)

Maywa Denki is an art unit produced by Novmichi Tosa. It was founded in 1993 by Novmichi and his elder brother Masamichi Tosa, and is named after the electronic device company their father used to run until its bankruptcy in 1979 as a result of the nationwide economic crisis. The unit symbolizes the small/medium-sized enterprises that had once supported Japan’s economy during its high-growth period. Their “uniform” simulates a typical working uniform of Japanese electric stores; each piece of Maywa Denki’s work is called "a product"; and a live performance is held as "a product demonstration". Day by day, as the president of the company, Novmichi works hard to provide the customers with a dream of "Life with Maywa Denki". In addition to the NAKI Series, fish-motif nonsense machines, and the Tsukuba Series, original musical instruments, which were co-developed by the brothers, the EDELWEISS Series and the VOICE MECHANICS Series started in 2001 as Novmichi’s new projects. Besides the products, instruments and art projects, Toy Series such as Knockman Family was developed as an easy-to-play toy for everybody.

Maywa Denki has exhibited widely and received numerous prizes, including the Grand Prix in Art Artists Audition II (sponsored by Sony Music Entertainment), 1993, Excellence Prize of the interactive category of Digital Arts at Japan Media Arts Festival, 2000, Distinction for the Interactive Art category at Ars Electronica, 2003. In October 2003, Maywa Denki was featured at the Expo, Human Beings & Robots held in Paris. In 2010Otamatone was awarded the Grand Prix in the High Target Toy category by Japan Toy Association. Maywa Denki is extending its activities overseas including exhibitions and performances all over the world, as Tosa explores new approaches to the wider public.

Novmichi Tosa (President)
April 1967, born in Hyogo Prefecture
March 1992, Department of Arts Study, Postgraduate Course, Tsukuba University, Awarded Master’s Degree
May 1993 – Mar. 2001, Vice President of Maywa Denki
April 2001– present, President of Maywa Denki (succeeded on Masamichi Tosa’s retirement: Masamichi is currently the Chairman)

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