51 Japanese Characters

A playful approach to Japan

What is an Otaku, a Jukensei, a Narikin or an Obatarian? Where does the name Yakuza come from, and what is special about Fugu? What exactly is Shintoism and what is Kabuki?

Japanese society is full of special expressions for certain strange, cute or funny characters and Japanese cultural phenomena. Being a Gaijin in Japan, I tried to lift the curtain and shed some light on the areas of Japanese society that are often perceived as being mysterious and closed. I wanted to know the exact qualities of an Obatarian, a Narikin, an Otaku, a Bosozoku or an Ikeike Onna.

I began to collect Japanese characters and cultural phenomena and searched for a way to portray Japanese society – the traditional and the modern part of it. Thus I combined the modern and playfull part of Japan, by turning the character-loving Japanese society itself into characters with the old and reduced style of the traditional Japan, by using one simple shape for all of the 51 characters, presenting them on a simple white background with nothing else than the characters itself. I limited the collection to 51, because in ancient times, the Japanese syllable alphabets Hiragana and Katakana used to have 51 characters – 51 Japanese Characters.

The result is an insightful collection of figurines showcasing several typical members and cultural phenomena of Japanese society — an easy and playful approach to Japan …

More than 100 000 people have visited the website yet. The Projekt was shown in various magazines like novum, PAGE, form, IdN Magazine, Computer Arts Projects, Global Innovation Report, urban etc. and was featured on,,,,,,,, and many other websites and webzines.

Peter Machat

Vektor, Offset