REVIEW | ‘Cool Japan’ exhibition at Museum Aan de Stroom (MAS) in Antwerp from 18 October 2019 to 19 April 2020


Museum Aan de Stroom or MAS in Antwerp wil host the ‘Cool Japan‘ exhibition from Friday 18 October 2019 until Sunday 19 April 2020. Thanh and I went to Amsterdam to visit the exhibition at the Tropenmuseum or Museum of the Tropics.

‘Cool Japan’ is an exhibition of the Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen (National Museum of World Cultures) in the Netherlands.

The exhibition the global fascination for Japanese visual culture. With unique historical pieces, it shows how Japanese icons such as ‘Hello Kitty‘, ‘Zelda‘, ‘Dragon Ball Z‘, ‘Sailor Moon‘ are all part of a long tradition and how both new and old Japanese art continues to inspire the world.



Surely, ‘Cool Japans’ shows manga, anime and live action films such ‘Godzilla’ films or ‘The Ring’. But it looks at where all that art and pop culture comes from.

For instance, the style of contemporary Japanese cartoonists or ‘mangaka’ is heavily influenced by Japan’s historical print art and techniques pioneered by old masters. Through unique historical works from its own collection and loans, the exhibition presents this long tradition from which contemporary Japanese pop culture has grown out.


In ‘Cool Japan’, you can also admire ancient and contemporary Japanese art, discover how fashion designers were inspired by Japan, and get to know the colourful ‘kawaii’, or admire the handsome tattoos of the old warriors.

However, you can do more than merely look. You can also get hands-on at the exhibition by delving into activities such as having a chat with robot Pepper or getting lost in manga for hours in our library.


Amsterdam vs Antwerp

In Amsterdam the exhibition uses a lot of space. Thanh and I are not sure how it will fit in MAS. Usually temporary exhibition use one floor. Will that work now? Maybe some items of the Tropenmuseum version will be left out.



‘Cool Japan’ addresses the history of fiction in Japan and how it conquered the world. At the Tropenmuseum there was a timeline showing links with the Netherlands.

Hopefully the MAS will show links with Belgium. This page points in that direction.

Many aspects and quite a few anime and manga are discussed in the exhibition. Out of nostalgia, I was disappointed ‘Saint Seiya‘ wasn’t.



Also notable. ‘Cool Japan’ does address eroticism, sexyness and sexism. It shows some ‘hentai’, heterosexual manga porn. But why not address ‘yaoi’, homo-erotic porn written for straight women?

I guess you can’t have it all, but I couldn’t help but noticing.



Should you go? Yes, if you’re interested in Japan, in film and television making, in comics and in fiction in general, you definitely should.

Guided tours.

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