The Furi Furi Company just started in January, 1998. They have been featured in various media for only a year and a half, and have been recently watched. Their works mix cute characters and cool graphics and are gaining a reputation at domestic and foreign exhibitions. We interviewed Ryosuke Tei who is the president and designer, about the activity of Furi Furi Company and their exhibition which will be held in November in Tokyo, etc.

First of all, please tell us who you are and the current activity of Furi Furi Company.

My name is Ryosuke Tei, president of Furi Furi Company. I was born in Osaka as the fruit of my Chinese father and Japanese mother’s love. I’m a third-generation overseas Chinese. That is a really important factor for me. I spent my impressionable young days at Chinese school in Kobe and then went to an ordinary prefecture high school. At that time I began to be worried about my national characteristics. Then I entered Oil Painting Course, Department of Painting at Tama Art University, and started to explore my identity through my creation. I had been active as a contemporary artist while I was at university based in Tokyo. After leaving university, I set out on a wandering journey to Asia (Japan -China -Tibet -Nepal -Thailand -Japan) for six months to explore my identity more. I learnt a lot and experienced something precious during my stay in Tibet for three months working as an interpreter (as I can speak Chinese). It is not too much to say that these experiences shaped who I am today.
After coming back to Japan, I restarted my activity as a contemporary artist. And then the Hanshin earthquake happened. Mercifully, my family wasn’t hurt, but my parents’ home was completely destroyed. So I decided to change my job with a sense of responsibility as the first-born son, and declared to stop my activity as a contemporary artist and got a job with a game company. I left my company after two years and became a freelancer. Then I founded Furi Furi Company with my wife Miho Sadogawa in 1998. This is my brief personal history.

As for the activity of Furi Furi Company, we’re doing various things. We challenge anything we feel is interesting. Currently we’re working making games, illustrations, editorial designs, web designs, visuals, VJ, MD, etc.

Furi Furi Company, Ltd. is a design group founded in 1998. It currently has five members, President Ryosuke Tei, Miho Sadogawa (Illustrator), Itsuo Ito (Illustrator), Taro Yamada (Editorial Designer), Osamu Iwasaki (Web Designer, Visual Creator, VJ) and we each have different backgrounds and roles. We’re working in a happy, pleasant but hard atmosphere since its foundation in 1998. We’ve made a contract with ‘CWCI‘ for the business rights in North America.

What kind of things are each of you doing?

Ryosuke Tei: I’m working mainly for management and sales business. I usually produce concept designs, 3D graphics and games. For Furi Furi Thangka, I was in charge of concept and total design.

Miho Sadogawa: I’m making illustrations in the animation/manga style. I designed the character for Furi Furi Thangka.

Itsuo Ito: I’m making cute and cool illustrations and characters for game software. I am also writing a serial web cartoon titled ‘6B leader‘ slowly, at my own pace.

Taro Yamada: I’m in charge of editorial designs. I’m making printed matter, books and our original goods.

Osamu Iwasaki: I’m in charge of editing visuals and web designs. I’m also responsible for the shop. I’m good at simple HTML and Flash. I sometimes play as a VJ at parties.

As we each have strong abilities, I (Ryosuke Tei) decide who should collaborate for each work and tell the concept to the person in charge. Then they start working with each other.

Why do you take a form as a company and not a design unit?

The reason why we take the form of a company from the beginning, not a ‘design unit’ that just collected freelance creators, is because we wanted to declare we make reliable creations in society.

The name ‘Furi Furi’ is impressive. How did it come about?

It doesn’t have a certain meaning, just struck me when I was walking around. There were some other cool names, but they weren’t impressive to me. The name Furi Furi stuck with me for a while. Once you know the name Furi Furi, you cannot forget it. It’s also an important factor that it’s not a cool name. It doesn’t have any fixed images. I like the name very much because we can easily change ourselves by it.

You have been producing client works such as ‘FOTUS’. What do you think is the factor that fascinates Furi Furi Company clients?

Well, I’m now wondering if Furi Furi succeed for client works (laugh). As it’s said that the first three years of management will tell in a company, I don’t think we’re successful in only one year’s activity. I’m not taking an optimistic view as a manager. I’ll also do my best to do good work as a creator. I’m not sure what the factor is, but if pressed I would say that it’s our ‘rhythm’.

Which personal principles do you follow in working?

To serve viewers of our works as much as we can. I think design is a service industry and we’re always trying to feast their eyes.

You are developing original products such as T-shirts. Do you have any concepts on them?

We don’t have any certain concept on them. We just wanted to wear the characters and designs we’ve made. We hope both we and other people can be pleased with them. In fact, we want to grow our original products into a big business, but there is a proper order for doing things. So we’ll do this little by little.

You have been participating in some exhibitions not only in Japan but also in Germany, UK, etc. Is there any differences in audience’s reaction between Japan and overseas?

Their reactions are really straight overseas. They strictly say what they like. I like such reactions coming from their own opinions. It’s interesting to know if their opinions are totally different from our concept.

I have heard that you will hold an exhibition this November in Tokyo. How will it be?

We’ve mainly been participating in overseas exhibition until now, so this is the first time for us to do an exhibition in Japan. We’ll exhibit seven pieces of illustration in total. The title is ‘Furi Furi Thangka’. Thangka means a Buddhist painting in Tibetan. The basis of works that will be exhibited at ‘Furi Furi Thangka’ has a concept mixing what we respect and what Buddhism is for us.
The figure of Buddha that appears in those works looks like a woman in animation or manga. This is because we’re thinking that animation/manga culture has a reality (things that are closely related to ourselves or things that have reality for us) for our generation, the same as the fact that Japanese are within the sphere of Buddhism. Our exhibit will showcase illustrations with a new style called ‘Spiritual Manga Style’ to show animation/manga culture and the bewitchment of Buddha in mandala and Buddhist images in Tibet, China and Japan.

Furi Furi Company Exhibition "Furi Furi Thangka"
Place: Harajuku GalleryB1F Sunlight Bld. 3-6-8 Jingumae Shibuya-ku Tokyo
Date: from 2 Nov. 1999 to 14 Nov. 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. (Closed at 5:00 p.m. on the final day)

Reception Party : A club-style reception party will be held at Shibuya Xp.
Place: Xp B1F Moroto Bld. Shibuya Shibuya-ku Tokyo
Date: 7 Nov. 1999 from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Fees: 2,500 yen (Food/2 Drink)
DJ: KEN=GO (Frogman)
VJ: Osamucom (Furi Furi Company)

Who are your favorite designers/artists/websites?

Ryosuke Tei: There’s no favorite artists especially, but I want to meet and have a talk with Akitaro Daichi, an animation director. I’m thinking to do a project and there are lots of things I can learn from his works. Maybe you could provide a opportunity to have a talk with him, though it’s different from the style of Shift. (laugh)

Miho Sadogawa: As I’m writing illustration with a taste of manga, I like cartoonists, especially comic artists overseas such as Joe Madureira and Scott Campbell. They’re really good at drawing girls. I’m fascinated by the massive and unique taste of American comics.

Itsuo Ito: I keep watching ‘myself’. It’s just because I’m a natural worrier (it means positive).

Taro Yamada: Recently, I have the minimal tendency in mind. I keep doing just because I want to see the next development.

Osamu Iwasaki: As I spent six years at preparatory school and university, I’m a bit behind the others who have been in the forefront from the beginning. So I’m watching the trends of the same generation as myself.

Do you have any plans for the near future?

Ryosuke Tei: I want to create a game from the beginning. It’s really hard work, but I want to challenge myself. Also, as we’re working in North America with CWCI, I want to do more works for overseas in the future, to say nothing of the exhibition.

Miho Sadogawa: I want to make inroads into overseas more positively. I’d love to do an exhibition as Furi Furi Company, as well as works for magazines and advertisements.

Itsuo Ito: I want to create a game that makes a deep impression on users. Of course I’ll keep designing cute and cool game characters.

Taro Yamada: I want to make an interesting book that people cannot help buying just for its cover design. It needs know-how and it’s too hard to make such a book, but it’s worth doing.

Osamu Iwasaki: I want to produce commercials and promotion videos that can be recognized as Furi Furi.

This November, they will put their works on exhibition at Zakka, NY.

Crossing the Date Line – CWC-I Illustrators take the lead
Date : from November 25th (Thur) to December 17th (Fri), 1999 12:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Place : Zakka
Adress : 147 Grand Street, New York, NY10013
Tel: 212-431-3961
Planning and production: CWC International
Host: Zakka Corp.

Furi Furi Company
Address: 306 Nakayama Residence, 2-30-8 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku,
Tokyo 150-0001
Tel/Fax: 81-3-5414-5443

Interview, Text: Taketo Oguchi
Translation: Mayumi Kaneko

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