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Small Daily Pleasures: Tanaka Tatsuya’s Miniature Calendar

Tanaka Tatsuya’s photographs of miniature figures set against scenes created from food or household goods have become an Internet sensation, earning him more than a million social media followers. In this interview, he talks about the creative process, his daily routine, and his love-hate relationship with broccoli.

Tanaka Tatsuya

Tanaka TatsuyaArt director famed for his miniature photography. Born in 1981 in Kumamoto Prefecture. His Miniature Calendar series of original photographs featuring tiny models arranged with everyday items have won huge Internet popularity and been covered in print and electronic media. His works have been used in advertisements and the title sequence of the 2017 NHK drama Hiyokko. Photography collections include Miniature Life, Miniature Life 2, and Small Wonders.

Attention to Detail and a Playful Spirit

The miniature creations of designer Tanaka Tatsuya spark memories of the boundless imagination of childhood, when similarities can be found everywhere. In his world, a slice of strawberry shortcake may become a ski slope and an ordinary loaf of bread a “Shinpansen” train (punning on pan, the Japanese for bread, and the Shinkansen bullet train).

Tanaka combines food and everyday items with miniature figures, revealing new resemblances in his landscapes. He posts these daily in the series he shares on his website, Miniature Calendar, as well as on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. His attention to detail and playful spirit have won him more than 1.5 million social media followers as of March 2018, with some 3,000 new fans following each week. More than two-thirds are from overseas, and his works have been exhibited in Taiwan and Hong Kong, as well as his native Japan.

“Bread Train” (“Shinpansen” in the original Japanese) is hugely popular with children. (© Tatsuya Tanaka)

“Soft Snow” is built around an artificial sample cake, but Tanaka’s works may also use real food. (© Tatsuya Tanaka)

In “Rice Reaping,” the clumps were cut individually by hand; the uneven finish serves to heighten the realistic effect. (© Tatsuya Tanaka)

Tanaka used to work at a design company, planning magazine advertisements as an art director. While pondering ideas to post on his Instagram account, he set up some miniature figures, used for making plastic models, that he had collected. He took a casual approach at first, but the sense of scale in his work was a big hit on the photo-sharing site. Each new post got a big reaction and was widely shared. He shared his pictures intermittently at first, before setting up the official Miniature Calendar site in April 2011. Since then he has posted every day without fail for nearly seven years.

Commonplace items familiar around the world, such as clothespins, toilet paper, fruit, vegetables, and bread, appear in the works. In part because he has many foreign fans, he is always thinking about universal appeal. “I try to make my works simple enough that even grade schoolers can understand them.”

One of the strong points of social media is the direct response from users in the form of likes and comments. Iconic Japanese elements like samurai, ninja, sushi, and cherry blossoms have proved particularly popular with foreign fans. While keeping an eye on audience reaction, Tanaka continues to pursue original ideas that anyone can appreciate.

Crossing the water in a “Sakura Boat.” (© Tatsuya Tanaka)

It may look like the bloody aftermath of a battle, but fear not, “This Is Ketchup.” (© Tatsuya Tanaka)

  • [2018.03.20]
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