Takashi Murakami’s Universe (part 2) - artetrama

Takashi Murakami’s Universe (part 2)

, 3 min reading time

Kaikai and Kiki

Those that are already familiar with the art of Takashi Murakami may know that Kaikai & Kiki is the name of this artist’s studio. In it, Murakami creates his works and promotes many other artists.

But Kaikai and Kiki are way more than just a brand. These two characters, that are normally shown together, were created almost by chance and are nowadays two of the greatest icons of this Japanese artist. The big question is: who’s Kaikai and who’s Kiki? Well, Kaikai is presumably a kid on a white rabbit costume. Kiki has a pink outfit, has three eyes and a couple of fangs. The truth is, if you know how to read Japanese it’s quite clear, as each one has its name written on the ears!

The name of these two characters has a unique origin, the word “kaikaikiki”. This term was used during the late XVI century to describe the works of the Japanese artist Kano Eitoku, of which it was said that his paintings were very powerful but charged with sensibility at the same time. In the book “Murakami Ego” written by Skira Rizzoli, it can be read about two different meanings for this expression as can be found both in Chinese and Japanese languages. In Japanese “kaikaikiki” in an adjective that describes something disturbing, strange and that can cause fear and uncertainty. However, when “kaikaikiki” is used in Chinese, it is to highlight the bravery, power and extreme sensibility of the subject.

The truth is that the main reason for Takashi Murakami to put these names to the couple of creatures was that it just sounds good. Nevertheless, we understand that there’s a symbolism on them not so casual.

Kaikai and Kiki are normally seen together because they both complement each other. Just like Jekyll and Hyde, ying and yang or the alpha and the omega, these two characters are commonly displayed in a particular manner: Kaikai is located on the left and with his/her mouth shut. Kiki, otherwise, is on the right side of his mate and has his mouth open. Let’s feel a little bit closer to Shintoism, then.

As we’ve previously said, Takashi Murakami is constantly making references to his culture and for that, he uses many characters and creatures such as Kaikai and Kiki. In Shinto shrines (Shinto is the autochthon religion in Japan) is quite common to find two figures with a lion-dog shape protecting their entrance called komainu. These komainu creatures are directly related with the karajishi lions of Chinese origin we can find in front of the Buddhist temples and of which we’ve already talked about in our post “Takashi Murakami: The legend of the karaishi”. These komainu always go in pairs and one has its mouth open, as a reference to the first letter of the Japanese alphabet “ah” and the other has its mouth shut like pronouncing the last letter “un”. These sounds represent the beginning and the ending of creation, life and death, themes also recurrent in the artist’s works.

Nowadays, Kaikai and Kiki are Takashi Murakami’s own gods of art and he pursues a constant search of beauty through them. Kaikai and Kiki, which not always have the religious and cultural connotations mentioned above, acquire different roles that get the audience closer to the artist. Kaikai is sweet and innocent; meanwhile Kiki is wild and naughty. It makes sense to think that these two creatures represent Murakami’s conscience in many of his works. This being said, we should pay special attention to their attitude, disposal and number in every image they are shown. As we can see, once more, Takashi Murakami’s characters have a meaning far beyond that what can be appreciated at a first glance.

Check out Takashi Murakami's Universe (part 1) in case you haven't yet!

Blog posts