Knowledge Page Sadhbh O'Donnell

Many meanings of curious composting

A possible bokashi exhibition

In case of future plans with the Bokashi, this knowledge page is to provide information about a possible exhibition in the Bokashi space behind the restaurant. It would be a very interesting topic to explore further so here is a place to share the initial findings.



Although there was plenty of research and information on Mediamatics website on Bokaashi composting, it was important to learn as much as possible about the topic. This led to the discovery of the three meanings of the word Bokashi. Looking at Mediamatics relationship to life cycles, and how these meanings relate to each other, it is an interesting conflict to comparatively analyse.


ぼかし Compost

The first meaning to be found,  given the information that the search started with was that Bokashi relates to the process of composting that requires an anaerobic environment. Originating from Japan, Bokashi in this sense translates to “well fermented organic matter” (source). This is a process that layers bokashi bran with organic waste and by eliminating oxygen, along with the addition of time to ferment, creates both a highly fertile compost along with a “bokashi tea”. With the use of both of these things, a garden can become an extremely fertile and healthy place. 


ぼかし Block printing 

The second meaning is Bokashi as a term used in Japanese block printing. Bokashi here, describes the style of gradation used in the block printing process. As is described in the book titled “Japanese woodblock printing” there are many different types of “Bokashi” but all fall onto the umbrella term of Gradation, for example, “Itabokashi”, “inchimoji” and “futo Ira” bokashi (source). These are all different styles of gradation in block printing, but are a gradient nonetheless. In comparison to Bokashi composting, the gradual shading can be compared to the gradual transformative process of creating compost. 


ぼかし Censorship

The third, and final, meaning of Bokashi is the most relevant in terms of the conflict that it implies with how Mediamatic looks at the Bokashi composting system. In article 175 of the Japanese Criminal Code is the obscenity law. It states that “A person who distributes or displays in public obscene objects such as documents, drawings or recording media contained in electronic or magnetic records is punished by imprisonment for not more than 2 years, a fine of not more than 2,500,000 yen or a petty fine, or both imprisonment and a fine.” (source)  This is where Bokashi comes into play. Bokashi in this sense of the word, is the blurring that is used in these “obscene” images. Bokashi is a cover for people's genitals which is used in not only pornography but also artistic concensual public images. This implies that Bokashi is to hide something that is distasteful to the eye, and of course, this is not how bodies should be viewed. They should be celebrated. 


Having that said, it may also be interpreted to mean that the Bokashi composting system is something to be covered. A sometimes smelly and dirty process to be hidden away as a direct result of being waste. Therefore, Mediamatic has a unique platform in critiquing Bokashi. By celebrating the life cycle of composting and making it visible, we are not hiding the process away like the word would imply, but that we are proud to be using such a system, and therefore, disagree with this idea of censorship.


Other examples of exhibitions dealing with Bokashi

Bokashi and the Japanese criminal code has been critiqued before. By looking at these examples, we can see that Mediamatic have a great opportunity at some point to join the conversation around censorship


Final thoughts

The hope for this knowledge page is to act as a springboard for future exhibition ideas that celebrate our composting space and critique the foundations behind the word Bokashi. It is exciting to think about all of the possibilities with this space and hopefully this knowledge page gives some contribution to this development.