All About Japan

Sputniko! Bonds Myth, Science & Music

| Science , J-Pop

The red string of fate, or unmei no akai ito, is basically the East Asian version of “soulmates.” The details, of course, can vary greatly by country, but in Japan, the idea is that couples are connected by an unseen red thread, usually depicted as being tied around the pair’s pinkies. It’s an old concept and is even part of the Kojiki, one of Japan’s oldest extent texts.

But this traditional myth has received a modern update thanks to mathematician-turned-artist and MIT professor Sputniko!, one of our favorite Japanese musicians. Melding traditional Japanese religious symbols with contemporary music (and science), her new song “Red Silk of Fate – Tamaki’s Crush” tells the story of a young scientist who modifies a silkworm to produce silk that will make her crush fall in love with her.

The video for the song, which features lyrics and vocals by Sputniko! and music by Japanese producer Ram Rider, appeared online on April 8, 2016. It features a central performance by Runa Natsui as the lovelorn scientist who retreats to a Shinto shrine to conduct experiments, and Sputniko! as Sachihiko John Yamada, the hottest geneticist in the lab.

But it turns out this isn’t entirely a work of fiction—in fact, the process described in the song is based on actual work done by scientists at Japan’s NIAS, the National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences. As in the video, the scientists created a silkworm that produces silk that contains oxytocin, described by Sputniko! as “a social-bonding ‘love’ hormone,” and “the genes of a red-glowing coral.”

We have a feeling the silk won’t quite work like in the video, but you’ll be happy to know this isn’t a one-off deal. The artist Sputniko! told us that there are plans to produce more of the silkworms, possibly to sew the silk into omamori (protective amulets sold at Shinto shrines and some Buddhist temples). If you’re interested in getting an omamori for yourself, the artist told us they'll be available at Teshima 8 Million Lab, which was conceived of by Sputniko! and is the first shrine devoted to worshiping a genetically modified animal, the silkworm’s that produce the Red Silk of Fate.

Sputniko! also suggested they might even consider using the silk in underwear, which could have been a joke, but we would buy them as fast as we can whip out our wallets!

Related Stories:
We try extra-unique souvenir sold by soon-to-be world heritage site — silkworm chocolate!
Maiko beauty secrets: Skincare tips from Japan’s apprentice geisha
Math, art, and music: Sputniko! reimagines J-pop

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