What‘s Project DIVA?

Let me explain this Japanese shrine to a virtual teen idol.

A rapid conversation with a cousin-in-law gave me a snap glimpse at Tokyo teen life. I asked what music she liked: “Vocaloid”. And so we thudded into a linguistic, cultural and generational barrier that took many private Wikipedia hours to surmount. Let me explain.

This machine, Project DIVA Arcade, is a music game based around a computer-generated pop star. She’s not computer-generated for the game; she’s computer-generated in real life.

Hatsune Miku tours the country and performs to orderly screaming crowds in the medium of holographic projection. Even her voice is computer-generated, using a piece of software from Yamaha called Vocaloid.

Vocaloid takes two inputs – a melody and a string of text – and outputs the text sung to the melody. Different voices are commercially available or can be configured in fine detail. Hatsune Miku is one of those voices. But she’s only one voice: Vocaloid has become a genre in itself. Hence my cousin-in-law’s answer.

Anyway, be in awe of this shrine to Hatsune Miku, with all the posters put up like a girl’s bedroom around a life-size banner. (What’s “life-size” for a non-corporeal entity?) And then there are the practical touches – the baskets for your valuables, some moist towelettes and a coat hanger. Charming, humbling.

Hatsune Miku can never be more than an ethereal presence – on account of not existing – so she’s as present here as anywhere. The shrine has conjured her into being.

Photographer and writer covering Tokyo arcade life – the videogames, the metropolis and the people