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Monthly Archives: November 2011

Isoda Koryusai: man of mystery in the ukiyo-e art world

Isoda Koryusai: man of mystery in the ukiyo-e art world

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Isoda Koryusai is a man of mystery even today because much remains up in the air about important aspects of his life. Koryusai was born in 1735 and died in 1790 and he was active during the 1760s and until a few years before his death. However, major aspects remain debatable but despite this he was a fine artist who graced ukiyo-e and Japanese art.

Unlike the vast majority of ukiyo-e artists Koryusai was born into an elite samurai family and he was one of only a few who entered the ukiyo-e art world from such a lofty background. This meant that he saw aspects of Japanese society and culture from a different way to the majority of ukiyo-e artists.

Koryusai understood the importance of stratification and Confucian thinking because his early life was based on conformity and not upsetting the applecart. However, either he turned to the art “within him” or he was forced to enter the world of ukiyo-e because of financial factors. Sadly, this area is disputed by many scholars of ukiyo-e and much is open to interpretation.

Therefore, some scholars claim that he became a ronin and because of this he took to art in order to survive financially. Others, however, claim that he voluntary entered the art world and gave up being a samurai because art was embedded in his soul. This area is very important because in order to feel the passion and soul of Koryusai a great deal relies on this.

Of course, nothing can take anything away from the art of Koryusai irrespective of the real reasons behind changing his lifestyle. However, the vagueness of knowledge means that it is difficult to get close to the “real” Koryusai.

On the website Artelino (http://www.artelino.comit gives a lot of information about Koryusai and Dan McKee comments about the background and influence of this overlooked artist. This applies to the background and influence behind Koryusai and if he was a pupil of Harunobu Suzuki.

Dan McKee comments that “There is no certain evidence to prove this fact, but it is often assumed that Koryusai began his printmaking work as a pupil of Harunobu Suzuki, whose style can indeed be seen in Koryusai’s early work, though also in the work of some other print artists (Shunsho, Shiba Kokan) whose connection to Harunobu seems even less direct. The same can be said for Koryusai’s early signature, Haruhiro, under which he designed his first prints at around the time of Harunobu’s demise (1769-1770), for use of the “haru” prefix may imply only an effort to appear in the Harunobu line, rather than an actual master-disciple relationship (ala Harushige).”

“Similarly, the inscription on one 1770 print, claiming it to be a design by Harunobu, for which Koryusai was asked to add color, could as easily represent an attempt to place Koryusai as the direct descendant of Harunobu for commercial reasons, to fill the void left by the death of the first nishiki-e master. It is notable that Koryusai states in this inscription that he “does not know Harunobu’s way but have finished the print with his [Koryusai’s] own brushwork.”

Robyn Buntin (http://www.robynbuntin.com) on the other hand comments that “Though possibly a pupil of Shigenaga, Koryusai was influenced most by his friend Harunobu whose style can be seen in Koryusai’s early work. His most original work, in which he excelled, was in pillar prints, bird-and-flower prints, and shunga.”  

Jack Hillier concludes that “There is always, especially among collectors, a tendency to make comparison between artist and artist, and with Koryusai it is perhaps a case of we look before and after and pine for what is not.”

Koryusai remains a man of mystery but he produced stunning art and gave much to the ukiyo-e art world. Therefore, it is best to let the man of mystery remain to be this, rather than creating or trying to formulate conclusions which are incorrect.

Another mystery about Koryusai is why his art appears to be overlooked and the same applies to the individuality of his work. After all, he did produce art which carried his own individual style and the spectrum he focused on was very intriguing.

The final years of his life appear to be based on focusing on his roots because many designs had Chinese connotations and based on typical pillars of samurai elites. Therefore, the foundation laid down in Koryusai’s early life remained deeply within his soul.

http://www.artelino.com/articles/isoda-koryusai.asp

http://www.robynbuntin.com/ukiyo-e/MorebyArtist.asp?ArtistID=353

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2011 in Japan

 

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Iran protesters in violent attack against UK embassy in Tehran

Iran protesters in violent attack against UK embassy in Tehran

Murad Makhmudov and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

According to news from the BBC it was stated by James Reynolds that “there is a lot of anger among the protesters” who attacked the UK embassy and burnt British flags in Tehran. However, it is difficult to take the attack at “face value” because it would appear that the “hands” of the government of Iran and security apparatus are behind this anti-British demonstration. Therefore, the government of Iran is showing the world once more that it is good at instigating violence and intimidating civilians who are meant to be “a bridge” between both nations.

The Foreign Office of the United Kingdom stated that it was “outraged” by the events that took place in Tehran. Also, the same department urged the authorities in Iran to abide by protocol and protect all staff members and diplomatic missions. After all, diplomatic missions of all nations and embassy staff are on the frontline in solving important issues, protecting respective nationals of the given nation, developing trade and culture, and so forth.

However, elements within the government of Iran appear to be hostage to rhetoric and like usual the flags of America, the United Kingdom and Israel were burnt. This was a stark reminder to the dark days of Iran after the Iranian Revolution of 1979 when mobs lynched people and this was followed by flag burning and so forth. Therefore, the events that just occurred in Tehran is a clear reminder that the current leaders of Iran and militants, alongside state sponsored thugs, have not gone away and since the revolution all hopes of moderation have been dashed.

If the government of Iran is unhappy by recent political events between the British government and Iranian government, then it is incumbent of Iran to respond in a rational approach. Sadly, this wasn’t the case and instead all the “dark forces” of “a sinister regime” whipped up fervor and the so-called student demonstration erupted.

In recent times the government of the United Kingdom imposed more sanctions on Iran and this may or may not be correct? This decision was seen to be very harsh in Iran and while understanding elements within the government of Iran against this, it can never justify attacks against the embassy of the United Kingdom. Both nations have geopolitical issues to resolve and the “nuclear cloud” is clearly hindering trust in both directions. However, it is essential to use diplomacy or to decrease ties by normal channels.

Relations between Iran and the United Kingdom have been rocky to say the least since the Iranian Revolution of 1979. However, a gradual thaw took place after 1999 when relations were increased to ambassadorial level and two years later the Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom visited political leaders in Iran.

Since 2009 events have turned more negative because of Iran’s nuclear program which remains hotly disputed in Tehran. The British government imposed sanctions and because of internal political convulsions in Iran the government pointed the finger at elements within the United Kingdom. Of course, this couldn’t be substantiated by the government of Iran and if anything, nations like America and the United Kingdom have remained largely silent about unrest in Iran.

Recent events in 2011 apply to new sanctions in the financial arena towards the government of Iran and clearly this is linked by the attack against the embassy. According to Associated Press the students chanted “death to England” and nervous embassy workers and officials fled to escape the mayhem.

In time, Iranian riot police calmed the situation and took control but it is difficult to believe that Iranian intelligence didn’t know that a major rally was going to take place. After all, security services throughout Iran have clamped down against opposition forces for decades and the state apparatus is very strong.

A statement by the Foreign Office of the United Kingdom stated that “We are outraged by this. It is utterly unacceptable.” The statement further added that “The Iranian government have a clear duty to protect diplomats and embassies in their country and we expect them to act urgently to bring the situation under control and ensure the safety of our staff and security of our property.”

On Sunday the government of Iran voted on reducing relations with the United Kingdom and according to reports some government MPs followed the vote with the mantra of “Death to Britain.” To think, Iran once was a cradle of civilization and the Zoroastrian faith enabled the richness of Persia to flow and give so much “light” to the world. However, the “dark forces of the Islamic Iranian Revolution” continues to show the shallowness of many political leaders and that hatred is at the heart of the government.

The Iranian people deserve much more from their political leaders because the Iranian Revolution of 1979 was “an empty shell” once all opposition to Islamic clericalism were defeated. Since then, Iran continues to walk a path of militancy to possible signs of greater openness and then back to militancy again.

Irrespective of supporting either the British or Iranian side, the issue which set current events in motion was based on the findings of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).  According to the IAEA it is clear that nuclear tests have taken place and these tests were “relevant to the development of a nuclear device” and because of this the government of the United Kingdom imposed further sanctions.

The issue of this article isn’t based on the rights or wrongs of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons because this issue according to Tehran is an internal issue. Alternatively, nations like America, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, and many others, believe that the nuclear issue is an international matter.

Iran can rightly point to the hypocrisy of the “nuclear debate” because little was done to prevent either India or Pakistan from becoming nuclear powers. Not only this, the governments of America, the United Kingdom, France, China, and the Russian Federation (began under the Soviet Union), didn’t obtain international approval. However, the counter-argument will be that Iran is more unstable in the political arena but this is debatable given the crisis in Pakistan.

This is a different issue all together but events that took place against the embassy of the United Kingdom can’t be justified on any grounds. Therefore, if the government of Iran is unhappy with the response by the United Kingdom then the usual channels would have been appropriate. However, the blatant attack against the embassy of the United Kingdom is “utterly unacceptable.”

http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/

http://moderntokyotimes.com

 

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Tokyo fashion and gardens: Rikugien, Kyu-Furukawa and fashion in Omotesando

Tokyo fashion and gardens: Rikugien, Kyu-Furukawa and fashion in Omotesando

Sarah Deschamps and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The beauty of Tokyo is that this mega-modern city caters for various lifestyles and areas change quickly. If you adore fashion then Tokyo is an amazing city because you have a plethora of choices. Therefore, each fashion district is buzzing for different reasons and on the opposite side of the coin you have many lovely gardens to relax and enjoy stunning nature.

Omotesando is famous for high-end fashion because you have so many fabulous companies to visit.  This applies to international boutiques and Japanese boutiques. Also, the closeness to Aoyama, Harajuku and Shibuya means that this fashion area is one of the most dynamic in the world. This isn’t an overstatement, it is based on facts and the same applies to the diversity of fashion.

Therefore, in Omotesando you are on the edge of so many different styles. This applies to exquisite and elegant fashion, kawaii trends, street styles, Lolita fashion, Dolly Kei, Vintage fashion, mainstream, and a host of other styles. Also, the age range changes quickly and this all adds to a fantastic buzz and natural energy.

Grimoire is on the border of Harajuku and Shibuya and this company is extremely unique and vibrant. The same applies to many other companies like 6% DOKIDOKI and the talented designer Sebastian Masuda. Therefore, with companies like Grimoire, Candy, and 6%DOKIDOKI (Harajuku), you can feel a lovely individualistic style and other amazing boutiques have created a lovely buzz and vibrant spirit.

If you love more mainstream fashion and elegant designs by top notch boutiques then a visit to Omotesando Hills is a real treat. Inside this building of stunning architecture you have countless international and Japanese boutiques which are sublime.

This applies to stunning boutiques in Omotesando Hills which include Adore, Anterpima, Betsey Johnson, Black Fleece, Escada Sport, Tour H. creer (Merveille H.), Yves Saint Laurent, Zara, Tracy Reese, Kiwa Sylphy, iliann loeb, Milly, Tiara, Apartment Department, Martinique Le Conte, Patrizia Pepe Firenze (Incontro), Oriental News and so many others. In truth, every single boutique is a wonder to behold and the design and architecture of Omotesando Hills is a real treasure.

Therefore, if you love fashion then “think” Omotesando, Harajuku, Aoyama and Shibuya. Of course you have many fantastic fashion districts in Tokyo but this collective area is difficult to beat in any nation. After all, you can travel between each area on foot and the different trends and styles are amazing.

On the opposite side of the fashion coin in Tokyo are the many gardens which grace this amazing city. If you want a lovely contrast between vibrant and buzzing Tokyo with a more sedate and tranquil area, then Komagome is well worth visiting. This applies to lovely gardens and many Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines to visit alongside shops which focus on antiques and other products.

It is difficult to imagine than Komagome is so close to Ikebukuro with all its trendy fashion in yet another fashion district in Tokyo. Alternatively, it is also difficult to believe that Komagome is so close to Ueno which is blessed with so many museums and tourist places to visit. Also, fashion in Ueno is electric but in its own distinctive style and you have a more Northeast Asia feel about Ueno than the usual Tokyo vibe.

Yet in Komagome you can enjoy the stunning gardens of Rikugien and Kyu-Furukawa which is in the same area. Both gardens are kept beautiful all year round and the main walkways provide glimpses into the ethics of Japanese gardens.  Therefore, space, time, views, emotions, minimalism, and other elements, fuse naturally with aspects of Confucianism, Buddhism and Shintoism.

A real added bonus in Rikugien is that you can sit down and drink traditional Japanese tea and eat delicious Japanese sweets. At the same time, the view is amazing and you can look out and gaze at the stunning pond and see nature in all its beauty.

The pond in both gardens is the central theme but if you desire you can walk around more secluded areas. Komagome is extremely rewarding because of the therapeutic nature of both gardens. Therefore, if you want to escape the buzzing fashion districts of Tokyo or to enjoy the best of both worlds, then a visit to Komagome is essential.

The shopping district in Komagome is only small but you will find folk art stores, antiques, traditional Japanese sweets, Japanese dyed garments, ceramics, independent shops and so much more. Also, if you search around you will feel the sedate and tranquil nature of this part of Tokyo and another world will open up to you.

Kyu-Furukawa Garden is a little more natural despite the garden being well kept and while Rikugien Garden is the more famous garden, both gardens enrich each other. Not only this, the architecture of the Josiah Condor (1852-1920) Western-style residence in the Kyu-Furukawa Garden is a lovely bonus. Therefore, this building alongside the rose garden provides a lovely British and Japanese theme.

Overall, Omotesando and Komagome may seem like chalk and cheese however, this is what makes Tokyo so special. Therefore, a visit to both places will make Tokyo come alive and Tokyoites and tourists gain from both amazing places.

Please visit the  links  below for more information about both gardens

http://teien.tokyo-park.or.jp/en/rikugien/index.html

http://teien.tokyo-park.or.jp/en/kyu-furukawa/

http://www.omotesandohills.com/english/shops-restaurants/index.html  

Individual fashion companies

http://www.dokidoki6.com/

http://www.grimoire.jp/

http://candy-nippon.com/

Omotesando Hills

http://www.omotesandohills.com/english/  

http://www.adore2005.com/

http://anteprima.com/

http://www.ap-dp.com/  

http://www.betseyjohnson.jp/

http://www.brooksbrothers.co.jp/fleece/index.html

http://www.erikonail.com/

http://www.escada.com/

http://www.iliannloeb.com/

http://eu.jimmychoo.com/en/restofworld/page/home?notify=yes

http://www.kiwasylphy.jp/

http://www.lebois.jp/  

http://www.maccosmetics.co.jp/

http://www.merveilleh.co.jp/

http://www.melrose.co.jp/martinique/index.html

http://ameblo.jp/oriental-news-omotesando/

http://www.incontro.co.jp/

http://www.melrose.co.jp/tiara/

http://www.pasdedeux.co.jp/

http://www.ysl.com/d/

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com  

ALL FASHION IMAGES BY MODERN TOKYO TIMES

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2011 in Japan

 

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Tokyo fashion: four essential websites for fashion and consumer news

Tokyo fashion: four essential websites for fashion and consumer news

Michel Lebon and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

 

Information about the vibrant nature of fashion in Tokyo, Osaka, Kobe, and other major cities in Japan, is in huge demand. This applies to mainstream fashion, business factors, Japanese subculture and fashion, buzzing districts, new fashion movements, high range fashion, and a host of other factors. Therefore, this article is aimed at highlighting essential websites about the fashion scene and consumer news in Japan but with an emphasis on Tokyo.

Of course, you have amazing fashion in cities like Osaka and this notably applies to Namba and Umeda. In truth, Osaka is a “hidden global gem” because the sheer vibrancy of fashion in places like Namba and Umeda is amazing and these two districts would bless any major city in the world. However, sadly it is difficult to find a website which regularly updates about the fantastic fashion scene in Osaka. Therefore, the stunning style of Namba ladies remains hidden unlike the fashion scene in Harajuku in Tokyo which is internationally famous.

However, the JapanConsuming http://www.japanconsuming.com website focuses on the entire sector throughout Japan. Therefore, this highly recommended website is aimed at companies based in Japan, companies that are thinking about entering the Japanese market, and for all individuals who are focused on the consumer market in Japan.  The client base tells the story about the influence of JapanConsuming because the list includes L’Oreal, Max Factor, Giorgio Armani, KPMG, Estee Lauder, Godiva, Tiffany, Celine, and a host of others.

Information applies to many factors including market entry, current trends, industry data analysis, and a host of essential areas related to the complex nature of business in Japan. Therefore, if consumer news in Japan is needed alongside a company which is focused on providing detailed information, then JapanConsuming is a must. After all, many companies like Nokia, Tesco, and many others, have found the market in Japan to be either too complex, inflexible, unable to adapt to different demands or have entered a market which is either saturated or not open to change based on various factors.

Tokyo Fashion http://tokyofashion.com/ is a very different type of website because this online magazine is focused on fashion trends in Tokyo, clothing, accessories, the changing scene, trendy districts, up to date news, and various other areas like kawaii culture. Tokyo Fashion website is interactive and this applies to new fashion images of street fashion and using Facebook and Twitter. Therefore, if you want to see visual images of individuals who adore fashion in Tokyo, alongside great information about ongoing events and new in vogue companies, then Tokyo Fashion online magazine will open up the vibrant scene of this mega city.

If you are an individual, company or media source who wants to understand the vibrant alternative scene of Tokyo then La Carmina is the lady to do this. This is based on her first-hand knowledge of the subcultures of Tokyo and the alternative fashion scene. Also, La Carmina is extremely elegant and stylish and this talented individual is clearly passionate about the areas she covers and Gothic Lolita and other fashion styles are highlighted.

Therefore, La Carmina http://www.lacarmina.com/blog/ is in huge demand and this applies to powerful international networks. La Carmina also opens up a new world and digs deep in order to highlight the latest alternative fashion trends, which are hitting and shaping the vibrant Tokyo scene. Her connections also enable La Carmina to stay one step ahead and in the world of alternative fashion and subcultures this is essential.

Style Arena http://www.style-arena.jp is an amazing website for regular news and lovely images of trendy Tokyoites. Therefore, if you want to know about fantastic suburbs to visit, latest fashion news and an abundance of amazing images which enable people to connect with trendy Tokyo – then Style Arena is a place to visit and see Tokyo up close.

Style Arena is administered by the Japan Fashion Association and Modern Tokyo Times certainly checks this fantastic website for news about “Tokyo Street Fashion.” Clearly, the Japan Fashion Association is showing the vibrancy of Tokyo fashion and aspects of culture in this amazing city. This website is a must for people who adore fashion and Tokyo because the contents and images are truly enlightening.

The websites highlighted were not mentioned by ranking but were based on a natural flow and this applies to JapanConsuming being based on the Japanese market unlike the other three websites being focused on Tokyo. Also, La Carmina’s website focuses on the alternative fashion scene and subcultures of Tokyo and this split the other two websites which have more in common, despite the style and layout being different.

Modern Tokyo Times is also aimed at being interactive and if individuals believe that other fashion and consumer websites should be highlighted, then please forward the appropriate website. Overall, these four websites provide many different angles and collectively they provide a powerful picture of the fashion scene in Tokyo.

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2011 in Japan

 

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Majority of unmarried young males have no girlfriend in modern Japan

Majority of unmarried young males have no girlfriend in modern Japan

James Jomo and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

According to a survey consisting of 7,000 individuals it was reported that 61.4% of unmarried Japanese men had no girlfriend in the age group of 18-34. The figure for women in the same age group was 49.5% and this is an increase in both groups since similar research was taken in 2005. Therefore, what are the factors behind such a high figure?

Sadly, information from the survey which was reported in Kyodo News doesn’t give ample information but it does correspond with other findings, for example sexless marriages have been increasing in recent times.  Also, the survey was done by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research and this adds credence to the statistics.

13.5% of men stated that they didn’t know how to be in a relationship and the figure for females was 11.6%. This figure may appear high but going by the usual environment in Tokyo then it isn’t surprising. After all, it is rare to see strangers talking to each other outside limited environments. Therefore, social interaction mainly applies to a network based around the family, school friends, graduate friends for individuals who attended university and friendships developed at work.

Another major factor is that many Japanese individuals work long-hours and this means that free time is limited. Also, many children have been shielded by their parents and over protection will be partly behind the statistics related to individuals who don’t know how to form a relationship.

Many single people also enjoy the freedom they have and this applies to spending money on themselves and not being tied down by others. Japan also caters extremely well for single lifestyles and this applies to the utilization of modern technology and gadgets.

Other individuals are more pragmatic and worry about financial related issues and with the economy remaining gloomy then this is understandable. However, the findings stated that 86.3% of men and 89.4% of women do desire marriage in the future. Also, 43.3% of men stated that they would get married in the year if they could find a suitable partner and for females the figure was 53.2% and this is a new high for both groups.

Therefore, these findings would imply that limited social interaction, busy lifestyles based around work, and not knowing how to form a relationship, are the real issues and not the fact that so many people are single.

The survey taken was the seventh in total and the data is obtained every 5 years in order to understand the internal social problems related to marriage. Given everything, it would appear that marriage itself isn’t the problem because the real issue applies to social interaction and perceptions.

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2011 in Japan

 

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President Obama: New Asia Policy is like the Old Policy – Japan beware

President Obama: New Asia Policy is like the Old Policy – Japan beware

Joachim de Villiers and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The government of Japan should take a step back and think wisely before following the “containment” policies of President Obama of America towards China. After all, China and Japan rank first and second respectively when it comes to owning US Treasury bonds and China is Japan’s biggest trading partner. Therefore, political leaders in Tokyo must adopt a foreign policy based on the interests of Japan instead of supporting Washington which appears to be returning to a Cold War mentality.

Northeast Asia is delicate at the best of times but economic trade continues to grow and massive cultural exchanges are happening. Therefore, the region is crying out for progressive forces and not out-dated thinking based on political posturing.

Also, if Obama and America is so concerned about containing nations which are spreading a deadly ideology then why isn’t the president focused on Saudi Arabia and Pakistan?  The same applies to past leaders irrespective if Democrat or Republican because September 11 was mainly done by Saudi nationals. Also, Sunni Islamic jihadists in Saudi Arabia did more to endanger the armed forces of America in Iraq than Iran ever did but the usual silence came out of Washington.

Therefore, the stationing of American Marines on Australian soil appears rather shallow and out of tune with recent events in Afghanistan and Iraq. Not only this, the spiraling debt of America and military cutbacks announced by Obama should mean a more pragmatic approach. However, to the bemusement of political leaders in China it appears that Obama wants to open up a new front against political leaders in Beijing.

Japan should stay out of the loop regarding this issue because given America’s past history and conflict in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo, and Vietnam, it would be unwise to follow America’s logic under Obama. Yes, Japan and America have shared interests in protecting Japan because of constitutional constraints which hinder the independence of political leaders in Tokyo. However, Japan doesn’t need to become embroiled in any containment of China because this could lead to future military complications if tensions erupted between political leaders in Washington and Beijing.

Also, it is in the interest of Japan to foster closer ties with China but based on equality because economic investment and past cultural interactions in history were always favorable until the late nineteenth century. Therefore, instead of becoming embroiled in “Obama’s Cold War logic” political leaders in Tokyo should become “a bridge” between both America and China. After all, it is in the interest of Japan to have favorable relations with America and Japan because all nations are major economic powers irrespective of current debt related issues.

Japan also needs to focus on strengthening economic and military ties with the Russian Federation instead of political posturing over the Northern Territories. This applies to increased economic trade, joint military exercises linking Hokkaido and Vladivostok and developing energy policies which will help Japan to break free from relying on oil and gas from the Middle East.

In return, the Russian Federation could arrange to give some disputed islets to Japan while remaining in firm control of Sakhalin. However, Tokyo must abide by certain military pre-conditions if this happened with regards to the stationing of either American or Japanese troops.

In some areas America and Japan must work together and this applies to currency related issues, patent law, abiding by maritime law, supporting democracy, boosting the defensive shield of Japan, and supporting democratic nations throughout the region. Yet Japan should not become involved in political posturing from either Beijing or America.

In other words, Japan should maintain its special relationship with America but outside of the geopolitical concerns of Tokyo, it is incumbent that the non-aligned approach is taken. After all, either regional economic and political blocs will be strengthened or the continent will become divided between Washington and Beijing.

Regional nations don’t need to become embroiled in the “ego” of either America or China and instead international law needs to be maintained. If any nation threatens another, then sides or condemnation is only natural but currently no major power in Asia wants to become embroiled in a major war.

China does need to understand that certain policies have upset nations and that diplomacy is essential at all times. However, to be fair to political leaders in Beijing it is factual that some of the so-called threats have been over-hyped and China also needs to protect sensitive geopolitical areas.

Japan should heed the wise concerns of Singapore because the Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam commented that ASEAN countries do not desire to get “caught between the competing interests” of any major power. Indonesia and Malaysia also expressed dismay over the stationing of US Marines in Australia.

Therefore, Japan needs to adopt a pragmatic approach to America and China and listen to the words of the Foreign Minister of Singapore. It is time for political leaders in Beijing and Washington, irrespective of which nation is more confrontational, to realize that the world is moving on.

The world doesn’t need a new “Cold War” and sadly Obama’s political posturing during the worst economic crisis in recent history in both America and the European Union is rather baffling. Therefore, Obama’s “New Asia Policy” sounds like the “Old Policy” of the Cold War.

Japan must say no to Obama’s “New Asia Policy” and focus on developing closer ties with China and maintaining a strong relationship with America. It is pointless to create an applecart against any single nation when it isn’t warranted because once an applecart is created then “a ticking bomb” may erupt based on a divided region. This will serve no nation and given the American sales pitch of “globalization,” then what happened to Obama?

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

 

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Japanese art and ukiyo-e: Tsukioka Yoshitoshi caught in two worlds

Japanese art and ukiyo-e: Tsukioka Yoshitoshi caught in two worlds

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The artist Tsukioka Yoshitoshi literally lived in two worlds and this applies to not only the Edo Period and Meiji Period but also to a chaotic lifestyle. However, despite this, Yoshitoshi produced stunning art and he was extremely productive.

Yoshitoshi was born in 1839 and his early life belonged to the feudal ways of the Edo Period but gradually Japan witnessed internal political and cultural convulsions. These internal convulsions culminated with the Meiji Restoration of 1868 and the onset of modernity was a major challenge for all ukiyo-e artists.

Yoshitoshi, like many ukiyo-e artists, was extremely productive during his lifetime because he produced approximately 10,000 prints. However, the technological change in Japan and outside influence of art was making rapid inroads. Therefore, all ukiyo-e artists of this period had to adapt to this new reality.

Yoshitoshi fully understood that times were changing and it is clear that many aspects of his art were innovative. John Stevenson speaks kindly about his art because he stated that “Yoshitoshi’s courage, vision and force of character gave ukiyo-e another generation of life, and illuminated it with one last burst of glory.”

 

Many other individuals also speak with fondness towards Yoshitoshi because he took the challenge head on and simply responded by utilizing his fantastic talent. Therefore, when individuals view his rich legacy it is clear that the ukiyo-e world of Ando Hiroshige and Katsushika Hokusai was very different.

However, despite the innovation of Yoshitoshi in the art world and adapting to modernity, his biggest demons were internal because he suffered many dark periods. Indeed, in 1871 he was shackled by severe poverty and until his death in 1892 he struggled with severe bouts of depression.

At one point, these internal problems nearly tipped Yoshitoshi over the edge because he had a mental breakdown in the early 1870s. Therefore, you had an artist facing mental problems, deep scars from the past, severe poverty and a rapidly changing world which would impact greatly on ukiyo-e in a detrimental way.

Also, the two ladies who cared deeply about Yoshitoshi would be dragged down by him because both would enter the brothel world in order to help him. This was not unusual in Japan during times of severe poverty but the passion that these ladies had for Yoshitoshi wasn’t fully met the other way.

In 1884 major changes occurred for Yoshitoshi because he got married and from this period until 1891 he produced some amazing ukiyo-e. Yet the early life of Yoshitoshi remained firmly within his soul and in 1891 he had a major bout of depression and mental breakdown. However, this time he would not recover because on June 9, 1892, he passed away at the age of 53.

Yoshitoshi did manage to go home for the last few months of his life but clearly he was nothing more than a shell by this time. Therefore, the ukiyo-e world lost a great innovator and his rare talents which still had so much to give the world were lost because of the ravages of mental depression and terrible health.

Like stated earlier, the years after his marriage in 1884 was extremely fruitful and this notably applies to One Hundred Aspects of the Moon (1885-1892) and New Forms of Thirty-Six Ghosts. Also, in the same period he created other notable work of importance, therefore, Yoshitoshi was reaching fresh heights prior to 1891 and one can only wonder about what he would have produced in the future. 

In an earlier article I stated that The reputation of Yoshitoshi continues to grow in the modern world and in all truth it is not based on hype because Yoshitoshi was an amazing artist and he fully deserves to be remembered for this…”

However, “Yoshitoshi was working against the onset of modernity because with the mass production of Western standards, for example in lithography and photography; he was fighting a losing battle.  However, he did keep the bursting dam at bay but the spark of passion could not keep the onrushing water out.  Therefore, Japanese woodblock print, which had been a beacon for Japanese art, succumbed to the onset of modernity and he, and countless others, must have felt the pain deeply.”

The life of Yoshitoshi is one of great highs and severe lows and in many ways he represented the chaotic period that he belonged to. After all, you had many winners but also many losers who could not adapt to the changing world. However, this wasn’t the issue for Yoshitoshi because he was a great innovator.

Therefore, the real problems for Yoshitoshi were mental issues and severe poverty and clearly the later made the former even more dangerous. Yet, despite all the odds, Yoshitoshi left a lasting legacy and today his talent is rightly being reviewed and seen in a fresh light.

After all, Yoshitoshi was “a bridge” into two worlds and his ukiyo-e highlights the intense struggle to survive this new world. It also shows the power of ukiyo-e and Meiji ukiyo-e artists need to be acknowledged more because they brought a new freshness to this amazing art form.

http://yoshitoshi.verwoerd.info/

http://www.yoshitoshi.net/

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

 
 
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Posted by on November 24, 2011 in Japan

 

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