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Monthly Archives: January 2012

Japanese art and culture: Ukiyo-e and a spirit without boundaries

Japanese art and culture: Ukiyo-e and a spirit without boundaries

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The amazing aspect of ukiyo-e is that nothing is hidden and you can witness stunning landscapes, the world of sinister ghosts, elegant fashion, beautiful ladies, murders, military ventures, holy religious leaders, strong images of sexuality whereby nothing is deemed beyond the pale, and then return to aspects of culture and amazing images of Mount Fuji. Therefore, the spirit of ukiyo-e is alive and kicking in new creative forms like manga and fresh authors who desire to open-up a new world.

Asai Ryoi commented in his novel called Tales of the Floating World (Ukiyo-monogatari) in 1661 that“Living only for the moment, savoring the moon, the snow, the cherry blossoms and the maple leaves, singing songs, loving sake, women and poetry, letting oneself drift, buoyant and carefree, like a gourd carried along with the river current.” This definition certainly seemed to apply to some ukiyo-e artists but like all art forms you have a hidden depth which is often neglected and the meaning of images isn’t always transcended from culture to culture. The same also applies to the written word and you also had a natural monetary survival mechanism within ukiyo-e therefore it was important to relate to the world that they came from.

The original meaning of ukiyo was based on pessimism which could be felt within aspects of Buddhism and stratification in old Japan. Karma may have many angles but for the masses it was often viewed alongside pessimism and related to past deeds. However, by the seventeenth century the word had been transformed and now became linked to stylish pleasure whereby the soul was freed from the burden of “a higher being.”

Dieter Wanczura comments that “The first ukiyo-e was produced in black and white in the seventeenth century. There was however a demand for color and the first colored prints were produced by adding coloring to the finished b/w print with a brush. But that was too expensive and time-consuming. Okomura Masanobu and Suzuki Harunobu are said to have been the first to introduce multi-color prints by using more than one block – one block for each different color.”

“Ukiyo-e during its time was not considered as fine art but rather as commercial art. These woodblock prints were largely commissioned by the Kabuki and Noh-Theaters and by actors as a form of advertising. It was not before the twentieth century that the Japanese began regarding Japanese woodblock prints as an art form worth collecting. The Europeans, mainly the Dutch and the French, discovered the Japanese prints and their artistic value at the end of the nineteenth century, when large numbers of ukiyo-e were imported to Europe.”

Many international artists fell in love with aspects of ukiyo-e and the partial list includes Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Félix Bracquemond, Mary Cassatt, and many more. Of course, like all meetings of different thought patterns and styles the same applied the other way because Dutch artists and others impacted on some ukiyo-e artists. Therefore, while nations in this period had vague notions of “the other” in the field of art barriers were being broken and this especially applies to the late Edo period when new ideas were spreading to distant shores.

Ukiyo-e was constantly evolving and Meiji ukiyo-e is often overlooked but some of the greatest artists of this art form were based in this period of history. This notably applies to Chikanobu, Kunichika, Kyosai, Ogata Gekko, and Yoshitoshi. Of course, individuals like Kyosai and Chikanobu were born firmly within the Edo period but while Kyosai belonged to both worlds the life of Chikanobu is best summed up in the Meiji period.

The Japan Ukiyo-e Museum in Matsumoto, Nagano prefecture, is a great place to visit if you reside in Japan or if you are a tourist to this intriguing nation. On their website it is stated that “The average citizen’s mood of Edo period (1603-1867) was an extremely buoyant and joyful one –not the transitory, heavy atmosphere characteristic of the troubled middle age. The word “ukiyo-e” means “the picture of buoyant world” and incorporates in its meaning the common man’s daily pleasures, such as Kabuki plays, Geisha houses, and so on. The forerunner of Edo period prints was simple drawings that gradually developed into a wood-block, thus satisfying the growth of the demand.”

 

However, the Edo period is too distant to view with nostalgia because many evil deeds were happening throughout the world in this period. Therefore, beautiful gardens, stunning architecture and holy Christian churches, Buddhist temples, and Islamic mosques, don’t tell us anything because many a slave built the finest monuments that graced this earth.

Despite this, clearly changes were happening in Japan in the middle to late Edo period and ukiyo-e provides a greater depth to what was happening in Japan than most art forms in other nations in this period of history. However, I believe the maturity of Meiji ukiyo-e represents a clearer picture but given the closer timescale then this is only natural.

Even today the vast majority of individuals don’t fully understand the complexity of ukiyo-e and the areas which artists delved in. The image of Hokusai is mainly based on images from the Thirty-six Views of Mount Fujiand other stunning landscape images. Yet the other Hokusai is the creator of The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife whereby a young lady is enjoying being sexually touched by a fully grown octopus and a young octopus.

In another article I wrote I stated that Ukiyo-e expresses the richness of Japanese culture, nature, history, mythology, theatre, stunning landscapes, and highlights the importance of entertainment and other areas. Also, ukiyo-e shows vivid images of sexuality and some shunga is extremely explicit even by the standards of today in liberal nations.  This reality is what makes ukiyo-e so powerful because it relates to both reality and a world of mythology and ghosts.”

Turning back to Hokusai then in many ways this aspect of his art sums up the beauty of ukiyo-e because you have so many forces and factors behind the images. Therefore, this art form expresses an abundance of topics, issues, cultural aspects, the hidden world – and the mundane – and this is the heart of ukiyo-e and its power.

http://www.ukiyo-e.co.jp/jum-e/index.html

The Japan Ukiyo-e Museum: 2206-1, Shimadachi, Matsumoto, 390-0852, JAPAN.

Open: 10:00 a.m.—5:00 p.m.
Closed on Monday

http://welcome.city.matsumoto.nagano.jp/contents03+index.id+7.htm

Please visit http://toshidama.wordpress.com for more information about ukiyo-e

Please visit http://toshidama-japanese-prints.com/  –   On this site you will see a wonderful selection of Japanese woodblock prints for sale. Ukiyo-e (the Japanese name for woodblock prints of the 18th and 19th centuries) are beautiful, collectible and a sound financial investment.

http://welcome.city.matsumoto.nagano.jp/

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com 

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2012 in Japan

 

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Tokyo fashion: Style Arena is an essential website for Tokyo fashion

Tokyo fashion: Style Arena is an essential website for Tokyo fashion

Michel Lebon and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Style Arena http://www.style-arena.jp is an essential website for individuals who adore Tokyo fashion. Of course, you have many amazing fashion websites highlighting this amazing fashion city and clearly individual websites will be focused on different styles, angles, and other important areas. However, if you want essential information which is updated regularly and to view images of the Tokyo scene, then Style Arena comes highly recommended.

Style Arena is administered by the Japan Fashion Association and clearly this organization understands the need to relate to people in Japan and the international community. The interactive nature of this website is easily understood and you can read the website in Chinese, English, Japanese, and Korean. This is a real bonus and shows the care and passion of Style Arena in furthering not only fashion but greater cultural understanding.

Currently on the main page of Style Arena you can view the latest fashion scene in Daikanyama, Harajuku, Omotesando, Shibuya, and Ginza. This area constantly changes and areas like Ebisu, Shinjuku, Shimokitazawa, Koenji, Jiyugaoka, Ikebukuro, Nakameguro, Yurakucho, and all fashionable areas throughout Tokyo are highlighted.

Style Arena began in 2002 and in June this year this stunning fashion website will mark ten years. In all that time people have witnessed a website which highlights the Tokyo fashion scene with complete professionalism and care. This is clearly apparent by the layout, the user-friendly nature of the website, striking images of fashionable individuals in Tokyo, and updated information highlighting fashion companies, new trends, and other important areas.

Throughout the year (http://www.style-arena.jp/event/dt/7events are covered and if you click on the following link you will witness “real” Tokyo fashion. The care to detail, angle of images, clearness of each image, and so forth, are all done in a very appealing way. This applies to freshness and clearly the images relate to the fashion scene which can be seen in trendy areas throughout Tokyo.

The most essential and important angle from the view of Modern Tokyo Times is the information supplied alongside the images. For example, if you click on the latest images from Omotesando then immediately you will know about where the individual bought their clothes, their favorite brands, and other essential information.

From a marketing point of view this is amazing because immediately after viewing so many images you will get to know the latest trends. Also, information about favorite brands, favorite shops, and the brands that individuals are wearing on the day, is most helpful. Like always, this is done in true style and information isn’t overloaded and the same applies to the images.

Overall, if you want to know the latest fashion vibes of Tokyo then Style Arena must be on your hotlist.

http://www.style-arena.jp

http://www.style-arena.jp/street/individual/dt/4269

http://www.style-arena.jp/street/individual/dt/4290

http://www.style-arena.jp/street/individual/dt/4273

Images in this article are not from Style Arena.  Please click on the Style Arena website to view the latest trends of Tokyo.

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2012 in Japan

 

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Paul Gauguin and poverty: the influence of Japanese art on this sublime artist

Paul Gauguin and poverty: the influence of Japanese art on this sublime artist

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The art of Paul Gauguin is extremely rich in quality and when viewing his art you can feel the intensity and uniqueness of such a talented individual. Whatever negatives have been stated about this sublime artist with regards to his private life, this smokescreen must be finished because Gauguin is amongst the elite of all artists who ever graced this world. If Gauguin is judged for imperfections then what is perfect about an individual striving to make money for his family while facing endless cycles of poverty?

Gauguin in his lifetime faced extreme hardship despite creating stunning art and to add salt into a wound which couldn’t be recovered in his lifetime, after his death many individuals got rich by utilizing capitalism from the work he produced. However, for Gauguin hope often turned to despair and during his final years he tried to find a new way whereby he could be freed by all the conventions which had chewed him up and spat him out.

Redemption and the “Garden of Eden” have been sought by many individuals therefore Gauguin desired to break free from the chains which had caused so much pain and isolation. Yet the years of pent up anguish, struggling against poverty, and other negative factors, isn’t a great start to find something which doesn’t really exist.

The life of Gauguin is extremely intriguing and the same applies to the influence of Japanese art on this soul who “breathed” and “lived” for art. Alex Faulkner who is highly acclaimed in the field of ukiyo-e commented on the Toshidama Gallery website that “He’s a little overlooked compared to contemporaries such as Van Gogh so the current show comes as a welcome revival. The huge influence of Japanese prints in the work of both artists should not be underestimated. Van Gogh made direct copies of Hiroshige prints, writing to his brother that, “this day I have found something wonderful that I shall surely copy,” but it is perhaps less well known that Gauguin also made copies of Japanese prints…”

Alex Faulkner (http://toshidama.wordpress.com) also comments about Gauguin’s time in Tahiti by stating that “Surely though, his later paintings from Tahiti display all the characteristics of the floating world… the lazy, sexual undercurrent, the panoramas of available women, the absence of the modern day and the explicit suggestion of pleasure, all laid out frieze-like on the canvas against a background of flat colour or worked pattern.”

Ukiyo-e is extremely expressive and no subject is sacred therefore the boundaries of this art form is truly rich. Of course, individual ukiyo-e artists focused on different events and areas. Also, many Meiji ukiyo-e artists appear to focus more on a greater richness without the sexuality of the “floating world.” This doesn’t imply anything but the images by Gauguin belong to an older Japanese art tradition within ukiyo-e.

On this (http://www.paul-gauguin.netwebsite it is commented that “Like his friend Vincent Van Gogh, with whom in 1888 he spent nine weeks painting in Arles, Paul Gauguin experienced bouts of depression and at one time attempted suicide. Disappointed with Impressionism, he felt that traditional European painting had become too imitative and lacked symbolic depth. By contrast, the art of Africa and Asia seemed to him full of mystic symbolism and vigour. There was a vogue in Europe at the time for the art of other cultures, especially that of Japan (Japonisme). He was invited to participate in the 1889 exhibition organized by Les XX.”

“Under the influence of folk art and Japanese prints, Gauguin evolved towards Cloisonnism, a style given its name by the critic Édouard Dujardin in response to Emile Bernard’s cloisonne enamelling technique. Gauguin was very appreciative of Bernard’s art and of his daring with the employment of a style which suited Gauguin in his quest to express the essence of the objects in his art. In The Yellow Christ (1889), often cited as a quintessential Cloisonnist work, the image was reduced to areas of pure colour separated by heavy black outlines. In such works Gauguin paid little attention to classical perspective and boldly eliminated subtle gradations of colour, thereby dispensing with the two most characteristic principles of post-Renaissance painting. His painting later evolved towards Synthetism in which neither form nor colour predominates but each has an equal role.”

Gauguin once commented that “I glimpse poetry” and have “a spark of high intensity.” This “intensity” could turn the most mundane thing into a truly magical work of art and this can be seen by his evolution throughout his career. Also, Gauguin was blessed with high intellect and the richness of his art shows the diversity of a life which refused to be beaten by poverty or convention.

In an earlier article I wrote I comment that “Prior to taking up art Gauguin showed no real tendencies of individuality and providing for his family would be a constant worry for him. However, Gauguin was blessed with sublime gifts but he could not “create like our divine Master” because the ravages of life and reality shackled him and pointed a dagger at his heart.”

“He knew that family obligations were important but with each new winter it was clear that he had to make a stark choice.  This must have put a terrible burden on Gauguin because he knew his gifts were indeed great but he was trapped like a bird in a cage.”

“Finally he broke free from a life of normality and Gauguin desired to generate wealth in order to support his family and to bless the world with exquisite art.  Gauguin stated “without art there is no salvation” and clearly his inner soul saw a political picture which remained aloof from the majority of people.”

However, if we jump to Tahiti and remember that his only companion in many bleak years was poverty. Then fuse this with the anguish of his son Clovis dying from a blood infection and his favorite daughter Aline dying of pneumonia, it is apparent that the scars of a brutal life ran deep and the nearer he got to the “promised land” the further the rejection. Alas, all this played on the mind of Gauguin and not surprisingly he turned to distant lands in the field of artistic influence like Japan and also left France for a “promised land” which had failed him in Europe.

Gauguin once stated that “without art there is no salvation” but now with or without art there wasn’t any salvation. Aline had been “a ray of sunshine” which kept a brightness in his heart but her death hit home at the bleakness of the reality of Gauguin and his life. After all, this rare individual was blessed with high intellect and stunning art but Gauguin couldn’t escape the ravages of poverty.

Many art critics, like international political leaders and directors at charities who reside in complete comfort, have the snobbery to condemn Gauguin or the poor for creating their own problems. However, no individual can put themselves in the place of another and unless people understand the times of the day and link this with the death of his children and severe poverty – while the onset of time was eating away at his soul – then who can really judge?

In my past article about Gauguin I comment that “Tahiti wasn’t an illusion because all illusions had died in Europe and whatever Gauguin became, he only became this after every deck of cards had gone against him.  After all, Gauguin didn’t abandon his children but instead he tried to do the right thing by his family.”

“The Christian imagery in some of his work alludes to a mythical world where justice and the Garden of Eden can be reached. Tahiti with its past spirit of purity was being swallowed up and the same purity of Gauguin was equally being swallowed up.

“The flesh that Gauguin is reviled for in some quarters may belong to the beholder because Gauguin had stated “I am inclined to a primitive state” and that Tahiti was a place “where material life can be lived without money.”

Gauguin searched and experimented throughout a very difficult life and Japanese art was one of many influences that impacted greatly on his artwork. He clearly cherished aspects of ukiyo-e and maybe “the primitive state” he refers to applies to the “primitive nature of this world.” Also, aspects of ukiyo-e focus on the mystery of the underworld and sexuality wasn’t condemned like in the Christian world and Islamic world. Therefore, the influence of ukiyo-e on Gauguin makes natural sense because he was a searcher and conventions couldn’t shackle his creativity.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2010/sep/27/paul-gauguin-tate-modern-exhibition PLEASE WATCH THIS LOVELY VIDEO

http://toshidama.wordpress.com Toshidama Gallery

http://www.paul-gauguin.net

http://toshidama-japanese-prints.com/ -

http://toshidama.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/gauguin-in-print/

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

 
 
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Posted by on January 28, 2012 in EUROPE, Japan

 

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Ikuko Kawai is an internationally acclaimed violinist: elegant and caring

Ikuko Kawai is an internationally acclaimed violinist: elegant and caring

Sarah Deschamps and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Ikuko Kawai is an internationally acclaimed violinist who was born in Japan and she also does work to highlight poverty and other important global issues. While the main focus of her career is firmly based on the classical field this doesn’t prevent this talented lady from venturing into other forms of music. Therefore, the exuberance and stylish nature of Ikuko Kawai can transcend many styles of music.

The broad nature of her talents apply to acclaimed violinist, professor in the department of music at Osaka University, composer, human rights works, and other areas. Ikuko Kawai fuses her amazing violin talents with techniques in theatrical art and the creativity of her performance is a wonder to behold.

In the past Ikuko Kawai performed under Chung Myung-Whim who is a world famous conductor. Also, while many famous orchestras in Japan have been graced by her stunning ability, the same applies to the international arena. Therefore, just like Kaori Muraji who is an internationally acclaimed classical guitarist from Japan, it is clear that many talented classical performers from this nation are in the forefront of classical music and setting amazing standards.

Not surprisingly, the gracefulness of Ikuko Kawai inspired the figure skater Michelle Kwan who performed to “Red Violin” during her skating program. The natural correlation between the artistic nature of ice skating and the attributes of Ikuko Kawai who performs with so much grace and panache, meant that the music worked perfectly for Michelle Kwan. Also, the international community throughout the world who witnessed this ice skating championship was also blessed because the talents of Ikuko Kawai became known to new fans.

Another important angle which highlights the caring nature of Ikuko Kawai is her involvement in human rights work. In the past she visited refugees from Myanmar (Burma) in Thailand and clearly the impact of this experience opened her eyes to the reality of poverty, international wars, lack of opportunities, and so forth. Her visit worked wonders both ways because in a world of beauty, extravagance, and freedom for many; you also have another world of oppression, alienation, lack of opportunities, and other negatives.

Ikuko Kawai began her UNHCR work in 2007 and her visit to refugees from Myanmar, raising funds, drawing international attention to the crisis in Darfur, and other important areas, meant that this lady of gracefulness was now also connecting with “the real world” which remains distant for the majority of people. Children first performed and then Ikuko Kawai followed and by the end it was clear that the impact worked both ways.

Ikuko Kawai commented that the “Children’s eyes were shining when they were listening to my violin. Inspired by their vivid reaction, I really enjoyed playing in front of them.” She further commented that “Through my violin performance I wanted refugee children to feel something beyond their daily life in the limited space. I wanted to get closer to them and encourage them. I am glad to feel that we were able to communicate through music”.

Since this time Ikuko Kawai continues to build bridges by performing with her accustomed grace and interacting with people who are less fortunate. This talented individual is a great ambassador for the classical world and for Japan.

Therefore, if you adore Ikuko Kawai, classical music, the violin, or if you are a music lover of many styles, then please check the links below. Ikuko Kawai is a rare gift and thankfully this passionate lady is giving so much to the world of music and in many other areas.

Ikuko Kawai music on Anselmonadir website.

http://www.youtube.com/user/anselmonadir#p/f/775/kEl9tgVIheo Ikuko Kawai

http://www.youtube.com/user/anselmonadir#p/f/100/Xbx2H6mKYH0 Ikuko Kawai – Jupiter from the Symphony the Planets

http://www.youtube.com/user/anselmonadir#p/f/489/ZC-iQXWa0f8 Ikuko Kawai

http://www.ikukokawai.com/prof/prof-english.html Ikuko Kawai website

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1iUBMOVptrU Ikuko Kawai and “Red Violin”

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

 
 
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Posted by on January 28, 2012 in Japan

 

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Japanese art and Yuzo Saeki: a stunning flower which died too young

Japanese art and Yuzo Saeki: a stunning flower which died too young

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Yuzo Saeki was born in 1898 and died in 1928 at the tender age of 30 but despite his short time on this earth he left a rich legacy. He was born in Osaka which is a vibrant city in Japan and from an early age he was besotted by art. His father was a Buddhist priest and with all the changes taking place in Japan during the Meiji and Taisho era then this was a great time to experiment with different art styles.

In the Edo period the rich traditions of art from China and Korea maintained its vitality despite major restrictions being imposed on the people of Japan during this period of history. However, influences from other nations did creep into Japan and this notably applies to art from Holland because of “a window” which was kept open in Nagasaki. Therefore, before the Meiji Restoration of 1868 many artists in Japan had been influenced by artists from Western nations and in time many European artists would become influenced by Japanese art.

Another great artist called Ito Shinsui (1898-1972) was also born in 1898 like Yuzo Saeki and both artists produced stunning art. Ironically, while poverty led to the start of a bright career for Ito Shinsui after his father became bankrupt, the other side of the coin would beset the final years of Yuzo Saeki.

Ito Shinsui had been forced to abandon school at an early age because of monetary problems but this led to his talent being unearthed after taking up an apprenticeship at a printshop. However, while poverty opened up a new world for Ito Shinsui the opposite would engulf Yuzo Saeki during a period of terrible health. Therefore, these negatives conspired together and at the age of 30 Yuzo Saeki died in destitution in a mental hospital in France. The culmination of tuberculosis, a nervous breakdown brought on by overwork, limited means to survive, still painting outside despite worsening health conditions and other factors; all led to a very sad ending of what should have been a bright future.

Yuzo Saeki died in terrible circumstances in 1928 and this was a far cry from 1917 when he moved to Tokyo and all seemed calm in his life. He had been influenced greatly in his early years by Kuroda Seiki and studied under Takeji Fujishima in the capital of Japan. Within a few years of living in Tokyo he would get married in 1921 to Yoneko Ikeda who also was a fellow artist. Therefore, this period of his life was on an upward curve and in 1924 he moved to France to further his career with his wife and young daughter.

However, while the move to France was an all too familiar path for many international artists in this period, it also could be a pitfall given the cultural differences and thought patterns of Japan and France.  Michael Brenson commented in the New York Times that “When European art began to question its own traditions, however, as it did increasingly during and after World War I, there was a potential for trouble. Artists could find themselves with neither a European tradition to learn from nor a Japanese tradition to hold onto. When Saeki Yuzo, who is perceived in his country as a tragic hero, the Japanese van Gogh, died at the age of 30 in an insane asylum in Paris in 1928 – perhaps a suicide – he had been trying to paint in this void. Saeki continues to be an example to Japanese artists abroad of the difficulties in reconciling East and West.”

Further down in the same article by Michael Brenson called “When Japan’s Art Opened to Western Winds,” he comments that “Saeki Yuzo went to Paris with his family in 1924. His paintings reflect his isolation. His cafe windows and stores are filled with signs, some illegible. In his ”Snowy Landscape,” figures are on the verge of illegibility. His signs seem like scars of an internal pressure to resolve a conflict between the independence and picturesque subject matter of Paris and a dependence upon his native calligraphic and woodcut tradition.”

These words by Michael Brenson highlight the major problems facing artists like Yuzo Saeki in this period of history. Also, given the climatic reality of worsening his tuberculosis, suffering from a mental breakdown and dying destitute in a mental hospital; then it would appear that his ultimate demise was part self-induced, part-tragedy, and fused with huge cultural differences and heavy demands which took its toll on both his body and mind.

Of course many bright moments must have happened in France because he couldn’t wait to return. However, ultimately many factors would conspire and his life would be cut short and people can only guess about what his real legacy would have been if the cards had fallen kindly.

Matthew Larking in The Japan Times comments in his final paragraph that “In France, Saeki was a progeny; in Japan, an innovator. Modernism was generally at the mercy of the culture looking at it. Saeki’s essential contribution, while very short-lived, was to usher in a period in Japanese Modernism that overthrew the pre-existing reliance on the Impressionist model and encouraged freer Fauvist Expressionism.”

However, despite all the artistic, political and cultural convulsions which befell Yuzo Saeki, along with suffering from tuberculosis, he still produced some truly amazing art. Therefore, the real tragedy of the life of Yuzo Saeki is that he didn’t have enough time to escape the trappings of two cultures which were pulling away at his artistic soul.

http://www.art.com/gallery/id–a228566/yuzo-saeki-posters.htm

http://www.nytimes.com/1987/12/25/arts/when-japan-s-art-opened-to-western-winds.html

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fa20070301a1.html

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2012 in Japan

 

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Korean International Style Show in Tokyo Jan 25/26/27: Fashion and K-pop

Korean International Style Show in Tokyo Jan 25/26/27: Fashion and K-pop

Michel Lebon and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

In Tokyo (http://www.mbcjapan.net/kiss/the buzzing nature of Korean fashion and K-pop will be on show for three days starting on January 25. The “Korean wave” which is spreading internationally and growing in power in distant lands, will be on show in the ultra-modern city of Tokyo. Also, while the K-pop phenomena is internationally known because of the vibrancy of the younger generation in South Korea, this three day event will also focus on Korean fashion and show the buzzing nature of fashion in this nation which is rich in culture and history.

The event will be held at Yoyogi National Gymnasium in trendy Tokyo and this building is in walking distance of the amazing fashion district of Harajuku. Girls Award presents KISS (Korean International Style Show) and clearly everything is being prepared for a stunning fashion and K-pop event which will reverberate throughout Tokyo.

The Korean fashion angle is showing the natural extension of the vibrant K-pop music scene because both flow naturally together. More important, the fashion and music vibes of Tokyo, Seoul, Busan, Osaka, and other major cities in Japan and South Korea respectively, are in high demand and with the economic power of major international cities like Tokyo then these are exciting times.

Stunning models will also enhance the fashion vibes of South Korea. Also, the “Tokyo apple pie” and “Osaka apple pie” continues to attract amazing K-pop groups and soloists from South Korea. Therefore, this event will highlight the energy and vibrancy of fashion and K-pop and show the synergy of both nations.

Japanese fashion will also be highlighted despite the main focus being South Korean fashion. Also, Lumine which is adored in Japan will show the huge crowd why this department store is one step ahead. The mixture of Japanese fashion being in the background but providing a nice angle is a really nice touch and Lumine will express the trends within the Tokyo and Japanese fashion scene.

On the first day on January 25 high end fashion companies will be showing their latest trends and the elegance of South Korean fashion. This applies to Lie Sang Bong, Doho, Couronne, and Resurrection by Juyoung. Japanese fashion brands will also be on show and this applies to Dresscamp and Loveless x MCM.

The following day on January 26 will witness the buzzing South Korean fashion trends of Spicy Color, Mag/Mag (Magnificon/Magnificent), Who A.U. California Dream, and LAP (Los Angeles Project). Lumine will also compliment proceedings by showing the vibe of this amazing department store which is based throughout Tokyo. This day promises to be high action and will show a different angle to day one.

The final day of this three day event will highlight South Korean street fashion from the shopping mall Doota. This applies to brands which can be found in this trendy shopping mall in South Korea and brands on show will be Blooming, Gshopgirl, Senorita, Cres.edim, The Style, and Le Queen Couture. On the same day the Japanese fashion brand Guild Prime will highlight their latest products.

Of course the music aspect is very important and currently 33,000 tickets have been sold. K-pop groups on show include Kara, Girls’ Generation, After School, T-ara, CN Blue, Beast, Sistar, F-T Island, 4 Minute, Rainbow, Secret, and Infinite.

Kara, Girls’ Generation, After School, and T-ara, are often highlighted in the media in Japan because these stunning bands have enabled the “Korean Wave” to grow and prosper in Japan. BoA laid the foundation stone and this stunning soloist is still going strong because her recent track “Milestone” was full of emotion and passion. Therefore, for all K-pop lovers in Tokyo and throughout Japan, this is a great chance to witness amazing music acts from South Korea and to view the buzzing nature of South Korean fashion.

The three day event is a must for all individuals who adore K-pop and the fashion scene.

 

http://www.mbcjapan.net/kiss/ – Website for full details of the event

http://www.liesangbong.com/gb/index.php

http://www.whoau.com/engCover/index.html

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

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Posted by on January 25, 2012 in ASIA, Japan

 

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Tokyo tourism and Odaiba: backwater to fashion, architecture and ultra modernity

Tokyo tourism and Odaiba: backwater to fashion, architecture and ultra modernity

Sarah Deschamps and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

In Tokyo several places really stand out for being unique in style and this certainly applies to Odaiba. If this is your first visit to Tokyo then Odaiba is a must because of the stunning architecture on show. Also, if you travel by New Transit Yurikamome by connecting at Shimbashi Train Station, then your first view of Odaiba and the entire area will always stay with you because this ultra-modern transport system highlights the creativity of buzzing Tokyo. Therefore, in the modern period Odaiba is clearly on the tourist map and a must place to escape the madding crowds of buzzing Shinjuku, Shibuya, and many other high octane areas like Ikebukuro.

However, not so long ago this part of Tokyo was rundown and the future looked bleak. This is difficult to imagine given the trendy boutiques on show in several elegant shopping malls and the beach which is a welcome escape. Also, at night the stunning Rainbow Bridge is a treat in itself and the same applies to watching boats passing by with people enjoying life.

Yet in the early 1990s this scene was difficult to predict because the bubble economy meant that new hope for Odaiba seemed distant. Indeed the history of Odaiba is fascinating by itself because this part of Tokyo was constructed in 1851 to keep America and others at bay. However, the winds of change meant that this dream couldn’t be maintained because Western encroachment was spilling all over Asia.

It is somewhat ironic today that you have a Statue of Liberty based in Odaiba with its French roots. This iconic image for Americans and people all over the world is a little out of place in Japan and the same applies to the history of this district which was built to keep international trade at bay.

The next major push to alter Odaiba was a public park which was refurbished in 1928 and the remnants of this venture remains today with further modernizations. However, the real momentum for Odaiba was based on the success of the Expo ’85 which was held in Tsukuba. Therefore, with the economy being in full swing in this period and the success of Tsukuba, major plans were made to turn Odaiba into a futuristic city.

This applied to designing places for exclusive living, modern architecture, important business structures, and other relevant areas. Yet after the bubble economy much of the new planning appeared like one big disaster because by the middle of the 1990s you had many vacant lots, a minor population which couldn’t maintain Odaiba and other areas were still a wasteland.  Therefore, development was very uneven and far from being a showcase it was a remnant of over-spending and grand ideas which seemed out of place.

However, in 1996 fresh thinking emerged which laid the foundation for a buzzing Odaiba and this applies to allowing entertainment districts and commercial ventures. Within a short time trendy shopping malls were entering the scene along with hotels and large companies which would alter the landscape. This can be seen today by the iconic Fuji TV building which was a trendsetter and even today it is a famous landmark. Also, new transportation links opened up the area and the attractiveness of the seaside became a winner which would be connected with the park, trendy shopping malls, new entertainment ventures and other important factors.

In an earlier article about Odaiba by Modern Tokyo Times it was stated that “Odaiba is a major tourist area in Tokyo and the beauty of this place is that you feel that you are visiting a different Tokyo because of the beach, walkways, Statue of Liberty, and the colorful boats which light up the see at night.  Therefore, while Odaiba is full of life during the day it is also true that the atmosphere changes at night because of the stunning views of Rainbow Bridge at night.” 

“Odaiba is also a great place for romance because at night you will see many romantic couples walking hand in hand and you will often see people smooching near the beach area or on the beach.”

“The development of Fuji TV Building, Tokyo Big Sight, Telecom Center, and other futuristic buildings, all helped to create a new Odaiba.  Each new lavish development complimented Odaiba and by the end of the 1990s it was clear that tourism would begin to take off.”

  

In the Odaiba of 2012 you have many lovely boutiques to visit in Decks Tokyo Beach and Aquacity Odaiba. The boutiques are a mixture of Japanese fashion and international fashion and clearly many Tokyoites love to visit these fashionable malls. Also, in Aquacity Odaiba you have a major cinema complex and the wooden decks outside provide stunning views of Rainbow Bridge from various different angles.

Another great place to find elegant boutiques is Venus Fort which is designed like an eighteenth century South European town. The boutiques and restaurants in Venus Fort mix well with the stylish architecture. Therefore, the fashion aspect of Odaiba can’t be ignored and you have many conventions for cosplay and other trendy aspects of Japanese culture.

Tourists are also spoilt for choice because you have many tourist attractions and this notably applies to Telecom Center Area; Odaiba Seaside Park; Daikanransha Ferris Wheel; Museum of Maritime Science; National Museum of Emerging Science; Ariake Colosseum; Palette Town; Leisureland; Toyota Mega Web; Oedo Onsen Monogatari; Panasonic Center; Zepp Tokyo; and Tokyo Big Sight is a huge exhibition and convention center and the architecture is extremely bold.

In 2012 you have more grand designs in the pipeline and clearly Odaiba will continue to flourish. The beach is a welcome place to relax and Rainbow Bridge at night is truly beautiful.  Therefore, if you are new to Tokyo then Odaiba is a must place to visit because you will witness an ultra-modern area which is fused together with modern tourist concepts.

http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3008.html

http://www.aquacity.jp/en/shop/fashion01_2.html

http://www.venusfort.co.jp/multi/index_e.html 

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2012 in Japan

 

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Nigeria and the Sunni Islamic insurgency of Boko Haram : over 170 killed in Kano

Nigeria and the Sunni Islamic insurgency of Boko Haram : over 170 killed in Kano

Boutros Hussein and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Islamists in northern Nigeria have killed more than 170 people in the city of Kano after many bomb blasts and gun attacks. It is clear that Boko Haram is not only increasing its violence but the sophistication of attacks also points to greater training and funding. This in itself shows the severity of the crisis in Nigeria because Boko Haram doesn’t recognize the current political and legal system of this country.

In recent months radical Sunni Islamists have attacked Christian churches, the security forces, local police stations, and any area which is deemed to be a threat to their power objectives. It is abundantly clear that members of this Islamist movement deem Christians to be infidels and worthy of killing and the same applies to Muslims who don’t support their draconian thinking. Therefore, Christians in northern Nigeria fear further attacks and the bloodletting threatens to ignite new flashpoints in other parts of this country.

In an article called “Boko Haram: Nigeria’s growing new headache” which was published by The International Institute for Strategic Studies, it was stated that The increased sophistication of Boko Haram’s attacks may be partly explained by growing foreign support. There has been speculation – though without hard evidence – about interaction with al-Shabaab, the al-Qaeda affiliate in Somalia, including possible training of Nigerians. In August 2011 General Carter Ham, Commander of the US Africa Command (AFRICOM), said it was likely that Boko Haram had established contacts with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and with al-Shabaab. He described this as, if confirmed, ‘the most dangerous thing to happen not only to the Africans, but to us as well’. In November, Algerian Deputy Foreign Minister Abdelkader Messahel said he had ‘no doubts that coordination exists between Boko Haram and al-Qaeda’, citing intelligence reports and common operating methods.” 

However, it is easy to play the “al-Qaeda” card but instead the focus should be on the trinity of the Koran, the Hadiths, and Islamic Sharia law. Muslims, just like Christians in Nigeria, don’t belong to one strand of thinking and Islamic clerics opposed to Boko Haram also face the threat of death. Yet, the methodology of Boko Haram does follow the path of Sunni Islamic radicalism in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Somalia – and this applies to forcing terror against all and sundry who oppose an Islamic state based on Sharia law.

Also, while non-Muslim minorities are attacked and killed the same applies to killing fellow Sunni Muslims and different sects within Islam, for example killing Shia Muslims and so forth. Therefore, instead of linking the “al-Qaeda” bogeyman it is more reliable to focus on the binding reality that the trinity of Islam, the Koran-Hadiths-Sharia, was and continues to be used for supporting violence against all thought patterns which oppose this “limited worldview.”

In Nigeria the central government bowed down and allowed Sharia law in northern Nigeria to spread in power and for Christians, followers of Traditional Beliefs, secularists, moderate strands of Islam, and so forth; this didn’t quell the problem but merely inspired greater militancy. Not only this, it highlighted the fault-lines within Islam itself. Also, Saudi sponsored missionaries and training in Saudi Arabia further increased a limited world view of Islam which was based on being the sole power mechanism in Nigeria.

In Somalia, for example, where Sunni Islamic radicals are intent on spreading their Islamic inquisition and killing every single Christian in the country, it is clear that Arabization and outside meddling from the Middle East is altering the landscape. Therefore, Sufi Muslims in this country also fear the ongoing changes within Islam and the role of outsiders in spreading this indoctrination, which boasts of “purity” and “piety” while enforcing the sword on all perceived enemies.

The vast majority of Nigerians support a multi-religious and multi-ethnic society despite complex ethnic issues and other factors. However, in the eyes of Boko Haram they desire an Islamic state based on Islamic Sharia law and in their eyes the central government and secular laws have no validity.

Boko Haram also desires to spread sectarianism because this will further their view that they are the “Guardians of Islam” and not Muslims who support a united Nigeria. It is essential that Christians, Muslims, secularists, and people from all political persuasions who support a united Nigeria to stand up to this new tyranny. After all, if the “house is divided” then Boko Haram will be hoping to fill the vacuum.

http://www.iiss.org/publications/strategic-comments/past-issues/volume-17-2011/november/boko-haram-nigerias-growing-new-headache/

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

 

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The Voice of Sendai and Ari TV: helping the community to overcome March 11

The Voice of Sendai and Ari TV: helping the community to overcome March 11

Michel Lebon and Lee Jay Walker 

Modern Tokyo Times

Ari TV (http://www.ari-tv.jp/top.htmlis at the heart of Sendai and the surrounding region because this company is providing a positive image and covers local issues. This media outlet is determined to show the people of Japan and the international community, that while the March 11 tsunami took far too many lives and destroyed much of the infrastructure, it didn’t break the spirit of the people who were hit hard by this tragic event.

Therefore, Takayuki Sato http://twitter.com/#!/re_tohoku_en (Tak) and everybody at Ari TV are showing the determination of a region which is not only battling against adversity, it is doing so by focusing on the future and helping to bring fresh hope. Of course, every individual associated with Ari TV fully understands the pain and suffering which took place on March 11. However, like a phoenix rising from the ashes this media outlet wants to highlight determination, rebuilding, fresh ideas, a strong community spirit, and to show how tenacious the local people are in facing and overcoming such a tragedy.

In the photo above Tomomi Hama of Ari-TV visited a performance arts event called “Suzume Odori.” The event was held in Tokushima and Tomomi Hama highlights the fact that this city is a sister city of Sendai. Also, the people of Tokushima city have helped the people of Sendai and other areas greatly since March 11 and this shows the strong bond between local people.

The next photo highlights “Coming of Age Day” and this event is very important in Japan. Takano of Ari TV reports that 12,000 people attended this event in Sendai and that the atmosphere was electric. This image is extremely heartwarming because it shows the next generation of Sendai who need to be tenacious and play an important role in the future of the Tohoku region. Also, the image shows three beautiful ladies smiling in traditional costumes and they all look stylish and elegant.

In the next image (http://en.re-tohoku.jp/) above is the stunning view of Naruko and Ono, a director at Ari-TV, clearly adores this part of Japan. Therefore, Ono is clearly focused on showing this special place and a lovely video was done which shows many positive features. Given this, if you adore nature and want to refresh yourself afterwards by visiting Naruko Hot Spa, then why not take a break in Naruko and help the local economy?

The next photo (http://sjo-escuelaj.com/shows children at San Jose Japanese School in Costa Rica. Mr. Kinya Morita who works at this school is showing the international concern for people who lost so much. Therefore, these children are expressing their love and warm feelings towards people whom they have never met.

In the image above are Ken Watanabe and Tomoyuki Takimoto who is a film director. Ken Watanabe is an internationally acclaimed actor and since the devastating events of March 11, it is abundantly clear that he shared in the pain and now he is involved in the regeneration. Shinichiro Takano from Ari TV mentions that both individuals have been touring around Tohoku in order to highlight the film called “Hayabusa -Harukanaru Kikan” which will be released on February 11, 2012, in this part of Japan. The host of the premiere in Miyagi was Tomomi Hama from Ari TV.

The following photo above highlights the tenaciousness of “Suzuki Farm Harvest.” It is clear that Tak from Ari TV was overwhelmed by such dedication because Mr. Suzuki fully understood that salt water had damaged the fields. However, he was adamant that he would overcome everything and local people gave him the support and help he needed. Like Tak comments, they “finally made it! Isn’t it amazing?”

These images highlight aspects of Ari TV and in another article about this media outlet it was stated by Modern Tokyo Times that It is essential that Ari TV is supported because Takayuki Sato (Tak) and everybody at Ari TV desire to help the local community. Therefore, Ari TV is a lifeline to many people in Sendai and Miyagi prefecture and advertisement, sponsorship, viewing, and helping this company grow in many other ways, is needed because Sendai suffered greatly and this city is very powerful in the region of Tohoku.”

Therefore, please support Ari TV by viewing their websites and seeing daily images and videos of Sendai and the surrounding region. After all, Ari TV is the voice of Sendai and the calendar is also in English in order for the international community to view and read about recent events.

http://en.re-tohoku.jp/  Tohoku Revival Calendar – English Version

http://www.ari-tv.jp/top.html Ari TV 

http://ja-jp.facebook.com/people/Takayuki-Sato/100001843642568  – Please contact for more information.

http://twitter.com/#!/re_tohoku_en – Please contact for more information

http://suzuki-yuukinouen.blog.ocn.ne.jp/

http://www.re-tohoku.jp Tohoku Revival Calendar – Japanese version

http://www.hayabusa2012.jp/index.html

All images belong to Ari TV

 

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Japanese art and Kawanabe Kyosai: the power of folklore and culture

Japanese art and Kawanabe Kyosai: the power of folklore and culture

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The Japanese artist Kawanabe Kyosai is extremely fascinating because of his individualistic spirit and this is witnessed in his art. Kyosai, just like the mysterious Tengu, belonged to two worlds and this applies to the old Edo period and the modernization of Japan which began in 1868. The Meiji Restoration of 1868 was truly dynamic and revolutionary. Also, the center and periphery relations altered the status quo of the Edo period which relied heavily on stratification.

The Tengu also belongs to two very different traditions and highlights the power of Shintoism and the mysteriousness of this religion. Not only this, the Shinto impact on Buddhist thought patterns and traditions emanating in China were completely turned on its head. Therefore, the Tengu becomes part of the richness of nature within the Shinto faith rather than the dark demons of Buddhism and other faiths which highlight the power of evil. This fact also shows the power of Japanese culture and the indigenous faith of Shinto which could absorb different thinking and traditions.

Kyosai was born in 1831 and died in 1889 and the rapid changes in society clearly impacted on him. He was an individual who was independent in mind and thought and Kyosai expresses this through his art.

Kusumi Kawanabe, Director of the Kawanabe Kyosai Memorial Museum, comments that “This great artist has grown in stature as we have been able the better to get the Meiji period into perspective. He studied at an early age under Kuniyoshi and later under Kano masters, but eventually he went his own independent way. Essentially a nationalistic painter, he was nonetheless fully aware of Western art – indeed, he dealt with it quite broadmindedly in his book “Kyosai Gadan” published in 1887 – but he was robust enough not to succumb, as so many of his contemporaries did, to the blandishments of foreign styles, and was one of the last great painters in the truly Japanese tradition.”

The main focus in this article is to highlight aspects of Kyosai and link this with the Tengu and the underworld of Japan where mysterious creatures, spirits, and ghosts played a powerful role within the culture of this fascinating country. Also, it is clear that the outside influence of China and Korea impacted greatly on Japan. However, despite this the indigenous faith of Shintoism and other powerful aspects of culture would transform many of these new thought patterns and create a truly Japanese identity.

The yokai represent aspects of the mystery of folklore in Japan and the transformation of Tengu is also fascinating within the changing thought patterns of Japan. The yokai are creatures with supernatural powers and the Tengu are one of the most widely known monster-spirits in the land of the rising sun.

The Tengu have constantly gone through transformations in Japanese folklore and while early artists depicted the Tengu with beaks this changed in time and now the most distinctive feature is their long nose.

Within Buddhist thought patterns the Tengu were demons and it was believed that they were harbingers of bad times and this applies to war and other calamities.  However, within Shintoism the Tengu were sometimes worshipped as revered spirits (Shinto kami) which had magical powers.  Therefore, the Tengu also witnessed the fusion of aspects of Buddhism and Shintoism because in time their image changed into a more protective force.

However, despite this transformation the Tengu still had dark and dangerous powers and people in the mountains and forests had to tread carefully because of the several natures of the Tengu. This meant that local people couldn’t take the Tengu for granted and great respect was needed during visits to special shrines which highlight this mysterious folklore creature.

Kyosai certainly depicts the power of the Tengu and the mysterious features and nature of various types ofyokai.  Therefore, Kyosai is showing images of the old world despite the new reality of the Meiji period.

In Japanese history the Tengu went from demonic creatures into positive aspects providing care was taken and nature was at peace with the underworld.  For example if we apply this to children then in early Japanese history the Tengu were believed to abduct children. However, in later history this all changed because the Tengu became enlisted in searching for children who were scared and needed help quickly.

Another positive side of the Tengu is that their shape-shifting power applies to animal and human form and this meant that their attributes were powerful. Therefore, the Tengu used this in order to play tricks on arrogant Buddhist priests or people who abused their power.

In this sense, while the Tengu belong to Japanese folklore it could be said that Kyosai shared some characteristics and this applies to attacking political elites.  After all, Kyosai was known for being a political caricaturist and he often got in trouble with the law and the dominant political power of his day.

Kyosai was a free thinker who highlighted the richness of the spirit world in his art and Japanese folklore.

http://kyosai-museum.jp/ENG/about.htm

http://www.onmarkproductions.com/html/tengu.shtml

http://www.obakemono.com/obake/tengu/

http://www.robynbuntin.com/MoreByArtist.asp?ArtistID=388

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2012 in Japan

 

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