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Monthly Archives: June 2012

Japanese art and history: Kano Eitoku and cultural impact of Oda Nobunaga

Japanese art and history: Kano Eitoku and cultural impact of Oda Nobunaga

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

In modern Japan the importance of Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582) and his legacy remains extremely strong even today. After all, he laid the foundation stone for the future centralized Japan despite certain limitations during the Tokugawa period. However, often the more dynamic side of Oda Nobunaga is neglected and instead the focus is on his military prowess and cruelty. Therefore, the linkage of Kano Eitoku with Nobunaga is most illuminating.

Eitoku was one of the most prominent and highly respected artists of the sixteenth century in Japan. He was born in 1543 and died eight years after Nobunaga in 1590. Yet the linkage between the artistic mastery of Eitoku with Nobunaga provides a different angle and one which may have been hidden for political and religious reasons.

Nobunaga was an innovator but sadly his inquisitiveness and openness to international influence would be crushed by following leaders. In time the Tokugawa period (1603-1868) would condemn all converts to Christianity to death and isolate Japan from the world despite some “windows” staying open. The power of Buddhism would be utilized by the state and Confucian order would lead to greater stratification.

This was a far cry from Nobunaga who lifted major economic restrictions on the peasantry, had favorable relations with Christian preachers, modernized the military, and introduced other favorable reforms in the realm of economics. The political intrigues of Buddhist elites who desired to preserve their power concentration were alarmed by Nobunaga. This notably applies to his favorable policies towards the peasants and Christian missionaries. Indeed, Nobunaga is reported to have had little time for stratification and practices which held back progress. He remained to be an atheist but his brother converted to Christianity. Not surprisingly, this alarmed Buddhist elites which feared that their wealth may be challenged by peasant reforms and a competing religion.

If you click on http://www.buddhanet.net/nippon/nippon_partI.html this website the most notable feature is the anti-Christian and anti-Nobunaga bias. It is stated by Buddhanet and Japan Buddhist Foundation that“When Oda Nobunaga overthrew the military government of Ashikaga in 1573, he actively suppressed Buddhist institutions because he feared the increased power of the leading temples and monasteries which sided with his enemies. He favored the newly introduced foreign cult of Christianity for purely political reasons.”

Note that the usage of “foreign cult” could also be stated about Buddhism because this faith wasn’t born in Japan. Also, for the non-religious then all religions could be deemed to be “cults.” However, the most important point is that for hundreds of years you have had massive negative opinions about Nobunaga in certain quarters. Therefore, much of his openness and innovation was hidden by elites who feared the policies of Nobunaga. After all, his fresh thinking alarmed many traditional elites whose only desire was to maintain their power concentration.

In the field of the arts the role of Nobunaga was very important and it is in this area where the connection with Eitoku materializes. This applies to Eitoku being a patron of Nobunaga and other powerful leaders. Even before Nobunaga amassed power and wealth he was always interested in the arts.

Therefore, during the period of Nobunaga a cultural renaissance was also beginning to take shape. This applies to major gardens of stunning beauty being built along with castles which were blessed with rich architectural designs. Indeed, the Azuchi Castle which is located on the shores of the famous Lake Biwa is deemed to be one of the most beautiful castles ever built. Inside, this castle it was adorned with stunning ceiling paintings by Eitoku and other major areas of art related to high quality statues.

Nobunaga also used his innovation in relationship with the Japanese tea ceremony.  Also, the usage of the Japanese tea ceremony during talks about business, trade, and politics were firmly established under Nobunaga and reached a new dimension within the body politic of Japan. Therefore, Sen no Rikyu who was a famous tea master under his rule had an important cultural part to play in developing greater refinement. At the same time Nobunaga was also intrigued by aspects of European culture therefore he collected Western art and studied other areas.

The first Christian church to be built in Kyoto in 1576 was because of Nobunaga’s patronage. While the first steps of modern kabuki began to materialize under his leadership and during the Tokugawa period this important cultural symbol would flourish. Alongside all these innovations Nobunaga had hoped to install a rational political system which moved away from superstition and stratification. This can be seen by his openness to outside ideas and economic policies which enabled trade to flourish, for peasants to have greater freedom and the same applies to artisans. However, his period in power could not fully implement all the reforms that he had desired. Therefore, in time you had a counter-revolution in the realm of ideas which persecuted Christianity, isolated Japan, infringed on the rights of peasants, and whereby traditional power mechanisms once more stifled many areas of life.

In an earlier article about Eitoku and Nobunaga by Modern Tokyo Times it was stated that “Eitoku was born in Kyoto and clearly he belonged to a prestigious family because he was the grandson of Kano Motonobu (1476-1559). Therefore, with the guidance of his grandfather and with being blessed with such talent, which had been recognized when Eitoku was a very young child, he soon came to prominence and patrons like Nobunaga loved the richness of his style.”

“The influence of Chinese painting styles was clear and this was only natural for the day and clearly Motonobu was very proud of his grandson. Eitoku maintained the pre-eminence of the Kano school which was founded by Kano Masanobu (1434-1530?).

Eitoku is a reminder that despite all the carnage during the period of Nobunaga, the cultural realm remained strong and art was highly valued. Therefore, despite the passages of time Eitoku stills remains potent in modern day Japan because he produced many stunning art pieces.”

Eitoku like Nobunaga left a lasting legacy despite the reasons being very different. However, without the patronage of Nobunaga then the amazing skills of Eitoku would have been hindered on a national scale. The relationship between both individuals highlights the sophistication of Nobunaga and the mastery of Eitoku and his stunning pieces of art.

Nobunaga was much more than just a warlord because he helped many aspects of Japanese society to flourish. In the field of culture and art his legacy is extremely rich. Therefore, the artwork of Eitoku provides a glimpse into the world of Nobunaga and his unbelievable free spirit.

 

http://www.kyohaku.go.jp/eng/tokubetsu/071016/tokubetsu.html  Kyoto National Museum

http://www.all-art.org/asia/japanese_prints/japan_art2.html 

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com 

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Posted by on June 24, 2012 in Japan

 

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Tokyo lifestyle and Ikebukuro: fashion, place to reside, and prime location

Tokyo lifestyle and Ikebukuro: fashion, place to reside, and prime location

Sarah Deschamps, Kanako Itamae and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Tokyo lifestyle is extremely rich and choosing an ideal location to reside depends greatly on the demands of the individual. However, if you like the hustle and bustle of a very powerful area in Tokyo then Ikebukuro is a great choice. Also, the great thing about Ikebukuro is that the price mechanism varies accordingly and in the backstreets you will also find a more tranquil way of life.

The fashion angle of Ikebukuro is extremely powerful and this applies to department stores which include Lumine, Esola, Tobu Department Store, Seibu Department Store, Marui, Parco, and others. This means that Ikebukuro feels extremely young and vibrant in the main shopping areas of East Ikebukuro and West Ikebukuro. The central theme is the huge train station which links so many department stores.

Ikebukuro is blessed with several universities and you also have several other institutions which are nearby. This once more means that this vibrant part of Tokyo is blessed with an enormous pulling power. The same applies to Ikebukuro being the “gateway” which links Saitama with this powerful commercial area in Tokyo. Therefore, many individuals who reside in Saitama will pick Ikebukuro being their first major shopping destination in Tokyo. Similarly, many Tokyoites will also pick Ikebukuro because of the fashion angle and the vibrancy of the nightlife.

West Ikebukuro provides a different angle because it is more cosmopolitan and the abundance of fashion is amazing. This applies to utilizing the adorable Tobu Department Store which caters for amazing fashion brands, crafts, delicious food, and so much more. Also, for expats you have a fine selection of international cheese, wine, beer, and other products to make you feel like “home from home.”

Tobu Department Store also connects with Lumine Department Store in several places and both entities enrich each other. After all, both department stores have unique features and for young ladies who adore fashion then Lumine is one of the most popular department stores in Tokyo. Of course Tobu Department Store provides adorable boutiques for people of both sexes and different age groups. However, the price mechanism and nature of boutiques are different with Tobu Department Store having many exclusive boutiques and being more conservative. Meanwhile the trendy buzz and vibe of Lumine appeals greatly to younger ladies (also caters for male fashion) because this company understands the latest trends. Therefore, Lumine selects powerful shops-in-shop companies to be based in their department stores in order to meet the demands of the younger generation.

Esola is another lovely department store for ladies and Marui is also based in West Ikebukuro. Marui like Lumine is also in high demand for fashion lovers throughout Tokyo because both stores are extremely trendy. Meanwhile Esola provides a lovely elegant feel because despite have many exquisite boutiques, it isn’t too sizeable and this provides a lovely shopping experience. Also, within each department store they cater for other products and you have so many places to eat in the same buildings. This is an added bonus because people can unwind with friends and so forth by relaxing in stylish restaurants where the food is scrumptious.

Tokyo Metropolitan Art Space will re-open this autumn in 2012 and once the new design is on view then people will be able to relax in a stylish arena which caters to the cultural angle of Ikebukuro. Japan Traditional Craft Center in Ikebukuro is also a must place to visit for adorable Japanese crafts. This building is connected to Tobu Department Store and opposite Lumine. The Japan Traditional Craft Center provides a wealth of amazing products and this lovely shopping experience is richly rewarding.

In East Ikebukuro you have Parco Department Store and Seibu Department Store along with a host of other fashion companies in the streets of this side of Ikebukuro. Parco is another vibrant fashion zone for the younger generation meanwhile Seibu Department Store caters for a wealth of diverse products. Also, Seibu Department Store is blessed with stunning boutiques and clearly it is a great place to shop.

Also, on this side of Ikebukuro is Sunshine City which caters for shopping, entertainment, an aquarium, museums, observation deck, and hotel facilities. Sunshine City is an enormous attraction and the streets nearby provide a vibrant atmosphere. This applies to anime stores, entertainment, restaurants, nightlife, independent boutiques, and so much more.

Overall, the lifestyle of Ikebukuro is richly rewarding because this part of Tokyo provides so many options to enjoy. Not only this, the housing areas are relatively quiet and relaxing despite being very close to the buzzing central area. Ikebukuro is also very close to Shinjuku, Ueno, Shibuya, Harajuku, and other major parts of Tokyo. The price mechanism of the housing also means that this part of Tokyo is more affordable than most but of course you can also find places which are extremely expensive. Much depends on your purchasing power. Yet when it comes to being a desirable place to reside in Tokyo then Ikebukuro provides a wealth of options.

 

All photo images taken by Modern Tokyo Times 

www.smackyglam.com  –  Smacky Glam

http://www.esola-ikebukuro.com/ 

http://orizzonti.co.jp/category/actuel/ 

http://www.barbie-stores.com/ 

http://www.bluebellmarket.net/index.html 

http://www.palgroup.co.jp/brands/doudou/ 

http://www.turnojeana.jp/ 

http://www.frees-mart.com/index.html 

http://m-muriel.jp/index.html 

http://www.elleva.jp/ 

http://www.frame-works.co.jp/index_n.html 

http://blog-s.frame-works.co.jp/  Spick and Span official blog

http://www.jolly-boutique.com/ 

http://www.world.co.jp/opaqueclip/ 

http://royalflash-jp.com/pc/home.html 

http://sanyo-i.jp    –  Sanyo i Store (Sanyo Shokai Ltd)

http://www.parco.co.jp/customer/ikebukuro/IkebukuroPARCO_FloorGuide.pdf

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2012 in Japan

 

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Kanzashi in Japan being utilized for many fashion styles and occasions

Kanzashi in Japan being utilized for many fashion styles and occasions

Hiroshi Saito, Michel Lebon and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The Edo era witnessed the real growth and power of kanzashi in Japan despite aspects of the roots being traced back all the way to the Jomon period. Japanese artisans increasingly utilized new innovations throughout the Edo period and this enabled greater sophistication which enhanced the power of kanzashi. Also, the ukiyo-e art movement blossomed throughout the same period and many famous artists highlighted the beauty of Japanese women. Therefore, the visibility of kanzashi was witnessed within many Japanese traditions.

Today in the modern world the concept of kanzashi is equated with beauty, sophistication, stunning artistry, and within traditional dress styles of Japan where hair ornaments enhance the beauty to another level. However, modern day kanzashi is easily available and extremely cheap providing you shop around. Therefore, the degree and sophistication of kanzashi varies enormously and this applies to price mechanisms, quality, dress-style, purpose, and so forth.

Kanzashi is also very flexible when it comes to different age groups and the same applies to utilization. This means that you can witness kanzashi on the streets of Harajuku (Tokyo), Namba (Osaka), Ikebukuro (Tokyo), and throughout trendy fashionable areas in Japan. Alternatively, kanzashi can be witnessed in the most refined areas of Japan where sophistication and tradition remains powerful.

It did appear that kanzashi would be marginalized in Japan once modernization began to flourish. After all, the changing nature of Western hairstyles, dress, music, and other important areas, meant that new approaches to beauty and dress were in full sway throughout the twentieth century in Japan. The earlier root of modernization belongs to the Meiji era but clearly further developments throughout the following century would alter the landscape of Japan.

This meant that kanzashi was becoming marginalized and mainly connected with Japanese high culture and traditions. Therefore, kanzashi became equated with the world of geisha, high culture, traditional weddings, Japanese tea ceremony, and other important aspects of Japanese culture. In a sense, it is true that kanzashi still remains powerful within cultural traditions in Japan but today the development of kanzashi continues to spin in many directions.

After all, kawaii (adorable/cute) culture within the dress style angle does enable kanzashi to flourish because of the natural beauty and concept of this thinking. Of course, kanzashi is not part and parcel of kawaii culture but it is an angle which is utilized by individuals who adore the fashion side of this movement.

Another major development of kanzashi is that today you can find fashion conscious individuals all over the world being fascinated by this Japanese cultural angle. Therefore, the power of the “old world” and high culture in Japan is a huge pulling power internationally. At the same time, the influence of kawaii culture, maid café, animation, and other major themes within Japan are also being transmitted to a greater international audience. Of course, kanzashi isn’t naturally linked to animation but the cultural power of Japanese anime/manga means that younger individuals all over the world are being drawn into learning more about Japanese culture. Also, in some anime you will witness kanzashi and it just highlights how this medium is spreading into new directions.

In an earlier article by Modern Tokyo Times it was stated that “Of course nothing remains static because purest kanzashi is based on gold/silver plated metals, tortoiseshell, lacquered wood and silk – but in the world of accessible fashion and accessories then kanzashi is also being made by using plastics and other materials.”

“Traditional makers of kanzashi remain loyal to the firm foundations of this fashion piece in Japan and international makers also desire to maintain the high culture aspect and rich artistry of kanzashi.”

The power of kanzashi is that it can be utilized to highlight mainstream fashion accessories, high culture, alternative fashion, festivals, and within many areas of traditional Japanese culture. Therefore, kanzashi can be seen in many aspects of modern life while also being powerful within rich Japanese traditions. The same also applies to the price mechanism and quality of individual kanzashi hair ornaments. For this reason, kanzashi continues to thrive and develop within Japan and internationally.

 

http://www.atelierkanawa.com/#!tsumami-kanzashi

http://www1.odn.ne.jp/maya/english/enknshop.htm

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2012 in Japan

 

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Syria: Christians fleeing to government areas from Sunni Islamic terrorist networks

Syria: Christians fleeing to government areas from Sunni Islamic terrorist networks

Murad Makhmudov, Jibril Khoury and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The American led invasion of Iraq led to the demise of all non-Muslim minorities because the brutal reality of Sunni Islamic terrorism meant that they were easy targets. Similarly, Muslims also fled their homes and homeland in vast numbers in order to escape radical Sunni Islamic terrorist movements. Many of these refugees fled to different parts of Iraq and to other nations. Syria figured prominently for many refugees fleeing the “political vacuum” in Iraq which led to sectarianism, terrorism, chaos, and a complete breakdown of society.

In Syria the dual forces of important conservative Sunni Islamic dominated nations and leading Western powers, are conspiring together in order to further their respective agendas. Therefore, both forces have unleashed terrorism and sectarianism against the central government of Syria once a “political vacuum” emerged throughout the region. This combined Western and Sunni Islamic force is manipulating events in order to further their respective geopolitical objectives.

For Saudi Arabia and Qatar both nations are still smarting over the rise of powerful Shia political forces in Iraq. They both fear that Iran could utilize the religious angle in order to influence the Levant under a different branch of Islam. This means that Saudi Arabian is viewing itself to be the guardian of its version of Sunni Islam and this can be seen by its political power projections in Bahrain and Yemen respectively, whereby the Shia are viewed with contempt. Turkey, on the other hand which persecutes Alevi Muslims, is playing a more opportunist role because in the past this nation had favorable relations with Iran and Syria. However, the crisis in Syria which was encouraged and then militarily supported by outside powers, showed the real “hand of Turkey” which is angered about the current political situation in Iraq.

The weakening of Syria and creating another unstable and weak nation in the Middle East sounds like a golden opportunity for Israel. In the past secular forces in Egypt and Syria had threatened the existence of Israel. However, the Gulf nations have remained rather placid and clearly Saudi Arabia doesn’t have any intentions on spreading radical Salafi Islam and terrorism against Israel internally. In saying that, Saudi Arabia’s influence is growing in Gaza but the strong bonds between America and Saudi Arabia remains firm despite areas of negativity.

America, Israel, and Saudi Arabia, all want to decrease the influence of Iran in Bahrain, Lebanon, and Syria respectively. The major “jewel in the crown” is Syria because this nation is the last independent secular nation in the Arabic speaking world which had powerful central functioning bodies. Therefore, if the Bashar al-Assad government collapses a new Sunni Muslim sharia state will emerge and alter the political and religious landscape.

The situation of Christians, Shabaks, Mandaeans, Yazidis, and the role of women, have all suffered badly in Iraq since the American led invasion. Similarly, this once powerful nation is but “a pale shadow of its past.” In truth, since outside meddling began it is clear that you don’t have a central state which is powerful throughout Iraq. Instead, you have a nation which is divided on religious and ethnic grounds, and other factors. The ongoing chaos in Egypt means that this powerful nation is also in a weakened state and the same applies to Libya and Tunisia. Indeed, currently the Middle East resembles a region which is weak and fragmenting quickly because of the continuing manipulation of events by outside forces.

Coptic Christians in Egypt face an uncertain future because of the power struggle between the Muslim Brotherhood, Salafists, and the return of the “old regime.” Ironically, the return of the “old regime” may happen after the presidential election concludes with a winner. Either way, it is clear that tensions will continue to erupt in major cities like Cairo and Alexandria. Therefore, the functioning central state and the army face an uphill struggle to regain the trust of many segments within Egyptian society. In the meantime, secularists, socialists, Coptic Christians, and other areas within Egyptian society, are worried about the growing influence of the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists – with Salafi Islamists being the main concern.

Recent events in Syria continue to highlight the precarious situation for Christian and Muslim minorities in this part of the Middle East. All fear the Iraq scenario because many different Sunni Islamic terrorist networks are spreading their hatred towards different religious minority communities. The plight of Middle Eastern Christianity and minority faiths outside of Islam and within Islam, all face a bleak future if the central government of Syria is defeated by the combined forces of leading Western and Sunni Islamic nations. Also, mainstream Sunni Islam faces the genuine threat of radical Sunni Islamic forces which have turned on moderate Sunni Muslim forces in northern Nigeria, Somalia, Pakistan, and in other nations.

Russia Today (RT) commented that “The Christian minority in Syria is facing a growing threat and thousands are being forced to flee their homes as they face harassment and discrimination from radical Islamist factions of the opposition.”

“At least 9,000 Christians from the western Syrian city of Qusayr were forced to seek refuge after an ultimatum from a local military chief of the armed opposition, Abdel Salam Harba, Fides News Agency,reports.”

Catholic priests in Qusayr have openly stated that they heard the threats against the Christian community from Sunni Islamic minarets who are ordering their flock to oppress and persecute Christians. A further 10,000 Christians reside near Qusayr in surrounding villages and clearly you may have a further exodus of Christians in this part of Syria.

Another interesting aspect of this is that it is reported that Christians are fleeing various different Sunni Islamic armed groups. This in turn may lead to future tensions between the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA) and a patchwork of different Sunni Islamic terrorist networks. The FSA is being supported by outside nations in order to overthrow the government of Syria and in the past this movement was also implicated in cleansing Christians and other minorities. However, just like in Bosnia, whereby one Muslim force was loyal to the Bosnian Serbs, this may be pointing to even more fragmentation. Therefore, if the central government is defeated then chaos will be the most likely outcome along with enormous sectarian bloodletting.

Nations that have instigated this chaos should be held accountable for the crimes they have unleashed against the people of Syria. Now, many different outside nations are fostering different terrorist groups and at the same time Saudi Arabia and Qatar are exporting their version of militant Sunni Islam. The Sunni Islamic terrorist networks in Iraq also loathe all minorities and moderate versions of Sunni Islam. For Christians and all minorities another Iraq is on the cards, whereby rich cultures and religious groups will be decimated because of the folly of outside nations.

It is noticeable that Christians are fleeing to Syrian government controlled areas in order to be protected by the Syrian armed forces. Of course, this fact will not mean anything to leaders in America, the United Kingdom, and France. The same applies to the mass media, shameful human rights so-called organizations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, and international political leaders; which are fueling sectarianism and encouraging a bombing campaign against the government of Syria.

All leading major religious figures in Syria have spoken out against outside meddling but their voices are being ignored. Instead, the flow of money from the proxies of America, keep on supporting all “the dark forces” in Syria. The Russian Federation is doing everything in its power to reach a peaceful solution and to reduce the bloodshed. However, given past history, then the future looks bleak for Syria unless friendly nations really support this nation politically, economically, and militarily.

President Bashar al-Assad introduced political and constitutional reforms during the crisis, which is very rare given the seriousness of the situation. Bashar al-Assad also welcomed observers from the United Nations and clearly he is open to changes which will benefit Syria. Despite this, outside nations have done everything in their power by manipulating the media, spreading poverty by enforcing an economic blockade, funding terrorist organizations, sending covert operatives, and using foreign nations to build up the FSA and other sinister forces. The upshot of all this is more violence and carnage and now just like in Iraq different minorities are fleeing radical Sunni Islamists and criminal elements within the opposition.

 

http://www.rt.com/news/syria-christians-exodus-opposition-778/

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

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Iraq and Syria blighted by terrorism: United States failed state domino system

Iraq and Syria blighted by terrorism: United States “failed state domino system”

Murad Makhmudov, Boutros Hussein and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The United States led invasion of Iraq and the dismantling of the main political party created many enormous vacuums. Over one hundred thousand citizens have been killed since this period and like usual the United States enters a conflict and then after creating “forces it can’t control,” it then leaves by putting enormous spin on reality. However, the United States learns little because today individuals like Hillary Clinton and Susan Rice are on the frontline in spreading disinformation about Syria in order to unleash fresh carnage on this secular nation.

In Washington and within many so-called “think-tanks” which do little apart from “think,” they can’t get past the “Iran bogeyman” which is largely invented by hysterical individuals. Alongside this are Saudi Arabia and Salafists which are spreading their negative influence throughout the Middle East. Indeed, given the fact that major players like the Russian Federation, China, Iraq, Iran, and many others, are all against the belligerent parties in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey, which are spreading terrorism to Syria. It just highlights the enormous “blinkers” on powerful individuals and “think-tanks” which are blighted by decades of self-made delusions

The military armed forces of Syria are dying in order to protect the independence of their “beloved country.” However, the armed forces of America have been betrayed by their own government and media outlets which don’t question reality. Military personnel in America and Syria joined the armed forces to protect their respective nations from outside nations which threaten their respective sovereignty.

Yet in Iraq the biggest international Sunni Islamic jihadist networks came from Saudi Arabia. These Islamists entered Iraq in order to kill American soldiers, kill Shia Muslims, persecute Christian minorities, and to spread a draconian version of Sunni Islam which deems other thought patterns to be un-Islamic. Similarly, American forces were “lambs to the slaughter” in Afghanistan because Sunni Islamic terrorist networks had countless bases in north-West Pakistan. Therefore, just like September 11 was mainly done by Saudi nationals, American civilians and military personnel were mainly being killed because of their so-called allies in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

However, despite everything, nothing is learnt because Saudi Arabia and Qatar are funding terrorists, mercenaries, and covert operatives, against secular Syria. Strangely, if the Sunni Islamic nations of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar get their way, then the winner will be radical Sunni Islamic networks which will impose new draconian laws on the people of Syria. Therefore, the Sunni Islamic networks which fought against the military of the United States in Iraq are now being supported by a strange alliance of America, France, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Israel, the United Kingdom, and Turkey.

The losers in Syria will be all Syrians who support independence, religious freedom, modernization, and a strong powerful nation state. Alawites, Christians, and other minorities, have much to fear and the same applies to women who will suffer greatly. In Free Syrian Army (FSA) held areas minority communities have fled their brutality in order to be protected by the armed forces of Syria. Indeed, the FSA which is a terrorist/mercenary fighting force is even using Christian churches for being military stockpiles. This will not concern Saudi Arabia which supports killing all apostates from Islam to Christianity but it should raise serious issues outside this most draconian nation in the world – however, just like September 11 and the reality of Iraq, everything will probably be swept under the carpet.

In Iraq this nation is still blighted by various Sunni Islamic terrorist networks which just like in Syria are a threat to mainstream Sunni Islam and all progressive forces. Islamists are opposed to all forms of moderation, critical thinking, and thought patterns outside their fundamentalist mind-set. Therefore, mainstream Sunni Muslim religious leaders are also attacked and killed by Islamists. This can be seen by Islamists who have killed moderate Sunni Muslim individuals in northern Nigeria, southern Russia, Iraq, Pakistan, and in other nations like in Somalia.

The upshot of meddling in Afghanistan and supporting radical Sunni Islamists in the 1980s and 1990s can be seen by September 11 and the creation of the Taliban. If this was the “right side of history” then something is wrong. After all, supporting and training pathological killers in Afghanistan in the 1980s only furthered the cause of the most dangerous and reactionary ideology on this planet. However, in this period of history the Taliban, Al Qaeda, and other unsavory movements, were supported by policy makers in America, the United Kingdom, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and other nations.

September 11 was about an organization which wanted to bite the hand that had trained it and fed it in the past. Nobody can doubt that the CIA and other operatives from nations like the United Kingdom and Pakistan had trained radical Sunni Islamic networks in Afghanistan. Yet after September 11 “the two convenient forces” now clashed in Afghanistan and Iraq despite America being open to political dialogue with the Taliban.

However, under the “Obama doctrine” the United States is once more on the side of terrorist networks. Therefore, former Libyan jihadists who went to Iraq to kill American forces were now supported against Gaddafi because of a “marriage of convenience.” Not surprisingly, many Gaddafi loyalists and black Africans have been massacred in this nation and today Libya is nothing more than a patchwork of various militias whereby the central state is extremely weak.

Despite this, the same Sunni Islamic networks and Western political leaders in America, France, and the United Kingdom, are once more working in tandem against secular Syria. Of course, these Western nations know that Christians, Shabaks, Yazidis, and Mandeaens have suffered greatly along with the entire population in Iraq. Similarly, outside meddling in Afghanistan in the 1980s is still the main factor behind the crisis in this county today and the same applies to the destabilization of north-west Pakistan. Therefore, it is essential that Syria is supported in order to stop the “failed state domino system” from weakening another nation.

In the last few days in Iraq many Shia Muslim pilgrims have been slaughtered because of several terrorist attacks. These people were just innocent Shia Muslim pilgrims who wanted to visit important mosques and pray to God. Sunni Islamists didn’t care if they killed innocent Shia Muslims or Sunni Muslims during these terrorist attacks despite the sectarian nature. In their world, all Muslims and non-Muslims are deemed to be infidels if they don’t follow their rigid path based on indoctrination, persecution, enslavement of women, and denying all forms of liberty. However, these very same Islamists are now being used against secular Syria because of “a new marriage of convenience” but just like in Afghanistan in the past, you can’t just “switch off” this “marriage of convenience.”

Political leaders in Iraq fully understand this deadly reality because the threat of terrorism is a daily reality. Not surprisingly, the leadership of Iraq is against outside meddling in Syria. After all, in the last five days over one hundred Shia Muslim pilgrims have been killed by the “Islamic State of Iraq” which is a patchwork of various terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda.

In the Shula district of Iraq innocent Shia Muslim pilgrims were killed by the brutal forces of Sunni Islamic terrorism. Ahmed Maati, a police officer who saw the carnage, commented that “We rushed to the scene, there were dismembered bodies, shoes, plastic bags, women’s robes left all around, and people were screaming everywhere.”

This same evil is now being supported by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey, against secular Syria. Statements in Washington, London, and Paris, are instigating this mayhem along with major media organizations. Therefore, another “marriage of convenience” threatens to overwhelm Syria and its rich mosaic of various Muslim, Christian, and Druze communities.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in past meddling in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. Now the same nations and patchwork of “axis of evil” are intent on dismantling Syria. In each case the scenario is more terrorism, sectarianism, persecution of various ethnic/religious groups, deterioration of the rights of women, and failed states which no longer have complete sovereignty over the whole of the nation state. Despite this, the same nations that belong to this “axis of evil,” along with the same media outlets and institutions involved in covert areas, are all clambering to destroy the rich mosaic of Syria.

Iraq fully understands the pain and suffering caused by terrorist networks and for this reason the political leaders of this country are against outside meddling in Syria. It is time to end the “failed state domino” and to protect diversity rather than supporting the forces which seek to enslave diversity.

 

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

 

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Islamists in Libya now targeting Westerners

Islamists in Libya now targeting Westerners

Murad Makhmudov, Joachim de Villiers and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

In the last few weeks increasing uneasiness in Libya is gripping elites who worked closely with America, France, and the United Kingdom, in toppling Gaddafi. This uneasiness is based on attacks against Westerners in Libya. The attacks have been limited in scope and don’t have the hallmarks of major sophistication at this stage. Despite this, these warning signs are triggering alarm bells within Libya and in nations which supported the uprising against Gaddafi.

Libya is still blighted by the reality of vast numbers of different militias whereby some have political aims, while others are based on special interests, regionalism, monetary factors, and so forth. In truth, you don’t really have a centralized state which is functioning throughout the country but clearly the situation doesn’t resemble Iraq after the demise of Saddam Hussein. This isn’t surprising because the various different Islamist movements have different thought patterns and links.

Unlike in Iraq part of the opposition in the Libyan uprising came from Islamist networks which had fought against America and its allies in Iraq.  Therefore, you clearly have a pragmatic angle within the patchwork of different movements. This is a “safety cushion” for leading Western nations which supported the uprising because radical Sunni Islamic networks and Western forces worked together in Libya.

Also, unlike in Iraq you don’t have a sectarian angle and the same applies to nationalism. After all, the Kurds currently control northern Iraq despite various different ethnic groups residing within the Kurdish heartland. More important, the sectarian angle doesn’t exist in Libya and this in itself reduces the flashpoint factor based on different sects within Islam.

In saying this, radical Sunni Islamists may turn against moderate Sunni Islam in Libya just like what happened in Iraq. However, even if this happens it doesn’t compare to the sectarian angle in Iraq. Another important feature is that the American government is clearly open to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Syria. Therefore, regional outside meddling is less potent than the geopolitical and religious angle which applies to Iraq.

The real “vacuum” which will enable Islamists to grow in power which are anti-Western and anti-moderate Sunni Islam, is the failed state scenario. Following on from the failed state factor will be poverty, indoctrination, bitterness, and other negative forces which will play into the hands of radical Islamists who want to turn Libya into a fundamentalist Islamic state.

Tara Bahrampour stated in The Washington Post that “The attacks included a bombing last week outside the U.S. Consulate in the eastern city of Benghazi and a rocket-propelled grenade attack there on a convoy carrying the British ambassador, which injured two bodyguards.”

“Explosions have also targeted offices of the International Committee of the Red Cross and a U.N. vehicle, as well as British Embassy cars visiting the southern city of Sabha last week.”

Further down in the article it is stated that “Libyan authorities are investigating the attacks, said Othman Bensasi, director of administration for the Transitional National Council, which has run Libya for the past year. He said there was no evidence that foreigners were involved.”

“We think it is fundamentalist Islamic groups,” he said. “They don’t want stability. They don’t want democracy.”

The ousting of Gaddafi led to many massacres against Gaddafi loyalists and black Africans. Even today you have untold numbers of people being held in deplorable conditions and this “taints” the opposition movement and Western nations which supported the uprising. However, irrespective of the rights and wrongs of what happened in Libya it is now essential to rebuild the infrastructure and to increase the power of the central state.

It is clear that the various Islamic groups in Libya are extremely divided because the majority favor positive ties with Western nations and support the political process. However, a militant fringe remains and given the prowess of radical Sunni Islamic movements to enter “failed states” and to exploit political vacuums then the situation remains dangerous. Therefore, it is essential that measures are taken which favor the political system and the rule of law.

Yet the history of Libya, vastness of this nation, the reality of various different militias, powerful regionalism, and other factors, means that a political vacuum currently exists. If Libya is to prosper from the brutal war which took place, then central forces and institutions need to grow quickly. Also, it is pivotal that educational institutions are supported and that economic investment is put into Libya which reduces poverty.

Libya deserves peace after so many individuals on both sides were killed and this nation also needs an independent judicial system which prevents the abuse of power. However, currently Libya is still in transition and the future remains in the balance.

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Oka Shikanosuke and Henri Rousseau: Art based on grace and tranquility

Oka Shikanosuke and Henri Rousseau: Art based on grace and tranquility

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Oka Shikanosuke (1898-1978) took a familiar path for many Japanese artists in this period by moving to France in 1924. The impression of Paris and the French cultural scene must have enchanted Oka Shikanosuke during this period of his life because he stayed until 1939. Artists like Henri Rousseau and Odilon Redon influenced him greatly and the connection between Oka Shikanosuke and Henri Rousseau is visually powerful.

Henri Rousseau (1844-1910) was born in Northern France and from a young age he was fascinated by the arts. If circumstances had been more fortunate then he would have focused more heavily on art and music but his family background was working-class. Therefore, from a financial point of view he faced many restraints. However, his background enabled him to focus on art in a different way because becoming an artist was never going. This applies to the reality of elitism, monetary issues, being outside of powerful circles, and other restraints.

Henri Rousseau therefore was free to teach himself and to follow his own path. This was very liberating despite the hardships and difficulties he faced. Technical wise he also focused on a way that suited his logic and style. Therefore, he would paint from the top of the canvas first and likewise he would paint the colors singularly.

Dieter Wanczura, www.artelino.com, comments about Henri Rousseau that Somehow Henri Rousseau got the attention of some professional avant-garde artists. The discussion whether they took him serious or if he was only some kind of exotic amusement for them fills many books. Toulouse-Lautrec, Edgar Degas, Odilon Redon, Auguste Renoir, Paul Gauguin and later Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque and Wassily Kandinsky certainly appreciated his works.”

“It is astonishing and impressive at the same time how this man from the working class and without any academic art training was able to find a style of his own and how he was immune against adopting anything from the avant-garde artists around him. From an outsider who finally got some limited acceptance, you would expect some eager readiness to absorb the styles of the established art world or to experiment with the trendy styles of his avant-garde comrades like impressionism, post-impressionism, fauvism or cubism. Not so for Henri. And this makes him so unique.”

Henri Rousseau overcame many obstacles and more important, he remained true to himself and didn’t suffer from an inferiority complex. This meant that he felt comfortable with the art he produced and understood the power of his own methodology.

This aspect about Henri Rousseau must have intrigued Oka Shikanosuke because in many ways he was a unique artist. Oka Shikanosuke will also have been extremely familiar with Japanese, Chinese, and Western art movements and this will have applied to past history and during his lifetime. It could well be that Oka Shikanosuke was attracted by the uniqueness of Henri Rousseau and that this also created internal freedom for himself.

The path of Oka Shikanosuke was a million miles away from Henri Rousseau when it came to education and learning at famous institutions. During his time in France he met many Japanese artists like Tsuguharu Fujita and many more who were connected to the Ecole de Paris. Also, during his stay in France he taught himself techniques related to oil painting.

Oka Shikanosuke clearly admired Henri Rousseau and other artists like Odilon Redon. Indeed, it is clear that many landscape and still life pieces of art by Oka Shikanosuke were tributes to Henri Rousseau. The love that Oka Shikanosuke felt for his art is witnessed by him introducing Henri Rousseau to a much wider audience in Japan. Suzuki Tsuneshi (1930-2000) also helped greatly because of being the owner of the Pola Orbis Group which built the elegant and vibrant Pola Collection. Therefore, the relationship between Oka Shikanosuke and Suzuki Tsuneshi must be given great credit for highlighting the richness of Henri Rousseau to the Japanese public.

The artist Oka Shikanosuke is a notable artist in his own right and in 1972 he was rewarded for the many areas of his art work, and how he helped so many individuals during his lifetime. Therefore, he received the Order of Cultural Merit which was richly deserved. Many aspects of the art of both Henri Rousseau and Oka Shikanosuke are based on grace and tranquility irrespective of the theme that the art work is based on. They both belong to different generations and culture however through art everything was bridged and this can be seen by the art work of both artists. Oka Shikanosuke took Henri Rousseau to heart despite never meeting in the flesh because of the generation gap.

 

Oka Shikanosuke  – Image 2,4,6, and 8 by Oka Shikanosuke

Henri Rousseau      Image 1,3,5,7, and 9 by Henri Rousseau

 

http://www.polamuseum.or.jp/english/exhibition/03_17.html

http://www.artelino.com/articles/henri_rousseau.asp

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2012 in EUROPE, Japan

 

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