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Monthly Archives: March 2012

Japanese art and Keisai Eisen: the early life of this acclaimed ukiyo-e artist

Japanese art and Keisai Eisen: the early life of this acclaimed ukiyo-e artist

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Keisai Eisen (1790-1848) learnt to be independent from an early age and he chose a path which was fraught with economic danger. In a sense, Keisai Eisen represents aspects of “the real Edo period” for individuals who resided in big cities in this period of history. This applies to many deaths within his family, poverty, uncertainty, and amidst all this chaos you had natural raw energy which manifested itself through the arts.

It is difficult for people in the modern world to connect with the reality of the old world. After all, infant mortality in Tokyo, Paris, Manchester, and all important cities in this period of history, was deplorable. Therefore, with the average lifespan being much shorter and the central state providing little in the way of cushions to help, then individuals had no time to dwell.

Of course, in all societies you always had “a small minority” who could enjoy the material comforts of this world. However, for individuals like Keisai Eisen, then the real world was about death, hardship, and seeing the world for what it is. Yet this didn’t mean “weakness” or “pity,” on the contrary, for Keisai Eisen this led to him being independent because he refused economic help from family relatives when he was a young man.

Keisai Eisen was born in the district of Hoshigaoka in Tokyo and today this applies to the Nagatacho area which is part of the Chiyoda district. His father, Ikeda Masabe Shigeharu, was a very interesting character. He was a low ranking warrior who enjoyed the finer parts of culture. This applies to enjoying poetry, tea ceremonies, reading, poetry, and writing. Therefore, this must have rubbed off on Keisai Eisen and indeed it was through his father’s friend that he apprenticed under Namiki Gohei.

Namiki Gohei was a kabuki/kyogen writer and when Keisai Eisen was a young adult he had hoped to become a professional kyogen writer. Kyogen applies to a form of traditional theatre in Japan. However, once more death within his family would impact on his dream and after this he focused on becoming independent and turned to the world of ukiyo-e and other means to survive.

Turning the clock back to when Keisai Eisen was a child then at the age of six he was adopted by his stepmother following the death of his mother. Therefore, when he was thinking of becoming a kyogen writer events turned against him because of death once more. This applies to the death of his father and stepmother in the same year when he had turned twenty years of age.

Given the circumstances of his reality and with having three sisters, then Keisai Eisen abandoned his dream of becoming a kyogen writer. Also, he bravely refused financial support from relatives who had wanted to help him. This indicates strongly that he was tenacious, independent, extremely determined, and pragmatic. After all, he had been dealt a difficult “deck of cards” but despite this he refused “any aces” which may help him in order that he could support himself.

Keisai Eisen distinguished himself in the field of ukiyo-e but his literature is also highly regarded. Indeed, some individuals believe that he was a ghostwriter for Tamenaga Shunsui and Yoshimi. These two writers of ninjou-bon (stories focused on ordinary people) were popular during their time but this theory is still openly debated. However, it highlights the quality of his writing to be linked with these two individuals irrespective of 100 per cent certainty.

Irrespective of what happened in the later years of his life it is clear that events during his young adulthood impacted greatly on Keisai Eisen. Also, the choices he picked when he was twenty years old, despite enormous adversity, were very admirable.

His artistic legacy is abundantly clear because he created many stunning pieces of art.

http://www.toshidama-japanese-prints.com/item_171/Eisen-Young-Woman-Walking-Under-an-Umbrella.htm

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

http://toshidama.blogspot.com/

http://www.artelino.com/articles/keisai-eisen.asp

 
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Posted by on March 8, 2012 in Japan

 

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Ari TV is the Voice of Sendai: Responding to the tragedy of the tsunami by being tenacious

Ari TV is the Voice of Sendai: Responding to the tragedy of the tsunami by being tenacious

Pierre Leblanc and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Ari TV (http://www.ari-tv.jp/top.html) is a clear reminder about the tenacity of the Tohoku region which was badly hit by the devastating tsunami of March 11, 2011. Therefore, with the first anniversary getting nearer to March 11, 2012, it is important to highlight this media group for all the positive things that they have done.

Since the devastating 9.0-magnitude earthquake which unleashed the brutal tsunami, this media group dug deep in order to undercover the “real stories.” This applies to highlighting the determination of the Tohoku region and how the people of Sendai have responded.

Also, because Ari TV is based in Sendai then clearly this media group can connect with local people. More important, unlike many mass media outlets who often enter and highlight an important story which is happening in Sendai, Ari TV is their around the clock. This fact enables Ari TV to express the “real feelings” of the local community and clearly strong bonds have been developed whereby this media group is informed at all times about local events, individuals who are fantastic role models, companies who are focused on regeneration, and organizations trying to help.

Ari TV (http://en.re-tohoku.jp/) also understood the international concerns after the devastating tsunami. Therefore, the introduction of the Tohoku Revival Calendar which is highlighted above was a nice touch because you can read continuous updates in English and Japanese. This aspect also highlights rebirth because clearly Ari TV is developing new international links.

It is equally vital that Ari TV is supported commercially because you have so much work to do in Sendai and throughout the Tohoku region. After all, sadly, you still have thousands of missing people in early 2012 and this aspect highlights the complete devastation of March 11, 2011. This also means that the nightmare goes on for many because you have no “closure” and “special grave” to visit and connect.

Therefore, it is essential that the local government, the central government, local businesses, businesses throughout Japan, and others, support Ari TV and all the positive work they do around the clock. After all, Ari TV can reach “local people” because this media group is fully interwoven with Sendai and the Tohoku region. Also, Sendai is the main city in Tohoku with regards to population and a healthy Sendai is vital for the regional economy.

In the photo above which was published on March 2, 2012, Ari TV is highlighting the regeneration of a shopping mall. However, unlike the glitzy areas of modern day Japan the brutal reality of the tsunami is visible in this image. Yet despite the clear limitations currently available to this shopping mall and having to move into housed shopping containers; locals don’t view the same image because to them this is a sign of rebirth and the start of a long process to normality.

Takano from Ari TV comments that “The big revival shopping area “South Sanriku SanSan Mall” opened in South Sanriku town, Miyagi, on February 25th. These shops are temporarily housed in shipping containers. The name comes from the people’s desire to make a mall filled with smiles and energy (which is) bright like the shining sun.”

In an early article by Modern Tokyo Times the “Suzuki Farm Harvest” was highlighted and this applies to the tenaciousness of Mr. Suzuki (photo above). He fully understood that salt water had damaged the fields and it appeared impossible to regenerate in such a short period of time, if at all. However, Mr. Suzuki was adamant that he would overcome all the obstacles in front of him and this set of a chain reaction whereby local people gave him the support he needed.

This moving story is one of many by Ari TV and this is why this media group needs support. After all, Ari TV is part of the community that they represent and because they are based “on the ground,” then they can highlight unique events.

Please support Ari TV by watching their many programs in Japanese providing you are a Japanese speaker. Also, if you main language is English or it is your second language then please view the Tohoku Revival CalendarIrrespective of language, Ari TV can build bridges throughout the local community and wider Tohoku region and also internationally. Therefore, Ari TV is “the voice of Sendai.”

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

http://www.ari-tv.jp/top.html Ari TV

http://ja-jp.facebook.com/aritv.sendai – 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

 

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Tokyo fashion in Shinjuku: Marui One is amazing for Lolita, Kawaii, & other unique styles

Tokyo fashion in Shinjuku: Marui One is amazing for Lolita, Kawaii, & other unique styles

Sarah Deschamps and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

 

In Tokyo the names of Laforet Harajuku, Shibuya 109, and Marui One, stand out for being amazing stores to visit when it comes to fashion. If you adore kawaii fashion, Goth styles, punk, Gothloli, Lolita, Visual Kei, and so forth, then Mauri One in Shinjuku is a must. After all, the choice available is amazing and the environment blends well with the many boutiques which provide fantastic styles.

Famous boutiques which have enhanced the Tokyo fashion vibe can be found in Marui One because clearly they understand the significance of this major department store in the heart of Shinjuku. Indeed, it is thanks to some of these boutiques that the fashion industry in Japan is so famous internationally when it comes to unique styles. After all, many of the boutiques in Marui One have enabled the unique fashion trends of Tokyo to expand internationally.

Of course, the same boutiques can be found in other department stores and are located in many other cities. However, it is the unique fashion angle of Tokyo which attracts the younger generation from all over Japan and internationally. Yes, other major cities like Osaka and Kobe are blessed with stunning fashion districts and often alternative trends have begun in Osaka. Yet internationally it is the streets of Harajuku, Shibuya, and Shinjuku, which hit the headlines when it comes to youth culture, subcultures, and the latest trends in fashionable Tokyo.

In fairness, it is a little harsh on Kansai because it was this area that was the initial bedrock of Lolita fashion in Japan but internationally Tokyo gets more international attention than Osaka. Early boutiques which began this movement many decades ago applies to Milk and Pretty (known as Angelic Pretty in time), Pink House, The Stars Shine Bright, and Metamorphose temps de fille.

Therefore, turning back to Marui One it is clear that the strong background of some of these boutiques have enhanced the growing reputation of this department store in Tokyo.  Marui One also took a unique approach and collectively it is working like “a dream ticket.” Given this, stunning boutiques including Angelic Pretty; Metamorphose; Baby, The Stars Shines Bright; Alice and The Pirates; h.Naoto; Jesus Diamante; and many others, moved into Marui One because they understood the dynamics of this amazing store.

Angelic Pretty comments on their website that “Angelic Pretty provides adorable clothing covered in lace, frills and ribbons like that of the fairytale princess you dreamed about as a little girl. We want girls to never lose sight of that dream — And this is a brand for girls who want to keep that dream alive.”

Metamorphose comments that Metamorphose is an adorable brand of Lolita fashion made for everyone, best described as EGL or Elegant Gothic Lolita.”

“Almost everyone has the desire to “transform” one’s self, be it into an angel, someone who is more elegant, or even back to the time they were a little girl. With this concept in mind, we created the Metamorphose brand. In order to assist you in your “transformation”, while not being a slave to the current fashion, we continue to conceive cute EGL fashion.”

In truth, the companies highlighted in this article are real treasures because they stand out for being unique and providing a different angle to the diverse Tokyo fashion scene. Therefore, if you want to feel the vibes and unique styles of Tokyo then a visit to Marui One is a must because you have so many different styles to view. Also, the quality of the clothing stands out and the color schemes, creative angle, and unique thought patterns are clear for all to see.

In an earlier article by Modern Tokyo Times it was stated that fashion at Marui One applies to “…fantasy fashion, romantic designs, modern kimono, Gothic Lolita, Sweet Lolita, dreamy fashion, casual styles, visual kei, and other amazing trends. Therefore, Marui One is like “a mirror” of parts of Harajuku because this store is internationally famous. Marui have many different stores in Shinjuku (and throughout Tokyo) but Marui One stands out because of its individualism.”  

Therefore, if you adore fashion then a visit to Marui One is most rewarding.

http://www.babyssb.co.jp/  Baby, The Stars Shine Bright

http://www.angelicpretty.com/en/ Angelic Pretty

http://www.metamorphose.gr.jp/english/ Metamorphose

http://www.boz.ne.jp/ Atelier Boz

http://www.hnaoto.com/ h.Naoto

http://www.jesusdiamante.com/ Jesus Diamante

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com  

 
 
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Posted by on March 3, 2012 in Japan

 

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Japanese art and Fujishima Takeji: stunning artist from Kagoshima

Japanese art and Fujishima Takeji: stunning artist from Kagoshima

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Fujishima Takeji was born in (1867-1943) Kagoshima and during his informative years he learnt brushwork techniques in 1882 from Togaku Hirayama. However, in 1884 Fujishima Takeji moved to Tokyo and at first he studied traditional Japanese painting under Gyokusho Kawabata but the pull of Western-style art was pulling away at him. Therefore, he turned to Western-style paintings and studied under Hosui Yamamoto and Yukihiko Soyama.

The 1880s was a period of enormous development for Fujishima Takeji and clearly Togaku Hirayama had given him a firm base to develop. Not surprisingly this young gifted artist was gaining in esteem and the art critic and novelist, Ogai Mori, was deeply impressed by his art. This proved to be very fruitful because Ogai Mori was extremely influential because he knew people in the right circles.

In the 1890s academia would become his backbone and this proved a wise choice because it opened up new doors. At first he began to teach in Mie Prefecture in 1893 but the real breakthrough occurred when Seiki Kuroda influenced him to become an assistant professor in Tokyo. Therefore, in 1896 he taught at the Tokyo Art School and this applies to the Western Painting Department.

In Europe Fujishima Takeji is known for developing and enhancing Romanticism and Impressionism within the Japanese art movement called yogaIn time he would become influenced by Art NouveauHowever, his work within the yoga (Western-style) art movement in Japan suited his thinking because by the mid-1880s he had chosen this path when he studied under Hosui Yamamoto and Yukihiko Soyama.

The Marubeni Art Collection comments that “In 1905, Fujishima traveled to Europe and studied under Fernand Cormon at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts de Paris in France and Carolus-Duran, President of the Academie de France in Italy. Cormon’s speciality was historical paintings, while Duran excelled in portraiture.”

 

On his return, in 1910, Fujishima was nominated Professor of Tokyo Art School and became a member of the Imperial Art Academy (the Teikoku Bijutsu-in), as well as a member of the jury for its exhibitions, known in abbreviations at the Tei-ten. In 1937, he received the very first Order of Culture (Bunka Kunsho), a decoration given by the Government to those who have contributed greatly to the development of art, science and other fields of culture, along with Saburosuke Okada.”

The life of Fujishima Takeji was extremely structured and this applies to his teachers, entering academia, and having a firm direction. Also, the window of opportunity because of the changing times during this period of Japanese history meant that his natural move away from traditional Japanese art was easily obtainable. This applies to the artistic climate in Japan during his informative years and development stage.

Fujishima Takeji is rightly acclaimed for the richness of his art and the images in this article are meant to encourage people to delve into his art work.

http://www.vincentvangoghclaudemonet.org/artist/Fujishima_takeji.html

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

 
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Posted by on March 3, 2012 in Japan

 

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Japan tourism and culture: Hakone Jinja, historical treasure museum and Mount Fuji

Japan tourism and culture: Hakone Jinja, historical treasure museum and Mount Fuji

James Jomo and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Hakone is a very popular tourist destination because you have so many places to visit and the views of Mount Fuji in certain locations are extremely stunning. Throughout Hakone you have many museums and cultural wise the area is very rich in history. This certainly applies to Hakone Jinja (Hakone Shrine) whereby the Shinto faith blends naturally with nature. Also, the historical treasure museum based on the rich history of Hakone Jinja is certainly worth visiting because you have several amazing gems to view.

Hakone Jinja (Hakone Gongen) highlights all the natural beauty of Shinto and how nature and the gods work in unison in this religion. The backdrop of Lake Ashi, the mountain landscape and Mount Fuji breaking out from certain vantage points is absolutely stunning. Therefore, you can feel the strong connection between nature and the mystical charms of the Shinto faith.

The exact date when the foundation of Hakone Shrine was created remains debatable but clearly it dates back to the eighth century. This means that this amazing religious place was built during the Nara Period (710-794) which is fitting for such an important shrine. After all, while Kyoto may hog the limelight for being significant in Japanese culture the truth of the matter is that the Nara Period is where high culture began. This isn’t undermining the exquisite beauty and richness of Kyoto but clearly the majesty of Kyoto built on the firm foundations of the Nara Period.

Mystical holy men in the eighth century called yamabushi believed that gods dwelled in mountains that were extremely steep. Therefore, by dwelling in the same places it was hoped that ascetic practices fused with the dwelling gods would lead to magical powers and greater knowledge. Not surprisingly, Hakone Jinja with its ideal location and mysterious majesty was a place where the dwelling gods may be found according to the traditions of the yamabushi.

During the ninth century new forces were entering the Japanese psyche because Esoteric Buddhism from China was making an impact. This notably applies to Kukai (774-835) and Saicho (767-822) and once more the importance of the mountain landscape is abundantly obvious. Therefore, a fusion began to take place between the Shinto faith and its animistic nature alongside esoteric Buddhism in parts of Japan.

Mountain asceticism under Kukai in Wakayama was also powerful. Meanwhile,  in eastern Japan, and this notably applies to Hakone and Nikko, the same asceticism could be found despite the thought patterns being different. According to history Priest Mangan travelled extensively to spread the Buddhist faith and in 757 he reached Hakone and during his stay very powerful events occurred in his life. This applies to having many encounters with the yamabushi during his three years in Hakone and learning new ascetic ways. However, the real lasting legacy applies to a revelation that Priest Mangan had.

In this revelation which occurred during a dream the fusion of many ideas manifested itself and the outcome was very important. The revelation in his dream stated that “Your heart is pure and clean. Let’s deliver mankind with the grace of Shinto and Buddhist deities.” This revelation impacted greatly on him and he notified the emperor who in turn valued the meaning fully. Therefore, the emperor notified Priest Mangan to build a shrine at once in order to fulfill the revelation and hence this is the origin of this holy Shinto shrine.

Issues related to when the foundations first began or if Priest Mangan incorporated older Shinto shrines remains open. However, major changes did occur during the stay of Priest Mangan and from this date onwards many powerful individuals in Japanese history understood the power of this place.

If you visit the small treasure museum associated with the Hakone Jinja then important individuals in Japanese history like Emperor Hanayama (968-1008); Yoritomo Minamoto (1147-1199); Toyotomi Hideyoshi who died in 1598; Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616); and many others, will be highlighted. The treasure museum may only be small but you have many gems inside and the images are extremely beautiful.

Indeed, maybe the mysticism of Shintoism is at play because irrespective of language constraints and the size of the treasure museum; providing you stand back and take in what you visualize then the visit will stay with you. This notably applies to the five items which have been ranked with having national Important Cultural Property.

Hakone is an extremely beautiful part of Japan and takes only 90 minutes by a special express train from Shinjuku. Your options and the special Hakone transport pass from the Odakyu train company means that your stay is convenient. Also, you can utilize the many forms of transport which are available when you buy this special transport pass.

Hakone is situated in the Fuji Hakone Izu National Park and the entire region is a tourist paradise whereby stunning nature is in all directions and you have so many cultural treasures to view. This notably applies to the Narukawa Art Museum for modern Japanese paintings; the Hakone Open Air Museum; the Pola Museum of Art; Venetian Glass Museum; Suzuhiro Corp. Kamaboko Museum; volcanically active Owakudani geysers; Hakone Botanical Garden of Wetlands; Odawara Castle Donjon; Local History Museum; Museum of Saint Exupery and the Little Pince in HakoneHakone Old Takaido Road Museum; Hakone Mononofu-no-Sato Art Museum; Hakone Art Museum; Honma Yosegi Museum; Kanagawa Prefectural Museum of Natural History; and you have a wealth of parks and special walks to go on.

In Hakone you have countless options and of course if you stay several days to a week then you won’t be disappointed because the countless amazing views will refresh you throughout your stay. The religious angle of the Shinto faith and cultural importance of the entire area fuses naturally with the stunning landscape.

http://www.odakyu.jp/english/qtours/hakone_course2.html

http://www.odakyu.jp/english/freepass/hakone_01.html

http://www.hakone.or.jp/english/index.html

http://www.odakyu.jp/english/rc/index.html

http://www.hokusai-kan.com/treasure01.htm

ALL IMAGES BELONG TO MODERN TOKYO TIMES

http://moderntokyotimes.com

 
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Posted by on March 1, 2012 in Japan

 

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