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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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Japan tourism and Wakayama: Negoro-ji and stunning Buddhist temples

Japan tourism and Wakayama: Negoro-ji and stunning Buddhist temples

Walter Sebastian and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Wakayama prefecture is a perfect place to visit for tourists who adore culture, architecture, the richness of Buddhism, the indigenous faith of Shintoism, stunning beaches, an amazing castle, and because of multiple other factors. Also, the closeness of Wakayama to Nara, Osaka, Kobe, and Kyoto, means that the entire Kansai region is a wonder to behold. Therefore, Kansai is a perfect location for tourists to enjoy the uniqueness of Japan.

If individuals are fascinated by the richness of Buddhism, Japanese architecture, culture, history, and adore stunning mountains, then the Negoro-ji complex of Buddhist temples is a must place to visit. After all, the pace of life in the modern world for many people is too quick and quality time is needed in order to refresh the mind, soul, and to connect with history, art, and culture.

Negoro-ji also further compliments the religious aspect of Wakayama because Koyasan and the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage routes in the Kii Peninsula are fantastic places to visit. The marvel of Wakayama is truly amazing because “another heart beats” strongly in special areas where nature, religion, history, culture, art, and other positive aspects of life can be found in abundance.

Negoro-ji in history is also extremely fascinating because the foundations of a major retreat for the Buddhist faith began in 1087. The individuals who laid the foundation stones for this amazing area were En no Gyoja and Hofuku-Choja. Indeed, the original name of the area was Hofuku-ji and given the natural beauty of the Katsuragi Mountains then it is clear why the area was picked.

Kakuban (1095-1143) is a very important person in the rise of the region because this holy Buddhist leader of the Shingon sect left a complex legacy. He revered Kukai (774-835) who was the founder of Shingon Buddhism but the times of Kukai and Kakuban were very different because divisions had emerged within Shingon Buddhism. Therefore, while the importance of Kakuban can’t be denied for increasing the significance of Negoro-ji, it is also factual that schisms increased during his time because of many factors.

Despite this, Kakuban was focused on the future therefore he laid the foundation stone for the construction of Enmyo-ji and Jingu-ji. These two new buildings were built within the Negoro-ji temple grounds. After the death of Kakuban the Negoro-ji area continued to expand and thousands of temples were built in and around this Buddhist complex.

Therefore, for hundreds of years the chants of Buddhism were powerful and many amazing temples were built. Also, Japanese gardens will have enhanced the serenity and the mountain peaks were deemed to be sacred. This period of history also witnessed the growing power of high culture within elite communities and for several hundred years after the death of Kakuban the future of Negoro-ji looked promising.

However, just like Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi also clashed with Buddhist sects who had military prowess and political ambitions. In 1585 the forces of Hideyoshi burnt nearly every temple to the ground apart from the odd exception and the main Pagoda surviving the devastation. Therefore, in this period of history in Japan it is clear that the central forces of Nobunaga and Hideyoshi feared the power base of several Buddhist sects.

Under Tokugawa Yorinobu in 1623 the grounds of Negoro-ji once more would witness a more serene period because he allowed the reconstruction of the grounds to take place. The area in time would gradually be transformed throughout the Edo period and in modern times you can see how this reconstruction created a stunning place to visit.

Therefore, for modern tourists or people who go on pilgrimage to holy places in Wakayama, it is difficult to imagine such past violence in history. After all, today you can hear Buddhist chants in Negoro-ji, view exquisite architecture, enjoy nice walks, and view tranquility in every direction. However, from an historical point of view it is clear that central forces in history in the sixteenth century did fear the power of Buddhism and because of this Negoro-ji paid a heavy price.

Yet time is a great healer and today you can only visualize a period of serenity in history. Also, people can only marvel at the stunning temples, exquisite architecture, and how nature and religion seems at peace with each other.

Negoro-ji is an amazing place to visit because places like this are the “heart of Japan” and with Koyasan and Kumano Kodo being based in the Kii Peninsula, then you have many choices to plan an extremely intriguing holiday. Not only this, the castle in Wakayama and the stunning beaches of Shirahama await and the same applies to other amazing places to visit in this beautiful part of Japan.

http://www.negoroji.org/

http://www.pref.wakayama.lg.jp/english/charm/01.html

http://www.nk-kumano.com/ (Nachi Katsuura)

http://www.shukubo.jp/eng/ (Koyasan)

http://www.kumano-experience.com/01/en/ (Kumano Experience)

http://www.sekaiisan-wakayama.jp/english/index.html (Wakayama)

http://www.nanki-shirahama.com/eng/index.html (Shirahama)

http://farstrider.net/Japan/Castles/Wakayamajo.htm (Wakayama Castle)

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2012 in Japan

 

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Japan tourism and Wakayama: Koyasan, Shirahama, Kumano Kodo & Kii Peninsula

Japan tourism and Wakayama: Koyasan, Shirahama, Kumano Kodo & Kii Peninsula

James Jomo and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Wakayama prefecture in Japan is blessed with many amazing places to visit and the richness of culture and history can be felt throughout this lovely region. This notably applies to Wakayama Castle, Koyasan, Kumano Kodo pilgrimage routes, and many other places which are rich in culture and history throughout the Kii Peninsula and the surrounding region. Alternatively, you have many stunning beaches and Shirahama is a very popular destination. Therefore, Wakayama and the Kii Peninsula is a must place to visit for tourists who want to feel and witness the richness of Japanese history and culture.

Tokyo, Kyoto, Nagano, and Nara, are internationally famous and Osaka is an ultra-modern and vibrant city. However, throughout Japan you have natural stunning beauty and in places like Koyasan in Wakayama it becomes abundantly clear that you have many gems in this beautiful country.

Indeed, the Kansai region is extremely diverse and you have so many places which are in easy reach. This notably applies to Kobe, Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, and Wakayama. Therefore major cities like Osaka and Kobe are ideal bases for tourists who want to experience the richness of culture throughout the region. .

Also, Buddhism is internationally famous in places like Kyoto and Nara therefore both places attract tourists from all over Japan and internationally. Nara is also very important in Japan because this place is the cradle of Japanese high culture and despite the powerbase moving from Nara to Kyoto, the legacy of Nara can’t be ignored.

Buddhism is also powerful in Koyasan because Kukai (774-835) spread a new message and today Shingon Buddhism remains visible in this stunning place. Indeed, this mountainous region is extremely beautiful and Mount Koya certainly attracted Kukai because of its remoteness and the magnificent scenery which is truly beautiful. Therefore, if individuals want to view “living Buddhism,” stunning Buddhist temples, lovely architecture, and natural beauty which can be viewed in all directions, then Koyasan is a must place to visit.

Another great place to visit in Wakayama is Wakayama Castle because this castle is well maintained and the views from the top of the castle are extremely stunning. Not only this, you can feel the power of this castle because of the size of the grounds and in history this castle was of strategic significance.

Therefore, Hideyoshi Toyotomi and Ieyasu Tokugawa respectively gave the order to family members to create and then strengthen this castle. Hideyoshi Toyotomi ordered the construction of the castle in 1585 and he gave this plan to his brother Hidenaga Toyotomi. Likewise, Ieyasu Tokugawa dispatched Yorinobu, his tenth son, to strengthen the castle and under Yorinobu this castle became extremely important for the Tokugawa bakufu based on geopolitical factors.

The main tourist areas to visit within the foundations of Wakayama Castle include the Honmaru Palace; Ohashi Rokka Bridge; Donjon; Ninomaru; Okaguchimon Gate; Otemon Gate; Minaminomaru; and other places within the castle complex.

Wakayama is not just about history, religion, culture, and amazing mountain ranges because in Shirahama you have lovely beaches to enjoy. From April to October the temperature makes the beach a great place to visit because you have many places to swim and paddle. Also, the landscape is very pleasing on the eye and you have many tourist attractions to visit and enjoy your stay.

Two other lovely places to visit are Nachi-no-taki Falls (Nachi Waterfall) and Nachi-Katsuura (Nachikatsuura). In both places you can feel the natural beauty of Wakayama and you can image old Japan. Therefore, the tranquil aspect enables people to feel refreshed.

Kumano Kodo is another amazing place in the Kii Peninsula because these pilgrimage routes highlight the uniqueness of religion in old Japan. The richness of the area means that modern pilgrims and non-pilgrims still visit in vast numbers in order to connect with the inner-soul and nature.

C. James Dale commented on Time Travel website that Fresh from a long hike through the lush hills and valleys of Japan’s southwestern Kii Peninsula, Shugendo monks stand in their mud-splashed boots in front of the thatched-roof pavilions of the Kumano Hongu Taisha. Some chant and pray, others blow conch shells. The monks, whose spirituality mixes Shintoism, Buddhism, Taoism and animism, have arrived to worship after navigating the Kumano Kodo — a network of well-marked and well-maintained trails that winds through forests, fields, towns and villages nearly 600 km from Tokyo. It’s a journey religious figures, royalty and regular folk have been making since the Heian period (794-1192).”

“The Kumano Kodo pilgrimage routes and the sacred sites they connect have attracted more attention since making the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2004, taking their place alongside Spain’s Camino de Santiago de Compostela (Way of St. James).”

Overall, the Kii Peninsula is extremely beautiful because you have so many places to visit and enjoy stunning nature. The cultural aspect and religious association with this part of Japan is also a major highlight for all tourists who want to understand the deep roots of this fascinating nation. Therefore, a visit to Wakayama Castle, Koyasan, and all the places highlighted in this article, and many other hidden gems throughout the region, is a must for all people who have the opportunity to visit this part of Japan.

 

http://www.nk-kumano.com/ (Nachi Katsuura)

http://www.shukubo.jp/eng/ (Koyasan)

http://www.kumano-experience.com/01/en/ (Kumano Experience)

http://www.sekaiisan-wakayama.jp/english/index.html (Wakayama)

http://www.nanki-shirahama.com/eng/index.html (Shirahama)

http://farstrider.net/Japan/Castles/Wakayamajo.htm (Wakayama Castle)

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2012 in 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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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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Kaori Muraji is a classical Japanese guitarist of refinement and beauty

Kaori Muraji is a classical Japanese guitarist of refinement and beauty

Walter Sebastian and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Kaori Muraji was born in Tokyo in 1978 and from a very early age her father Noboru Muraji gave lessons to his daughter. Her talent was obvious and by the age of ten she began to be taught by the acclaimed guitarist Shinichi Fukuda. Kaori Muraji won many guitar competitions in Tokyo and in 1993 she performed at Tsuda Hall in the same city.

If youhttp://www.youtube.com/user/anselmonadir#p/search/0/VLZu0K9jL3Uclick on this link you can listen to the perfection and passion of Kaori MurajiTherefore, even if your musical tastes are usually distant from classical guitar, it is clear that she can bridge this gap. Also, the setting on Anselmonadir Channel is extremely soothing because of the pleasant backdrop and you can find many videos which highlight Kaori Muraji on the link above.

Therefore, this talented child from Tokyo blossomed into a talented musical artist of international acclaim within the classical music community and much further afield. Kaori Muraji not only plays with sublime skill but her graceful manor and natural style appeals to the heart.

Also, Kaori Muraji’s performance of This Girl’s In Love With You” which was written by Burt Bacharach is extremely powerful and shows the vast nature of her sublime skills. In the link below the article provided by Anselmonadir Channel you can connect with another generation when you listen to “This Girl’s In Love With You.”

This aspect of Kaori Muraji is what sets her apart from the crowd because her talents feel natural when she performs music from different centuries and decades. Also, she can fuse her talent to transform any piece and then infuse it with aspects of her identity. Clearly talents like this are rare and for this reason her international appeal in cultured musical circles is highly valued.

DECCA for this reason signed an exclusive contract with Kaori Muraji in late 2003 because this company fully understood the unique nature of this exquisite musician from Japan. Since this period her international fame continues to blossom and the richness of her talent keeps on sweeping new admirers of their feet. Therefore, irrespective of your musical tastes, it is clear that Kaori Muraji can overcome the bias of individuals because her music can fit easily in any music collection.

Kaori Muraji stated that “I express what is transmitted from generation to generation. It’s just simple but so precious.” These words speak volumes about the stunning Kaori Muraji.

http://www.officemuraji.com/ – Please visit the official website of Kaori Muraji

http://www.youtube.com/user/anselmonadir (PLEASE VISIT Anselmonadir Channel)

http://www.youtube.com/user/anselmonadir#p/c/7875BF3220C70848/14/zwbK-Ja9NDM 

http://www.youtube.com/user/anselmonadir#p/c/7875BF3220C70848/13/xzYhP1IhThk

http://www.youtube.com/user/anselmonadir#p/c/7875BF3220C70848/22/Zq3rSwX4QHM

http://www.youtube.com/user/anselmonadir#p/c/7875BF3220C70848/1/2KKP5OB0HL4

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

 
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Posted by on January 12, 2012 in Japan

 

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Murasaki Shikibu and The Tale of Genji: a female writer who broke the chains

Murasaki Shikibu and The Tale of Genji: a female writer who broke the chains

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Murasaki Shikibu (Lady Murasaki) is the most famous Japanese lady in history and many artists have depicted her because of her wisdom and knowledge. Not surprisingly, her prominence remains so strong because very few ladies in Japanese history have come to the fore because of conservative aspects of culture. Obviously, this conservatism doesn’t solely apply to Japan because in history it appears that female emancipation wasn’t on the radar in the majority of cultures. Therefore, ukiyo-e artists in Japan had little option but to focus on Murasaki Shikibu when it came to depicting a powerful lady in Japanese history.

It is known that she was born in 973 but her death is disputed because some people claim that she died in 1014 and others state 1025. However, given the discrepancy then obviously much is down to guess work and is open to many interpretations. The same applies to her final years on this earth because information is patchy but given this period of history then this isn’t so surprising.

What is known is that Murasaki Shikibu was blessed with many talents and she obtained great knowledge of Chinese classics. Yet, how she obtained this knowledge is also open to interpretation. This applies to historians claiming different things because some state that her father allowed her to study with her brother. However, others dispute this and claim that she was forbidden to study with her brother but because of her inquisitive nature and natural ability, she was able to learn by listening tentatively by the door.

Whatever the truth, it is clear that gender norms in this period meant that she faced an uphill struggle to overcome the obstacles in her way. Also, given the fact that somehow she overcame these obstacles then clearly her output would have been even greater if she had been given freedom to write.  Sadly, even in the modern period it is clear that females in many nations suffer because of gender discrimination throughout the world.

Therefore, it is abundantly clear that many female writers, artists, historians, politicians, and so forth, have suffered “a cultural female genocide” because of male dominance and elitism which deprived women of equality. This reality adds to the power of Murasaki Shikibu because so many others went silently to their grave despite having so much to give throughout the world.

Turning back to Murasaki Shikibu then even her real name is disputed because in a diary which was written in 1007 the name Fujiwara Takako was mentioned. This, according to some individuals, is the real name of Murasaki Shikibu but again nothing is conclusive. Therefore, the most famous lady in Japanese history is based on the legacy that she left and other areas will always remain in doubt unless a hidden manuscript is found – and this appears most unlikely.

What isn’t in doubt is that The Tale of Genji was written by a lady in this period and either her real name survives or a nom de plume was chosen because of cultural factors. However, because of no real clarity then it is best to stay loyal to the name Murasaki Shikibu.

The Tale of Genji is internationally famous and a rich treasure in Japan. Also, this classic highlights the importance of Chinese culture in this period of Japan and this theme remains constant before the events of the late nineteenth century. This classic was written in the Heian period and the richness of style left a lasting impression. Without a shred of doubt Murasaki Shikibu was an extremely gifted individual despite all the negative realities that she faced.

In an earlier article I stated that “Murasaki Shikibu was no normal lady because she desired to express many things and given her stature in society then clearly she had the opportunity to do so.  This lady of letters was a poet, novelist and being in the Imperial court she had certain obligations, therefore, she was a lady-in-waiting.” 

“Her novel called The Tale of Genji left a lasting legacy based on the quality of her writing and the passion that it oozes. Platitudes abound in Japan and throughout the international community and it is a major source of pride for women in Japan and for Japanese culture which is enriched by The Tale of Genji.”

“Ukiyo-e artists have depicted Murasaki Shikibu during the height of this art form in Japan and the art highlights a noble and refined lady.  The art work is based on wisdom, serenity, sophistication, and a lady who had a special aura. Therefore, ukiyo-e artists have transcended Murasaki Shikibu and entered her into a new dimensional world where certainty and an aura of inner-beauty and knowledge are rolled into this remarkable individual.”

The Tale of Genji itself leaves many questions regarding the role of women in Japan. This applies to why did this classic survive and remain unhindered? After all, if females were not allowed to write and study Chinese classics openly, then why wasn’t the book banned? Or does it signify the importance of her background and that she escaped censorship based on her status and knowing high officials? If so, then why didn’t other female writers in high positions leave a lasting legacy in Japan and the same applies to women who knew powerful individuals – therefore, why Murasaki Shikibu and not scores of other female writers?

Murasaki Shikibu entered the imperial court after her husband passed away and during this time she observed and learnt many things. The Tale of Genji became respected in a very short time and again this would indicate that you had few constraints against Japanese female writers. However, history would point in the other direction because you don’t find many famous female writers in Japan in this period.

The earliest manuscript was lost but scrolls in the 12th century were found and clearly The Tale of Genji enriches Japanese culture and highlights many aspects of high society in this period. Therefore, while many aspects of the life of Murasaki Shikibu remain unknown the same doesn’t apply to her legacy because this classic is deemed to be a national treasure.

The last years of her life are also shrouded in mystery because her work appears to cease but again the reasons remain in doubt. Could it be that she was censored after writing this classic?  Or did Murasaki Shikibu retire after achieving what she had always dreamt about?

Again, this is open to many interpretations and for this reason it is unsure about when she died. However, it would appear that her remaining years were relatively tranquil and irrespective of all the uncertainties about her life, it is abundantly clear that The Tale of Genji left a deep impression. Therefore, the legacy of Murasaki Shikibu is very powerful.

In another article I comment that “Murasaki Shikibu also wrote a volume of poetry called The Diary of Lady Murasaki and Japanese artists illuminated this lady of letters to wider society. The art work of ukiyo-e artists in the Edo period and throughout the Meiji period maintained the rich aura of Murasaki Shikibu and her novel The Tale of Genji is a classic within Japanese literature and international literature.”

However, given the lack of female writers, artists, and people in power in Japanese history, then how did Murasaki Shikibu break the chains? Also, if she was allowed to break the chains then why didn’t others follow?

IMAGE ONE: Tosa Mitsuoki

IMAGE TWO: Hiroshige (ukiyo-e)

IMAGE THREE: Kunisada (ukiyo-e)

IMAGE FOUR: Edo period illustration

IMAGE FIVE: Harunobu (ukiyo-e)

http://www.taleofgenji.org/   The Tale of Genji

http://webworld.unesco.org/genji/en/index.shtml  The Tale of Genji

http://www.womeninworldhistory.com/heroine9.html 

http://harvardmagazine.com/2002/05/murasaki-shikibu.html 

http://moderntokyotimes.com 

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2011 in Japan

 

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Utagawa Kuniyoshi and Japanese art: Images of tranquility and landscapes

Utagawa Kuniyoshi and Japanese art: Images of tranquility and landscapes

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Utagawa Kuniyoshi depicted many images and covered various different subject matters. Therefore, the art of this stylish ukiyo-e artist in this article provides only a glimpse into the real Kuniyoshi.

Kuniyoshi was born in 1797 and died in 1861 and throughout this period many developments erupted in Japan. This applies to traditional rule in the earlier part of his life to rapid changes from the middle of the 1850s and onwards until the Meiji Restoration of 1868.

Ando Hiroshige and Katsushika Hokusai are the most famous ukiyo-e artists internationally but Kuniyoshi was also a crème de la crème artist along with many others. Also, the broad spectrum of many ukiyo-e artists is truly amazing and this also applies to the art of Kuniyoshi. Therefore, the art work of this wonderful artist is complex and depends on various different circumstances.

This article focuses only on the tranquil nature of his art and elegant landscapes which appealed to many Japanese people. However, it would be wrong to believe that these lovely landscapes and scenes of serenity provide the real Kuniyoshi because this would be false.

Despite this, for people who know the art work of Kuniyoshi the opposite could be said because all too often this angle of his artwork is neglected. Yet clearly Kuniyoshi’s landscape images match that of any ukiyo-e artist irrespective of people’s own preferred artist.

The Edo Period was succumbing to outside forces during the lifetime of Kuniyoshi and this must have infringed heavily on this stylish artist. However, when one door closes another opens up and this certainly applied to the later stages of his life. Therefore, new techniques, different thinking, growing outside influences, evolution within the Japanese art world, and others factors, impacted greatly on Kuniyoshi.

Images in this article by Kuniyoshi are a reminder of a world which was mainly un-spoilt before the economic, social, and political revolution which took hold in Japan and culminated with the Meiji Restoration of 1868.

In an earlier article I commented that “Kuniyoshi and other famous ukiyo-e artists also take you back to a different Japan in all its confusion.  Therefore, Kuniyoshi designed prints which covered a vast spectrum and this applies to landscapes, women, kabuki, humor, nature, satire, shunga, cats, surimono and other areas.”  

“It is apparent that Hokusai (1760-1849) had much more political and sexual freedom and this notably applies to Hokusai’s shunga which is very powerful and erotic.  However, the Tenpo reforms of the early 1840s introduced measures which banned prints of erotic women and actors who belonged to the kabuki scene.  This meant that Kuniyoshi had to focus more on warriors and legends but his historical depictions were under close scrutiny. Therefore the popular satire of shogun Tokugawa Ieyoshi and other prints led to an official reprimand and many prints were confiscated and destroyed.”

Kuniyoshi also opened up the past and this applies to the depiction of historical figures in Japanese history, brave samurai warriors, events in Japanese history, famous legends and other related areas which nurtured each new generation.  

Famous art pieces produced by Kuniyoshi include The 108 Heroes of the Popular Suikoden All Told, At The Shore of the Sumida River, Mt. Fuji from Sumida and Pilgrims in the Waterfall. Of course you have many other famous collections and art pieces by Kuniyoshi and preferences will vary with each individual.

Pilgrims in the Waterfall is extremely beautiful because it shows and highlights important aspects of Japanese culture when it applies to religion and nature coming together.  This notably applies to Shintoism which is “the real heart of Japan” despite the influence of Buddhism within the Japanese psyche. Also, in this stunning art piece it is abundantly clear that space is very important and this applies to religion, Japanese gardens, meditation and other aspects of Japanese culture.

The serenity which can be felt by the Pilgrims in the Waterfall connects humanity, nature and religion together.  Therefore, Kuniyoshi is highlighting a powerful reality which belonged to his world.  

Kuniyoshi’s ukiyo-e is very varied and images in this article are limited to landscapes and internal tranquility in Japan.

http://www.kuniyoshiproject.com/  – Fantastic website and just click onto the section you are interested in.

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

 
 
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Posted by on November 23, 2011 in Japan

 

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Paying Homage to the Spirit of Japan seen in the Fukushima 50

Paying Homage to the Spirit of Japan seen in the “Fukushima 50”

James Jomo and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The March 11 earthquake which triggered the brutal and devastating tsunami which in turn created the nuclear crisis in Fukushima remains vivid in the memory. This tragic day will never be forgotten in Japan and the same applies to the international community which witnessed the tragic events which followed.

Sadly, despite enormous reconstruction and redevelopment taking place in the worse effected areas you still have many ongoing problems. This applies to the nuclear facility in Fukushima and radiation issues which remain, to more natural daily issues of people living in temporary accommodation and trying to find employment.

Any government in the world hit by this tragic event would be challenged to the full and in fairness to Japan, a lot of support mechanisms have been put into place but of course for people hit by this tragic event then so much more is needed.

In the midst of the nuclear crisis you had the “Fukushima 50” who did everything in their power to prevent a nuclear meltdown. These brave souls should never be forgotten because during the height of the crisis they worked day and night and at any time they could have been killed. Also, the reality of radiation means that we still don’t know if many of these brave souls will die from cancer in the future caused by radiation.

Irrespective if you are anti-nuclear, pro-nuclear or you believe that nuclear energy is a practical choice, it is clear that the “Fukushima 50” deserve the support of everybody. While alarming comments were being made and very natural dangers could have killed all members of the “Fukushima 50,” they merely got on with everything and worked around the clock in order to protect local citizens and to prevent a complete nuclear meltdown.

In an earlier article by Modern Tokyo Times which was published on March 18 it was commented that “Images of Fukushima have spread all over the world but the people who are trying to prevent a nuclear meltdown remain faceless and out of sight.  Therefore, they have been named the “Fukushima 50” in honor of their valor and loyalty to the cause.”

“All members of the “Fukushima 50” understand that death awaits them if the internal conditions become uncontrollable.  However, for the “Fukushima 50” they are thinking about the people of Japan and they understand that they are in the frontline and that if they perish, then countless others will follow from the worst case scenario.”

“Of course you will have tens of thousands of other “faceless individuals” who are giving everything in order to help people and many are working in dangerous and terrible conditions.  In this sense, but not from the personal danger that the “Fukushima 50” face; the “Fukushima 50” represent all individuals who are working against the clock in order to help the people of Japan.”

The article was written within 7 days of the March 11 tragedy and being based in Tokyo then Modern Tokyo Times tried its best to support Japan. After all, many embassies were closed and many people left Tokyo in panic. However, at all times the core of Modern Tokyo Times remained in the heart of Tokyo and visits were also made to Fukushima and other areas hit.

However, unlike the “Fukushima 50,” we had the luxury of being based far away and the admiration of these brave souls can’t be overstated. After all, how many people would risk their-own-skin in the face of so much carnage? This collectively applies to the knowledge that the high radiation may give you cancer in the future or that at any time the plant could have just blown up completely.

In the “valley of death” the “Fukushima 50” walked tall and showed the beauty of humanity. 

It matters not if you are pro-nuclear or anti-nuclear; the real issue is their bravery, dedication and giving everything in order to protect the people who reside in Japan.

They must never be forgotten because unlike the “heroes on television” who are actors and actresses, the “Fukushima 50” are real heroes and in the “valley of death” they never flinched. 

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com  

http://moderntokyotimes.com/2011/03/18/spirit-of-japan-seen-in-the-%e2%80%9cfukushima-50%e2%80%9d/

 
 

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Tokyo fashion: Lumine to open a new store in trendy Yurakucho

Tokyo fashion: Lumine to open a new store in trendy Yurakucho

Michel Lebon and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times 

Lumine in Tokyo – MODERN TOKYO TIMES

The retail fashion expert at Tokyo Fashion Daily, Timothy Schepis, who can be viewed at the following websitehttp://tokyofashiondaily.blogspot.com/, is highlighting the opening of Lumine in Yurakucho which will be open for business on October 28. Lumine is a very trendy fashion store whereby you have many exquisite boutiques which target young ladies in their 20s and 30s.

In Ikebukuro the Lumine store certainly helped to rejuvenate the west side because the boutiques inside are elegant, stylish, lovely quality, and trendy. Also, Lumine is building on from Marui, H&M and other fashionable stores which have opened up in the same Yurakucho and Ginza neighborhood.

Therefore, the demographic make-up of shoppers in Ginza and Yurakucho is reflected by these recent changes and if anything, it really compliments the entire fashion set up of Ginza and Yurakucho. This applies to extremely up market fashion boutiques which are focused mainly on a slightly older client base and this blend of diverse shoppers is creating a fresh buzz.

Timothy Schepis comments that “…the newly redeveloped Yurakucho location will be the 14th for Lumine in Japan and will be the first not to be part of a railway station. At 22,000sqm Yurakucho Lumine will house up to 100 tenants targeting women in their 20s and 30s which make up Lumine`s core customer. Most of the tenants will be fashion brands including United Arrows with the rest of the tenants; cosmetics brands, household goods and restaurants.”

Timothy Schepis is also highlighting the fact that the new store will “be the first not to be part of a railway station” and this is intriguing because it shows either new thinking or realism? Realism applies to retail space available and the fact that the train station isn’t designed for a trendy store of such high quality.

However, surrounding Yurakucho train station you have many exquisite buildings and fashionable areas. Also, with the fame of Ginza and the fact that Ginza and Yurakucho are connected means that a sizeable hub of fashion keeps on growing and this makes good commercial sense for Lumine.

After all, Marui, H&M, and other stores, have already began to alter the nature of fashion in the area. Therefore, Lumine, which is a fantastic company because it moves with the times, clearly saw an opening and the omens look good despite the negativity of the economy of Japan.

It is also noticeable that United Arrows will be a tenant at Lumine’s new fashion store because this company is doing sound business. Timothy Schepis comments that “United Arrows success stems from their strong product merchandising and ability to understand fashion trends and translate them to strong merchandise and sales.”

It is clear that changes are happening in Yurakucho and the surrounding area and this adds to the beauty of fashion in Tokyo because it never remains static. These fresh ideas and new stores opening is what makes Tokyo fashion so special because companies can’t rest, and if they do, then others will simply take their market away from them or reduce their market share.

Lumine and Hankyu will also be connected and this is a continuation of past policies by Lumine. After all, the trendy Lumine store in Ikebukuro on the west side is also connected with Tobu Department Store.  This fact will be a clear winner for both companies and clearly this is a strong safety mechanism.

The new buzz created by Lumine and other companies will certainly add spice to the entire area because other stores like Printemps Ginza focus on a similar market. This competition will create a fresh dimension and Matsuya Ginza and Mitsukoshi Ginza began their “Ginza Fashion Week” on October 19.

The word is out thanks to Timothy Schepis and other fashion experts who provide essential information about Tokyo and Japanese fashion.

http://www.lumine.ne.jp/shinjuku/

http://www.fashion-j.com/E/trend/201010.html

http://tokyofashiondaily.blogspot.com/ – TIMOTHY SCHEPIS  (can be followed on Twitter)

http://tokyofashiondaily.blogspot.com/2011/10/coming-soon-yurakucho-lumine.html

http://www.fashion-j.com/E/trend/201010.html (3rd article from the top shows some images of Lumine in Ikebukuro.)

MODERN TOKYO TIMES IMAGES TAKEN IN LUMINE IN IKEBUKURO

http://moderntokyotimes.com

 
 
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Posted by on October 25, 2011 in Japan

 

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