Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
City dwellers in Tokyo get the least shuteye in the world, according to a survey from food company Ajinomoto.
It's not that Tokyoites are rising early -- citizens of Shanghai, New York, Paris, Stockholm and Tokyo all get up at an average of 6.40 a.m. It's the late-night drinking culture that's making our citizens drowsy.
As the only ones staying up after the stroke of midnight, respondents in Tokyo are hitting the pillow at 12.19 a.m. on average, compared to 10.20 p.m. in Stockholm, 10.38 p.m. in Shanghai and in New York, supposedly the city that never sleeps, people are doing just that by 11.15 p.m on average.
That means Tokyoites are sleeping an average of just five hours and 59 minutes each night, one and a half hours less than their Shanghai counterparts.
Forty-nine percent of respondents in Tokyo said they were unhappy with the situation, a sign that many still feel obliged to join late-night drinking sessions with colleagues. Only 29 percent were happy with their sleeping habits, compared to 68 percent in Shanghai.
The survey also revealed that commuting times were not to blame with Tokyo and New York posting the same results.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Tokyo bans sales of sexually explicit comics to minors
The ordinance also outlaws certain images, stirring a debate about freedom of expression.
By Kenji Hall, Los Angeles Times
December 16, 2010
Reporting from Tokyo
The titles in one corner of Kinokuniya bookstore in Tokyo's Shinjuku district suggest the kind of themes that manga comics fans crave: romance, feudal-era adventure, betrayal.
But above the packed bookshelves a sign reads, "Adult manga."
It's the hard-core content within this genre of comics or cartoons, depicting rape, incest and sex crimes, that lawmakers in Tokyo want to keep out of the hands of minors.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly on Wednesday approved an ordinance that makes it illegal to sell or rent sexually explicit manga and anime that "unjustifiably glorifies" violent sexual acts to anyone younger than 18. The law, which goes into effect next year, also bans images of fictional characters that appear to be underage and are engaging in sexual acts. Publishers, retailers and artists who break the rules face fines of up to about $3,500.
"It's common sense.... This is the conscience of the Japanese," Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, who proposed the measure, told reporters after the vote. "Would they show that kind of stuff to their kids?"
The ordinance, which amends an existing law, applies only to the Tokyo metropolitan area, where about 13 million people live.
But opponents of the revised law said there already are regulations to protect youths and that the new rules were an attempt by politicians to rein in freedom of speech.
Some opponents of the changes say authorities could use the law to ban any book, movie or video game or block any website that they deem inappropriate. Others worry that the law might be used to crack down on sexually explicit content in theater, painting and other art forms.
"The governor and his supporters say that it's not about curbs on expression, but we think this will have a negative impact," said Yasumasa Shimizu, vice president of Kodansha, a major Tokyo-based publishing house.
Last week, 10 major Japanese publishers threatened to boycott the Tokyo International Anime Fair in March if the measure was approved. On Monday, Prime Minister Naoto Kan weighed in, pleading with both sides to keep the fair from being canceled.
On Wednesday, as the 127-seat assembly prepared to vote, about 200 people demonstrated against the new law at Hosei University in Tokyo.
Manga comics and anime films and TV shows are popular among adults and children in Japan. They run the gamut from sci-fi tales and historical classics to schoolgirl romances. The most well-known manga comics often have a second life off the page as mainstream TV dramas and films, and it's common to find characters in ads hawking products as diverse as watches and cars.
The issue involving sexually explicit manga has highlighted the predicament Japanese policymakers must wrestle with: Though manga comics and anime films rank among the top cultural exports, there has long been a darker side to the material that might tarnish the industry's image overseas.
Many critics of Tokyo's new rules acknowledge that the most violent and sexually explicit books and films should not be for children, but they also say the issue goes well beyond comics.
"Legislators should be focusing their attention on improving sex education, rather than targeting the manga and anime industry," said Meiji University professor Yukari Fujimoto, a former manga comics editor. "The worst thing that this law might do is stifle artists' creativity. Their imagination is the reason Japanese manga and anime have so many fans worldwide."
Hall is a special correspondent.
Copyright © 2010, Los Angeles Times
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Monday, November 29, 2010
Friday, November 19, 2010
Friday, October 01, 2010
Monday, September 27, 2010
The film stars Koji Yakusho and Koicho Sato as the only two survivors of the legendary raid in which 47 ronin killed a corrupt court official named Kira Yoshinaka for the honor of their executed master knowing full well they’d be forced to commit seppuku afterward. Sato’s character, Terasaka Kichiemon, is a loyal retainer who’s secretly ordered to escape the raid by his leader, Oishi Kuranosuke, in order to relay the facts of the incident for the sake of posterity. Yakusho’s character, Senoo Magozaemon, is an “unworthy samurai” who flees the night before the raid and goes into hiding, establishing himself as a coward and a pariah. The two men cross paths 16 years later, and Magozaemon finally has a chance to explain his actions.
“Saigo no Chushingura” will be released by Warner Bros. in Japan on December 18, 2010.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Yes, both garage/storage buildings are missing the number four. The reason is the number four in Japan is an unlucky number. The number four is considered inauspicious because it is pronounced the same as the word for death (shi). Therefore, one should not make presents that consist of four pieces, etc. In some hotels and hospitals the room number four is skipped. It seems the owners of these garage/storage buildings did not want to bring bad luck on their cars or tools.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
A Pasadena teahouse, falling on hard times, will be sent to Japan for restoration, then return to grace a new garden at the Huntington Library.
By Teresa Watanabe, Los Angeles Times
September 12, 2010
Japan's Grand Master of the Phoenix Cloud visited Los Angeles four decades ago and dedicated an exquisite teahouse to the public in the hopes of popularizing the sublime art of tea ceremony in the West.
Trained as a kamikaze pilot during World War II, the grand master saw tea as a way to promote peace, share Japan's cultural treasures and repair a national image battered by wartime militarism. The 400-year-old art expresses the values of harmony, respect, purity and tranquillity through the highly refined and ritualized making and serving of tea.
But the ceremony failed to catch on much beyond a small circle of Japanese Americans. The teahouse, given to the Pasadena Buddhist Church, declined in use. Termites began attacking the wood and paper structure, and the elderly couple who cared for the teahouse for decades no longer could do so.
The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in San Marino has stepped in to rescue the teahouse as part of an ambitious $6.7-million project to restore its Japanese garden and develop an authentic tea garden. In collaboration with the grand master's Urasenke School and the Buddhist church, the Huntington hopes to use the teahouse to expose the art to a broader swath of society and develop a premier program for Asian garden arts, including the tea ceremony, flower arranging, bonsai and stone viewing.
James Folsom, the Huntington's botanical gardens director, said the ancient Japanese art is as relevant to Americans today as it was to the Zen monks and warring samurai who practiced it four centuries ago.
"When life is so hectic, when you're rushing around looking at e-mails, how do you remind yourself to stop and be human again?" Folsom said. "The tea ceremony reminds us to step out of that, to appreciate silence and tranquillity in the presence of others and to enjoy the beauty of the moment. We would hope that tea helps lead people to a change in their own lives."
The Urasenke Tankokai Los Angeles Assn. offered a farewell bowl of tea to several guests in the Pasadena teahouse. The house, designed by the grand master's brother, Sen Mitsuhiko, is a light and airy structure featuring woven bamboo ceilings, white papered shoji screens, bamboo tatami mats and the all-important alcove displaying the day's carefully selected Japanese scroll, vase and flower arrangement.
The gathering's hostess, Soen Clarkson, performed the tea ceremony's ritualized acts: First, fold a silk cloth to wipe the tea caddy and tea scoop. Place the powdered green tea in a specially selected bowl. Pour in water heated over a charcoal brazier. Whip the mixture into a froth with a bamboo whisk. Then, offer it to the guests along with Japanese sweets.
As the guests sipped tea, Robert Hori, vice president of Urasenke's Los Angeles chapter and director of advancement at the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center, explained his choices in selecting the various accoutrements for the occasion. The careful consideration of such items is part of the tea ceremony's spirit of hospitality as the host aims to capture the gathering's treasured and irreplaceable moment.
The boat-shaped vase pointing outward symbolized the teahouse's departure from the Pasadena church, he said. A Rose of Sharon and bush clover, both short-lived blooms, reflect the transiency of life. The scroll of Japanese calligraphy was used when the grand master dedicated the teahouse, named the Arbor of the Pure Breeze, in Pasadena in 1965.
And for the day's tea scoop, Hori selected a utensil named "gratitude."
"We're really grateful for the opportunity to give the teahouse a new life," he said. "It's the end and it's the beginning."
Tea was first taken to Japan from China by a Buddhist monk in the 9th century. But it was not until the 16th century that Sen Rikyu perfected the Way of Tea by incorporating into it Zen elements of simplicity and oneness with nature. By designing a teahouse with an entrance forcing guests to lower their heads and crawl through, the tea master also sought to eliminate social distinctions.
Fourteen generations later, Sen's direct descendent, Tantansai — the Grand Master of Purity and Serenity — served tea to American Occupation forces in Japan. That, in turn, inspired his son Hounsai to move beyond his military training and lingering disdain for Americans and dedicate his life to international harmony through tea. In 1965, he visited the United States to officially dedicate the teahouse his father had bequeathed to the church.
Sosei Matsumoto, a 90-year-old tea master lauded for her accomplishments by President Clinton and the emperor of Japan alike, was the first to teach tea ceremony in the new Pasadena teahouse. The structure, she recalled Sunday, was used for classes every week, with special tea ceremonies for New Year's and the summer Obon festival honoring ancestors.
But the Pasadena tea group failed to expand and dwindled to about seven students, said Yaeko Sakahara, also 90, who took over the classes from Matsumoto more than three decades ago. One of the major obstacles, she and others said, is the traditional requirement to sit on bamboo mats with legs folded under, a position that can turn legs numb after a few minutes. Tea ceremonies can last from 20 minutes to four hours.
Another obstacle to sustaining interest in tea is growing acculturation among younger generations of Japanese Americans, said Irene Takemori, Pasadena temple president.
"The younger generation is more interested in sports and don't have a lot of time for this cultural stuff," Takemori said. "It's really a shame, because it's such a beautiful experience to drink tea and find peace of mind."
When health issues began to preoccupy Sakahara, the teahouse's future hung in the balance.
Enter the Huntington. The renowned cultural institute had been looking for a Japanese teahouse after one of its donors, Mary B. Taylor Hunt, bequeathed a $2.6-million endowment for an authentic Japanese tea garden and related cultural programs. The Huntington's nine-acre Japanese garden, designed by founder Henry Huntington and William Hertrich, reflects a Western interpretation of Japanese aethestics but is not considered authentic, Folsom said.
After months of consideration, the Pasadena Buddhist Church decided earlier this year to donate the teahouse, clearing the way for the transfer.
The Huntington plans to close the current Japanese garden next year for several months of renovation, including restoration of its ponds and a traditional Japanese house. The new two-acre garden will be installed behind the house, along with the Pasadena teahouse. The grand reopening is expected to occur in 2012, in time for the garden's centennial anniversary, Folsom said.
This week, carpenters from Japan are scheduled to fly to Los Angeles and begin dismantling the teahouse. The pieces will be shipped to Kyoto, restored, then sent back to the Huntington.
Folsom said the Huntington, working with the region's tea schools and the Buddhist church, will seek to popularize the Japanese art, possibly using more ceremonial forms that allow practitioners to sit in chairs rather than on folded legs, among other ideas.
For the longtime guardians of the teahouse, Sunday's farewell was bittersweet.
"The teahouse has been an integral part of the temple, so it's a little sad to have it depart," Takemori said. "But it's in the best public interest and for the best use of the teahouse."
Monday, September 13, 2010
I have seen these types of wall-less gates on other Japan blogs from around Japan. Curious as to the point of the gates with no walls. Are they unfinished projects? Did the homeowner run out of money? This particular gate is in Otawara in Tochigi and has been this way since my first visit in 2002.
Saturday, September 11, 2010
Thursday, September 09, 2010
Friday, September 03, 2010
Saturday, August 21, 2010
Thirty-years after writing the script with fellow master directors Akira Kirosawa, Masaki Kobayashi and Keisuke Kinoshita, Kon Ichikawa brings the story of an unruly samurai (Koji Yakusho) to the screen. Nicknamed Dora-Heita ("Alley Cat") for his penchant for debauchery, the samurai is assigned to clean up a lawless small town. His reputation is well-known, so the local Yakuza thugs are in disbelief when the new magistrate (bugyo) gets down to business.
Saturday, August 14, 2010
To offer apologies for an unkindly act committed by their ancestors 600 years ago, the people of Ayukawa, a village in Wakayama Prefecture, will offer mochi (dumplings of glutinous rice) to the Kamakuragu Shrine in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, dedicated to the memory of Prince Morinaga on Aug. 19, when the 600th anniversary of the prince's death will be celebrated.
Defeated in his battle against rebels, Prince Morinaga with a few retainers was obliged to hide, and on Oct. 15, 1331, he passed through the village of Ayukawa. The prince and his party were fatigued and hungry, having eaten nothing the whole day. At the houses of the villagers they asked for some food, but they were refused because of the disturbed state of affairs at that time.
Soon after that, the villagers learned that the person to whom they refused to give mochi was Prince Morinaga. Such a discourteous act toward an Imperial Prince was something that the villagers could not think of. So to atone for their wrong, they resolved not to make and eat mochi forever. Thus for more than 600 years the village people never made mochi even on New Year's Day.
This year the villagers have finally decided to make mochi on the occasion of the 600th anniversary of the prince's death — and to offer them in his memory at the Kamakuraga Shrine.
Friday, August 13, 2010
Tuesday, August 03, 2010
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
From legendary director Nagisa Oshima comes a spellbinding samurai action-drama. In 1865, the Shinsengumi samurai corps is combing the new recruits for the next samurai warriors. Two are chosen: Tashiro Hyozo, a low-level samurai, and the dangerously handsome Kano Sozaburo. Rigid rules maintain order and unity, but the Shinsengumi finds itself wrought with rumors and jealously when Kano becomes the object of much fascination. (1 hour 40 minutes, 1999)
Friday, July 23, 2010
Thursday, July 15, 2010
By the fifteenth century some mercantile za were organized by market rather than just commodity for example in certain towns. However, in the bigger cities such as Kyoto the za still tended to be organized by specific commodity and were usually concentrated in a special quarter of the city. This can still be seen today in certain cities in modern Japan such as the Zaimoku-za (timber merchants) quarter of Kamakura or the famous Gin-za (silver merchants) of Tokyo.
In their earlier forms, these organizations were not independent but were subordinate to a monastery, shrine, or a manor lord for which they served. But eventually these traders began to form quasi-independent za not only for their own protection but to increase their power and their profits. With this increasing power, many za began to have a monopolistic character by preventing competitors from obtaining raw materials within a certain area. A very powerful early za were the salt dealers of the Yamato province which controlled the salt wholesalers, retailers, and pedlars of the entire province. Eventually by the fifteenth century the za made powerful enemies by abusing their privileges and were forced to give way to other forms of mercantile organization such as "free" markets and guilds established by Oda Nobunaga.
Another famous za that I am sure most of you are familiar that has survived into modern Japan is the Yaku-za. This modern za has interests in many kinds of businesses and trades.
Monday, July 12, 2010
Sunday, July 11, 2010
This film fits in nicely with Yamada's other two films in this series, Twilight Samurai and The Hidden Blade, both good movies. The storyline in this film is not that original but Yamada and actor Kimura do a very good job in telling the story. The ending is straight out of a Zatoichi flick but the sword fight scene is performed superbly and I think realistically, much more believable than any Zatoichi sword fight by a blind man. Gee, what a surprise, Takuya Kimura is a former member of the pop group SMAP. It seems every samurai flick and taiga drama these days includes a present or former member of SMAP. But in reality the SMAP members including Kimura actually put on pretty good performances in their samurai roles. Kimura plays his blind character convincingly. Actress Rei Dan also does a good job as the wife. Mimura's loyal assistant Tokuhei adds a bit of humor and personality to this film. Tokuhei is played by one of my favorite Japanese actors Takashi Sasano who has been in dozens of films and TV shows including Departures and Katen no Shiro.
Thursday, July 08, 2010
In addition, the amount of dismounted combat in Sengoku jidai increased along with the increase with the number of guns. I think this was probably due to the fact that relatively few number of Japanese cavalry made it easier for concentrated fire of arquebus to defeat them. (Samurai Archives)