Daibutsu, Kamakura

Daibutsu, Kamakura
Daibutsu in Kamakura, June 2010. There were thousands of school kids visiting that day. It was still great fun.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Jero in concert in LA


Jero (aka Jerome White) is coming to Los Angeles. The first African-American enka singer in Japanese (world?) history will be performing at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center JACCC on March 31, 2010. Enka is a Japanese musical style that arose in the post-war years. I am not aware of any foreigner becoming a successful enka singer and it is even more unique with Jero's hip-hop style. Jero has become quite famous in Japan but I am not certain how well known he is here so I was surprised to hear he was playing a show in Los Angeles. Of course, the showing is at a theater in the Little Tokyo district in downtown LA so he may get a good turnout from the local Japanese-American community.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Authentic? samurai armor

At a Japanese ceramics store in Little Tokyo Los Angeles, there is a display of samurai armor (see below). I am not at all an expert on armor but I asked the Japanese lady working there if it was authentic samurai armor. She stated it was but that she did not have any information on the armor which seems odd if it is authentic. It may be a language issue and she misunderstood what I meant by authentic. In any case, the armor is for sale but I do not recall exactly how much, over a thousand dollars, maybe more.

Does the armor look familiar to anyone. It is in really good condition except for some dust and one of the plates has detached on the skirt (I don't know the technical term). If the photos don't post, you can see them here as well.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The First "Permanent" Shogun

Minamoto no Yoritomo

Minamoto no Yoritomo is considered the first shogun in Japanese history when he rose to power in 1192. However, the title of shogun actually predates Yoritomo. The title shogun actually comes from the ancient title seii taishōgun which essentially means "barbarian-subduing-generalissimo." This title had formally been assigned on a temporary basis to military commanders whom the Imperial Court had dispatched to lead expeditions against insurgents or independent tribal groups on the borders of the imperial realm.

Yoritomo had his headquarters at Kamakura, and the Kantō was his base of power. What distinguished Yoritomo's shogunal appointment from previous ones was that it sanctioned what became a permanent government known as a bakufu, "tent government." The later Ashikaga and Tokugawa shogunates were also referred to as bakufu.

What is interesting about the great Minamoto Yoritomo and the bakufu he established was that his Minamoto family actually lost control of their bakufu by 1203. Although Yoritomo's Kamakura bakufu continued on for another 130 years, it was actually controlled by a powerful vassal family of regents following the assassination of Yoritomo's sons. The powerful Hojo family of regents were the true powers behind the Kamakura bakufu from 1203 until 1333 when the Kamakura bakufu fell during the brief Kemmu imperial restoration. The Hojo arranged to have malleable people from Kyoto designated shogun, never claiming the title for themselves, preferring to wield power from behind the scene.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Hanzo the Razor: The Snare

Shintaro Katsu returns as Hanzo "the Razor" Itami in part two of the chanbara trilogy chronicling the escapades of the samurai constable who lives and plays by his set of rules. This time, hanzo battles devil-worshiping abortionists, sadistic cultists and crooked officials. In his quest to defend the weak, hanzo uses a sharp-edged sword -- and his sexual muscle -- to mete out justice in director Yasuzo Masumura's mind blowing film.

This second installment in the Hanzo trilogy is just as sleazy as the first film, Sword of Justice, if not more so. Hanzo again battles corruption and his incompetent superior with the aid of his two bumbling assistants. In this film, Hanzo battles Ninjas, is buried alive in order to infiltrate a criminals compound, fights thugs and a satanic abortion giving witch, and takes on a bald priestess. And of course Hanzo employs his famous "interrogation" technique on the reluctant females. Hanzo "interrogates" the bald female priest as well so that tells you what kind of film this installment is.

As I mentioned in my review of the first Hanzo film, actor Shintaro Katsu seems like the most unlikely samurai hero. He is pudgy and not very good looking. But Katsu is perfect. He IS Hanzo. Katsu is one of the great actors of this time period, especially in his greatest role as Zatoichi the Blind Swordsman. This character is so diametrically opposite his Zatoichi character that it really shows what a great actor he is. These films are only for the more adventurous viewer. They are big time Japanese samurai sex-ploitation films. But if you approach these films with an open mind, you will not be disappointed.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

NYC’s 'skinniest' house sells for $2.1 million - Real estate- msnbc.com

NYC’s 'skinniest' house sells for $2.1 million - Real estate- msnbc.com: "A town house dubbed New York City's skinniest house has sold for $2.1 million.

The red, 9 1/2 foot wide, 42 foot long brick building in Greenwich Village was built in 1873 on land used as an alley between homes. The town house was listed for sale last August at $2.7 million. The two bedroom, two bath home last sold in 2000 for $1.6 million."

This makes the national news on MSNBC but this is a pretty typical size building in Japan, especially Tokyo.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Narrow Buildings

Japan is famous for having extremely narrow highrise buildings, especially in Tokyo. I actually really like these interesting buildings. Maybe I would like them so much if I had to live in one. However, this four-story building below with the large windows facing the river looks really cool. This photo is from the really interesting blog from Muza-chan. Muza-chan often posts about the narrow buildings of Japan and this building from her recent post really caught my eye due to the large windows and the great location fronting the river.

It looks like someone is looking out the window from the small building next door. Probabaly enjoying the sites of the river.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Giant tuna fetches $177,000 at Japan fish auction

Giant tuna fetches $177,000 at fish auction - World business- msnbc.com

Is this one of the leading economic indicators used in Japan to determine the health of the economy?

The tuna was sold in auction at the Tsukiji fish market and was the most expensive tuna sold there since a tuna sold for $220,000 back in 2001.

One thing the article mentioned which I am surprised to hear is that 40 percent of the tuna catch sold at the Tsukiji auction was caught from abroad, including from Mexico and Indonesia. I would have thought that there would be very little tuna not caught near Japan being sold at the market.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Swaying Teahouse in Japan

Check out this teahouse that is built atop two chestnut trees. It is located in Nagano Prefecture and is called the takasugi-an teahouse which I believe means a teahouse too-high. The teahouse sways gently when there is a breeze. I don't see how it could stand up to anything more than a breeze though.

The photos and info are from Dezeen.com. There are more photos and information here.

Friday, January 01, 2010