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No.36
No.36 ,Culture  Oct 31, 2016

How the Thousand-Year Capital Created Genius Painter  Ito Jakuchu and the City of Kyoto*

The remarkable painter Ito Jakuchu was born during the sixth year of the reign of Emperor Shotoku (1716), and was the eldest son of a Kyoto greengrocery wholesale store. The house in which he was born was located in the present-day Nishiki food market, where a line of shops now runs along the main street. “When we consider Jakuchu’s work as a painter, the fact that he was born in eighteenth-century Kyoto has a special significance,” says art historian Kano Hiroyuki, the leading expert on Ito Jakuchu. When Jakuchu lived, over 100 years had passed since Tokugawa set up his shogunate in Edo [former name for Tokyo]. The Emperor still had his palace in Kyoto but the city was no longer the center of political power. The people of Kyoto had an important issue to consider: what kind of city to build for the future.... [Read more]

No.34
No.34 ,Culture  Oct 17, 2016

The Master of Special Effects – The Legacy of Tsuburaya Eiji
― In conversation with Ooka Shinichi, President of Tsuburaya Productions

Explosions crash and bang as Godzilla or another monster destroys the city… Ultraman shoots Spacium Rays to take down another monster… The best thing about watching special effects movies is that they always shock and surprise you. Tsuburaya Eiji was known as the master of special effects, but in what ways is his DNA being kept alive today? We take a look back and share in the recollections of Ooka Shinichi, former cameraman and current President of Tsuburaya Productions.... [Read more]

No.34
No.34 ,Culture ,Discussions  Sep 30, 2016

No future for places that fail to attract talent

Cutting a Topknot That Had Been Tied for Twenty-four Years. Meij: You have just had your retirement ceremony and had your topknot cut. Have you gotten used to your new hair style? Nishiiwa: Not yet, because I had a topknot for twenty-four years (laughs). Meij: I’ve read your autobiography (Tatakiage). True to the title, you really are a self-made man. What surprised me most is that you had surgery an astonishing nine times. I don’t know anyone else who’s had so many operations. Nishiiwa: Me neither, other than me. Meij: You won nineteen consecutive tournaments at the three highest ranks below yokozuna. That is amazing. Unlike ozeki, there is no kadoban for these three ranks. So, you will be demoted if you lose many more than you win, or even stay away from the ring for a tournament.... [Read more]

No.34
No.34 ,Culture  Sep 26, 2016

Inhabitants of Darkness, Born Out of Human Anxiety
From Edo-Tokyo Museum’s Grand Yōkai Exhibition “From Eery to Endearing: Yōkai in the Arts of Japan”

In Japanese folklore, yokai are specters, ghosts, monsters or apparitions that take on bizarre forms and startle people in their daily lives. The number of pictures and paintings depicting those forms increased dramatically during the Edo period (1603–1867), and yokai became a familiar theme. But paintings depicting the monsters that inhabit the spirit world have been produced since ancient times, and have continued to stimulate people’s imaginations for centuries.   “The Ruined Palace at Sōma,” oban nishiki-e sanmai tsuzuki (large-size multi-colored woodblock print, three prints forming a single composition), Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1844–48), now in a private collection. Exhibition period: 5 July – 28 August 2016 at the Edo-Tokyo Museum (Tokyo) and 10 September – 6 November 2016 at Abeno Harukas Art Museum (Osaka) Yokai can be regarded as manifestations of human fear and anxiety in day-to-day life. Their depictions in Japanese painting began to ... ... [Read more]

No.34
No.34 ,Culture  Sep 25, 2016

Today’s Sumo Wrestlers Lack Spirit
— Possibility of the advent of Japanese yokozuna

Hakkaku Nobuyoshi: I have settled into the position. The outside directors helped me a lot, and I have undertaken my job by trial and error. As a result, I’m gradually becoming more confident. I have had a hectic time since Kitanoumi, the previous chairman, passed away. I have refrained from drinking for a year. Very recently, I have played the occasional round of golf. The Grand Sumo Tournament is very popular, with every date fully booked. Sumo fans still want a Japanese yokozuna. Personally, I believe that someone is a sumo wrestler as soon as he starts his career, whether he is Japanese or Mongolian. In reality, many sumo fans often tell me that they want a Japanese yokozuna. What do you want young Japanese sumo wrestlers to do to become a yokozuma? I think that many of them have already given up any hope of beating Hakuho or being as strong as him. In a way, they don’t even have a dream. Even if you are not strong enough... [Read more]

No.33
No.33 ,Culture  Jun 05, 2016

A Sardine-Shaped Cloud

Haiku International Association President Arima Akito delivers his welcome address.

The prize-giving ceremony for the 17th Haiku International Association Haiku Contest was held at the Arcadia Ichigaya Hotel in Tokyo on 5 December 2015. The prizewinning works and judges’ summations here follow, along with an extract of the speech given at the ceremony by the haiku enthusiast Radu Şerban, Ambassador of Romania to Japan. ... [Read more]

No.33
No.33 ,Culture  Jun 03, 2016

The Origins of Japanese Culture Uncovered Using DNA
―What happens when we cut into the world of the Kojiki myths using the latest science

MIURA Sukeyuki: The Kojiki (Records of Ancient Matters) has one distinguishing feature in the fact it includes a mixture of both Southern and Northern style myths. This is proof that Japanese culture was originally not only one culture, but rather came into existence while being influenced by its various surroundings; but when it comes to trying to seek out the origins of that culture, as we would expect, there are limits to how far we can get using only an arts and humanities-based approach. That’s where your (Professor Shinoda’s) area of expertise—molecular anthropology—comes in and corroborates things scientifically for us. By analyzing the DNA remaining in ancient human skeletal remains, your research closing in on the origins of the Japanese people is beginning to unravel when the Jomon and Yayoi peoples and so on came to the Japanese archipelago, where they came from, and the course of their movements, isn’t it? In recent times we’ve come to look forward to the possibility that, by watching the latest developments in scientific research, we may be able to newly uncover the origins of Japanese culture.... [Read more]

No.32
No.32 ,Culture  May 16, 2016

Shogi and Artificial Intelligence

KAMIYA Matake, Professor, National Defense Academy of Japan

The waves of the third artificial intelligence (AI) boom are now sweeping across Japan in the same way as earlier fads did in the 1950s and the 1980s. Referring to the ongoing craze in the country, leading Japanese economic magazine Shukan toyo keizai wrote in its 5 December 2015 issue, “not a single day passes by without hearing about AI.” Many companies in Japan are making AI-related announcements one after another. Seminars on AI are held in Tokyo almost every day.... [Read more]

No.32
No.32 ,Culture ,Discussions  Apr 20, 2016

The Unification of the Written Word in Modern-era Japan

Dr. MIURA Atsushi: Today, I will be speaking with Dr. Campbell, who emphasizes the importance of documents and materials written in scripts such as kuzushiji (cursive-style Japanese script) and hentaigana (obsolete or nonstandard variants of Japanese phonetic hiragana characters); writing styles that could be referred to as a kind of Japanese writing heritage from before the Meiji period, and which to most ordinary Japanese people are now unreadable.
Dr. Robert CAMPBELL: For example, when most ordinary Japanese people go into a soba noodle shop and see the word kisoba written in kuzushiji-style hiragana, most of them can read it, right? But that’s because it’s a soba shop. As another example, poems and such are often scribbled onto ... [Read more]

No.30
No.30 ,Culture  Mar 25, 2016

Delicious Drinks
The Mellow World of Japanese Whisky

TSUCHIYA Mamoru, Whisky writer, representative of the Japan Whisky Research Centre

Arrival on the Black Ships
When did the Japanese relationship with whisky begin? Who was the first Japanese to drink whisky? At one time the theory was that William Adams presented Tokugawa Ieyasu with whisky. Adams was granted permission to stay in Japan by Ieyasu and changed his name to Miura Anjin, but whisky was not known in the early seventeenth century and Adams was English, not Scottish. (Whisky is a distilled drink that originated in Scotland. At the time, England and Scotland were separate countries.) In addition, the term whisky did not appear in the English language until the middle of the eighteenth century, and the English only came to know whisky in the latter half of the nineteenth century during the reign of Queen Victoria. ... [Read more]

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