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No.68, Culture  Dec. 1, 2021

Shake off “COVID self-restraint”! How about a healing stroll around a museum?—With the Scrolls of Frolicking Animals and Humans now on display, here’s our guide to viewing art followed by an enjoyable garden stroll.

  Editor’s note: This article was written in March, before an increase in COVID-19 infections. However, we have obtained permission from the author and the publisher to reproduce this article unchanged now, when the COVID-19 pandemic has subsided again.   Kageyama Yumiko, antique art dealer and writer    In any age, works of art enrich the hearts of those who see them. Right now, as we are worn out by living with COVID self-restraint, a single painting can provide energy and help us forget time spent in sadness. Although some museums and galleries are currently closed due to COVID-19, others have carefully put in place infection control measures such as pre-booking and temperature checks, and are welcoming art fans. What’s more, as long as visitors wear masks and avoid crowded places, they can view art works in freedom. As a collector of paintings by ... ... [Read more]

No.67, Culture  Nov. 15, 2021

Why Are Foreign Celebrities Hooked on Zen?: A monk who has traveled the world as a Zen teacher asks, “What is troubling these privileged people?”

Masuno Shunmyo, Head Priest of Kenkohji Temple   Increasingly, I feel that “Zen” is now an international word like judo and karate. Twelve years ago, I wrote a book in Japanese called Zen, shinpuru seikatsu no susume (Zen, Recommendations for a Simple Life) (Mikasa Shobo). Then in 2019, the major UK publisher Penguin released an English translation called Zen: The Art of Simple Living. There was a huge response and I hear that the Penguin Group has already received requests to translate the book into around 30 languages. Things have happened so quickly that I’m surprised too. What underlies this overseas focus on Zen is increased interest in mental issues. More and more people are now thinking, “Surely living each day with a peaceful heart is the greatest happiness?” Zen means addressing a question for yourself. How can I live so that in my ... ... [Read more]

No.66, Culture  Oct. 1, 2021

Enigmatic Picture Scrolls of Frolicking Animals and Humans

Hashimoto Mari, Vice-chairperson of Eisei Bunko   About a one hour bus journey from Kyoto station, where the mountains that extend across the Tanba Highlands adjoin the Kiyotaki river and form valleys, in an area known for its autumn leaves and beautiful valleys, stands the ancient temple of Kosanji. It is thought to have been built around the 8th century as a Buddhist monastery called the Toganoo, but by the end of the Heian period (794–1185) when it became the branch temple of the Jingoji temple over the mountain, it had so fallen into ruin as to be unrecognizable. Jingoji also fell into ruin and a priest named Mongaku (1139–1203) busied himself with its restoration. Mongaku repaired Toganoo and arranged for it to become an independent temple for the monk who was expected to be his successor, Myoe (1173–1232). In this way, when in ... ... [Read more]

No.65, Culture  Sept. 8, 2021

The Origin of Ohtani Shohei’s “Dual Wield” as told by Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters’ Manager Kuriyama Hideki and Scouting Director Ohbuchi Takashi

  Ohtani wears a faint smile when told they want to train him as an athlete who can be both the ace pitcher and the fourth batter. Suzuki Tadahira, writer   Starting in June of 2011, when people were still shocked about the unprecedented earthquake disaster (Great East Japan Earthquake), sports caster Kuriyama Hideki pursued a high school baseball team in the Tohoku coastal area that was damaged in the earthquake disaster. One day, this high school decided to hold a practice game with Hanamaki Higashi High School in Hanamaki City, Iwate Prefecture, a school with a strong team. It was there that Kuriyama saw the plays of athlete Ohtani Shohei for the first time. “I have watched professional baseball forever but the ball angle and speed seen from the stands behind the backstop were truly shocking. I saw his batting after that and ... ... [Read more]

No.65, Culture  Aug. 28, 2021

“Japanese Anime Is in Decline”: Does “Cool Japan” still have currency?

Furuichi Masako, Associate Professor, Peking University   Is Japanese anime now in decline? Recently, a student I teach at Peking University submitted a graduation thesis containing the phrase “Japanese anime has entered a decline….” I was shocked. On the one hand I thought, “That’s not true.” But part of me had to accept what was written. That’s because over the last few years Japanese subcultures have been losing the kind of influence they once had in China. But why were Japanese subcultures once popular in China? After the Cultural Revolution came to a close, and as China started to reform and open up, the country chose Japan as its model for economic development. The reasons were that Japan had a market economy but was also devising and implementing economic plans, that it was trying to move from the closed-to-the-outside economic system of the pre-war ... ... [Read more]

No.64, Discussions, Culture  Aug. 11, 2021

Anthem Project: Connecting the World Through National Anthems

Yamada Kazuki, Principal Conductor and Artistic Director of Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo, and Principal Guest Conductor of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra  Interviewed by Katayama Morihide, Professor of Keio University and Sakura Osamu, Professor of the University of Tokyo   The Yamada Kazuki Anthem Project, Road to 2020 (hereinafter Anthem Project) is a plan to record 206 national anthems onto CD in the run up to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The project was devised and brought together by conductor Yamada Kazuki, who was the winner of the first prize at the 51st International Competition for Young Conductors and the public prize in Besançon (2009). It came to fruition in November 2020 with a CD set, “Sekai no kokka–Utau chikyugi (National Anthems of the World–Song Globe)” (sold by King Records Co. Ltd.), which was created through cooperation and performances involving Yamada, ... ... [Read more]

No.61, Culture  Oct. 27, 2020

In Memoriam: Yamazaki Masakazu – The Modern State and Charlie Brown

Karube Tadashi, Professor, University of Tokyo     It was a day not long after the US Al-Qaeda terror attacks of September 11, 2001. People who spoke of the attacks still bore strained expressions, so less than a week afterwards, I think. And it was around that time that I first had the pleasure of meeting Yamazaki Masakazu at a seminar run by The Suntory Foundation. This was the “Modern State and Ethics” seminar led by the late Sakamoto Takao. That day the seminar was held in Osaka and, after the discussion finished we went to eat out, where I encountered Yamazaki as we all chatted. Of course the talk was of the terrible events in New York and focused on how the international situation might develop. Most people there seemed anxious as they talked but Yamazaki alone was quiet, in fact slightly cheerful. ... ... [Read more]

No.58, Culture  Jun. 23, 2020

A Fifteen-year-old’s Journey to Becoming a Three-Michelin-Star French Chef — My gratitude toward earlier chefs who built trust in Japanese people’s ability to do good work in France

Kobayashi Kei, Chef and Owner of Restaurant Kei     “I think that my parents first sparked my interest in cooking. My father worked as a Japanese chef and my mother as a Western one. Other families bought and ate ready-made meals but at our house my mother made everything from scratch. So, cooking was always close by.” “With that around me I naturally became fond of cooking and from around the age of 10 I played at making food with my elder brother. Having said that, I didn’t plan to become a professional chef from an early age.”   So says Kobayashi Kei (42), the chef and owner of Restaurant Kei, a Paris eatery that won three stars in the MICHELIN Guide France 2020. The Michelin Guides are published in around thirty countries and use stars to rate restaurants. Kobayashi’s spectacular achievement was ... ... [Read more]

No.57, Culture  Mar. 23, 2020

The National Stadium and Horyu-ji Temple

In the fall of 1964, my father took 10-year-old me to the Yoyogi National Gymnasium, which was the Olympic swimming arena. Overwhelmed by the incredible beauty of the building, I asked who designed it. I was told that it was an architect named Tange Kenzo. That was the first time I learned about the job of an architect, and on that day, I decided that I would become one. Up until that day, I had dreamed of becoming a veterinarian as I was a well-behaved child who loved cats. Together with Taisei Corporation and Azusa Sekkei Co., Ltd., Kengo Kuma & Associates was chosen to supervise the design of the National Stadium (Japan National Stadium), which is to become the main venue for the second Tokyo Olympics, so I thought about what was different between 2020 and 1964. 1964 was at the peak of ... ... [Read more]

No.55, Culture  Dec. 27, 2019

“We are locals from around here—from Earth”: Illustrating the spirit of Olympic and Paralympic Games from the eyes of Kyogen

Nomura Mansai, Kyogen stage actor; Chief Executive Director, Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games Interviewer: Editorial staff of Gaiko (Diplomacy)   ――Mansai-san [Mr. Mansai], you have performed around the world. Nomura Mansai: My father[1] put effort into overseas performances from early on, and I started travelling with him when I was an elementary school student. I was 9 years old when I traveled with him for the first time. We went to Hawaii when he became a visiting professor at the University of Hawaii. We performed Igui[2]. Two years later, I played the part of a baby monkey in the play Utsubozaru[3], which was staged in Paris and London. Since then, I have performed in many countries, including the United States, Europe, China, Russia, Australia and Malaysia, because just like my father, I attach importance to overseas performances and cultural exchange. I truly appreciate ... ... [Read more]