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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]

No.54, Culture  Oct. 25, 2019

What is a Japan House?―Strategies and techniques for cultural communication

Japan House was established in Sao Paulo, London and Los Angeles as a cultural hub to promote Japanese attractiveness towards the world. We [Gaiko editorial team] have asked Hara Kenya, the Chief Creative Director of Japan House, its significance and strategy. — On August 24, 2018, Japan Houses in Los Angeles celebrated its grand opening. Following Japan House in Sao Paolo (April 2017) and London (June 2018). Hara Kenya: Although we had partial openings in December 2017, now all are fully opened and we had an exciting opening ceremony too. But rather than focusing on initial success, we should see how many people visit over the course of a year, and how interested in Japan those visitors become. It is vital for us to continue with sustainable and compelling communication, making use of the special characteristics of all three sites, not just Los Angeles. Concept is “introducing ... ... [Read more]

No.54, Culture  Sept. 30, 2019

A basic guide to the greatest Matsukata Collection in the world—The unusual life of the businessman who produced the National Museum of Western Art

Ueno Park is now a major cultural base. I think you already know that its center is the modern National Museum of Western Art (NMWA) designed by Le Corbusier. Many people have enjoyed seeing Water Lilies by Claude Monet at the NMWA. Great paintings by Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Paul Gauguin are on display throughout the museum, and a collection of Rodin’s sculptures, such as The Thinker and The Gates of Hell, are precious works from a global perspective. However, I assume that few people today are aware that these artworks used to be a collection owned by a Japanese businessman, and that the NMWA was originally built to house that man’s collection in response to a request from the French government. The name of this businessman is Matsukata Kojiro. He was born as the third son of Matsukata Masayoshi, Prime Minister in the Meiji ... ... [Read more]

No.52, Culture  Jul. 4, 2019

A painter with two home countries, Foujita Tsuguharu

  Takashina Shuji, Director of the Ohara Museum of Art and President of the Western Art Foundation   During the unprecedentedly hot and uncomfortable summer of 2018, an exhibition titled “Foujita: A Retrospective ― Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of his Death” was held at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum in Tokyo’s Ueno Park. The retrospective featured works right from the beginning of Foujita’s career, dating from before he went to France and around the time he started to study oil painting at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music (now Tokyo University of the Arts) to his late years when he poured his energies into the construction of the chapel of Our Lady Queen of Peace (Chapelle Foujita), which he designed himself in Reims, in the French region of Champagne. The retrospective was well worth seeing, including over 120 key pieces from ... ... [Read more]

No.52, Culture  Jul. 2, 2019

Coping with Over-Tourism: Protecting the “culture city” of Kyoto from tourism pollution

  Issues facing the city of Kyoto Moderator, Kiyono Yumi: Attention is focused on tourism as a promising twenty-first century industry. But at the same time, its tendency to threaten the daily life of residents has become evident, such as crowding and the poor manners of tourists in stations and well-known tourist spots. Today, I’d like to hear what our speakers consider are the problems affecting Japan’s most popular city for travelers, how they are being addressed, and what solutions might be possible. Alex Kerr: First of all, I’d like to make something clear. The title of the book I released with Kiyono Yumi in March 2019 is “Destroying the Nation with Tourism.” But I have no wish for the nation to be destroyed. Personally, I foresaw tourism’s promise in the 1980s, rented out individual machiya (townhouses) in Kyoto, and established a long-stay accommodation ... ... [Read more]

No.48, Culture  Jul. 10, 2018

Shinkokinshu: An Anthology for Our Times

  Most Japanese newspapers carry a weekly column of waka (poems in 31 syllables) and haiku (poems in 17 syllables) submitted by readers. This journalistic feature indicates to what extent poetry permeates the everyday lives of the Japanese. Similarly, at the beginning of each year the Emperor holds a competition for waka composed on a topic of his choice, and the people of Japan submit their poems. These modern poetic practices have their roots in the long tradition of court waka. Superior poems produced at the Japanese court over the centuries were collected in a series of anthologies compiled by imperial command. One of these, the Shin Kokin Waka Shu (New Collection of Ancient and Modern Poetry, usually abbreviated to Shinkokinshu), is considered by many to represent the summit of the art, and has the unusual distinction of having been edited personally by the ... ... [Read more]

No.48, Culture  Jun. 29, 2018

The World of the Japanese Newspaper Poetry Column

  Newspaper poetry columns called shimbun kadan have given numerous popular poets their start. They publish verse that is erotic and that is cute, that is about love, and that is about everyday life. Just don’t say that only the people who submit poems read them. The poetry in question is tanka, a short form of poetry having 31 (5-7-5-7-7) syllabets which dates from the Meiji period (1868–1912) and differs from the traditional form of poetry called waka as showcased in the eighth-century Man’yoshu and other such poetry anthologies commissioned by the Emperor. Newspaper tanka are the avant-garde   “That’s a funny place for a mole,” so you said. And so it started.” Yagimoto Motomoto, Tokyo   Is the above really a tanka too? Many people these days might say, “Yes. So what?” It uses colloquial speech and quotation marks; and it ignores the ... ... [Read more]