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No.28
Culture, No.28  Nov. 2, 2015

Edo and Tokyo as Viewed by Kobayashi Kiyochika, the “Last Ukiyo-e Artist”

Sketchbooks1878 to 1913/ privately ownedThese books contain the accumulated sketches of Kobayashi. Ten of them remain today. The sketches include many watercolor designs from which Kobayashi produced his kosenga, such as Kudanzaka Satsukiyo (Night in May at Kudan Hill), which is introduced below.

  Kobayashi Kiyochika is often referred to as the last ukiyo-e artist. Kobayashi goes by this name because he stuck to colored woodblock prints known as nishiki-e and kept pinning his hope on their potential until the end, despite the diversification and development of printing techniques in modern times. He must have had the pride of a defeated person because he was a vassal of the shogun born in Edo (present-day Tokyo). However, the innovativeness of Kobayashi and his importance as a modern artist stand out when we take away such frameworks associated with Kobayashi’s profile as an ukiyo-e artist. Kobayashi as a vassal of the Shogun tossed about by the Great Transformation from Edo to Tokyo We can learn how the young Kobayashi lived through the turbulent times from the end of the Edo period to the Meiji period in Kiyochika jigaden (Self-portrait ... ... [Read more]

No.27
Discussions, Culture, No.27  Jun. 3, 2015

Toward the Modernity: Images of Self & Other in East Asian Art Competitions at the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum

The Fukuoka Asian Art Museum opened in the Hakata area of Fukuoka City, Fukuoka Prefecture, in 1999. In contrast to museums in Tokyo and Japan’s western urban areas near Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe, which feature works of Western and Japanese art, this art museum in Fukuoka was founded as the first museum dedicated to modern and contemporary Asian art. It is worth noting that since it opened, the museum has held Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale that focus on contemporary Asian art in addition to activities through permanent and special exhibitions and various art exchange programs. In 2014, the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum held an interesting exhibition titled “Toward the Modernity: Images of Self & Other in East Asian Art Competitions.” The art works exhibited were also shown at the Fuchu Art Museum in Tokyo and the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art. This was an ... ... [Read more]

No.27
Culture, No.27  May. 28, 2015

The region is a stage. Yosakoi Soran Festival (Sapporo, Hokkaido)Pageant of Lights and Sound — Witness the power of group dancing, and the moment when human bodies shine.

The parade along Odori Avenue runs north to south through central Sapporo.

The final stage in Odori Koen Park played host to twelve teams that had won a series of tournaments. Each team gave a riveting and spectacular dancing performance when they took the stage, which transformed into a powerful pageantry of people, sound, and lights that echoed across the sky. It didn’t take long for the spectators to become increasingly drawn in by the performances, just like when people watch an exciting game. They roared in delight upon seeing the performers quickly change their original costumes in unison. They were not merely watching dancing performances. All of them had been unconsciously brought together and made to take part in a contest that would determine this year’s winner. ]]> ... [Read more]

No.26
Culture, No.26  May. 28, 2015

Sudoku of the World and the Originator’s JoyThe godfather of the numerical puzzle in great demand in the west and in the east

One day, on my way home on a train after losing money in a horse race, I opened up an American magazine of puzzles I had been carrying around. What caught my eye was a numerical puzzle called the Number Place puzzle. I am not great at reading English. After jotting down numbers without even reading the instructions, I was able to solve it. Isn’t this fun? I bought a bunch of back issues at Maruzen and proceeded to solve one puzzle after another. Just as an experiment, I tried creating a puzzle of my own and I was able to make one. This is how I came to publish this puzzle in a magazine issued by my company, Nikoli, for which I am the president, in 1984. I coined this puzzle – which is about filling each box in a row or a ... ... [Read more]

No.25
Culture, No.25  May. 22, 2015

The Changing Flavors — and Drinkers — of Sake

The sake industry is booming — at least in one sense. Many of the varieties produced by small and medium-sized breweries have become hard to obtain. And what is notable is that sales of sake produced by the smaller breweries are being driven not just by middle-aged and elderly men, the traditional market for the sake industry, but also by women and young adult consumers. This fact was conspicuous at the annual Wakate-no-Yoake (“Dawn of the younger generation”) sake-tasting event in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward October 2014, when more than 2,000 people gathered to sample the wares of thirty-one up-and-coming breweries, many of those visitors being women and young adults. “We are seeing more and more young people and women attend these events every year,” says Watanabe Koei, president of the exhibiting Ippaku Suisei brewery, confirming the trend. Events such as Wakate-no-Yoake, where visitors can ... ... [Read more]

No.24
Culture, No.24  Apr. 20, 2015

Special Feature: Shared Japanese CultureManga Will Surpass Korin

Recently, I have started reading various books and research papers — whatever I can lay my hands on — relating to the French Revolution. Having said that, it isn’t that I’m actually trying to research the history of the Revolution itself. The thing that I’m interested in is the fact that the manner in which the Revolution is discussed changes with the times. Indeed, the way that the Revolution was talked about during the mid twentieth-century, and the way it has been discussed since the end of the twentieth-century ]]> ... [Read more]

No.24
Culture, No.24  Feb. 25, 2015

Studio Ghibli on a New Journey After Departure of a Giant — Interview with Yonebayashi Hiromasa (Director, Screenwriter)

Yonebayashi Hiromasa (Director, Screenwriter)

Four years from the release Arrietty, Yonebayashi Hiromasa completed his second directorial work, When Marnie Was There. This work comes from a piece of British children’s literature and is a fantasy story of two girls meeting from a twist of fate. The production of the movie had its genesis when Yonebayashi told producer Suzuki Toshio that he wanted to direct a film. “After finishing Arrietty, I reflected back on what I had done. The work on Arrietty had started with Miyazaki Hayao already providing a script and several concept arts. I felt that I really wanted to be involved in writing the script from scratch. There was another thing though: Arrietty is a story ]]> ... [Read more]

No.20
Discussions, Culture, No.20  Apr. 11, 2014

The First Three-Way Conversation Coinciding with the Thirtieth Anniversary of Studio Ghibli Miya-san, why don’t you make another movie?

Miyazaki Hayao (left), Suzuki Toshio (center) and Takahata Isao Photo by Nicolas Guérin

The release of The Wind Rises, The Tale of Princess Kaguya, and then, Miyazaki Hayao’s announcement of his retirement: 2013 was truly the year of Ghibli. Read about their works and this country in an in-depth conversation that lasted for three hours by two master directors and a famous producer.   Suzuki: This is the first three-way conversation consisting of these members. And this might be the last. [Laughter] The year 2014 marks the thirtieth anniversary of the founding of Ghibli. Last year was a busy one, with the releases of The Wind Rises by Director Miyazaki Hayao, The Tale of The Princess Kaguya by Director Takahata Isao, and in addition, Miya-san [Editor’s note: Miyazaki] announced his retirement. So the aim was to have the three people get together and talk.  [Facing toward the direction of the editing team] Do you have anything you ... ... [Read more]

No.19
Culture, No.19  Mar. 10, 2014

Japan Is Entering a Period of 10 Million Visitors: The Growing Competition to Attract Tourists — A company that has seized the business opportunity of increasing inbound visitors

Don Quijote (“Donki”), Osaka

The number of foreign visitors to Japan is expected to reach 10 million this year. And this number will likely grow further with the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. What do businesses need to do in order to succeed in this growing market? What are the issues? We undertake a multilateral analysis.   As a nation for tourists, the government needs to develop rules  The number of inbound visitors to Japan rapidly increased during the period from January to September, and is expected to reach 10 million by the end of the year. While this trend is riding the tailwind of a weaker yen and visa deregulation, could Japan continue to increase its inbound visitors to double or triple the current number? The Ginza store of Don Quijote (“Donki”), a discount store that is open twenty-four hours a day, is known to be teeming with ... ... [Read more]

No.18
Culture, No.18  Jan. 30, 2014

INTERVIEW: WASHOKU, traditional dietary cultures of the Japanese

A traditional ichiju-sansai Japanese meal featuring steamed rice and miso soup (front), three main dishes (two vegetable dishes and one of fish), and pickles (top left) All photos: Courtesy of Professor KUMAKURA ISAO

Traditional Japanese food is collectively known as washoku. Under the title, “Washoku, traditional dietary cultures of the Japanese,” the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) registered washoku on its Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity on December 4, 2013. Discuss Japan spoke with Kumakura Isao who spearheaded the campaign for convincing UNESCO to add washoku to its intangible cultural heritage list. ―― UNESCO registered washoku on its List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. We would like to start this interview by asking how you feel about this.  Kumakura Isao: If nothing else, as a member of the team that worked hard for this registration for two and a half years, I was extremely grateful for and delighted by the outcome. I think we can take great pride in this achievement as Japanese because our country’s washoku was registered on ... ... [Read more]