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The John Lennon Museum is closing

13 Dec

I mentioned a couple of times on this blog that the world’s only official John Lennon Museum is in Saitama, Japan.

(See this post and this one.)

Well, I just found out that due to a declining number of visitors to the museum, it will close in 2010 October.

I’d like to see the John Lennon Museum but I’ve have never visited it yet mainly due to it’s fairly inconvenient location and the ¥1,500 (about US $12) per person admission charge.

But, since it’s scheduled to close in about ten months, I might visit it before then.

The news that the John Lennon Museum will close comes only five days after the 29th anniversary of John Lennon’s death…and also one day after I heard that Wendy’s fast-food restaurant is exiting the Japan market this month (Click here to read my post about Wendy’s Japan closing).

This museum’s closing reminds me of the closing of the Rock And Roll Museum in Tokyo last January.
(I mention it in this post).

新版画

3 Nov

Today I went to the 「よみがえる浮世絵 -うるわしき大正新版画」特別展覧会 (Taisho-era Shin-hanga Ukiyo-e Prints Special Exhibit) at the 「江戸東京博物館」 (“Edo-Tokyo Museum“).

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I like Japanese 浮世絵 (Ukiyo-e woodblock print) art. I have a few posts about exhibits I’ve seen before (click here to read one I wrote almost exactly twelve months ago).

But this exhibit was different.

Traditional 浮世絵 (woodblock print) art was done from the 江戸時代 (Edo era (17th – mid 19th centuries)) until the 明治時代 (Meiji era (1868 – 1912 (Japan’s modernization period))).

During the 明治時代 (Meiji era), traditional arts such as 浮世絵 (woodblock prints) began losing popularity because they were seen as dated and old-fashioned…and Japan was in a rush to “modernize” during this period.

But, ironically, while Japanese people were losing interest in 浮世絵 (woodblock prints), they were becoming chic and popular in America and Europe during these years.

So during Japan’s 大正時代 (Taisho era (1912 – 1926)) until the first half of the 昭和時代 (Showa era (1926 – 1989), a new, modern style of 浮世絵 (woodblock prints) emerged.
They’re called 「新版画」 (“Shin-hanga“…or “New style prints”).

Due to the popularity of 新版画 (Shin-hanga) in America and Europe during these years, many American and European artists came to Tokyo to learn the art of 新版画 (Shin-hanga) from the “masters”.
So the exhibit that I went to today had art by Japanese 新版画 (Shin-hanga) artists…as well as Japanese-style Shin-hanga prints by American and European artists.
It was very interesting!

Unfortunately after World War II, Japanese society changed alot and now there are very few 浮世絵 (ukiyo-e) or 新版画 (shin-hanga) artists today.

But there is good news, it seems that 新版画 (Shin-hanga) is currently becoming popular again both in Japan and overseas…so maybe more artists will study the craft and keep this tradition alive.

「増上寺の雪」 ("Zojoji Temple in Snow") by Kawase Hasui (昭和28年 (1953))

「増上寺の雪」 ("Zojoji Temple in Snow") by Kawase Hasui (昭和28年 (1953))

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「東京タワー」 ("Tokyo Tower") by Kasamatsu Shiro (昭和34年 (1959))

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「両国橋」 ("Ryogoku Bridge") by French artist Noel Nouet (昭和11年 (1936))

写楽

1 Sep

Today I went to a 特別展 (special exhibit) at the 江戸東京博物館 (Edo-Tokyo Museum) titled: 「写楽幻の肉筆画」 (“SHARAKU and Other Hidden Japanese Masterworks from the Land of Narsicaa”).

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This is a collection of Japanese 浮世絵 (woodblock prints) and paintings that were collected by Greek art collectors (mostly the Greek Ambassador to Japan) about 100 years ago.

It seems that records were not kept in Japan about the most of the pieces and even some of the artists. So, when Japanese art scholars learned of these pieces in an art museum in Greece they were very excited and arranged for an exhibit of the pieces back in their “home” (Japan).

This 特別展 (special exhibit) ends next Sunday (2009 Sept 6).

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Woodblock prints like this were sometimes used to to decorate 扇子 (Japanese fans)

Woodblock prints like this were sometimes used to to decorate 扇子 (Japanese fans)

The 江戸東京博物館 (Edo-Tokyo Museum) is next to the 国技館 (Tokyo Sumo Arena).
Here’s a sign advertising an upcoming Sumo tournament:

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ラーメン・ガール

24 May

First of all, today is my mother’s birthday. So…Happy birthday, Mom.

Yesterday, I watched the movie 「ラーメン・ガール」 (“The Ramen Girl“).

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Have you ever seen this movie?

It’s not bad. It’s much better than that other Tokyo-related but over-rated 「ロスト・イン・トランスレーション」 (“Lost In Translation“)!

A boring movie....

A boring movie....

The movie “Lost In Translation” is about an American woman who follows her boyfriend to Tokyo when his work sends him here and he is too busy to spend time with her so meets another American who is working in Tokyo and just as lonely as she is.

If you haven’t seen it…don’t bother. It’s painfully boring.

The movie “The Ramen Girl“, though not great, is a much better movie than “Lost In Translation“.
Ironically, it has some similarities in the story.
An American woman follows her boyfriend to Tokyo when his work sends him here in this story, too. He decides she’s cramping his style and he moves to Osaka without her.
She becomes depressed and lonely and one night has a bowl of ラーメン (Ramen*) at a nearby Ramen shop that are all over Japan.
(* Real ramen. Not the instant type that is cheaply sold in supermarkets. It’s quite different.)

She falls in love with Ramen and decides she wants the Ramen chef to allow her to become his apprentice. Which is grudgingly agrees to…even though she can’t speak any Japanese and he can’t speak English.

It takes her awhile to understand that, in Japan, that a student is expected to take his role seriously and follow everything his teacher says…without question.
(Much the same lesson that “Daniel” learned in the movie 「ベスト・キッド」 (“The Karate Kid“).)

Karate Kid Japanese movie flyer

Karate Kid Japanese movie flyer

The movie 「ラーメン・ガール」 (“The Ramen Girl“) definitely wasn’t the best movie I’ve ever seen. But it was fun. It had parts that over-simplified or stereotyped Japan…but it also showed Tokyo better than alot of other overseas movies do. They even showed the Yokohama Ramen Museum briefly.

(You can also click here to read a review of this movie by “Manmanchi“).

December 8th

8 Dec

Today is 十二月八日 (December 8th). The 67th anniversary of 真珠湾攻撃 (the attack on Pearl Harbor). Actually, America observes it on December 7 because the attack occurred on Sunday, December 7, 1941 Hawaii time…but in Japan, it was already Monday, December 8, 1941 (due to the time difference).

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The anniversary of 真珠湾攻撃 (the attack on Pearl Harbor) is observed more in America than here in Japan, of course. In Japan, the WW2 anniversaries that are observed are the dates of atomic bombings of Japan (on August 6th and 9th) and the war’s end (on August 15th).

(Click here to read my post about the anniversary of the atomic bombing, click here to read my post about the anniversary of Japan’s surrender, and click here to read my interview with an American WW2 pilot.).

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Today is also the 28th anniversary of the murder of John Lennon (of the English band “The Beatles“), who was shot and killed on 千九百八十年十二月八日 月曜日」 (Monday, December 8, 1980) in New York City.

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I remember when I heard the news. I was eleven years old, and I had many classic rock albums (vinyl) that were given to me by my father and my uncle…including Pink Floyd, Cream, Rolling Stones, Aerosmith…and The Beatles. So, I knew who John Lennon was, and I was shocked that he was killed! Especially by a self-proclaimed Beatles fan!

Mark Chapman asked John Lennon to autograph the new (at that time) John Lennon / Yoko Ono album, “Double Fantasy” (which he did)…then he shot John Lennon in the back four times.

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(Mark Chapman’s police mugshot)

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(“Double Fantasy”)

John Lennon’s Japanese widow, オノ・ヨウコ (Yoko Ono) is in Tokyo for a concert to commemorate the 28th anniversary of John Lennon’s passing with a concert at the famous 日本武道館 (Nippon Budokan) called “John Lennon Super Live“.
At the promotion for the concert last week, she distributed pieces of a smashed clay pot that she made…and asked everyone who received a piece to return in ten years so that the pot can be reassembled.

Do you know that the world’s only official “John Lennon Museum” is in Japan?
It’s at the さいたまスーパー・アリーナ (Saitama Super Arena) near さいたま新都心駅 (Saitama Shintoshin Station) not too far from Tokyo.
Admission is ¥1500.

iKnow!

6 Dec

Do you study 日本語 (Japanese)?
Have you ever seen the website called ” iKnow! “?

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It’s a excellent site for language study drills. English speakers can study Japanese, and Japanese people can use it to study English.

You can customize it to your level of ability and it drills new words different ways: 漢字 (kanji) → English, ひらがな → English, and English → Japanese (both 漢字 (kanji) and ひらがな), and also shows the 漢字 (kanji characters) and has you type in the reading for them.

(I believe you can also study Japanese using only alphabet characters instead of 漢字 (kanji) or ひらがな if you can’t read Japanese characters…but I haven’t tried it that way, so I’m not positive)

It’s a quite good program. And the best part is…the beta version is free! (Click here to visit the iKnow! page.)

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Yesterday, the weather wasn’t so cold in Tokyo…but it rained hard. So, although today’s a nice clear day,  it’s colder. In fact, the 天気予報 (weather forecast) for today says it will snow on the other coast of Japan!

Here’s today’s 天気予報 (weather forecast) for all of Japan (東京 (Tokyo) is sunny):

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And this week’s 天気予報 (weather forecast) for Tokyo:

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It’s forecast to rain again on 火曜日 (Tuesday) and 水曜日 (Wednesday)! 😦

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All of last week, my second daughter had 職場体験 (work experience). Most Japanese junior-high school students work at a local business for a week to an idea of what it’s like to have a job (and maybe help them decide on a future career).

Last year, my oldest did her 職場体験 (work experience) at a local 幼稚園 (kindergarten). And last week, my second daughter just finished her’s at a nearby 動物園 (zoo).

Both of them really enjoyed the experience.

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Speaking of the 動物園 (zoo)…yesterday, my youngest daughter’s class at school took a field trip to 上野動物園 (Ueno Zoo) and the 博物館 (museums) near the zoo.

Luckily it didn’t rain until later in the day, so they were able to enjoy the 動物園 (zoo).

She took all of these photographs (she took alot more photos…but I’m not posting any of them that show her or her classmates):

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And tomorrow, we’re going to watch my youngest daughter’s Koto concert. (Koto is a traditional Japanese musical instrument that my daughter plays).

浮世絵

16 Nov

I like 浮世絵 (ukiyoe: Japanese woodblock prints).

Have you ever seen 浮世絵 (ukiyoe)?
It’s a traditional style of Japanese “painting“. Instead of using a brush, the picture is carved into woodblocks which are used like a printing press to make the picture.
But the whole picture isn’t carved into one block…different parts of the picture are carved into different blocks. So the picture is printed in layers.

It must have been alot of work!

I have seen a number of 浮世絵 (ukiyoe) exhibits at museums over the years.

As with many people, my favorite artists are 北斎 (Hokusai) and 広重 (Hiroshige).

One of the most famous (if not the most famous) 浮世絵 (ukiyoe) works is 神奈川沖波裏 (“The Great Wave Off Of Kanagawa“) by 北斎 (Hokusai):

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I like that picture alot, too. But my personal favorites are the 妖怪 (monsters):

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浮世絵 (ukiyoe) subjects aren’t usually 妖怪 (monsters) though. Common themes of 浮世絵 (ukiyoe) are 相撲 (sumo), 歌舞伎 (kabuki), 芸者 (geisha) and 自然 (nature).

Anyways, this month, the 江戸東京博物館 (Edo-Tokyo Museum) in Tokyo is having a couple of special exhibits.

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One is the 浮世絵 (ukiyoe) collection from The Museum Of Fine Arts, Boston of America, and the other is a 「浅草今昔」 (“Asakusa: Then And Now“) exhibit.

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I went to see them yesterday. It was pretty crowded in the museum because it was a Saturday, but it was enjoyable. As I said, I like 浮世絵 (ukiyoe) and I also like 下町 (traditional downtown areas of Japan) like 浅草 (Asakusa).

The 浮世絵 (ukiyoe) in the exhibit from the Boston Museum were items that were from three American’s personal collections.

It was interesting to see the types of art that Americans like to collect compared to the types of 浮世絵 (ukiyoe) that a Japanese person might choose.
Americans seem to like the very colorful, almost flashy pieces…but Japanese tastes tend to be more simple. I’ve lived in Japan for awhile now…I guess my style is more Japanese now.
It’s just an observation. Not to say one culture is better than another…just interesting to compare.

Inside the museum, there are places that it’s indicated that it’s OK to take a photo…but the 浮世絵 (ukiyoe) and 浅草今昔 (Asakusa: Then And Now) areas were marked 「撮影禁止」, which means “No Photography Allowed”, so I couldn’t take any photos of those exhibits.

But there was a traditional Japanese dance show at the museum that I was able to take a few videos of.

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I took eight short video of this group, and uploaded them to My YouTube Page. They’re pretty good, click here to visit my YouTube page and you can see all of my videos.

Here’s one video of them:

After the museum, we walked to 浅草 (Asakusa), and visited a Japanese Garden there.

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There was a man at the Japanese garden playing a 三味線 (Shamisen) which is a traditional Japanese instrument.
I took this video of him:

Cell-phone Camera

25 Oct

I was looking at the pictures on my 携帯電話 (Cell-phone) camera.
I have over 600 photos on the phone’s memory disc that I’ve taken at various places (the disc still has alot of memory space left, too!)

So I made a slideshow of some of the photos:

[rockyou id=125385250]

草鹿式

14 Oct

As I mentioned in an earlier post (here), we just finished a three-day weekend because yesterday was a holiday. (It was 体育の日 (Sports Day)…(see my short FAQ about it here)).

We went to two festivals. One was on Sunday (at this post) and the other one was yesterday.

The event that we went to yesterday wasn’t really a festival but more of a ceremony.
It was the 草鹿式 (Archery Ceremony) at 靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine).

The literal translation of 草鹿式 would be “Grass deer ceremony“. This is because the archers, wearing traditional outfits and speaking in traditional 日本語 (Japanese), shoot arrows at a stuffed deer. Not a real deer…a fake one.
The arrows don’t have arrowheads so that they can use the target deer every year.

Like 相撲 (Sumo), this event has alot of ritual and tradition that is done before each shooting.

It was fun to watch…not as exciting as 流鏑馬 (Horseback Archery), but still fun. (Click here and here to read my posts about 流鏑馬 (Horseback Archery)).

Here are a few photos I took:

Here are some videos:

Because 靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine) is where all who have died fighting for Japan are enshrined, it attracts Japan’s right-wing extremists.

But they are a minority. Most visitors to 靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine) are just like visitors to war memorials in other countries…only there to honor the sacrifice and the memories of soldiers who died in battle. (See an earlier post I wrote about 靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine) here).

After we left there, we went to the nearby 昭和館 (Showa-kan).

The 昭和時代 (Showa Period) in Japan was when the current Emperor’s father was alive and was Emperor. The 昭和館 (Showa-kan) is a museum that focuses on how life in Japan was during and just after World War 2.

I couldn’t take any pictures inside but it was very interesting. Japan has changed alot since then and there were many hardships back then. But some things, like the food that Japanese people eat, is still quite the same.

The museum’s website is here (日本語 (Japanese) only).

Over the years I have seen many American celebrites do television commercials in Japan. (Kinda like in that overrated movie “Lost In Translation“. (I thought that was a painfully boring movie…but some people, it seems, liked it alot. C’est La Vie. Did you like it?)).

Tommy Lee Jones has been making humorous commercials for Boss Coffee for awhile now.

Most of the American celebrities just say a few lines in English or they may say a couple words of Japanese…but they usually slaughter the language if they do. Tommy Lee Jones speaks Japanese pretty good in his commercials though.

From there, we walked past the 日本武道館 (Nippon Budokan Arena). Along the walk, I took these pictures:

On the way home, we stopped for a break at the Lotteria Fast Food Restaurant. We ate dinner at home, but just took a “coffee break”. They sell Japanese style snacks…Green Tea Shake, and An-bean and mochi pastries. So we had one each.

ペリー

16 Jun

Yesterday I went to the 江戸東京博物館 (Edo-Tokyo Museum) to see the マシュー・ペリー (Matthew C. Perry) exhibit.

Matthew C. Perry was a Commander in the U.S. Navy in the early 1800’s.

At that time, Japan was closed to foreign countries, and Perry was sent here by the American president to negotiate with Japan to signing a trade agreement with the United States.

The fact that Perry had a fleet of black, intimidating war-ships just off the coast of Japan played a big part in convincing Japan to open to the West.

The museum had, among many other interesting things, some 浮世絵 (Woodblock prints) that Japanese artists painted of Perry.

This was the first time any of them had seen foreigners or heard them speak. So the pictures that they painted of Perry had exaggerated features, such as huge noses and wildly curly hair.

And a couple of them had Perry’s name spelled (in Japanese) incorrectly. They wrote: ペルリ (Peruri) and ペロリ (Perori), instead of ペリー (Perry).

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By the way, I’m currently in the process of redesigning My Website ( http://www3.ocn.ne.jp/~tokyo5 )…it’s gonna look nicer, I think.

I’ll let you know when it’s done.