Fukuoka: Designed for living

Oct 3, 2010

Fukuoka: Designed for living

Inquiring as to the whereabouts of English-language bookstores in Fukuoka, the person at the Rainbow Plaza information center’s desk straightaway handed me a printout of English listings, maps and directions. This, I began to realize, is a well organized city. Despite the riches they ...

Aug 29, 2010

How Japan embraced the advent of cinema

Japanese cinema was different from the very start. In the days of the silent movie, recitators called benshi, took it upon themselves not only to interpret the action, but to add their own vocal and acting embellishments as self-appointed supra-dramatists. VISIONS OF JAPANESE MODERNITY: ...

Garden dualities

Aug 29, 2010

Garden dualities

Traditionally, gardens patronage in Japan came from two sources: the nobility and the coffers of well-endowed temples. The wealthy and privileged commissioned landscaped gardens for their estates; head abbots employed the services of ishi-tate-so (rock-setting priests) to create gardens that would complement religious architecture ...

Amami Oshima: Take a trip to the cloud forest of the imagination

Jul 4, 2010

Amami Oshima: Take a trip to the cloud forest of the imagination

Despite the environmental mistakes of the postwar decades, the violation of a once pristine landscape, a recent trip to Amami Oshima, gave very real cause for hope. Some regions have always, it seems, been in good shape. Flying over the island’s green, volcanic hills, ...

Jul 4, 2010

Pearl Harbor: setting history straight

It is extraordinary the lengths to which some people will go to reorganize history to suit their own ends. There are still voices, for example, claiming that Emperor Hirohito knew nothing about Pearl Harbor, the aerial attack that launched Japan’s holy war. DEMYSTIFYING PEARL ...

Jun 6, 2010

Art rebel without a cause

Pulse waves from the art world of the early 20th Century may have been felt far and wide, but the movements, practitioners and individual works of art themselves were far from being globally coordinate. IN PURSUIT OF UNIVERSALISM: Yorozu Tetsugoro and Japanese Modern Art, ...

A radical in the stones

May 23, 2010

A radical in the stones

For many Japanese film buffs, the name Kishiwada is synonymous with Miike Takashi’s 1997 movie “Young Thugs, Innocent Blood” — an example of a cinematic genre described by film auteur Donald Richie as “anarchic and set in the brutal and amoral present.” However, as ...

Apr 11, 2010

Culture suffocated by consumerism: eyewitness tales of Tibetan women

The basic facts about Tibet are well documented. Once the Chinese were firmly in control, land seizures, interrogations, struggle sessions, torture and the pulverizing of Buddhist images were conducted with a degree of fury only possible at the hands of religious or political zealots. ...

Under the volcano, Iwate's capital keeps its rich history alive

Apr 11, 2010

Under the volcano, Iwate's capital keeps its rich history alive

The signs of boredom on this first morning in Morioka are manifest. Arriving ill-equipped for the pouring rain, there is a limit to how much interest can be squeezed from the otherwise admirable station facilities. After two hours of window- shopping and an over-surfeit ...

Way down south in Hateruma

Mar 7, 2010

Way down south in Hateruma

In 1965, a Dutch anthropologist named Cornelius Ouwehand sailed with his Japanese wife, Shizuko, to the remote island of Hateruma to undertake research. The series of monochrome images they took of daily life, work and ritual there were eventually published under the simple title ...