Jun 30, 2002

Sagae folk enjoying the fruits of their labor

Japan may be famously crazy about cherry blossoms, but the sakuranbo of Sagae City, Yamagata Prefecture, don’t attract attention until long after their white flowers have fallen off. Sakuranbo are fruit cherries, and Sagae and neighboring Higashine cultivate more of them than anywhere else ...

Exposing the dark side of human nature

May 29, 2002

Exposing the dark side of human nature

Man Ray was master of an art form for which he nonetheless professed “a certain amount of contempt”: photography. His first love was painting, and he persistently denied the artistry of the medium that made him famous. But it is largely thanks to his ...

| May 19, 2002

Repent of Western ways to see the light

A BURDEN OF FLOWERS, by Natsuki Ikezawa. Kodansha International, 2001, 239 pp., 2,400 yen (cloth) A story of two Japanese siblings’ rejection of Western values, one eloquent on the dangers of being “too Cartesian in your thinking, too tied up in Western rationalism,” is ...

Art macht frei

May 15, 2002

Art macht frei

“Arbeit macht frei (Work brings freedom)” were the words famously written above the gates of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, where Austrian-born artist Friedl Dicker-Brandeis was murdered in a gas chamber on Oct. 9, 1944. Friedl’s life, however, had been devoted to a different, truer ...

All we know of heaven and need of hell

Apr 17, 2002

All we know of heaven and need of hell

There may indeed be “more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of” in human philosophy, as Hamlet told faithful Horatio, but when it comes to hell, the human imagination needs little prompting. From Dante Alighieri’s “Divine Comedy” to the Bible itself, hell ...

Nanta on the cutting edge of comedy

Apr 10, 2002

Nanta on the cutting edge of comedy

From the back of the theater sounds a regular beat, quiet at first, then mounting in volume. In dances a slender woman wearing a tight chef’s jacket and hat. She is holding aloft a frying pan and, well, playing it. Three men follow her, ...

In the beginning was . . . confusion

Mar 31, 2002

In the beginning was . . . confusion

In the autumn of 1549, a holy man and his companion began wandering the Satsuma domain of southern Kyushu, preaching the glory of the Sun Buddha Dainichi. The man, who called himself a so (monk), was reported to come from the “Land of Buddha” ...

Getting back to where it began

Mar 27, 2002

Getting back to where it began

The career of Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1919), as it unfolds in a new retrospective at the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, is like watching art history run backward. Its culmination — the glowing colors and dynamic abstraction he made his own — introduced a ...

Not just cartooning around

Mar 20, 2002

Not just cartooning around

Having devoured all 23 volumes of illustrator Herge’s “The Adventures of Tintin” during my childhood, I’ve never since felt inclined to pick them up again. Nonetheless — though the scrapes of the Belgian boy reporter and his canine sidekick Snowy began life as a ...

The power and the glory of the Prado

Mar 13, 2002

The power and the glory of the Prado

It was the age of Spain’s Inquisition and its Age of Gold. King Felipe II, who ascended the throne in 1556, lost an “invincible” armada to the fleet of Protestant England, but he also built the breathtaking palace of El Escorial near Madrid. In ...