Noh, often associated with the masks worn by actors playing certain roles, is widely regarded as Japan's oldest surviving performance art, with 650 years of history. (There are, of course, many older arts, such as Kagura ritual dancing, but those were developed for the entertainment of the gods, not for entertaining humans.) The stories portrayed … Continue reading Saying “yes” to Noh: Oyama’s Takigi Noh Fire Festival
In July I moderated a panel discussion at the Foreign Correspondents' Club on Japanese traditional crafts and their struggle to survive and be relevant in our modern world. My summary of that session is in the September issue of Number 1 Shimbun.
Japan has a long history of group dancing, especially during festivals. The dances might be performed during parades or as performances. Often everyone is dressed in the same yukata or kimono. In 1954, the Shikoku city of Kochi, concerned to boost local morale on the heels of the long struggle of post-war recovery, hit on … Continue reading Yosakoi: Japan’s happy dance
I was invited to write a brief analysis of the latest scandal to rock Toshiba, one of Japan's older industry leaders. This Asia Times article is the result (with a bit of hyperbole added by the editor).
During Japan's Edo Period (1603-1867), the movement of people and goods was strictly controlled by the shogunate. Anyone wishing to travel was expected to apply for and receive permission to do so, and then to travel only on approved routes. Generally speaking, the only acceptable reasons to travel were for trade or religious purposes or, … Continue reading Ouchi-juku: well-preserved Tohoku post town
This article introduces some fundamentals of traditional Okinawan folk music and a great Naha "live house" where it can be enjoyed. (Archived article – Originally published by Japan Today.)
During these pandemic times Tokyo hospitals are said to be seriously strained. At the same time I’m pleased to report, from personal experience, that they are still capable of handling emergency situations. I’d like to use this blog to describe my recent experience with emergency medical treatment in Tokyo. Sorry, but there won’t be many … Continue reading Emergency medical care in the time of COVID
Heading west from Meguro Station it's all downhill, a descent into the Meguro River valley. Particularly dramatic is the descent on a narrow laneway accessed from the main exit of Meguro Station (on the southern side of Meguro-dori). This steep slope is known as Gyonin-zaka. A gyonin is a Buddhist ascetic, and apparently Daienji, a … Continue reading Meguro’s Gyoninzaka – a different slant on Tokyo history
Anyone who's ever wandered into a kitchen knows how important a good knife is to food preparation. Arguably, Japanese kitchen knives, developed from Japan's long sword-making tradition, are the best in the world. Nenohi knives are among the most popular with professional chefs in Japan, even though the company is relatively young by Japanese standards, … Continue reading Japan’s Cutting Edge Cutlery
The late nineteenth/early twentieth century in Japan was a time when kabuki as an art form was liberalized, becoming more popular than ever. As a result, many communities built their own theaters. By the end of the Meiji Period (1868-1912) there were between four and five thousand such theaters across Japan. Only a few have … Continue reading Yachiyo-za Theater: jewel in the crown of Yamaga
This article features Matsushima, one of Japan's three great beauty spots. While the area suffered some damage in the earthquake/tsunami 9+ years ago, it's back to its beautiful self now. Lots to see and do. Well worth a visit! (Archived article originally published by Japan Today) For more information on Tohoku's Pacific Coast, check out … Continue reading Matsushima’s moods and marvels
A day walk in a pretty urban area is always fun. A walk with a mission, like collecting the stamps of seven lucky gods, is even more fun. I've written on several lucky gods walks to do at New Year's but here's one that can be done any time of year, takes about 3 hours, … Continue reading Chasing an unusual seven lucky gods in Zoshigaya