Monthly Archives: August 2008

The Exhibition of Art of Calligraphy


     HI351847Last Wednesday I had an opportunity to see a big exhibition of art of calligraphy. It’s been held since Aug. 26 to 31 at Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art in center of Nagoya.

     I visited the museum before I went to an English class because the class is held at NHK Center Building, which is next to the museum. 

     The exhibition booth was even bigger than I had thought. I needed much time to see all of the works. If I had appreciated the exhibition carefully, I might have been there for several hours. 

     There were a large amount of works of calligraphy in the place. Probably it had more than 15.000 works. I was so surprised at the large number of calligraphy lovers. HI351851

     The exhibition was quite interesting. There were many kinds of works as well.
Some were written on big paper as long as the wall, some on small pieces of paper. Some were written in bold stroke, some in spidery writing. Some were written by dilute ink, some by intense black ink.  

     I had thought until seeing the exhibition that Japanese calligraphy is written texts in vertical direction, but some works were written horizontally. Some works had English words, too. HI351850

     I didn’t know that calligraphy has engraving. I saw many wooden works. On the board Chinese characters are engraved and painted. I’ve learn there’re many techniques for calligraphy this time.  HI351852

     I think it’s interesting that many people depict themselves by letters.

The Global Understanding Class for Kids in Nisshin


     There was a kind of global understanding class for children in Nisshin last Tuesday. I attended it because that I had helped a friend of mine, who was one of organizers of the event, and that I invited some of my foreign friends as guests there.

     During the preparation for the event, there were many problems and troubles. So I was worried there for a while. But it was a big success. Because even I was really relieved when it was over, the friend must have felt a load off her mind. 国際2

     The class was held at Nisshin Citizens’ Hall and had some 40 kids. The number of the foreign guests were five; an American man, a Greek lady, a Korean lady, a Peruvian man and a Spanish man. 国際3

     In the class, after each foreign guest introduced himself or herself in their native language, the MC asked all of the guests what Japanese food they like and don’t like. Then the children were separated in four groups. Each group had at least one foreign guest and talked freely. 

     After a while, the guests switched and they talked to different children. It seems that some kids learn English and they talked to the foreign guests in English directly. Some guests speak Japanese, but some spoke through interpreters.国際4

     After the free conversation, it was a quiz time. The guests gave some questions related to their home countries to the children. Each group contended for prizes. The children were really excited. I was added to a group of children and thought of answers together with children. I had a nice time. 国際5

     By the way, the reason why I got involved in the event in the first place was that the friend had asked me to help with finding some foreign guests. She had found four people, but two of them canceled because of their jobs before the week. You know, it’s difficult to find someone from other countries now because most of them are home on vacation.  国際6

     But I was able to find three participants. One is Mariano, from who I have learned Spanish before. I know he doesn’t like such an event where he has to make a presentation in front of people. So, first he refused to come to the event. But the friend and I persuaded him. Although he didn’t feel up to it, his presentation was wonderful. He is really good with kids. 

     I also asked a Peruvian lady to come to the event, but she couldn’t because of her job. Her husband, however, became a guest instead of her. Unlike his wife, he is not used to such an event. But his presentation was excellent. He showed how to play with a top, and traditional Peruvian costumes too. 国際7

     And I asked an American man to help and he accepted with pleasure the invitation to make a presentation. He brought not only his two children but also a lot of excitement to the event. He is very good at warming up. He also prepared many things for the event, but unfortunately there was not enough time to do whole things…

     Of course, other two ladies’ presentations were great as well. I was touched by their earnest attempts. I really appreciate those guests’ cooperation. I hope that the event promoted global understanding for those Japanese children.

The Friendship Festival at Yokota Air Base


FF poster      It rained hard on Saturday. I went to Yokota Air Base in Fussa City, Tokyo in the heavy rain. I joined in a bus tour with some of my friends. You usually can’t enter the base, but you could last Saturday and Sunday because of a friendship festival. Fussa City and the base have the festival in the base once a year. HI351787

     What time do you think the bus we got on left Nagoya station for the base? It left at seven in the morning! I had to get up at 4:45 a.m.! And when we got off the bus, it was around 12:30. How far!

     We couldn’t enter the base soon. We had to walk more than 1 km to the gate in the rain. We couldn’t walk smoothly because the street around the base was very crowded. My feet were sopping wet before getting the gate.横田1

     When we managed to get to the gate, what we saw was a long line for the security check. We showed inside our bags at the entrance and we were about to walk away when two men ran up to us and shouted, “Stop! Show your ID cards!”

     What? All people around us stared at us. No one was asked to show their ID cards except for us. The men looked at us suspiciously and we looked at each other in complete confusion. They got through our ID cards and finally we were able to enter the base. 横田2

     It was really crowded…I couldn’t see anything except for people’s umbrellas! A small train was running to take people to the festival place, and there was a long line to get it on, too. We decided to keep on walking. HI351794

     At last we arrived at the festival place when we saw many stalls there. We got beer and hamburgers, hotdogs and a steak set for lunch. To be honest those foods were not so good…But beer, bread and steak sauce were pretty nice. 

     After quick lunch, we went to see planes. On the way to the strip, we saw a lot of patties being burned, oops, roasted. Smelt really nice! I wanted to try one, but I gave up right away because I saw a long queue for the hamburgers. We didn’t have much time to be there because we had to go back the bus by 4:00. It takes at least 30 minutes to the bus from the gate in the crowd even if we walk with a quick step.  MA320026

     On the vast strip there w ere many planes and choppers. Every plane looked so big for me. I like seeing planes. It seems that some planes just came there in the morning from other bases. I heard that one had come from Korea that morning. Wow! Just for the festival! MA320023 

     Unfortunately many attractions were cancelled because of the bad weather. Exactly most of what I saw there were people’s umbrellas! But I enjoyed the atmosphere at the base very much.  MA320027

     Because of the crowd, we left a little bit earlier the base and strolled on the street, where there are many shops for G.I. Each has created a unique atmosphere. Interestingly many stalls along the street were selling cucumbers! I don’t know why? I’m wondering whether it is popular to eat a whole cucumber in Fussa…

     Anyway we had a nice time at the base. I’d like to join in the festival again when it’s sunny.

Wasabi Soba in Yanaka


HI351780      During Obon holidays I was in Tokyo where my family’s grave is. I had an interesting experience at a soba, or buckwheat noodle, restaurant near the grave yard when I visited there last week.

     Obon is a Buddhist festival to recognize ancestral sprits and many people take days off and visit their relatives’ graves during the period. HI351776

     My family grave is in an old historical place named Yanaka, where it is said that there are more than 60 temples. Yanaka has not only temples but also many Edo flavored shops and restaurants. So it’s a tourist attraction like Kyoto. 150x150_481823

     After visiting the grave, I enjoyed strolling in the area. There are many shops of senbei, or hard rice crackers, and Japanese antique shops around there. It was nice to even look around. Then I went to a soba restaurant with my family. 

     The soba restaurant, Kawamura, is well-established. I ordered wasabi soba. Wasabi is a kind of Japanese herb and is used as condiment, and tastes very sharp. So, the waitress who I ordered it asked me, “Ah…the soba is very strong…are you all right?” with a worried look. I got interested more in the soba by her words and said, “Yes. I’ll eat the soba, please!”HI351781

     The waitress brought me the soba after a while grinning and said, “You don’t suck in the soba, OK? Eat it carefully and slowly, please. Otherwise you’ll get a bad cough! Enjoy it!” And she went back to the kitchen looking back at me.

     Is it such a dangerous food? I tried to have a bite of the soba cautiously…谷中1

     The soba bit the nose! The taste was very good, but I had to eat it with tears in my eyes. Too strong! I couldn’t stop myself tearing. All the waitresses of the restaurant looked at me with smiles.

     One of the waitresses came to me and said, “Are you OK? I hope you did enjoy it! Have a nice day!” when I went out of the restaurant. I’d like to try the soba again someday!

SISAY at Nagoya Castle


      I went to Nagoya Castle on Tuesday night with some of my friends, and had a wonderful time there. There has been a summer festival in the castle and it has many events every day. And that day SISAY‘s concert was held!

     SISAY, which means blooming in Kechua, is an Ecuadorian folklore music group. I’ve liked them since I first saw them at Aichi Expo three years ago.HI351766

     Checking emails the other day, I noticed a free mail publication arrived. It said that SISAY was appearing at the festival in Nagoya Castle. I decided to go see their concert right away and I thought it would be nice if someone came with me. That’s why I passed the information to my friends. And five of them accompanied me.HI351769

     SISAY’s concert was scheduled to start at 7:00 p.m. but four of us went to the castle around 5:00. We decided to look around the castle before the concert because one of us had never been there.

     After one-hour-tour of the castle, we met other two of my friends and got drink and food at stalls. We enjoyed chattering over beer and food. I really like drinking beer outside!HI351770

     When we arrived at the concert place, many people had already gathered. I talked to some of people who were there and waited for the concert.

     SISAY appeared. Their sound was so nice. I got a dreamy feeling in the evening cool breeze. For a change, Cesar was playing the base. He usually plays other musical instruments such as the pan flute, the violin, the guitar, and charango. Anyway he is cool! The red shirt looked nice on him! HI351771

     Before I knew it, most people were standing and dancing. Of course, so was I! Dance! Dance! Dance!

     Ah! Time flies! After an hour, the stage finished…I basked in the afterglow of the concert there for a while…

Night Zoo


After the tai chi training workshop I went to Higashiyama Zoo with a friend of mine. The zoo usually closes at 4:50 p.m., but it opened until 8:30 p.m. because of “Night Zoo” that day.

     I happened to know about it when I saw the advertisement hung in the subway train a few days before. I was thrilled because I had been interested in visiting a zoo in the evening.HI351749

     The friend and I entered the zoo past six o’clock. Ordinary at that time there must be no visitors in the zoo, but there were many families and couples in it that day.  

      Most of cages were dark, but I saw some red lights shining in places. It appeared that those animals illuminated by the red lights are nocturnal. HI351754

     I had expected to see some of the nocturnal animals’ special behavior in darkness, but unfortunately I couldn’t. They were just standing, lying down, sleeping, or eating something. It was the same as in the daytime…Probably they show things in their true colors at midnight when no one is in the zoo. HI351751

     I think for the animals in the zoo, Night Zoo is an annoying event because they can’t rest even in the evening. If I were in captivity in the zoo, I would shout, “Don’t look at me!”

     I couldn’t see anything special at Night Zoo and feel sorry for the animals, but I’d like to visit the zoo at night again. I like the mysterious atmosphere.

The Tai Chi Workshop in Summer 2008


There was an annual big tai chi meeting at Aichi Prefectural Gymnastic last Sunday and I took part in it. It was a kind of workshop and the participants learned a lot about tai chi there.

     It started at 10:30 a.m. and finished past four p.m. First there was an awarding ceremony. An 80-year-old woman was recognized by her long continuation of doing tai chi and her age. Amazingly she looked sixtyish! Oh! If I kept on practicing tai chi for a long time, I would look younger than my real age when I get to eighty as well!HI351742

     After the ceremony, the participants practiced standing style Zen. And we did hachi-dan-nishiki, or eight section brocades, which is an exercise combining stretching and qigong. Then we did tai chi all the way through. HI351743

     With an hour lunch time between in mid-course, the participants learned tai chi by six sections. There are many style tai chi all over the world, and what I practice is Yan Min-Shih style one and it has 24 actions. HI351744

     The teachers of the workshop are the few people who had learned tai chi from the late Yan Min-Shih, who is the founder of the style. So, they teach us not only tips for doing tai chi, but also the philosophy of the founder. 

    What I learned there are: You don’t need to do tai chi well. Practicing tai chi is not just to enhance your skills. You don’t compare yourselves with others. The main purpose for doing tai chi is to do well and to stay healthy. Keep on enjoying doing tai chi!

Incense Burning Ceremony


HI351734      Last Sunday I had an interesting experience. It was participation in an incense burning ceremony at The Tokugawa Art Museum. The ceremony was held at a teahouse in the museum.

     There are many ways to enjoy incense burning ceremony, but I took part in an interesting activity called kumiko, or incense comparing games, that day. This time I tried a game called kawari-ka-getsu-ko. Ka means the flower and getsu(=tsuki) the moon. HI351735

     Participants have a chance to smell two incenses in turn. The first one is called the flower and next one is the moon. The participants tried to remember those smells and the game starts:

     There are four small bags in front of the host. Each bag has incense. Two of them are the flower and the rest are the moon. The host shuffles all the bags and then selects two of them at random. She or he burns one of the incense and passes it to the participants. They try to guess at which smell it is, the flower or the moon, and write the answer on the paper. And the host burns another of incense. The participants try to guess again. The game is guessing what the pair is: the flower and the flower, the flower and the moon, the moon and the flower, and the moon and the moon. The order has to be correct too. HI351736

     The participants have to obey many of the rules for the ceremony:

    <Manners at the ceremony>
・You can’t wear a short skirt or accessories such as a watch, rings, necklaces, or earrings.
・You shouldn’t be barefoot.
・You mustn’t wear perfume.
・You can’t enter and leave or talk freely during the ceremony.

                                        <The way of smelling>untitled
  1. When the censer comes to you, you greet the next person.
2. You take it with your right hand and put it on palm of your left hand.
3. You turn it twice counterclockwise.
4. You put your left index finger on one of the legs of the censer and your left thumb on the edge of it.

   5. You cover the censer with your right hand.
6. You smell the incense between your right thumb and index finger quietly.
7. When you exhale, you have to look down the left.
8. You can smell it three times.
9. You turn the censer twice clockwise.
10. You pass it to the next person. HI351737

     I’ll introduce Japanese incense history a little here.

    Incense burning ceremony is a Japan’s important culture, along with its tea ceremony and flower arrangement. According to one of the oldest document named Nihon-shoki, the first time an aromatic tree came to Japan is in 595 and it was drifted ashore at Awaji-shima Island.

     However, it’s said that incense was introduced together with sutras and images of Buddha earlier than that because Buddhism was introduced into Japan through the ancient Korea in 538 (Some says it’s in 552). Incense can’t be separated from Buddhism rituals. 

     In Heian Period (the age of court noble: from the end of the 8th century to the end of the 12th century), incense was not only for Buddhism rituals but also for enjoying the smell for noble people. They burned incense in the room and add the scent to clothes and furniture. In the age of samurai warrior class (until the 16th century), games of guessing the incense was created. At the same time, the ceremony was also established. In Edo Period (until end of the 19th century), the common people began enjoying scent, and the world of incense burning ceremony was in full flourish.聞香

     That day, for all of the participants it was the first time to join in the ceremony. That’s why the ceremony was a kind of disaster. But I really enjoyed the experience. I learned many about incense at the ceremony. The most what I was surprised at was that the smell was very subtle. I noticed our daily lives are surrounded by strong smells. Although it was really hot that day, mysteriously I felt calm and relax during the ceremony. It was a really nice experience for me to learn and try the ancient gracious culture.

The Bon Dancing Festival 2008


HI351733      I thought it was a little bit strange to see so many people at the bus terminal when I got off the bus last Friday. It was near nine o’clock in the evening. I was on my way home from summer intensive courses at a collage.

     The place is usually quiet at night. But the day was not. There were many people around there. Some people in a kind of sashes written a slogan “Road Safety” were standing at each side of the crosswalk before the terminal, saying “Hello! Welcome home!” HI351727

     “What’s happening?” When I thought that, I heard the sound of a drum. Ah, yes! It was the Bon dancing festival in my area! I decided to drop by the festival before coming back home. 

     It was alive with people. I saw children in yukata, or informal kimono for summer, buying something at stalls. Many elderly people and children are dancing. Women are chattering and laughing. Men are drinking beer. I found one of my neighbors selling food at a booth there. HI351728

     She is from Bangladesh and the head of Bangladesh Association. She was also wearing yukata. It was really nice on her. The notice said curry and rice, and vegetable croquettes, but I didn’t see anything at her booth. I asked her, “Are all food sold out?” She replied, “Yes…I’m sorry I don’t have anything to sell you! But I still have curry sauce and rice. Try it!” Then she treated me. The curry had no meat and vegetables for topping, but the taste was good. 

     While eating the curry, a few women came to the booth. All of them were not Japanese. My apartment complex has many foreigners. I saw people from various countries enjoying the festival when I looked over. I know one of the women, she is from Pakistan. They were also given the curry. All of us enjoyed ourselves having curry and chattering.HI351726

     The next day I went to the Bon dancing festival because I wanted to have the curry again and tried the vegetable croquettes. As eating them with beer, I saw the place. There were so many non-Japanese people.

     Essentially, the Bon dancing is a kind of ritual in Japan. Bon is Japanese Buddhist custom to offer prayers and food for ancestors. As far as I see, the Bon dancing festival in my area has no proper meanings, but I think it is a good opportunity to know and communicate each other in the neighborhood.