Category Archives: Art

Jazz Concert at a Buddhist Temple

Standard

 

saikoji1     A Jazz concert at a TEMPLE?

     I was very surprised to hear from the deputy head priest of Saikoji Temple in Toyohashi that he was organizing a Jazz concert at the temple, but decided right away to join it because it is rare to have opportunities to listen to Jazz music at temples in Japan. saikoji2

   Incidentally, Saikoji Temple is famous in Mikawa area for an event called Tori-no-ichi. Tori-no-ichi’s literal meaning is the Rooster Fair and a market selling lucky charms for business, especially decorative rakes called Kumade. Actually, the day before the concert was Tori-no-ichi. So, a big Kumade rake was displayed at the temple.

     The concert was held on November 23rd. I was very surprised again when I entered the temple because the room was packed with little children. saikoji3

     This is the right place, isn’t it?

     A Jazz concert was certainly held at the temple. It started solemnly with the priest’s greeting to the audience under gorgeous golden decorations. It was a concert indeed, but it was different from others I have experienced. saikoji6

     First of all, there were no seats in the room. The audience could sit down on the floor anywhere they liked. Actually, they did not need to sit down. If they wanted to stand up, they could. Secondly, they were able to do anything they liked, for example, dancing, running around, and even making sounds! So many of the children were holding something to make a sound, such as maracas made from milk cartons, percussion instruments made from empty boxes, or rolled-up newspaper. Actually, I did not know until that day that the purpose of the concert was to cultivate children’s artistic expression.saikoji5

      The musicians were Minoru Yoshiki, the bassist, Noriyuki “Knocky” Nakahashi, the pianist, and Syuji Mori, the tenor saxophonist. Once the music began, the children got excited and started to express their feelings freely. Some clapped their hands, some ran around, some hit the floor with rolled-up newspaper, and some played their handmade instruments. I think this freedom of expression was because children are not bound or fixed by rules. But meanwhile, adults like me are limited by many restrictions. I would need gallons of alcohol if I needed to let my real self out…saikoji4

     Interestingly, the bassist and the saxophonist moved around in the room while playing, though, keyboardist could not move around. The concert had no separation between the stage and the audience, but had a free atmosphere. I had a great time at the temple!

Advertisements

Churchill in Love: I thought it had Churchill’s bedroom scenes!

Standard

チャ     “A Yes vote for Scottish independence on Thursday would go down in history as a political and economic mistake as large as Winston Churchill’s decision in 1925 to return the pound to the gold standard or the failure of the Federal Reserve to provide sufficient liquidity to the US banking system which we now know brought on the Great Depression in the US…”20140914_143033-a

     The chief economist of German financial giant, Deutsche Bank, warned Scottish people about independence from the UK last Friday. I do not know whether Scottish people accepted warnings like his or not, but they finally chose to remain as part of the UK yesterday. I am wondering what the result will cause from now on, but at least it seems that we were able to avoid a world crisis.

     By the way, I went to see a play last Saturday about the politician who was referred to in the German economist’s warning to Scottish people. The title was Churchill in Love. Yes, the protagonist Winston Churchill was a high-flyer during the interwar period. But “in love”? So, I asked the actor who played Churchill when I received a flyer for the play, saying “Not ‘Churchill in Nagoya’?” But he replied, “Ha ha! No, no. It’s Churchill in Love!” with a laugh, and then added, “It’ll be the first time for me to have a bedroom scene.” Whaaaaaat? Churchill in a bedroom scene? I bought a ticket on the spot. 20140914_123326-a

     The flyer had the plot: In the summer of 1959 Sir Winston Churchill and his family boarded on the luxury yacht Christina at the invitation of Aristotle Onassis and his wife, Tina. Also invited on board the yacht was the mercurial opera diva, Maria Callas. What follows is a tempestuous cruise into the heart of deceit, desire, and disillusion as the aging Churchill and his family, seek to avoid any hint of impropriety. Love and lust wage war in this historical meditation of one man’s long love affair with his wife and another man’s descent into desperation. 20140914_125705

     Hmm…What will happen on stage? I was excited as I walked to the theater, which looks more like an old warehouse than a theater. It is a 42-year-old building named Nanatsudera Kyodo Studio which is located in Osu, Nagoya. An army major was standing in front of the building when I arrived. He was the actor who was playing Major Lang. Before the curtain-up, the play had already started. In fact, he and an actress who was playing Churchill’s wife came and went between the stage and the audience seats inside to enhance the mood.20140914_142300

    Actually, there was no bedroom scene played by Churchill and his wife. Instead of them, Ari Onassis and Maria Callas played love scenes. I was relieved. You know, Churchill was in his 80s. Love has different kinds like ancient Greek identified: familiarity (storge), friendship (philia), sexual and romantic desire (eros), and divine love (agape). The play depicted that Ari and Maria did not know true love or how to love someone from the heart. But they just pursue eros, one form of love. So, they also knew about love, which was just different from Churchill’s. Anyway, the play was interesting with thrilling episodes of those historical famous characters!

The 66th Mainichi Shodo Exhibition Tokai: You have to calculate to make something look beautiful…

Standard

IMG_0001     Are you interested in calligraphy? Actually, I am not so much either writing or appreciating letters. But I like the atmosphere of its exhibitions. This might sound contradictory but calligraphy exhibitions have both energetic and calm airs. It was the end of last month when a friend of mine and I went to see the Mainichi Shodo Exhibition at Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art. My friend’s sister showed one of her calligraphies at the exhibition, too. IMG_0002

     It was the 66th Mainichi Shodo Exhibition. They began in 1948 three years after the end of World War II. I think they decided, despite many difficulties to hold the exhibition in the chaos of the post-war period, when people were still struggling for their lives. They also struggled to hand over the torch of Japan’s calligraphy culture to the post-war generation. 毎日

     There are many kinds of calligraphy in Japan. In fact, the Mainichi Shodo Exhibition has nine categories: Chinese Character I (more than 21 letters), Chinese Character II (3 to 20 letters), Japanese kana Character I (more than 3 Japanese waka poems or more than 5 haiku poems), Japanese kana Character II (1 or 2 Japanese waka poems or 1 to 4 haiku poems), modern poetic calligraphy, large character calligraphy, seal engraving, wood carving, and avant-garde calligraphy (they are not “letters” anymore…) The exhibition had 8 rooms and more than 1200 works this year.

     To tell the truth, I cannot understand them when I look at calligraphies. I cannot tell a big difference between one which has received a prize and another one which has not. They look almost the same for me as letters written in black ink on the white paper…So, I usually walk around the big exhibition place, looking up at calligraphies with my mouth open, and then get tired and become a zombie two hours later. But the situation was different this year. I joined a guided tour. 2毎日

     Some judges picked up some exhibits and explained them. Especially, Mr. Tosen Sato’s lecture was interesting. According to him, the most important thing is to think about the composition carefully. In his case, it takes him nearly half a year to decide the structural outline for showing a work at an exhibition. Then he writes letters on the paper only two or three times. He said, “You don’t need to waste much paper,” and showed some classic works by an ancient calligrapher. There were many lines on the examples like engineering drawings. He studies many things, such as angles, from those classics. I was very surprised at his lecture because I had thought that they must have written letters from their hearts…It seems that you have to “calculate” to make something look beautiful…Some calligraphy works looked different after the guided tour!

The Handcraft Fair in Nagoya 2014: No one would recognize it as a UNIQLO product!

Standard

CAM00233     “You buy a cheap hoodie at a UNIQLO store and then add something like Tyrolean trims or something, or change the cord to a fancy one. You see, you can get an original item easily! No one would recognize it as a UNIQLO product! ” Mr. Tomoyuki Tanaka, a fashion designer, explained how to modify old or plain clothing items, showing many examples: T-shirts, hoodies, jackets, hats, bags, shoes…CAM00212

     I was in Fukiage Hall last Friday with two of my friends. There was an annual event called “Handcraft Fair in Nagoya.” I attend the event every year. (The previous articles about the event: 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008) My main purpose is to buy bags from a bag designer called Yukako. She makes bags from used clothes. I like her taste. The two bags in the photo were the ones I bought this year. They are lovely, aren’t they? CAM00214

     That morning, I had an English class, and my friends had a Chinese medicine class. We met at a restaurant for lunch around 1p.m. All of us were tired and sleepy when we arrived at the place at about 3. We bought some coffee and slumped on to chairs in front of the stage. We did not have stamina for walking around. Then, the talk show began. I was able to get many ideas for modifying clothing.

     After the show, we went to the bag designer’s booth. It was difficult to choose one from her works. Every bag was appealing. I bought a big tote for Tai Chi and drum practice. I often need to bring a pair of shoes and extra clothing for Tai Chi and drum sticks and musical scores for playing the drums. The other one is for my usual outings. I met the bag maker with the one I had bought from her last year. She was very pleased to see it, as if she had met her child who was living far away from her. CAM00215

     My friends each bought some automatic needle threaders made in Italy and wooden clogs. All of us were happy to get what we had wanted. Whenever I come to the event, I am surprised and impressed by many fancywork devotees. I have not made anything by myself for a long time, but the event gave me many hints about modifying this year. According to Mr. Tanaka, you can get many items for modifying at 100 yen shops or hobby stores. I cannot make a bag from old clothes like Yukako, but I might be able to decorate my old bags and to perk them up!

The Alphorns in Nagoya: Why don’t you join us? You have a talent!

Standard

SN3T0055     On a Sunday I suddenly wanted to eat ice cream. My husband and I were on our way home from a home improvement store. We dropped by a convenience store and bought ice cream. It was too hot to eat them in our car, which had no air – conditioner. So we went to a park nearby.

     When we were looking for a nice and cool place, we heard something. Some deep sounds. We found out the source when we were looking around. Three men were playing unfamiliar musical instruments. They were wooden horns, more than two meters long. SN3T0056

     I got interested in the instruments, but decided to finish my ice cream first since it began melting. Although it was hot that day, the wind was cool in the park. It was quite nice listening to the music, licking ice cream in the shade. When my husband and I finished our ice cream, the three men just stopped playing the horns. We walked up to them.

     “Hello,” one of the three men greeted us.
     “Hi! What’s this?” I asked him pointing to his horn.
     “It’s an alphorn.”
     “Alp? Does it have something to do with the Alps?”
     “Oh, yes!” He began explaining about the instrument enthusiastically as if he had been waiting to be asked. Actually, he was not the only person talking about the horn passionately, the other two men were also enthusing about the horns. SN3T0058

     They met the instruments first in Nagano Prefecture, not in Switzerland. There is a village which has a workshop for making alphorns by hand there. They heard about the instruments and the village, and went to the place several years ago. Then they fell in love with the horns. So, the three men went to the village for three months running to make their own ones. Each horn had a painting of beautiful flowers. They painted them by themselves. They were talking about their favorite musical instruments with starry eyes. SN3T0059

     “Why don’t you try?” one of them asked us with a smile.
     “Oh, really?”

     First, my husband tried. Amazingly, he made sounds after a few tries. The men’s eyes gleamed. They gathered around him, nodding, and said, “Why don’t you join us? You have a talent!” Next, I did. I tried hard. My face turned red, but no sound came from the horn. It seems that I have no talent for musical instruments…

     My husband and I are lucky because we stumbled across such an interesting instrument and people! According to them, they have more people in their group and are going to have a concert next March in Midori-ku. Why don’t you go to the concert if you can make it?

Ajisai Tea Ceremony ~ Cross-cultural Event in Shirotori Garden : I’m happy that I came to Japan!

Standard

CAM00170-a     “I never teach them in a cursory style just because they are non-Japanese or they are staying here a very short time. I think teaching Japanese culture has nothing to do with the nationality or duration of stay …” Ms. Kato began talking to the audience.

     There was an interesting event named “Ajisai Tea Ceremony” in Shirotori Garden near Atsuta(-Jingu) Shrine last Saturday. Some foreigners who love the Japanese tea ceremony made tea for Japanese people following the oficial protocol, some non-Japanese ladies appeared in yukata, a kind of kimono, which had been made by themselves, and talked about their favorite points of Japanese culture, and several Japanese volunteer guides showed some of us around the garden with English commentary. CAM00172-a

     I took part in the English guided tour and the talk show. (About Shirotori Garden and the English guided tour is HERE.) The tour finished around 11:20. I arrived in time the talk show which was supposed to start at 11:30, but the room was already packed and I had to stand. I saw many people in yukata or kimono among the audience because the people who were wearing traditional Japanese attire were able to enter the garden for free that day. (The regular entrance fee is 300 yen.) In addition, those people were not all Japanese. CAM00173-a

     Ms. Kato is the teacher who taught the performers of the talk show how to make yukata. Actually, she teaches not only making kimonos but also about Japanese tea ceremony, flower arrangement and traditional practices. Moreover, she is a pioneer among licensed interpreter-guides in Nagoya.

     “…I knew they had sewn by hand with effort, but I sometimes drew the thread out when I thought the seams were rough. I’m sure they had a tough time. But I believe they should do good finishing jobs. Besides I didn’t want people to think, “Because they’re not Japanese,” if they found my students’ clumsy sewing. But it might have been my fault that they couldn’t sew well. I’m sorry…” said Ms. Kato, and some performers melted in tears. CAM00195-a

     It took most of the foreign ladies more than one year to complete their yukata. One of them said, “I was very surprised when I knew I had to make yukata without patterns or a sewing machine.” Her words helped me to recall the differences between European and Japanese clothes. When you make Western clothes, you take the person’s size and make the pattern from the measurement. And you cut the materials with the pattern, and then you seam each part to fit together 3-demensionally. On the other hand, kimono is made by sewing rectangler pieces of materials and use sash belts to fit to your body. If the kimono gets too old to wear, you just draw the threads out and take it back to the rectangler pieces. You can make cushion covers or something with them. Then finally the materials finish their life as dusters. It is one of the innovative Japanese ideas to recycle kimono materials. CAM00190

     “I like a sense of tension and concentration when I write Japanese characters in calligraphy.”
     “I think each stroke in calligraphy has its own beauty.”
     “There’s beauty in the unique forms in Japanese flower arrangement.”
     “When I started making yukata, I just thought it would be a good souvenir to my return. But I was able to get something more than that. I learned many things. Japanese materials are good quality and their designs have both boldness and sensibility, and are very beautiful. I was able to learn about Japanese people’s diligence and patience through sewing my yukata by hand.”CAM00191

     All of the performers looked very nice and proud in their original yukata. You can never find another like it. They did not just sew the materials, write letters with a brush, or put flowers in the vase. They have received Ms. Kato’s spirit and have been learning Japanese culture in earnest. “I’m really happy that I came to Japan.” Some of them were in tears. Those ladies’ words were impressive and their works, such as yukata, calligraphies, ceramics, and arranged flowers, were wonderful. The talk show brought the Japanese audience the rediscovery of the brilliance of their own culture, and non-Japanese people the motivation for taking an interest in Japanese culture. I was glad I joined the meeting.

The Relation of Misho-kan Orange and Chagall: Would you like some fruit?

Standard

美生柑

       “Would you like some fruit, Ma’am?”
A young man was standing holding a big cardboard box when I opened the door…

     That day, I was going to visit Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art , in which an exhibition of Chagall was being held. June is the rainy season in Japan, but it was not raining when I went outside at that time. There were even some blue patches in the sky. So, I was walking feeling good to the nearest bus stop. All of a sudden, however, the sky became overcast and the next moment it began to rain. I retreated into a building nearby and took out a folding umbrella from my bag. But the rain gear was too small to walk in the downpour. I got soaked in no time when I started walking again.

     I need a much bigger umbrella! I decided to withdraw to my home. After getting home, the rain stopped and the blue canopy began expanding while I was changing drenched clothes. What was that rain?! I was discouraged to go out and decided to assume that God or my guardian angels had stopped me going out with the heavy rain for some reason.

     Opening the umbrella to dry at the bathroom, I heard someone rang the doorbell. When I opened the door, a young man was standing with lots of fruit. A fruit-vender came to my apartment. Mind you, it is not common that fruiterers come to your house in Japan. It seems that a fruit store near Nagoya Station send their recruits to town to sell their commodities as a kind of training.

     He had some melons, fruit-tomatoes, passion fruits, and citrus fruits called Misho-kan. It was my first time to hear and look at Misho-kan oranges. “What a name!” I said because “Misho” means “born beautifully” or “beauty is born” in Chinese character. But the fruit’s name has nothing to do with the meaning. According to the fruit-vender, the oranges are produced only in a village named Misho in Ehime Prefecture. I bought some Misho-kan after all. He said one cost 150 yen, but sold four for 500 yen. The fruit was sweet and incredibly juicy. Although I had to give up going to the art museum that day, I was able to have an interesting experience at home. シャガール

     As to the exhibition of Chagall, I managed to make time the next day and was able to go to see it. And I had a great time! I’ve had some opportunities to see Chagall’s paintings before, but this exhibition showed his other art works, such as, drafts of ceiling paintings, stained-glass, wall mosaics, sculptures and ceramics. I was able to see the big images on the ceiling of the Paris Opera House and the Metropolitan Opera House, stained-glass of churches, and other big works on the screen in the theater room of the exhibition, and was touched so much. Ah…I want to see the real things! Chagall’s 3D works, that is, his sculptures and potteries are humorous and have a relaxed air as if donkeys or goats in his paintings just came out from the 2D world and fell asleep. Ah…I want one!