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Impressions of Kyoto

This corner features the words of non-Japanese people who live in Japan. You can learn even more about Kyoto by reading these columns, which are about Kyoto through the eyes of non-Japanese visitors and residents.

Hanatouro in Kyoto

Japan is a place where one can experience a completely different world from their own, and Hanatouro is an event that transports a person more than any other. With the pleasant flower lantern-lined streets stretching ahead amid numerous revelers and goings-on, the senses are at once excited by the bustle and entranced by the dancing shadows. There, a visitor can envision not only how old Kyoto may have looked in bygone times, but also how it may have felt to walk the old capital’s storied streets.

The sheer scale – just how many lanterns line how many streets – is another delightful surprise. One can stroll along alone and explore at length as their thoughts wander in the distinctively soft light, or they can enjoy the fascinating atmosphere with friends or loved ones. And of course, the romantic feel of a walk among the gentle lantern light goes without saying. The lanterns are not the only feature of this event, however. The exquisite glow rising up from the streets serves to enhance and display the beauty of Kyoto in an unmatched, timeless way. Flower arrangements seem to have finally found their true venue of exhibition, and the priceless buildings of Kyoto are shown in what one is constrained to think must have been their intended showcase.

The natural elements so prevalent in Kyoto – reflective ponds, soaring bamboo, and majestic trees – are lit up in a manner that brings out an entirely new beauty. Indeed, Hanatouro is perhaps most enjoyable because it delights the senses by placing an already impressive city in a literally different light.

Winter in Kyoto

Kyoto really takes on a different feel in the winter. The reflective stillness of the season seems to seep from the very rocks and trees. That’s not to say that Kyoto is not serene in other seasons; it is, and famous for being so. It’s just that in the stark and quite brittle cold of this time one can sense something that can almost, but not quite be described. The stars glimmer more brightly over the surrounding mountains. The strikingly vivid colors of Kiyomisu temple and Kinkakuji leap out from their monochrome backdrop. The simplicity of a Japanese garden is accentuated.

If you’re brave enough to venture out at night you may be able to enjoy a light-up at one of the temples or gardens, which is especially dramatic after a fresh fall of snow. Spare a thought for the priests, who are often dressed in their traditional garb even at this time of year!

It’s during this time that the many taverns of Kyoto really come into their own as bastions of boisterous warmth and sanctuary between sightseeing spots. Make sure your luggage can take some beating (i.e Samsonite) and enjoy a Japanese hot pot, some grilled chicken or perhaps even some seasonal crab brought down from the north of the prefecture, all rounded off with a serving of piping hot sake.

Kyoto Fan Painting

Kyoto encapsulates the two images of Japan that I feel many around the world have of the country; the simultaneously held, though almost opposed conceptions of a country that maintains traditional beauty and ritual from a history rich with examples worth preserving, yet also a dynamic, vibrant innovative country with an almost futuristic bent.

The former idea of the preservation of art and culture is perfectly embodied in the Kyoto Handicraft Center, where I tried my hand at painting a folding fan in a combination of styles from the many examples on display. Though my efforts came nowhere near the quality of the displays, it was a fun experience, with clear instruction as well as explanation on the historical background of both the fan as an artifact, and the paintings that they were adorned with. One could also try producing a woodblock print, and would no doubt receive the same quality instruction and information regarding the historical significance of the art.

The view from the seventh floor of the Center also brought to mind the idea of there being both modern and traditional Japan existing in the same location. One could see a modern city, yet also the quintessential image of Kyoto; Daimonji on the eastern hills above and beyond the city proper, as well as individual shrines, temples and houses that long predate the other elements comprising the urban backdrop. I think this location combined with the activity to create an experience that truly demonstrates the unique culture that Kyoto offers to both residents and visitors.

Do as the Japanese Do

Going to a Don Quijote is an essential part of any genuine Japanese life. So if a tourist wants a shopping experience “on the real” and not just the typical tourist type, he/she should definitely find the shop. It’s an experience unlike you’ve ever had shopping at strip malls or discount shops back home.

From the special jingle which greets you at the door, to finding your way around (it takes some time to get your bearings as you try to work out which items are on which floors, especially if you don’t read Japanese), to navigating through the cramped helter-skelter treasure trove, you’re in for a unique adventure. You may even feel like the fabled cavalier who is the store’s namesake as you wander around the bizarre jungle looking for your loot. Just make sure you don’t stay too long. Much like the Louvre in Paris, it’s easy to wander around for hours and lose track of time.

And if you’re in Osaka, be sure to check out the rooftop ferris wheel. The Don Quijote in Roppongi also has a rooftop rollercoaster, which has been delayed indefinitely due to local resdients’ protests.

Things to Know Before Taking off to a Kyoto Trip

Have you ever thought of going on a Tokyo trip? – There are many things you need to do before you take off to Tokyo and we are here to show you 10 of them. If you think that this will be just like any other trips you’ve been recently, it’s definitely not. Every person in this world needs to visit Tokyo at least once in their lifetime. Here are the 10 things you need to know for the Tokyo trip:

The hospitality there is on the highest level. This is a part of their national tradition and it’s called omotenashi. Many of the employed people aren’t expecting from you to give them tips. Not only this is not expected, they won’t accept your gratitude and kindness.

While every city in the world has an unwritten rule of walking on the right side, Tokyo residents walk on the left side. It’s a really crowded city and if you have decided to visit it, try walking left if you don’t want to get lost. There is one exception of this rule and that is when you are on an escalator. You need to stand left, but walk on the right side.

  • Smoke inside, drink outside

Your Tokyo trip will be full of surprises. One of these surprises is seeing people how they drink on the outside of the bar and smoke inside. If you smoke outside you risk being stopped by a street patrol. You will even notice signs that show you where the smoking is forbidden.

  • One ticket for everything

If you are using the public transport, you will need only one ticket for everything. Every system the public transport uses requires its own ticket, but Tokyo has rechargeable Pasmo and Suica cards. As soon as you arrive, you can purchase this from any ticket machine.

Tokyo has many historic buildings where you can find your peace and enjoy. Many people go there in order to have a moment for themselves and get away of the crowd.

Sento, which is Japanese for bathhouse, are the public places where people attend when they don’t have time to go home and have a bath or don’t have bathtub. All public baths have one price and that is ¥450. It doesn’t matter if the place is historic, modern, old, etc, the bathhouses have the same price.

Wherever you go all you will hear is ‘welcome’. Of course, you won’t hear them say it in English, but you will always hear they say Irasshaimase. This is the polite way of saying welcome.

If you heard many people say that the sushi in Tokyo is the best they ever had, they are not wrong. Whether you snap a free ticket to enter the Tsukiji market or eat somewhere else, you will taste the best sushi you have ever tasted. After this, you will not want to eat sushi somewhere else.

  • Don’t search for free Wi-Fi

This is still in development, try carrying a pocket Wi-Fi transmitter.

Your Tokyo trip will be full with bacon. You won’t even imagine where you will find bacon. When you want to eat a sandwich without a meat, don’t be surprised if there is a slice of ham or bacon in it. Meat means beef there.


The Exotic Kana and Kanji Japanese Tattoo Art

The Japanese tattoo art is not really a new phenomenon neither it is a fad. It has already been practiced since the early years. Even the most traditional kinds of Japanese tattoos are still adapted until today. That is not a surprising thing at all! Even the western countries like Europe and America are adapting these styles of tattoos to decorate their body. Others consider the Japanese tattoo art as their way to express a message to someone or a group of people. For a thousand years that passed, Japanese follow various styles of tattoo. There were tattoos used to identify a Japanese prisoner. Some are permanent designs. There are also other arts which are likened by the gangers and prostitutes. Among the people who belong to the working class, the group of laborers and artisans practiced tattooing art before.

Kanji Writing System in a Japanese Tattoo

Kanji is a writing system used in the country of Japan. Since this writing system is the most complicated among other writing systems, it is most often used in the Japanese tattoo art. It does not necessarily present an alphabet but this writing system is known to be borrowed from the Chinese people. The characters are rather small and self-contained. Basically, the use of Kanji in tattoo fonts looks appealing to some Japanese and other people because of its uniqueness. Let us say that you consider putting pictorial images in your tattoo. In that case, you can consider the Egyptian hieroglyphs. There are American and Japanese versions of which so do not be confused when deciding for the art to put in your body.

Remote Islands To Be Placed Under Japan’s State Control

Tokyo, Japan – Two hundred and eighty remote islands might soon be put under the state control of Japan.

On Tuesday, one of the senior ministers said that the government of Japan is planning to put these islands under its responsibility since they are within the nation’s territorial waters.

The future move is aiming to strengthen the management over these islands.

According to Ichita Yamamoto, the Minister for Ocean Policy and Territorial Issues, it is among the plans of the government of Japan to have these remote islands registered as the country’s state property.

The 280 Remote Islands

Based on reports, the said islands are just among over 400 remote ones that are found within the territorial waters of the nation.

Most of them still have no names, but they have been located on what has been defined as the territory of Japan.

Ichita also added that almost 100 of the islands have already undergone registration to be an official property of the state.

They have been seen by Japan as a part of its exclusive and wider economic zone.

Most of them have also been venues for Japan’s research activities and marine explorations. However, it has been said that the great deal regarding these islands remains “unknown” to the public and even to the researchers.

Criticisms On Yamamoto

According to Yamamoto, he has been receiving criticisms on the slow process of gathering information about the remote islands.

As a response, he said that he will do whatever he can to hasten the accomplishment of the project. He also expressed his strong wish to have the survey finished by June.

Yamamoto also mentioned that the 280 unclaimed islands are all properties of Japan based on the law of the country.

In addition, the registration that they are trying to pursue will give the Japanese government the opportunity to have a more effective management over the islands.

The announcement made on Tuesday came when Japan got involved in disputes against neighboring countries regarding concerns on territories and on the existence of the remote islands.

Some of the countries Japan had conflicts with are South Korea and China, which caused tensions within the region.

There have been conflicts between China and Japan, including the one which happened in September 2012.

This was when both Japan and China claimed three among the Diaoyu islands found in the East China Sea. The earlier conflicts between the two nations provoked Chinese mass protests.

‘Cool Japan’ Project Success

Tokyo fashion week is held two times a year. This fashion week plays a key role in the campaign “Cool Japan”. This season, washi paper was mixed with silk and this mixture was transmitted into traditional kimonos.

The fund for Cool Japan kicks off in November. The campaign wants to help the firms in Japan to promote their work and their culture.
The Prime Minister Shinzo Abe thinks of it as a way of going back to the cool times that were a characteristic for the Japanese people. The Japanese are a cool nation which has promoted so many cool technological gadgets, like for example, the “Walkman”.
The Tokyo Fashion Week will last for one week and it will show the Spring/Summer 2014 collections. The first day was on Monday, when it was noticed that the number of foreign buyers was doubled from last year.

Among the designers showcasing during Tokyo Fashion Week was the designer Sara Arai, with her brand “araisara”. Her new collection was called “Fantasia”, and it was a sporty and surreal collection consisted of typical Japanese fashion traits like unique color combinations and stylish fabrics. Jackets were made of washi paper and silk and were paired with shots and flowing dresses in green and blue. Many dresses had prints from sunflowers on them. Arai told the journalists that for her collection, the materials used are a mixture of traditional techniques and modern technology. This mixture helps her making unique things. She  says that she wants to use the fashion and creating to show what are the skills that can be found only in Asia. The campaign for “Cool Japan” seems like a simple entertainment thing for many people, but actually, it’s way more than that.

The deputy director of the Creative Industries Division at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry in Japan, Yuichi Moronaga, said that fashion on its own and the whole fashion week are in the center of the “Cool Japan” campaign. The image that everyone has for Japan is anime and manga, but the Japanese people want to be known for more than that, for different things and services. The most attractive things in Japan’s fashion world must be the materials, the buttons and ribbons, and the whole styling of the traditional kimono. The kimono is the hallmark of Tamae Hirokawa’s collections. He shows his collection on Monday, at the opening.

Japan is not the only goal for the Japanese designers, they want to spread their businesses to some other countries in Asia too.
The attention that is paid to the Japanese fashion is ever growing, with the help of live streaming on the Internet of many fashion shows. There are 37 brands that will show their collections during Tokyo Fashion Week, and 5 of them are debutants.

Chikanobu And Other Meiji Artists’ Modernity Adaptation Studied

This is just a short glimpse into the work of art created by Yoshu Chikanobu or Chikanobu Toyohara.

He is an individual who was able to see the major changes that took place in Japan.

He lived in Japan between the years 1838 to 1912 when the history of Japan is highly dynamic.

This is what happened to the Edo’s ending and the Meiji period which started in 1868 and was very revolutionary.

Turning Changes In Japan Into Art

One foot of Chikanobu existed in the old world and when the time comes, the other would be in the modern period.

In 1868, the Meiji Restoration was revolutionary. It was just like other nations that were overcome by other forces where you get negatives and positives.

The positive face applies to larger sincerity, as well as stratification that is challenged and treated as other factors’ host.

The disadvantage is that Japan subscribed to the imperial European idea and had itself the involvement in wars.

But for Chikanobu, together with other artists doing Ukiyo-e, they have seen it as a moment and the opportunity to turn all of these changes into art.

And as expected, modernity would question ukiyo-e together with the increasing influence of different themes in Western Art, in time.

Meiji Artworks Now Studied

Chikanobu did not only witness the period of the new revolutionary. He did not only see how the elites look to the Europeans. Nostalgia returned, too, by the time when the ‘80s was ending and the ‘90s was approaching.

For the people, obviously, they belonged outside any of the themes. The only vital things for them were adapting and surviving.

The artists for ukiyo-e during the Meiji period were often overlooked. However, times are beginning to change and Ogata Gekko, Chikanobu and other artists are starting to get their value in their own terms.

Now, the artworks of the artists during the Meiji era are getting studied more. The studies, too, are done not only by looking at their artistic merits. It was also for the study of the culture of the Japanese.

After all, the Meiji artists got to witness Japan changing rapidly and the visual images gave a glimpse into that world that is changing.

The well-known print series of Chikanobu called Court Ladies of the Chiyoda Palace or Chiyoda no Ooku and True Beauties or Shin Bijin give emphasis to stunning colors. They also show the period’s complexity.

A Celebrated Japanophile English Actor

When it comes to fashion, did you also know that David Bowie was featured as a male model wearing printed vests with the kanji harkening in his back? It was a design by Kansai Yamamoto. In retrospect of the Japanese style, you will enjoy seeing his approach of fashion wearing the “Space Samurai”. Although these pieces of clothing are something that you cannot easily see on the Japanese fashion shops, most of his outfits center Japonism. You can also see the bodysuit that he wore. It was a pattern of the yakuza tattoo. Even his hairstyle imitates the flaming lion with a dancing wig portraying a role in the Kabuki Theater. If you want to see more Japanese styles, there are Japanese clothing websites that you can visit.

Jaycee De Guzman is an Online Business Strategist. As the owner of iPresence Business Solutions, he will help you boost your online presence through his services such as content writing, web designing, graphic designing, keyword researching, administrative assistance, forum posting, YouTube commenting and online PC technical support services. He loves to write interesting articles that will make your Japanese experience much more enjoyable.

David Bowie in His Japanese Style Fashion

David Bowie, a popular English singer-songwriter, actor, arranger and musician, seemed to love the Japanese style. It was evident during the exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum wherein most of David Bowie’s costumes are Kabuki-inspired. It is believed that Bowie is somehow a Japanophile. This includes his costume during the early 1970s when he was an alien stage character of the popular Ziggy Stardust. As far as stage costuming is concerned, there are many aspects that you can see in the museum that will make you believe in Bowie’s love for Japan. Have you ever heard about the famed “Tokyo Pop Jumpsuit”? This is actually a jumpsuit used in the Ziggy Stardust and it was Kansai Yamamoto who designed it. Such costume is considered to be a tear-away type and a real Kabuki theater piece of costume.

An Inspiration to Fashion Magazines

For the past 10 years, David Bowie stayed away his private-self exile from the eyes of the public. Though after experiencing a heart attack last 2003, there was a blockbuster exhibition that followed in the Victoria and Albert Museum. This museum is found in London and the tickets were sold online. For the past decade, Bowie stayed away from the spotlight after his golden years of artistic accomplishments. If you were able to see the museum, you can see the Japanese style in his costuming. Of course, there are also other items aside from the costumes. You can also see his lipstick-stained tissue during the makeup session and then his handwritten lyrics which if seen altogether, are really spectacular. You do not need to be an exhibition curator to even appreciate the items shown in the museum.