With the year just passed its halfway point, here’s a mix sampling of some of the Japanese releases that have caught my attention thus far in 2022. Rock still feels like it’s in a slump here, which might partly be down to the ongoing impact of the pandemic but which is probably part of a broader trend in which no one under 40 really listens to rock music anymore. It means there are a lot of familiar faces in this playlist, although that’s also a simple feature of my attempts to keep up with the output of artists who’ve impressed me over the years (as long as former_airline keeps putting out good music, I’m going to keep including him in these things). Tracklist and brief descriptions are below. I’ve tried to add Bandcamp links where they exist, but where they don’t, you might be able to find them on one of the streaming services — otherwise, they may only exist on a CD-R sold to you by the band directly.
in the sun – Nostalgia Compared to the noise-rock leanings of their first album, 2016’s El Energy, the Metaphor cassette album from the label arm of Tokyo’s Discipline event team takes some similarly kraut-adjacent progressive soundscapery further away from rock and into more industrial territory. Some of the results are caustic and others, like this track, point a direction towards the epic.
A.P.O.S. – 人糞 / Zinpun The band name stands for “a piece of shit” and this Hiroshima duo’s self-titled EP strips away explicitly musical sounds and luxuriates in the textures of the remaining sonic effluence. The results are more subtle than the band name evokes though, as the quiet, ambient hum of this track demonstrates.
Jinja (shrines) are everywhere in Japan—more than 100,000! They’re not hard to spot. The entryway to a shrine is marked by a large torii (gate). This is in contrast to Buddhist temples that do not have torii gates. Once you pass through the torii, you’ll know you’re in a sacred space. But what kind of sacred space? And what do all the structures and markings mean?
With almost 2,000 years of history, there’s too much to cover in one post, but we’ll give you enough to make a shrine visit a little more interesting. Of course, even a casual visit with no prior knowledge can be rewarding. Shrines are relaxing and quiet places full of nature, like trees and rocks. Just a quick stroll around can have a calming effect on anyone.
Armed with a little knowledge, however, your visit could take on much more importance. It is a sacred space, after all.
Shrines house gods
Japanese shrines are places of worship for Shinto spirits called kami. Shinto is often referred to as animistic or a kind of nature worship. Followers of Shinto, the native religion in Japan, believe that kami exist in everything: in natural elements like rocks and trees, inorganic and artificial things and even in people.
Ancestors, mountains (like Mt. Fuji) and even natural phenomena and weather like wind and rain can be kami. Shrines are typically placed nearby where people can worship them.
Horyu Goseda was a Japanese artist who lived from 1827 to 1892. He spent the majority of his career working in Yokohama, a port town distinguished by a strong presence of foreign sailors and western influence. Although he worked in a traditional Japanese style, painting narrow silk wall hangings, he pioneered what came to be […]
Our ability to view the world differently distinguishes humans from each other. The joy of art is that it allows us to convey our differing perspectives in physical form.
These three exhibitions in Tokyo are currently showcasing works by three Japanese artists who feature mundane subject matters in their crafts; photographer Rinko Kawauchi with children and nature, painter Takeuchi Seiho with backyard animals and Junaida with houses.
See how these three artists from different generations utilize their respective art forms to interpret their own impression of the world.
Rinko Kawauchi established herself as one of Japan’s reputable photographers when she debuted in 2001 with her award-winning photo books “Utatane” and “Hanabi”. She spent the last twenty years exploring her photography subjects and testing the limits of her craft. Kawauchi’s style is characterized by her use of square aspect ratios and closeups, often pivoting her camera on the details of nature such as water droplets and leaves, along with children, whose hands and faceless figures are framed tenderly against backdrops of green.
Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery in Shinjuku is hosting Kawauchi’s solo exhibition entitled “M/E”. The concept of the photography exhibition was conceived based on Kawauchi’s experiences with the pandemic and the relationship she has fostered with mother nature, featuring photographs taken from 2019 during her trip to Iceland and Hokkaido. Through shots of her children playing and peeled apples, Kawauchi reflects on her times during the pandemic as a mother isolated at home with her children
High prices are part of why many in survey visit the cinema just once a year.
When was the last time you went to the movie theater to enjoy a film? If you live in Japan, chances are you haven’t been in a while, according to the results from a recent survey.
Japanese news media company VOIX asked 500 men and women “How often do you go to the movie theater?” The most common response was “Once a year,” by 33.4 percent of responders. The rest of the poll results were “Rarely” at 26.2 percent, “Once every four to six months” (15.8 percent), “Once every two to three months” (15.4 percent). “More than once a month” rounded off the results with just 9.2 percent of responders giving it as their answer.
There could be a number of reasons for these responses; the coronavirus pandemic definitely made seeing movies on the big screen impossible for a while, and some people might even argue that the quality of Japanese film is a reason they avoid heading to the cinema.
But another question asked to the responders by VOIX may give a clearer picture as to why people aren’t visiting the movie theater as much these days. When asked “What are your thoughts on movie ticket prices?“, an overwhelmingly high proportion of responders answered that they were expensive. 43 percent of responses were “expensive” and 51.6 percent “somewhat expensive”, which combined means 94.6 percent of those asked believe that it’s pretty pricey to go to the movies.
A standard movie ticket in Japan usually costs around 1,800 yen (US12.31), although many movie theaters offer discounts for students, the elderly and cheaper tickets on the …continue reading
Most people do not really know Geisha beyond their elaborate kimonos. Many can recognize one from a mile away, but apart from the white makeup and the intricate hairstyle, there is very little that is known about them. We take a closer look at the intriguing world of the Geisha and the Geisha-in-Training, the Maiko.
A young Maiko. Photo: Japanese Culture BLOG
What is a Geisha?
The word Geisha consists of two Kanji,芸 (gei) meaning “art” and 者 (sha) meaning “person”. In Japan, a Geisha is a hostess who is adept in traditional arts such as classical music, poetry, dance and the like. They are also trained to hold conversations, tell jokes and play games. Geishas are basically entertainers but they also play a paramount role in Japanese culture. These women are adored for their beauty, grace, and mystery and are one of the most recognizable figures of Japanese culture.
Kyoto is considered to be the birthplace of the Geisha culture. (In Kyoto, they call Geiko (芸妓) for Geisha. This is a honorific term for sophisticated woman who has education and performing art skills in Kyoto. Basically Geisha and Geiko are the same term). The first ever Geisha can be traced back to as early as the late seventh century but the Geisha culture was only able to gain traction throughout the nineteenth century, where it enjoyed a golden age of popularity. This steady rise abruptly came to a halt when World War II destroyed Japan, but after the warfare, the women who returned to their lives as Geisha, fought for the improvement of their rights as they continued their craft. This was also the turning point where Geishas completely diverged from the notion that they engage in sexual activity for payment from male customers.
Every November, on “rooster days” — according to the Chinese zodiac — several shrines around Tokyo host Tori no Ichi, or “Rooster Markets.” This tradition, which dates back to the Edo period (1603–1868), see shrines fill with vendors selling kumade, ornamental rakes that function as talismen for wealth and success.
These markets remain hugely popular with locals, with the most famous ones drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors. Tori no ichi marks the beginning of the lead up to the New Year. Major ones go on well after dusk, so there is a night market vibe, too. Maybe you could use some luck? Or maybe you just want to check out a cool traditional festival. Either way, read on for more details.
But worry no more, kaiju fans! Toho, the makers of Godzilla, have just announced that a new Godzilla movie is in the works! At Godzilla Fest, held on November 3 at the Tokyo International Forum, officials declared that they’ve decided to produce a new Godzilla movie, which, as yet, does not have a title–or, at least, they haven’t disclosed it yet. The film will be directed by Takashi Yamazaki, who’s also worked on the 2019 film Dragon Quest: Your Story, the Stand By Me Doraemon films, and the 2010 Space Battleship Yamato film. The untitled Godzilla movie is expected to release on November 3, 2023.
But while the prospect of a new Godzilla movie is always exciting, many were disappointed by the invovlement of of Yamazaki who, in some fans’ eyes, doesn’t have a strong track record. While Stand By Me Doraemon was generally well-received, the Dragon Quest live-action movie received mixed reviews praising its beautiful visuals and sound but criticizing the storytelling, and just about nobody remembers that Space Battleship Yamato happened. Yamazaki also has a reputation for making feel-good, family-friendly movies, so many might wonder if he has the edge needed to do the Godzilla franchise right.
Yamazaki’s resume isn’t all bad, though. Three of his films have won awards at the Japan Academy Prize …continue reading
Japan is a volcanically active country and that has given rise to natural hot springs known as onsen. The country is 75% mountainous, many of those volcanic in nature. As a result, Japan boasts more than 3,000 hot springs. These hot springs are concentrated in the volcanic regions of Kyūshū,Chūbu, Tōhoku and Hokkaidō . There are also some hot springs that come from radioactive elements underground. Many Onsens have outdoor bath called 露天風呂 rotenburo allowing bathers to relish the view of the natural landscape. To be able to qualify as a legitimate onsen, the water must contain 19 different minerals and include certain levels of hydrogen ion, fluorine ion, and sulfur as specified by the Onsen Law enacted by the Japanese government in 1948.
Photo Credit: http://jpninfo.com
Whats the Difference Between Onsen and Sento?
Some onsen hot springs can be enjoyed through the ryokan, a traditional Japanese-style inn. This is the best place to experience an onsen while appreciating many elements of Japanese culture. They often feature Japanese-style wooden architecture and zen gardens that embody the Japanese principle of Wabi Sabi. Inns give guests a yukata (a thin summer kimono) and they can sleep in traditional Japanese-style rooms furnished with futon on tatami mats.
A sentō is a simple public bath that serves to fulfill the daily need for hygiene. It literally translates to “coin” (a sen is a discontinued coin worth 1/100¥) and “hot water”. Nowadays, entrance to an average sentō in Tokyo costs ¥450. When entering a sentō, guests will be greeted by the manager and they would need to pay an entrance fee. They will then be given a locker key with a chain so that it can be worn on the wrist or ankle. The guests will then proceed to a changing room depending on their gender where they will …continue reading
What is it about the harvest season that is so horrifying? Perhaps it is the importance that the season used to have or how it heralds the end of the productive season and the beginning of the barren season. Still, harvest is associated with some of the most terrifying monsters ever. Think of the terrors of Children of the Corn or Blair Witch Project in America.
Harvest horrors in Japan tend to be very different from other countries. Gaijinpot goes in search of the horrors of the harvest featuring some yokai (creatures from Japanese folklore) you probably haven’t heard of.
Nowadays when walking around the streets of Japan, you may see a small, mermaid-looking creature on public health and safety campaigns and charms. This creature has three legs, a beak and fish-like scales, far removed from Hollywood’s beautiful Ariel or Madison.
This mermaid is important because it predicts either an abundant harvest or disease. Back in ancient Japan, these were the two things that were most longed for and feared. According to legend, keeping an image of the creature would ensure the former was likelier.
Everything you need to know about the kudan is made clear by looking at the original Chinese character used to write its name (件), as it is made up of the radicals for person and cow. Yep, the kudan is a cow-person not that different from the minotaur of Greek myth.
The appearance of the kudan predicted that the harvest would be abundant and that having an image of it would ensure a bountiful harvest.