June 24, 2024

612 CE: This year a man emigrated from Baekje whose face and body were all flecked with white, perhaps having been infected with white ringworm. Disliking his extraordinary appearance, the people wished to cast him away on an island in the sea. But this man said, “If you dislike my spotted skin, you should not breed horses or cattle in this country which are spotted with white. Moreover, I have a small talent. I can make the figures of hills and mountains. If you kept me and made use of me, it would be to the advantage of the country. Why should you waste me by casting me away on an island of the sea?”

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Reminiscing Ryoma

March 20, 2024

Ryōma was born in 1836 to a family that held the lowest rank in the samurai hierarchy, a title purchased by an ancestor who had made his name as a sake brewer.  Despite these humble beginnings, Ryōma went on to become a master swordsman, and in recognition of his skill, his Tosa clan allowed him to continue his training in Edo.  It was during his time in the old capital that American Naval Commodore Matthew Perry sailed to Japan to forcibly end the shogunate’s policy of national isolationism.

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My Father-in-Law the Japanese Radical

August 11, 2022

The origins of the Narita struggle date back to 1966, when the government announced it would build Japan’s new international gateway in Chiba, 60km from the capital—without consulting the 360 mostly impoverished local people who farmed the land around the Sanrizuka and Shibayama hamlets. The plan, with its whiff of official arrogance and highhandedness, became a lightning rod for discontent in the economic miracle years. Many farmers resisted and supporters poured into the area, fueling a conflict that quickly escalated.

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Japanese Religion Through the Lens of Water

April 12, 2022

From KJ 101: As water is essential to all life, both its presence and its absence, its sufficiency, its excess, as well as its paucity, have fundamentally affected, profoundly influenced, and indeed guided the lives of Kyoto people in countless ways… In this article, I address Japanese religion through the lens of water within the context of Kyoto’s geography of surrounding mountains, waterfalls, and rivers, its long history, and its especially high concentration of shrines, temples, and tucked-away religious sites.

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The Big Picture: Birds’-eye Overviews of the Japanese Archipelago

February 27, 2021

Yoshida Hatsusaburo (1884-1955) was known as “the modern Hiroshige” and created over 2,000 maps in his lifetime.

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Kiro: Carving out the Future of Hakone Yosegi Marquetry

November 24, 2020

The name of Kiro, a workshop specializing in Hakone yosegi marquetry, rendered using the kanji characters for “wood” and “path,” seems fitting for an art form that has seen remarkable innovation over generations and whose artisans continue to forge a path forward into the future. 

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Climate Crisis Sparks a Revival of Youth Activism in Japan

October 11, 2020

Youth climate activists are faced with the challenge of engaging a relatively complacent student population on an issue that seems much less immediate and visible than the presence of the US military in the 1960s did: environmental pollution and the emission of greenhouse gases.

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A Culture of Simplicity

September 28, 2020

The simplicity of wabi-sabi is best described as the state of grace arrived at by a sober, modest, heartfelt intelligence.

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Seeking Ma

September 10, 2020

“There is something magical about a torii gate floating in the middle of a lake or shoreline. Once I got more immersed in the study of Japanese culture and religions I developed a parallel appreciation and respect for the symbolism and cultural importance they have to the Japanese people.”

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Some Gravel, Some Stones: Nature, Art and Spirit in Japanese Gardens

September 10, 2020

Stephen Mansfield interviews Marion Poschmann, whose novel set in Japan, The Pine Islands, was winner of the Berlin Prize for Literature and shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize.

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A Critical Moment for Japanese Art Curation

June 12, 2020

Morse warned that in 2020, over 75% of specialists in Japanese art would be at retirement age. She called on the museum community to focus on developing a new generation of curators in response to the impending exodus of experts from the field.

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The Life and Times of Okada Torajiro and his Seiza Method of Self-Harmonization

June 5, 2020

To actually practice Seiza, one needs no group or leader, no visualization, vocalization, counting, or mantra repetition, and no special symbolic objects, apparatus, or vestments. Seiza is truly more zen than Zen.  

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Tadashi Nakajima: Encountering the God of Darkness

May 25, 2020

Cradled, we were slowly merging. This I knew, looking up at the dusty stars, losing all feeling in arms, in legs, smelling the hot rice odor which was now mine as well. I, the man I thought I knew, was gone, become a thousand others.

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Sacred Desire Notes on Tamotsu Yato: Photographer

May 25, 2020

Tamotsu Yato embodied the erotic gaze — he was one of the earliest to do so openly. At the same time the gaze involved much more than simple erotics and it is this, no less, which merits our attention.

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An Old Posttown Makes a Comeback

May 20, 2020

The City of Otsu and Hachise, a realtor specialising inmachiya renovations, are exploring ways to restore Otsu’s glory as a station on the old Tokaido overland route

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Kato Shuichi on Everything – one of Japan’s Last Renaissance Men

May 18, 2020

Cultural critic, literary historian, novelist, poet and dramatist, Katō is one of Japan’s major post-war figures.

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The Passing of Beauty and Glory

May 11, 2020

What does the Tale of Genji suggest about sensitivity to the fleeting nature of human existence?

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Demons, Misinformation and Kimochi

May 4, 2020

“This is a book that gives voice to the Japanese who feel exactly as I do, and who exist by the millions. Japanese bookshelves are filled with angry books all of on these subjects.”

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The view to Mt. Sumeru: Donald Richie on D.T. Suzuki

April 20, 2020

‘I think that Dr. Suzuki is for Zen what St. Paul is for Christianity. He was “a publicist.”’

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Meeting the Emperor Meiji

April 15, 2020

I wasn’t totally sure I understood. It seemed like a strange thing to say — “Do you want to meet the Emperor Meiji?” I did know the Emperor had been dead since 1912…But this was Japan, where things are not always clear…

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The Kyoto City KYOCERA Museum of Art

April 8, 2020

After three years of much-needed renovation, the large Neoclassical building (with a “Japonesque” roof) located across the street from the Museum of Modern Art Kyoto, next to the Heian Shrine Otori,  is re-opening as the Kyoto City KYOCERA Museum of Art on May 7th, 2020.

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