Friday, November 30, 2012

The Autumn Colors in Tokyo

The autumn colors in Tokyo is coming to the peak.  Just like cherry blossoms in spring, autumn foliage is a seasonal object of our affection.  It is really hard to tell where the best place is in Japan to see beautiful autumn foliage, but I can probably say that as far as ginkgo trees are concerned Tokyo is the best.
The photo was taken a couple of days ago in Ueno Park.  The place is also known for its cherry blossoms, under which people have parties when the flowers are in full bloom.  As to autumn leaves, instead of having a party, people just walk by to appreciate the beauty. Cold winter is just around the corner, and it is a nice brief moment to prepare for the end of the year and whatever is coming next.  

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Nebuta Festival 2012

It is a spectacle of summer.  The Nebuta Festival in Aomori, one of the most major festivals in Japan, took place from August 3 to 7 (same dates every year.) 
Nebuta, which are huge paper lanterns, parade through the town at night along the lively rhythm of drums and the chants of participants.  The excellent workmanship of each nebuta is so impressive.  IT IS ART!

I received pleasant energies generated in the festival by all the participants and spectators. 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Tokyo River Cruise

I had a river cruise through Tokyo.  Tokyo has rivers running throughout and around, and though we know the fact that there are a lot of bridges, we rarely take time to watch them carefully.  By cruising on the rivers and under the bridges, and listening to the guide's story, I realized each bridge had different design and history.

The cruise showed me Tokyo from a different perspective, and I found great photograph spots are in the river! 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Tokyo's Nature Spot

The East Garden of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo is now full of different flowers and fresh green.

 The spacious garden not only displays the old architectures from the castle days but is also like a botanical garden with hundreds of different species of plant.  People come here for a short nature walk listening to birds singing, and nearby office workers enjoy picnic during lunch hour.  You almost forget that you are in the very center of Tokyo. 

*The garden is closed on Mondays and Fridays (except for national holidays) .

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Art That Survives Digitization

Yesterday I attended a seminar about the trial digitization of Hokusai Manga.  

Hokusai Manga is a series of books of prints by Katsushika Hokusai.  It was published from 1814 to even after his death.  Though it is called manga (cartoon), it is rather a collection of sketches depicting people's daily life, commodities, animals etc.   The archiving was done by a Japanese major printing firm and a system solution provider who also hosted the seminar.

Each original sketch is very small (and old) and when the digitized images were displayed on a large screen... the details were very clearly shown.  The technology of shedding new light on old artworks, which otherwise might never draw much attention of contemporary humans, will no doubt create a new market.   I was more impressed with Hokusai's detailed drawing that survived 200 years and digitization!

*The digital archive will be displayed for free on May 18, 19 and 20, 2012 at Mitsui Memorial Museum, Tokyo.       

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Sakura in Full Bloom in Tokyo

Sakura, or cherry blossoms, are still in full bloom in Tokyo.  The photo was taken in the morning of April 9, 2012 at Chidorigafuchi along the moat of the Imperial Palace. 


Saturday, March 31, 2012

Here Comes the Season

In Tokyo cherry trees officially started blooming today despite the stormy wind.   It is exactly the timing as Japan Weather Association has forecast.  Good job.  It can be very chilly at this time of the year and I still cannot put away my winter clothes, but the news of cherry blossoms always makes me feel the spring season which symbolizes the start of life's new cycle.

Art Fair Tokyo, which is another event that reminds me of spring, started yesterday.  Last year it was postponed to July because of the earthquake, and it came back to its regular season.  I see it has been getting more attention year by year and has established a position as an international art show with the consistent quality of galleries and artworks. 

Although cherry blossoms are gone by then,  Art Kyoto 2012 will be held from April 27 to 29.  What used to be a hotel exhibition show is being expanded to an international art fair for the first time this year.  It is an interesting sign that art market in Japan is opening up to wider range of buyers.  It can be worth traveling for.     

Friday, March 23, 2012

"Cosmic Travelers" at Espace Louis Vuitton

"Cosmic Travelers - Toward the Unknown" is the first group exhibition held in Espace Louis Vuitton Tokyo, the one-year-old art space on the 7th floor of the brand's flagship shop in Omotesando.  

The moment I walked into the floor,  I was struck by the balance created by the combination of unique installations, lighting, and the architecture.  It looked beautifully surreal against a backdrop of dusk sky.

The show is held through May 6, 2012.  

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Under Bhutan's Clear Sky

I visited Bhutan in February.  Although it is much closer than Europe and United States are from Japan, it is still a distant destination to most of us.  The lack of direct flight is not a big reason.  The Gross National Happiness concept sounds so fabulous that it mystifies us a little.

It turned out that Bhutan is a country of good people, great culture and beautiful nature.  I think what is underlying all these is the sense of respect.

Bhutan is a Buddhist country.  They learn the teaching of Buddha since childhood and it becomes an integral part of their life and their way of thinking.  I did not see it as a blind dependence on a religion, but I think they naturally respect the deities, nature and people.

Once in Bhutan, one can easily see that people LOVE and admire the current 5th King and his father the 4th King.  Their photographs are everywhere including temples.  I see why.  When the 5th King visited Japan in November 2011, he visited the areas affected by the earthquake and tsunami of the previous March, including areas near the destroyed nuclear power plants.  People who watched the news and who actually met the King all felt his compassion and sincerity.  You cannot just act it.  The Bhutanese people must be proud of having such a leader.     

I was also impressed to learn that a good part of the country's income comes from the sales of hydro power electricity to India.  Clean energy.   How advanced is that.    

Almost all the people in Bhutan speak English besides their own dialects.    They do internet and Facebook and have iPhones, and stay clad in their traditional costumes. 

I once asked my Bhutanese guide,
"Are people happy?"
He thought for a second and replied,
"Yes.  I think in general people are happy."

Can we even say that when asked about our own country? 

At night I looked up to the starry sky through the clean air.  It is a small country with a population of 700,000 but has many things we don't have.  I hope to go back one day and find more keys to happiness of the Earth. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Historic Village Illuminated

The historic villages of Gokayama and Shirakawa-go consist a UNESCO World Heritage site.  Old folk houses in the traditional gassho-zukuri architectural style are still preserved in the villages.  It is a landscape you rarely see in the present Japan. 

The area has heavy snows in winter.   With the roofs covered with thick white snow, the old houses get lit-up on selected dates in January and February every year.  I went to see the sight in Shirakawa-go on January 28.

As the sky gets dark, the lights get brighter and warmer.  It was a fantastic view, just like I had seen in postcards. 

Though the place is not an easiest access (because of the snow and limited public transportation),  people from all over Japan and even from overseas flock to the event!  The villages are accessible from Kanazawa, but there is no public bus that brings you back from Shirakawa-go to the city after the light-up event  (17:30-19:30).   It is recommended that you hire a car, or book a local inn way in advance. (There is no 5-star hotel in the village.)