Saturday, June 1, 2013

"Ceramics and Ukiyo-e" at Nezu Museum

The early start of the rain season in Tokyo last Wednesday (May 29) was not really welcome news, but we are still getting sunny days. 

On May 31, which was another sunny day, the opening reception for "Ceramics and Ukiyo-e Masterpieces from the Hagi Uragami Museum" was held at Nezu Museum. 

On loan from the museum in Yamaguchi Prefecture, the exhibition consists of over 60 pieces of fine Chinese and Korean ceramics and ukiyo-e prints.  It is only 1% of Mr. Uragami's extensive collection, and it is simply amazing that one individual person has achieved such an unparalleled  collection.   

The ceramics range from 2900 BC to the 19th Century AD which is an interesting showcase of the history of the regions.  Even if you don't know much about the ceramics, you will just be impressed with the beauty of them hand-picked by the connoisseur collector.  And the amazing, also well-preserved, ukiyo-e collection includes some of the best works by the most known  ukiyo-e artists such as Hokusai, Sharaku and Hiroshige. 

If you are in Tokyo and wish to see a great Ukiyo-e collection, this is the place to be.  The exhibition is from June 1 to July 15, 2013.    

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Cherry Blossoms at Night, Tokyo

Along the Chidorigafuchi moat in Tokyo, the cherry blossoms are in full bloom and beautifully lit up at night.  The photo was taken on March 22, 2013.  
The reflection on the surface of the water makes it twice as fantastic.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Spring that flowers tell in Catalonia, Kyoto and Tokyo

The TV news told that Cherry blossoms started blooming today (March 16) in Tokyo.  It is much earlier than usual and is a pleasant surprise. 

Cherry blossoms are not the only flowers that tell the approach of springtime.  Plums, which generally bloom a month before cherries do, tell the yet unfelt advent of the season.  February is still very cold and some people may say plums are winter flowers, but it is always a consolation to me to know the winter is coming to an end. 

I was traveling from last week in Catalonia, Spain and then in Kyoto, Japan, where I saw plum trees.

I saw the plum blossoms in a small old town of Paratallada (photo right).  The guide said they were Japanese plums, which indeed looked familiar to me.   The pink flowers made a cheerful contrast to the stone walls.

Then in Kyoto this past week, where I attended the first International Luxury Travel Market held in Japan, the change of season was more obvious. The photo on the left shows the plum blossoms near Kodaiji Temple.

In the cherry blossom season, people from all over the world flock to Kyoto and it becomes almost impossible to book an accommodation at the last minute.  But it is also impossible to know in advance when the flowers will start blooming, and I bet this year, those who anticipated a "pre-cherry blossom" trip may get lucky. 

The start of cherry blossoms in Kyoto is not announced this year yet, but I had a sneak preview of it (photo right, taken in Kyoto on March 12). 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Running in Tokyo - and the Resurgence of Bathhouses

Tokyo Marathon 2013 took place today.  It is the 7th year since it started and it has been gaining popularity year over year.  This time over 300,000 people applied for the 30,000 places to run in the race! 

The race is especially popular partly because the course goes through some major attractions of Tokyo; starting from the skyscrapers in Shinjuku, it passes the Imperial Palace, the major shopping streets in Ginza, and goes to the Asakusa area from where you can see the Tokyo Sky Tree up close. Today was especially a beautiful day, and with cars banned from the roads, it must have been a great rare opportunity for the runners to enjoy the city from a different angle.  

The number of runners and joggers in Tokyo has increased over the past couple of years, which led to an interesting phenomenon:  The resurgence of old bathhouses that once seemed on the verge of extinction in the alleys of Tokyo.  (Note: I am referring to bathhouses using tap water, not hot spring.)  Although the bathhouses were a necessity in the old days when most families did not have their own private bath in their home, in recent years only a few (mainly seniors) went, and in many cases not from the necessity but for relaxation and chat with neighbors. 

However, bathhouses are now thriving with younger clientele!  Many people run after work near their office, and they go to a bathhouse to refresh before they go home or out to dinner.    Such bathhouses are not expensive and turned out to be convenient for the city runners.

You never know what new trend leads to a conservation of old culture!