Plain Talk

TOKYO NOTICE BOARD DECEMBER 07. 2018

A Winter Tale by Jeremy Moorhead

As the shadows lengthened and cold bit into him he realised it was time to soak up some atmosphere and a pint or two. The neighbourhood was changing, and it might be the last time he’d find that unique warm welcome he was guaranteed. He could never remember the name of the izakaya. Did it even have a name? It was always packed with people, locals and visitors alike. A dozen or so, at a squeeze. But that’s Tokyo for you, especially when you went old school.

The lights at the train crossing beckoned and he ducked down the side streets, the night taking hold and the alcohol too, judging by the sounds of some happy salary folk on their way to a favourite haunt. Just like him, he imagined. He’d not been in the area for a good while, preferring the brighter, chic districts. He turned a corner and found the place. Through the door where a loud welcome greeted him. Of course, that’s why the east is the best part of the city. The owner and patrons made it seem genuine and lively without being too raucous. He ordered a beer and kushiage. He fumbled for a lighter and a fellow drinker lit his cigarette for him. “Soon, this will be gone” his drinking friend gestured around the room shaking his head. It was sad, he agreed in his broken Japanese. Maybe there would be a stay of execution? A petition, perhaps? “Mmm” nodded the other man in a non-committed fashion.

Such is progress, he thought and gulped the remainder of his beer. None of us can avoid it. All cities are in a state of constant flux and what we treasure is eventually taken away from us. Stored only in our memories and then one day, we’re taken away too and all that remains is the spirit of yet another bygone age. In a hundred years’ time the streets would be unrecognisable, having succumbed to the unstoppable forces of finance and development. The familiar sights, smells and laughter will have been concreted over by office monoliths or department stores, selling retro fashion and pocket gizmos. The present was already sepia tinted, he sighed, looking through the beer glass which was now full again. Couldn’t remember ordering it, though. Only the one drink and already confused.

The evening lasted a lifetime. Friendships were sworn, alliances made, and the wallet didn’t suffer too badly. Politics were discussed, sometimes politely, more often with a vigorous slapping of the beer stained counter. Before he knew it, the time had come to get the last train. Hands were shook and backs heartily slapped. He wanted to take a few selfies to preserve the night out forever. The clientele, those few remaining, refused and told him to put away his device and savour the moment instead of stealing it. He didn’t quite understand but he knew they were right.

The next day he told colleagues he’d been to that old place in Tateishi. They looked at him strangely. His supervisor took him aside telling him he was mistaken or still drunk. The bar had burnt down a year ago to the very day. He shivered then. And it wasn't just the Tokyo Winter that chilled him.


Plain Talk

TOKYO NOTICE BOARD DECEMBER 07. 2018

Sengakuji in Shinagawa by Joseph

Have you ever heard of the Sengakuji shrine? It's best known as the final resting place of the loyal 47 ronin in Tokyo, Japan. It's a place with a rich tapestry of historical significance. 

The story of the 47 ronin is probably one of Japan’s most famous historical tales exemplifying the lengths of loyalty by which the samurai code curtails one to, even while facing certain doom, in rectifying injustice. Endless retellings that take shape around fictionalized accounts based on the actual event have long captured the imaginations of innumerable people worldwide. The story has been spun over a multitude of artistic formats: from Bunraku, kabuki, to cinema (Hiroshi Inagaki's Ch?shingura, along with Kenji Mizoguchi's The 47 Ronin, are probably the most well known versions of the story outside of Japan that do not feature Keanu Reeves wielding magic like a Wild Stallion slow strumming an air guitar). 

The gravesite itself is nestled into the high-winding side street of the posh Minato-ku area of Tokyo. It’s by no means hard to locate, and is accessible from Shinagawa station, but it is rather unassuming in it’s understated appearance. The 47 Ronin rest off to the left of the spacious courtyard, where a functional temple resides. It’s a sparse layout, but if you’re there to pay deference to the deeds of these brave folks, you won’t need any gaudy trappings because actions speak louder than words. 

For sure, Tokyo may offer other places where glitz and glamour will overstimulate your ocular cavities like a barrage of paparazzi on the prowl at a Kanye West concert, but the subdued reverence witnessed at Sengakuji temple is awe inspiring to those with even the faintest familiarity to its backstory. Whether you're a film buff (yes, I've also visited Ozu's grave, but that's a story for another time), a history buff, or just someone that enjoys finding serenity in the center of Tokyo, Sengakuji is a slice of culture well worth the time. 

Unfinished business

TOKYO NOTICE BOARD 24 JULY 2015

I Did It! by David Gregory

She had been here before. But, those were tour-guided or hand-held visits. After living most of her life in white-bread suburban USA, driving everywhere, shopping in giant malls and supermarkets, and needing only one currency and one language, my mother ventured out on her own, within and beyond Chiba, during one trip to Japan. From her notes, here are Dorothy's...

ADVENTURES IN JAPAN
Grocery Shopping in Neighborhood―Walk five blocks...buy only one bag...walk five blocks back. Survived it!

Shopping in City Center―Walk six blocks to bus stop. Ride bus fifteen minutes. Arrive at stores. Walk around. Look. Decide: cookies.

Buying: “Ikura desu-ka how much?” Hmm. “Kakimasu kudasai write please.”

Paying options: give large bill, let clerk figure change, or open change purse, let clerk take out correct amount. Decide to just give some cash.

Clerk shakes her head (“NO! MORE!”), then counts out correct amount needed from register and shows me. I mimic her action from my change purse. Smiles! Deep bows with many, “Arigato gozaimasu thank you very much!”-es.
(My error: thought there was decimal point in Yen price....)

Open cookies, expecting pirouettes with chocolate centers. Instead, peanut butter waffle rolls, no chocolate. No wonder, now I see peanut sketch on package. “Shoganai can’t be changed,” I did it to myself. It could have been worse!
~~~
Travelling to Visit Friend’s Family on Other Side of Chiba―Walk ten blocks to train. Purchase ticket. Electronic lady on ticket machine screen says, “Arigato gozaimasu” and bows. Ride train twenty minutes, watching for correct stop, get off, walk seven blocks to house. I did it myself!

Visiting Hisae Overnight―My Japanese study partner in USA returned to Japan, now lives on other side of Tokyo Bay.

Take large purse and large tote bag with jacket, nightie, toothbrush, cosmetics. Walk six blocks to bus stop. Ride bus to train station. Ride train eighty minutes to Yokohama. Find correct exit from station. EASY. Did not even look at note in pocket explaining route and Japanese signs. And, look! Hisae and three-year old Kei are waiting! “Hello!” they say! Many hugs!

I did it!

Then, still more travel: train together fifteen minutes, short taxi uphill to lovely apartment, sunny and bright.

Returning to Chiba, just reverse process. Next time, we can meet at a station halfway in between. I can do it.
I can do it!

Copyright (C) 2015 David Gregory. All rights reserved. Chiba, Japan

Book Review

TOKYO NOTICE BOARD MAY 11 2018

Cherry Blossoms in the Time of Earthquakes and Tsunami by Rey Ventura
Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2014,
291 pp, USD34.00 www.ateneo.edu/ateneopress

Reviewed by Randy Swank

video maker and scriptwriter Rey Ventura won the 2015 National Book Award for his third collection of essays, Cherry Blossoms in the Time of Earthquakes and Tsunami, but for some strange twist of fate you will find very little information on this book. You can’t even buy it on Amazon. This is a shame because Cherry Blossoms... is a beautiful, insightful and thought-provoking book.

These 11 essays, some of them autobiographical, see Ventura travelling back and forth between the Philippines and Japan, his adopted country, often portraying the many ways Filipino lives have been shaped and affected by their rich quasi-neighbor. Like in "A Suitable Donor," where the young men who live in the Manila slum of Banseco tell of how they came to "donate" a kidney or another organ to help a rich person in need − often from Japan.

Cherry Blossoms in the Time of Earthquakes and Tsunami
by Rey Ventura
Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2014, 291 pp, USD34.00 www.ateneo.edu/ateneopress

In "Miniskirts and Stilettos" we meet Ginto, a young lady who comes to Japan dreaming of making it big as a singer and entertainer but has to deal instead with a much darker reality; while "Mr. Suzuki Tries Again" and "Into the Snow Country" are tragicomic tales of arranged marriages where the dreams and expectations of bride-starved farmers from Japan's Deep North clash with those of young Filipino women who want to escape their poverty and go into marriage "as a girl goes into a convent." Ventura tells these stories with a great eye for detail and manages to find a ray of light even in the darkest corners, or poetry in the midst of a nuclear disaster.

The book's first essay is called "The Slow Boat to Manila" and indeed, slowness is the first word that comes to mind when considering Ventura's approach to writing. Everything Ventura does is slow. He is no magazine reporter after all, and will spend days or even months getting to know a person he wants to write about. That's the kind of personal commitment and deep connection with his subject that one feels when reading his essays.

 


Tokyo Fab

TOKYO NOTICE BOARD DECEMBER 07, 2018

Sengakuji in Shinagawa by Joseph

Have you ever heard of the Sengakuji shrine? It's best known as the final resting place of the loyal 47 ronin in Tokyo, Japan. It's a place with a rich tapestry of historical significance. 
The story of the 47 ronin is probably one of Japan’s most famous historical tales exemplifying the lengths of loyalty by which the samurai code curtails one to, even while facing certain doom, in rectifying injustice. Endless retellings that take shape around fictionalized accounts based on the actual event have long captured the imaginations of innumerable people worldwide. The story has been spun over a multitude of artistic formats: from Bunraku, kabuki, to cinema (Hiroshi Inagaki's Ch?shingura, along with Kenji Mizoguchi's The 47 Ronin, are probably the most well known versions of the story outside of Japan that do not feature Keanu Reeves wielding magic like a Wild Stallion slow strumming an air guitar). 
The gravesite itself is nestled into the high-winding side street of the posh Minato-ku area of Tokyo. It’s by no means hard to locate, and is accessible from Shinagawa station, but it is rather unassuming in it’s understated appearance. The 47 Ronin rest off to the left of the spacious courtyard, where a functional temple resides. It’s a sparse layout, but if you’re there to pay deference to the deeds of these brave folks, you won’t need any gaudy trappings because actions speak louder than words. 
For sure, Tokyo may offer other places where glitz and glamour will overstimulate your ocular cavities like a barrage of paparazzi on the prowl at a Kanye West concert, but the subdued reverence witnessed at Sengakuji temple is awe inspiring to those with even the faintest familiarity to its backstory. Whether you're a film buff (yes, I've also visited Ozu's grave, but that's a story for another time), a history buff, or just someone that enjoys finding serenity in the center of Tokyo, Sengakuji is a slice of culture well worth the time. 

12.14. (Fri) 2018 - 7:00 am to 9:00 pm
Ako Gishi-sai Festival @ Sengaku-ji Temple
Sengaku-ji Temple is located a short 1 minute walk from Toei Subway Sengakuji Station

http://www.sengakuji.or.jp/about_sengakuji_en/


What’s App With You?

TOKYO NOTICE BOARD DECEMBER 07. 2018

Imiwa?

Imiwa? was created using the amazing JMdict files from the Electronic Dictionary Research and Development Group based on the work of Jim Breen on the EDICT project. While some definitions are available in 4 languages (English, French, Russian and German), only the English translation is guaranteed for all entries in the JMDict dictionary. Initiate a search in any of those 4 languages, in Japanese or in romaji and imiwa? will do the rest. imiwa? Also includes a rich database of kanji (KanjiDic), examples (from tatoeba.org) and conjugations as well as tools suitable for beginners.

Yomiwa:

Yomiwa is a modern offline Japanese dictionary, including numerous features to help you read and learn Japanese. Yomiwa's dictionary has been built up from diverse sources. The powerful search function lets you input words in any kind of alphabet (Kanjis, Hiraganas, Katakanas, Romajis). You can even input whole sentences. Yomiwa can recognize more than 4000 Japanese characters in your pictures or with your device camera. Japanese text is detected, recognized and parsed into words in a fraction of a second. Yomiwa's OCR modes have been designed to help you read with ease all your favorite reading materials, such as mangas, newspapers, books or restaurant menus and signs.

 

Tokyo Voice Column

TOKYO NOTICE BOARD DECEMBER 07. 2018

Calligraphy Class in a Buddhist Temple by Kai Raine

I went to a calligraphy class in a Buddhist temple one Sunday. It had been fifteen years since I held a calligraphy brush. I always loved calligraphy in school, though as a child, the ugliness of the letters shaped by my own brush was a deterrent on my love of the activity. As an adult, I decided to try again. In part, I wondered if I would be better able to simply enjoy it as I didn’t in childhood. I was also partly there for the meditation on Buddhist sutras.

The instructor was unbothered by my amateurish lack of knowledge and supplies. She lent me a brush and an inkstone, gave me some paper, and prepared for me some ink. She wrote out three sutras for me to copy and think upon as I practiced my brushmanship. “It’s okay,” she reminded me, for though I said nothing, my tension must have been visible when she came to look at my progress. “It takes time, getting used to holding a brush.” An obvious point―and one I needed to hear.

The temple was beautiful. We sat facing outward, looking at the beautiful temple garden. Mosquitos feasted on my wrists and fingers, and occasionally my ankles. I blew on them when they came near enough, unable to swat a life away inside a Buddhist temple. The instructor―who carefully rescued a stink bug crawling near my knee―took a swat at a mosquito, and I had to swallow a laugh.

I am a restless sitter―I couldn’t hold any position for two hours. I must have shifted position at least half a dozen times through the class, but no one said anything. No payment was accepted from me for that first class.

But I left with a revived love of calligraphy. In the evenings since, I frequently arrive home exhausted and ready to spread out my futon and go to sleep―only to sit down at my desk, set out my newly purchased inkstone, water and paper, and start making my ink. I choose a few sutras and write them out again and again and again. My letters are still ugly. But my mind feels a little more alive in peace.

ある日曜日、お寺で開かれる書道教室に行ってみた。以前に筆を持ったのは15年も前のこと。学校で教わった習字は大好きだったが、自分の筆の先に生まれる字の醜さに、その気持ちは押しつぶされるように薄まった。大人になった今、もう一度挑戦してみようと思った。半分は、子供の頃のあの字を愛する気持ちがまた生まれてくるのかどうか知りたかった。あと半分は、釈迦さまの教えについて深く考えたかった。

先生は私の素人っぷりに動じなかった。筆と硯を貸してくれた上に、和紙を私の横に置き、墨さえ作ってくれた。お経を一つ、釈迦さまの教えを二つ、見本として描いてくれた。その見本を横に、私はその教えを考えながら真似しようと頑張った。「大丈夫よ」と先生は言ってくれた。私は何も言わなかったが、先生が横に来ると、緊張のあまり、肩の力でも入ったのだろう。「筆を持つことに慣れるには時間がかかるから」まあ、当然ですけどね。

お寺は本当に美しかった。私たちは、寺の中から外の穏やかな庭を眺めるように座って書いていた。手首、指、そして足首までを蚊に食われていた。近くまで来た蚊にフーッ、と息を吹きかけ、追い払おうとした。お寺さまの中で、蚊にさえ乱暴するのは気が引けた。だが、膝の横で歩いていた亀虫をそっと広い、外へ逃がした先生さえ、蚊に手をかけた時は笑いをこらえた。

じっと座ることは昔から苦手だ。正座どころか、どんな体制も続けられず、書道教室の2時間、6回以上は座り方を変えたと思う。だが、誰もそれを指摘するようなことは言わなかった。先生は、初体験だからと言って、礼金さえ受け取らなかった。

だが、お寺を去った私には、文字への愛が再び目覚めていた。あれから、すぐ寝るつもりで家に帰ったはずなのに、机に座ってすみを打ち始める自分がいる。打ちながら、今日書くつもりの釈迦さまの教えを選び、それを何時間もかけて、何度も書き出すようになった。
筆の先の文字は未だに醜い。だが、少しだけ、心が前より落ち着いている。


MUSEUM -What's Going on?-

TOKYO NOTICE BOARD DECEMBER 07. 2018

Hokusai Updated

As one of his most recognized pieces of artworks Hokusai’s ‘Thirty-six Famous Views of Mount Fuji’ -a series of landscape prints including ‘the great wave off Kanagawa’ known as ‘Great Wave’ to the world- has continuously been a strong presence within the art world for two centuries and continues to stay in the center of focus of contemporary visual arts and design.  
Created during times of isolation, the work speaks a lot about traditional Japanese society and its philosophy enveloped with its own tradition and culture making it more special; thus soon after Japan opening its ports to the world, this fresh and unique work quickly became famous and was exported to Europe and America, where it was celebrated by famous artists like Van Gogh, Whistler and Monet. It even influenced Debussy’s symphonic sketches titled La Mer. Till this day, his creation with perfect composition and usage of color has much impacted and inspired many contemporary artists. 

KATSUSHIKA Hokusai
《Under the Wave off Kanagawa,
from the series
Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji》,
Color woodblock,1830-1834
Shimane Art Museum
(Shinjo Collection)
Displayed: 2/21 ~ 3/24
*During 1/17 ~ 2/18, work from Japan Ukiyoe Art Museum will be displayed

Why did Hokusai’s work became so popular and loved by so many all over the world? The answer is not simple, and the reasons are many. This exhibition reintroduces Hokusai’s life works in 6 terms according to the transition of style and painting numbers. Perhaps we can find the answers by approaching Hokusai through his masterpieces from home, abroad, works discovered in recent years, and his very early works.

Period: January 17 - March 24, 2019
Venue: Mori Arts Center Gallery
Hours: 10:00-20:00, -17:00 on Tuesdays
*Last admission 30 minutes before closing
Closed: 1/29, 2/19, 2/20, 3/5
Admission: General: 1,800 / University / Highschool students: 1,200 / Child (Age 4 up to Junior highschool student): 600 / Senior (Ages 65 & over): 1,500

For more information, please visit

https://hokusai2019.jp/

Romantic Russia from the collection of The State Tretyakov Gallery

Lush forests of oak and white birch trees, vast prairies covered in snow, leaves turning gold in autumn, and the burst of flowers and trees in spring after a long winter—many artists have been inspired by the magnificent natural scenery in Russia and have given birth to many masterpieces.

Ivan Kramskoy
《Unknown Lady》
1883, Oil on canvas
© The State Tretyakov Gallery

As a part of the age of enlightenment, their romanticism was characterized by its emphasis on emotion and individualism as well as glorification of nature. Romanticism liberated the expression and emotions of artists to create arts that evoke raw feelings, awe, confronting the new aesthetic categories of sublimity and the beauty of nature. 
Their paintings expressed also fortitude and strength of characters by portraying the beauty of folk life — the emancipation movement of the Russian people with empathy. 
This exhibition features a vast collection from the State Tretyakov Gallery, known as the hall of fame for Russian art. The pieces throw light on Russian romanticism that can be seen in nature and humans within scenery, genre-paintings, portraits and still-life pieces representing Russia during its tumultuous late 19th century to early 20th century period.

 

Period: November 23, 2018 - January 27, 2019
Venue: Bunkamura, THE MUSEUM
Hours: 10:00 – 18:00, -21:00 on Fridays and Saturdays
*Last admission 30 minutes before closing
Closed: 12/18, 1/1
Admission: Adults: 1,500 / College& high school students: 1,000 / Junior high & elementary school students: 700

For more information, please visit

http://www.bunkamura.co.jp/english/museum/20181123.html


Strange but True

TOKYO NOTICE BOARD DECEMBER 07. 2018

All I want for Christmas is...

Sony is working on a foldable, transparent smartphone, according to a recently published patent application. The patent describes a ‘dual-sided transparent smartphone’ as well as a ‘foldable transparent smartphone.’ It was filed with the World Intellectual Property Office in May, but has only recently been published. The patent describes six different display modes - three for the front and three for the rear. These modes include transparent, semi-transparent and non-transparent modes, which the user can switch between as and when they like. Looks like Sony has a lot of fun plans in the works! Unfortunately, it seems that we may have to wait a while for these plans to become a reality. Sony is yet to comment on the plans.

It's the Thought That Counts

Buying Christmas presents for your special someone can be an extremely stressful experience. You want to buy something that will put a smile on their face, but it's not always easy to know what you should get. One man thought he'd nailed the gifts he bought for his girlfriend after selecting some of her favorite things. But when she accidentally found his secret present stash while cleaning, she was left feeling rather "disappointed". Her gifts included two bottles of her favorite perfume, a dressing gown, a pair of slippers and a skin care set from Boots. What's wrong with that you may ask? She claims that she gets same presents every year… So much better than getting nothing! Let this be a reminder to appreciate whatever you are getting for this Christmas. If you really hate it… well there's always 'Mercari' in Japan!

 

Links

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We'll cut you the best air ticket deals anywhere.

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We go the extra mile for you. International air tickets and hotels.

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Visual equipment and home appliances.Overseas use and Tourist models.

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