sailor-moon

But I’m Sailor Moon?

A scout reboot?

Anime is full of dreams that are enchanting, powerful, and legendary. Japan today may be more well-known for sushi, Hello Kitty, and Godzilla, but it was surprisingly innovative in tackling sensitive social issues in the early 90s, specifically same-sex relations. Today it is not difficult to discover media (be it in television, print, or web) that tackles this topic, making for great dialogue.  Japan brought it to the limelight in the least expected area: Naoko Takeuchi’s Sailor Moon (美少女戦士セーラームーン).

The manga featured two proud lesbian lovers (Sailor Neptune and Sailor Uranus) in a committed relationship fighting evil and protecting Usagi (うさぎ), the moon princess. The plot reads slightly borderline cheesy but it was progressive in featuring warriors in a dedicated relationship to one another.  It is a matter DC Comics has recently played with in making the Green Lantern openly gay for its Earth 2 series for the The New 52, making it the first for the super-hero. Yet it is a century behind Takeuchi’s undertaking. She provided a world to her readers where love is fluid and valid no matter the gender.

Sailor Moon had a strong audience in Japan that it was eventually picked up for an American dubbed version that unfortunately suffered severe editing for length and content and was supplemented with additional educational segments stealthily named “Sailor Moon Says.”  At least the kids were learning about recycling, bullying, and body stigma. Sailor Moon arrived at America during the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Digimon, and Pokemon era—all very male dominated—that its cult following was unanticipated. Allison, in “Japanese Superheroes for Global Girls Abroad,” attributed this devotion to Sailor Moon and the Scouts being new kinds of superheroes different from the American ones. That is, Sailor Moon kept the human and superhuman personas much more intact. Each volume never focused on an identity crisis; it targets saving the planet, forming friendships, and love. It was almost as if being a girl was a superpower of its own that allowed these murky terrains that can be unsettling and raw.  

Fans point out that Sailor Moon was a pioneer in bringing lesbian characters to a mainstream audience, but it accomplished it at a price. The series fantasized lesbianism that it took away from it at times the love and intimacy and shifted it to a basic girl-on-girl action genre. The Sailor Moon series are divided into 52 different acts following the adventures of Usagi Tsukino (月野うさぎ), a boy crazy 14-year-old, as she “morphs” into the pretty, loving, evil fighting Sailor Moon.  The Sailor Scouts each possess special powers they receive from their corresponding planets; for example, Sailor Mercury gains her power from the planet Mercury and Sailor Mars from Mars.  The first series begins with Sailor Moon (Usagi), Sailor Mercury (Amy), Sailor Mars (Raye), Sailor Jupiter (Lita), Sailor Venus (Mina) and Darien (Tuxedo Max). The Scouts all live in Tokyo, Japan and attend the American equivalent of middle school. Amy, Raye, Lita, Mina, and Usagi overcome daily obstacles in school work, love, and plans just as any other adolescent. That was certainly a connecting point for most American audiences that these characters were vulnerable and not indestructible.

A manga depicts a story through illustrations and words, using dialogs and interactions between characters to present the story. The movements and exchanges, and the facial expressions, become the focal point to readers. In Sailor Moon, lesbianism is presented in an erotic nature, maybe not intentionally, but none the less very sexualized because of the way the characters are positioned from their body stances, clothing, and mannerisms. The Sailor Scouts’ costumes, for example, for their superhero alternatives are very skimpy that it makes anyone wonder how they could possibly fight evil in 8 inch heels and 5 inch mini-skirts, and tight fitted blouses. In a later series the Sailor Star Fighters, another group of Sailor Scouts, after their transformations donning black high knee boots, extremely small bras emphasizing the body rather than the story, but this also applies to male heroes such as Superman, Batman, and Aquaman—can any realistic male achieve a lean twelve-pack? The series was probably drawing audiences with these depictions for attention risking being a caricature. Sailor Five, a hentai manga, meaning pornographic comic in English, was an erotic parody of the Sailor Moon, underscoring the hidden sexual appeal Sailor Moon unknowingly possessed (Clements 336).

The Sailor Scouts are middle school students, yet specific body parts are prematurely developed. In the Sailor Moon Stars volume, for example, Mina and Raye, Sailor Venus and Sailor Mars, respectively, confront the three new Sailor Star Lights while wearing clothing so small that is accentuates their chests and slightly curvy figure (Takeuchi 1.1.16). The Sailor Stars Lights were the most explicit in their homo-erotic behaviors apart from Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune. The Star Lights never label themselves lesbians, but the mannerism they exploited hinted the probable sexuality. These new fighters disguise themselves and lived as men while searching for their princess on Earth: they date, flirt with other girls, etc. When the day needs saving, they instantly transform into their female warriors; unlike Superman, the Sailor Star Lights “transform” into their new selves embodying new identities, emotions, and abilities hinting that gender is changeable, messy, and difficult depending on the context—really Sailor Moon dwelled into some gender studies 101 most 90s audiences were not ready to face, and it is definitely a magical point viewers overlook.

The transformation from female to male allowed the Star Light Scouts to no longer bottle up any act, longing, or expression. The male versions of themselves are assertive; for example, one of the Sailor Star Fighters while in her male consume kisses Usagi on the mouth to assure her she will never let anyone harm her (Sailor Moon II.4). The kiss is an obvious hint that the male versions of the female Star Fighters are extensions of the feelings they want to exhibit and repress while fighting in their female forms. In the last scene of the Sailor Stars volume, Sailor Tin Nyanko, tells Usagi, “you know [Usagi] I wouldn’t trust girls that pretend to be guys,” echoing that these heroes are imposters that need to accept their desires and show that it comes from a place of female attraction and love.

These instances and others in the animated and manga series are presented but are not marked “lesbian.” The Sailor Moon franchise taught its audience about friendship, acceptance, and support. As one critic noted about Sailor Moon’s success: its “strong plot, its earnest, honest romance, and its refusal to talk down to its audience” really made it thrive (Clements 336).  Sailor Moon remains a cult-favorite and has recently seen support from the online community that Hulu started airing unedited versions of the series that includes the same-sex relations—there’s even talk of a Takeuchi franchise reboot this Summer 2014. For all its stories Sailor Moon was beyond girl power, feminism, and heroes: it was a nucleus of love, determination, and defeating obstacles.

Jane-Austen

Jane Austen was Japanese?

We all react differently to Jane Austen’s books: some of us love them, obsess, and some think she just wrote really unrealistic love stories. Japan, however, developed a unique relationship with the famous writer. Unlike her fellow countrymen’s ambivalence about her talents, Austen was welcomed during the early Meiji Restoration period. Early Japanese scholars and authors believed Austen depicted her works so accurately that she must had been highly regarded in her time. Unbeknownst to them was the fact that Austen was largely unrecognized as a writer during her life; it was not until 1817 that her works amassed a larger readership building the path for what would later be dubbed Austenmania.

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Japan was partially closed off under the Shogun rule until 1868 when it became open to Westerners again. Besides making its ports accessible, Japanese officials decided that the country needed to integrate Western ideas, customs, and business models. The campaign was meant to foster creativity and revive the country’s culture that had not contributed to the world ever since it exiled foreigners. Japan even expunged all foreign influence by relocating any Non-Japanese to Dejima, a 130-acre artificial island built in 1634 in Nagasaki. It sounds unlikely that Japanese during the Meiji restoration would even undertake translating or reading Austen’s works; after all, her focus centers on marriages, family dynamics, and social constrictions. How could the newly engaged Japan connect with these scenarios? The time frame between Jane Austen’s death in 1817 to Japan reopening its ports in 1868 is also another point that potentially could had stilted her fame from germinating as her works could had been lost, forgotten, or never been introduced to any eminent university in Japan.

Japanese students in Tokyo University were presented works by Flaubert and Zola and the social and existential ideas of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky that by the time Lafcadio Hearn, an early English literature professor at Tokyo University in 1896, gave lectures on Jane Austen’s “genius” Japanese students resisted him. They thought Austen works were outdated, trivial. Hearn also had his own reservations about introducing the Pride & Prejudice author to Japan, voicing: “I am not sure whether you [the Japanese] could like Austen or not. . . [T]he kind of life described, the suffering and the follies described, would probably seem very strange to most of you.” Hearn was obvious in signaling out that Japanese readers would not understand the nuances around marriages, proposals, and courtships because that was not the culture they followed. Austen’s descrition can muzzle any audience from understanding what is important because some relative background about the time period is needed to notice undertoned jokes. For example, in Emma, Jane Fairfax (the impoverished Miss Bates’s niece whom Emma dislikes) and her aunts arrive after the other guests have dined because they are impoverished gentry, but Emma can dine first as she is gentry. In other words, Emma is the cool lead in the lunch table and no one else can sit until she sits down. Not knowing the social customs, however, did not prevent Japanese readers from engaging with Austen’s wit.

Hearn campaigned for Jane Austen’s canonization in Japan, but it was Natsume Sōseki’s (夏目漱石) that established Japan’s love for her works. Sōseki had a tremendous impact on Japanese culture that he was honored by being printed on Japan’s currency until 2004. Sōseki considered Austen’s writing superior that of any “advanced writer,” declaring she captured reality’s undertone beauty. Sōseki fell for Austen’s writing because it mirrored his idea that nature (that is everyday life) must be presented to readers objectively rather than in florid banter and psychological runoffs. He nurtured Austen’s image in Japan and even based the literary ideal of 側転 きょうし (follow Heaven, forsake the self) on Austen’s novels.

Nogami Toyoichirō (野上 とよいちろう), under Sōseki’s tutelage, translated Pride & Prejudice (高慢と偏見) for a Japanese audience in 1926. Toyoichirō’s wife, who went under the pen name Yaeko Nagomi, proofread her husband’s translations because she read the original English version under Sōseki’s supervision and guidance. During the Meiji restoration, however, some Japanese worried that Western beliefs and customs were dominating their culture, suppressing Japanese from creating a new powerful identity. But Austen’s novels connected with Japanese readers because her works revolved on decision, using sense and logic, and finding happiness by keeping to one’s morals. At the time, the West was courting Japan similar to Mr. Wickham’s flirtations with Elizabeth Bennet: accepting a hasty proposal would only hinder Japan from contributing to the world. Possibly, it was this contrast between Austen’s novels and what the Japanese felt at the time that made her works popular. Yaeko Nagomi (やエコ 和み), for example, was so enamored with Austen’s writing style that she mimicked it for her novel, マチコ (Machiko). She wrote in her journal: “Every time I read [Pride & Prejudice], I admire it more than before…this is, indeed, a novel true to nature…I had hoped that the quality of my next novel would match at least that of Austen… If I reached such a level of accomplishment, I would surely congratulate myself.”

Machiko tells the story of a modern Japanese Elizabeth Bennet, Machiko, who must decide whether to marry the cultural industrialist Kawai (Mr. Darcy) whom she “judg[es] to be incapable of distinguishing” his friends from his enemies or the revolutionary activist Seki (Mr. Wickham), who “attracts her strongly both ideologically and physically.” Machiko, however, unlike Pride and Prejudice, uses the industrial Japan in the throes of economic crisis and workers’ militancy as the main background that propels Machiko to decide between being a industrialist or a revolutionary. Yaeko’s Machiko is one of the earliest spinoffs of Jane Austen’s work in Japan. The second was Kurahashi Yumiko’s 夢の浮橋 (The Bridge of Dreams, 1971) where she fused the Austen story with classical Japanese narratives.

In Japan, it was not until 1950 that Iwanami, a prestigious publishing house, made available a second Pride & Prejudice translation by Akira Tomita. This particular translator saw the book as an educational novel and “the best social novel in the world.” Though Japanese admired Austen’s works and satirical voice, they also made dialogue changes to fit verbal expressions that a Japanese audience would understand better. These translations were commercially successful because they maintained Austen’s witty spirit without changing the entire novel’s flow or adding any archaic language.

The history of Austen’s translated adaptations is important because it let’s us see that even though we are different ethnicities, culturally we value similar customs: morality, justice, and marriage.. Japan made Austen Japanese because her works connected with their literary and cultural beliefs. It was her early admirers and translators that initiated her fame that had it not been for them she would had remained unknown in Japan. Today it seems unrealistic for someone to not know Austen. Japan made her their own, Spain the same, and Americans too, nurturing new readerships and even greater devotees.

ghosts

August is Ghost Month! The Scariest Places to Visit in Japan

In Eastern countries such as China and Japan, the month of August is one to celebrate. The “Hungry Ghost Festival” is known all around the world which is celebrated on the 15th day of the 7th lunar month. In celebration of ghosts, here are the most haunted places to visit in Japan.

1. Amidaji (Temple of Amida)

Located in Dan-no-ura in the Shimonoseki Strait, Amidaji is a legendary haunted place. A dead samurai is known to haunt the area. The story is quite famous and it has been adapted into a movie, Masaki Kobayashi’s film “Kwaidan.”

Amidaji

2. Aokigahara

Aokigahara is best known in Japan as the “Suicide Forest.” Located at the bottom of Mt Fuji, the area is frequently visited as a spot for suicide. This has caused a widespread belief that the place is haunted. In 2010, a record of 54 people were said to have committed suicide at Aokigahara.

Aokigahara-el-bosque-maldito

3. Hashima Island

Also known as Gunkanjima which translates to “Battleship Island”, Hashima is a 60,000 square meter cluster of concrete ruins off the coast of Nagasaki. It has been abandoned since 1974 when the coal mines on the island were shut down. The island was closed to visits until Hashima was re-opened to the public in 2009.

nagasaki-hashima

4. Himuro Mansion

The famous game “Fatal Frame” was allegedly based on the true events that conspired at the Himuro Mansion. According to legend, the mansion was a site of a brutal family murder and sacrifice. Onlookers claim to have seen bloody hand prints on the well, a wandering girl in a kimono and sprays of blood appearing out of nowhere.

himuro

5. Akasaka Mansion

Located in Tokyo, Akasaka is a well-known tourist spot. Tourists sleeping at the mansion claim to have been stroked on the face. Some have even been violently ripped from their beds.

akasaka-mansion

the_phoenix_project

Project Phoenix Kickstarter: A Japanese Role Playing Game Set to Change the Future of Gaming

Project Phoenix announced earlier this week of their plans to set up a Kickstarter, a Japanese role-playing game (JRPG). The big difference with this project is that it’ll be combined with Real Time Strategy (RTS). The future of gaming is set to be changed with the founder of Creative Intelligence Arts, Hiroaki Yura in the head of the game development.

Uniting top game developers from the West and the East, Project Phoenix takes on the JRPG genre with art direction from Kiyoshi Arai, best known for Final Fantasy XII and XIV. Music is set to be headed by Nobou Uematsu, the legendary composer of the Final Fantasy series. This is the first independent game project Uematsu will be commited to.

“For 25 years, I’ve been working on a lot of video game music like the Final Fantasy series. This is the first time I’ve worked on an independent game,” says Uematsu, Project Phoenix’s lead composer, adding, “Although it’s fun to create a game within a large company, I’ve always been interested in being able to work in a small, passionate independent games team. I’m really looking forward to it.”

The team members in charge of development have quite the impressive credits of which include Halo 4, Final Fantasy series, World of Warcraft, Star Craft II, Diablo III, L.A. Noire, Soulcalibur V, Steins Gate and the Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya.

A few other members are yet to be announced of which includes a secret designer from one of Japanese leading anime mecha title who had changed pop culture influence in the world. Project Phoenix Kickstarter seelks $100,000 in funding for programming and artistic development of the game. Check out Project Phoenix for more information on the game set to change the history of Japanese role playing game.

101

Ken Hirai Married?! どうしてねえ!

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Ken Hirai (平井堅) is famous for his sensitive ballads, style, and often “Western” facial features has, according to sources, tied the knot in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district. The internet forums are a blaze with rumors that the J-pop superstar said his vows to longtime boyfriend at a ni-chōme restaurant (二丁目), a famous LGBT hub of subculture that houses most of Tokyo’s gay bars.

The Pop Star singer, of course, has never confirmed or denied his sexuality but most people either suspect or know for a fact. According to an industry insider, “ Ken-chan rented out a restaurant in ni-chōme and held a private gay wedding ceremony. This is true since my partner attended that ceremony.” If this is the case, then K-Hirais (name for fans) everywhere will be both disheartened but eventually happy he found love. This sudden wedding will not hamper record sales which have been steady throughout his career. His most recent album peaked at number 3 on the Japanese charts.

Tabloids speculate that the newlywed is the man Hirai has been photographed alongside numerous times in Tokyo, a tallish scruffy, athletic built man in his early 40s. This again, however, is just speculation.

Photos of the wedding have yet to leak, but this rumor could prove to be just that, a rumor. In 2008, Hirai was romantically linked to singer and actor OdaYuji (織田裕二), which proved to be false–a welcomed relief to netizens who thought the match was quite imperfect. Will the singer announce his marriage or deny it? Fans will surely wait in anticipation, but until then they can just listen to his sanguine, cool voice to his new album Japanese Singer.

there is an expression in Japanese, `ato no matsuri`(after the festival)...but what happens before the festival?

Before the Festival

there is an expression in Japanese, `ato no matsuri`(after the festival)…but what happens before the festival?

Scene 1

This year I wanted to get to the summer festival early.
I recently found out that the festival is a time when the gods are let out to play and that is why they are paraded about on the o-mikoshi , or portable shrines. I was curious to see how it started, and feel the anticipation of those moments just before the gods are set free…

All the years I saw the summer festivals in the past, I never thought much of that beginning point. I enjoyed watching the elaborate portable shrines that are carried by a team of men in hapi coats with matsuri (festival) motifs or patterns…shouting heave, ho, and other expressive grunts that give the festival its lively air to the sound of taiko drums. It was always fun to hear the vendors along the sidelines shout out Welcome and announce their wares. From tako yaki to ringo ame to all things grilled on skewers or fried, the festival smells, colored streamers and tanabata decorations make it a joyful time.

Why this year did I feel called to watch the `start`? I am not really sure, but it was a new feeling to be there before the festival. I stood in the middle of the shrine grounds while the majority of those around me were busily getting ready . Young men and women in white hapi coats, older men in purple and young men in red, priests in silk robes, and kagura performers holding their masks, all clearly each with a specific `purpose` for the festivities. It was like watching behind the scenes at a grand spectacle as the cast of characters were taking their places and getting ready to perform their roles. I wasn`t thinking about the omikoshi  or when it would be brought out, rather I just felt the energy around me and watched and listened to the anticipation in the air.

I stayed in one place as the movement all around me seemed to take more and more of a `shape`, and at one point I could just feel it… the gods were being let out!

I got so excited, almost like a childlike feeling to see that all the energy mounted into the moment where it was happening, the portable shrine was being taken from the main shrine! I turned to where the `action` was…the omikoshi  being brought forth into the shrine grounds—carried by the team of men who were not yet screaming their shouts, but ceremoniously performing the sacred act of bringing out the gods!

I hope you  enjoy watching the scene in the video below and feel the meditative quality of those moments …the sense of not knowing what was to happen next…in the entrancing energy of the first moments before the festival!

Scene 2

Now that I had seen and felt these first moments, I was ready to dance through the still empty streets while the vendors were setting up their stalls!
Dance? You may ask!
Yes, this is a year for me of dance walking through Japan!

I was sitting in front of a mask-vendor`s stall, thinking about whether to buy an anime mask to get into the matsuri mood.

But the festive price of 1000yen made me stall.  My video collaborator and I sat in a shady spot waiting for the right moment,when a friend passed by and offered me a cape.

That was the signal! I put it on and was ready to dive into the empty streets, to greet the moments before the festival.  To get a hit of intoxication from the gods who were just starting their wild three days of being let loose in these streets!

Please enjoy `Before the Matsuri Dance Walk` video below,

**There is a Japanese expression, `Ato no matsuri` which means `After the festival`, or `too late!`. You can find a related post on BB here
`Mae no matsuri` could be a new expression to describe this feeling of anticipation `before the matsuri`.  We could coin it here.

There`s still time.
Don`t be late!** Zehi (by all means!) get to your summer festival early!

Video credit:
presented by Joanne G. Yoshida
filmed by Utsu-shin
location: Nagahama Shrine, Oita, Japan

Joanne G. Yoshida

shinzo-abe

Abenomics and Abe Shinzo: the new relationship

Abe Shinzo (安倍晋三) is the man saving Japan. The Bank of Japan recently stated that Japan’s economy was ‘recovering,’ a better outlook than its previous, ‘the economy has been picking up.’ Abe’s policies, dubbed Abenomics, rely on strong approaches to the Japanese economy than his former predecessors took on by easing  the Yen’s price, which is currently trading at $1 to 100円, to encourage foreign investment and greater exports from Japan.

Investors are more or less weary about Japan’s current bond repurchases and interest payments, but has not raised alarms unlike the market’s reaction to China’s regulation of money lending between its banks to discourage “bad” or robust loans. The country’s current hurdle, among others, is its declining rapid birth rates. As the older population reaches retirement the pool of new workers is shrinking, which is a disadvantage considering the workforce China can dip into.

In his latest interview with Foreign Affairs Magazine, Abe revealed that his 3 main concepts for Japan are openness,challenge, and innovation. Abe’s strategies, luckily, are rewarding both his party the Liberal Democratic Party and Japan. Recent election results show that the new seats will give the Liberal Democrats control of the Upper and Lower house in parliament, creating a monopoly Abe can use to pass policies quicker without much interference from other parties. This election demonstrates the mounting public support for Abe’s plans that has set Japan on a tentative recovery after receding into the background for two decades. However, Abe faces obstacles, most notably his public remarks on comfort women for Japanese soldiers during its South Korea and China invasion. He has played down his critic’s accusations of wanting to rewrite history to portray Japan in a better light during its invasion. Abe argued that each country depicts its history differently. The United States, for instance, sees its Manifest Destiny history a progressive necessity, but American-Indians still view it an unjustified forced takeover of their lands and homes.

In part to the new policies, Japan has been aggressively pushing its influence alongside other Asian countries in to former Myanmmar (Burma) after the United States lifted trade embargos on the country. Abe met with president Thein Sein in June to unveil a charitable financial and investment package to demonstrate to the newly democratic country that Japan wants a consolidated economic relationship between the two countries. Japan has pledged to Burma $51 billion Yen ($498.5 billion dollars) along with $176 billion in debt forgiveness that doesn’t include the $300 million yen write off from April. Japan will also build a cheap labor industrial force in Thilawa, a port city on the Indian Ocean, to facilitate both Burma and Japanese exports, adopting China’s direction.

China is also entering Burma, or has been for some years, because Burma offers up untapped precious natural resources, an outlet for the country’s exports and a growing middle class tourist industry. China has criticized Tokyo for its expansion into the region, which it feels is a joint plan with the United States to hinder Beijing’s economic growth. Abe has boosted monetary policies, heavy government spending in forms of stimulus packages, and pro-growth movements. Now it remains if they will yield economic development for Japan or falter. Whatever the outcome Abe Shinzo is on a roll.

found a perfect place to see the sunrise, just behind the pagoda

Dance Walk Japan!

We rented bicycles to tour the island, stopped in front of the torii...
We rented bicycles to tour the island, stopped in front of the torii…

This year I discovered the pleasures of `dance walk` as a way to travel in Japan. It has become my favorite means of transportation and has taken me to visit one of Japan`s World Heritage sites, as well as to explore the area around where I live in southern Japan, and to see things with a new sense of discovery.

I would like to share a mini-`how to` manual with you so that you might try it too in Japan or wherever you are! I will also show you a few of the sites in Japan I have visited through this combined means of exercise and expression.

For dance walk travel, you don`t need much. I recommend these basics:
1. a backpack with easy-to-move-in light clothes for dancing,
2. an i-pod with music you might like to choose in advance to go with the mood of the site and what you wish to express
3. a video camera so you can share the experience
4. a friend or collaborator who shares your enthusiasm and openness, who is not shy to be with you as you will be dancing through the trip!

camera ready

5. (optional) Yoga Mat for stretches in your room and a small overnight kit if you will be staying overnight

take some time to stretch in your room...
take some time to stretch in your room…

As the idea of dance walk is discovery, it is best to travel with an empty mind and an open heart. Every site has its own special nature, so the first thing to do when you arrive at the site is to `greet it` with your movement. Breathe in the sights, the architecture, the sky, the trees, the flowers. If the moon is out, what luck you are in! Greet the moon with your gestures, connect with the sun…feel into your breath, and whenever you are ready turn on the music, begin to listen and feel your own rhythms, listen to your body, and let yourself move–in all directions— from the heart!

I learned in a dance workshop about `greeting` a site and asking its permission. Just as you would to a dance partner, when you dance walk in a site, it is a beautiful thing to `ask` if it is o.k. for you to enter. This can be done through gesture, breath, a short meditation or a simple offering of something you bring from nature or from your heart.

I recently went to Miyajima, one of Japans National Treasure sites located a ferry ride from Hiroshima, to do a dance walk by the famous orange torii gate and Itsukushima Shrine. You may know of this site famous for the shrine that appears to float in the sea at high tide.

The video of the dance walk became seven segments, starting in the morning hours before sunrise (the ocean tide and tide and travellers had not yet come in) where me and my video collaborator were the only ones in the site; to the sunset hours where we met some travelers who shared a dance with me in front of the Itsukushima Shrine

I also had a chance to dance with deer who roam the island, but as enthusiastic as I was for the chance to meet them through my dance, they showed indifference. Still those moments when I sat on the grass face to face with a deer were amazing memories for me!! They are part of the dance too. You can see the segment that has my `dance` with the deer here:

Part one starts with greeting the famous torii here and continues here as its power and the power of the tides bring me into both backwards and spinning movements that brought me a deep reverence for the site.

Whether it is a famous site, or a backstreets road, allow yourself to connect with the surroundings and be open to new movements and experience. Don`t hold back! Enjoy the movement! People might think you are a little strange, but the beauty is, people might think that anyway so it gives you a little freedom to go the extra step, to add a little shimmy or sway into your walk, and hopefully to connect with people heart to heart on your travels.

Other dance walks I have done this year include a Cherry Blossoms Dance Walk, and most recently a Rainy Season Dance Walk to dance by a pond of lotus flowers but it rained so hard I just got a short scene! My dream is to go to a dance walk on Mt. Fuji! And little by little to have others join with me in the dance through Japan…
Next time won`t you dance with me!

My dance walk in Miyajima begins here:

and you can find an assortment of dance walks here

Joanne G. Yoshida teaches Shake Your Soul/Kripalu Yoga Dance in Oita, Japan, where she has lived with her husband and daughter for fourteen years.
Feel free to share your comments and questions about her Dance Walk Japan or any of your dance walk plans!! Like Joanne`s Yoga Dance Walk on Facebook HERE.

miyajima peace statue

Photo-Jun-17-3-01-33-AM

BIGPAPA aka BIGMAMA’s Tour Finale

BIGMAMA, a five piece rock-pop band based in Tokyo Japan, just recently finished their tour throughout Japan to celebrate the release of their latest album 君想う、故に我在り. They are made up of a unique composition for Japan, with a violinist being a major component of the band. They are considered to be an emo-rock band here in Japan, though in my personal opinion they play very pop-like tunes, with beautiful melodies and a voice that accompanies it wonderfully. BIGMAMA consists of; Kanai Masato (vo/gt), Kakinuma Hiroya (gt/vo), Yasui Hideto (ba), Higashide Mao (vi/cho), and Ibe Riado (dr).

Although their tour finale was dated to be June 15th, there was a separate secret tour finale on the 16th to celebrate father’s day. On this particular day, the band appeared not as BIGMAMA but as BIGPAPA, for…well, father’s day. On this special day in which we honor our father’s, I was invited to go see this band play for the first time.

 

To be honest, I have had no previous experience with this band. Aside from a couple of drinks and a long intoxicated conversation with one of the members on a cold December night and a copy of their latest album, my knowledge of this band was far from lavish. Yet, I found myself sitting on the 3rd floor balcony overlooking the arena and stage surrounded by friends and business partners of the band.

My first show. I was quite excited about this show, to be honest. After getting lost on my way to the Tokyo Dome Hall, when I finally arrived at my destination, I was welcomed by the sight of a myriad of youths sporting black tshirts with the bands name printed across the chest. I had listened to their songs before hand, and I quite like the album, but I was not expecting to see so many people wearing the typical attire one would don in Japan for punk band shows (ie Dickies shorts with the band tshirt and sneakers…clothes that show support for the band while still being comfortable enough to participate in moshpits and crowd surfing).

As I sat on the third floor balcony in my comfortable plush seat, I had a clear view down in the arena where people moved about, resembling the image of a beehive split open for viewing with the worker bees clustered in the small space provided. To be honest, it is quite disgusting looking. Humans are odd creatures.

As the arena lights began to dim, the crowd cheered and I sat up straight in my seat with anticipation rolling through my nerves. Each member walked onto stage, bowing towards the crowd before picking up their instruments in their designated spots. The lights went black and in the next instant, there was a blast of music and bright colorful lights painting the insides of the Tokyo Dome Hall.

The band introduced themselves at BIGPAPA, a different band from BIGMAMA, who came together today to play this show. The audience laughed and went along with their little charade of being BIGPAPA. I did not recognize most of their songs, though they played an exceptional show with an amazing light performance. What intrigued me more though, was seeing the crowd’s reactions to these songs. How people would sit on top of shoulders, singing on the top of their lungs until the climax of the song when they would thrust their bodies back as a sea of hands would reach up to support them, carrying them towards the stage before they rolled down into a black hole. While this seems to be a common act at punk show concerts, it was an alien spectacle for me to see so many crowd surfers during these catchy pop tunes. I quite enjoyed this gap of music and action.

In the middle of the show, the vocalist asked the crowd if it was anyone’s birthday. Hands shot up in the crowd and a path opened up like the red sea to lead the individuals up front.

“Staff, please detain these individuals!” Kanai said. Once everyone had been taken backstage, poppers were passed around. Soon, the birthday boys and girls were led up on stage where they lined up next to the band as the band began playing their birthday song. Higashide, closest to the group, made sure to smile and interact with them as she played the violin, sending girls into fits of tears and spreading grins across everyone’s face. At the peak of the song, an explosion went off as gold confetti streamers rained down into the arena. I quite liked this “tradition” that the band had, allowing their listeners to feel special on the day they were born. It was very different from many of the other bands I have seen.

The show ended before satisfaction broke surface, and the crowd attempted to start a slow clap in the dark. The slow clap would speed up quickly before dispersing into a million jumbled claps. Sitting above the crowd, it sounded like I was at the ocean, the waves crashing down onto shore. Soon the stage lit up as Kanai walked out onto stage. He spoke about his thanks for the fans and asked if he could play in the crowd. A cheer mixed with hysteric screams erupted and with that, he disappeared off the stage, reappearing in the midst of the crowd. He serenaded an acoustic ballad to all the fathers; thanking them for the support and unconditional love they provide their children. After the song, he returned to the stage through an arch the crowd created for him with their arms. A couple more songs were played before they waved their goodbyes, once again, disappearing off the stage.

Photo Jun 16, 8 18 59 PM[the view from the 3rd floor]

The crowd was still not satisfied as the ocean clapping began once again. Soon enough, they were rewarded for their long bouts of clapping as the band returned onto stage to make a couple of announcements. The re-release of their first three albums and a new single.

“And with the release of our new single,” Kanai teased the crowd. “We will also be playing at Akasaka BLITZ for three days in November to commemorate this release!” there was an outburst of cheers from the crowd. A few more words were exchanged before the band sprinted through the last 100 meters of their tour.

 

It was my first BIGMAMA show, and what can I say? I was not disappointed. They played songs I knew, some I recognized, and many songs I didn’t know, yet I was still able to enjoy the whole performance. The atmosphere within this large space, it was just so electrifying.

After the show, I had the chance to go to the after party in which I was able to talk to the rest of the members who were very welcoming and humble. Happy announcements were made and many smiles and laughers were exchanged.

Photo Jun 17, 3 01 33 AM[My guest pass with Takinuma's pick and Kanai's essay book. Thank you for the gifts!]

Thank you, BIGMAMA, for providing me the opportunity to attend your show. It was spectacular and I would definitely recommend people listen to their music, and if you like it, go to their show. You will not be disappointed.

 

BIGMAMA:

HP http://bigmama-web.com/index.html

Twitter https://twitter.com/BIGMAMAofficial

 

 

Until next time,
Yoshimaru

Find me here, you beautifuls…
Blog: http://yoshimaru12.wordpress.com/
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shimogamo-shrine_

Hotaru-bi no Chakai: A Tea Gathering in the Fire of Fireflies

For anyone set to visit Kyoto this weekend, there’s one event Japanese haven’t failed to celebrate at the Shimogamo Shrine. Wondering what this is? Here’s all you need to know about the Hotaru-bi no Chakai.

Shimogamo Shrine is one of the oldest shrines in Japan which is located north of Kamo and Takase Rivers of north-central Kyoto. The shrine dates back to the prehistoric periods and the first reference of the Shimogamo was of a fence repair dating back to 2BC.

The shrine has served as a central religious aspect for Kyotoites. It has said that the shrine played a significant role in the Heian period when prayers for the capital where held in that area. In countless tales, of which includes “Tale of Genji”, Shimogamo Shrine has been featured.

Today, this Kyoto shrine has been registered under the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Shimogamo contains 52 building all of which are recognized as iconic Cultural Properties. A number of events take place at the Shimogamo Shrine of which include the Hotaru-bi no Chakai

About Hotaru-bi no Chakai:

Hotaru-bi no Chakai is the event held at the beginning of June which is a special tea gathering done amidst the glow of live fireflies. “Hotaru” translates to firefly while “bi” refers to fire. “Chakai” on the other hand means tea gathering. This event shows the true essence of Japanese tradition where one of its aims is the preservation of Tadasu no Mori, “The Forest of Justice,” which surrounds the Shimogamo Shrine.

Hotarubi no Chakai

For the event, around 600 fireflies are released over the stream called Mitarashigawa which serve as invites to the grandiose tea gathering. Usually, a reservation is required for one to attend the ceremony but there are other programs of the Hotaru-bi no Chakai open to the general public.

If you are ever in the area, make sure to check the Shimogamo Shrine. Other than the Hotaru-bi no Chakai, the ancient “Juni-hitoe” where 12 layers of the kimono will be shown and various dance performances are set for the night. Twenty long established stands also sell around the area at 1pm where the popular Kyoto souvenir, yatsuhashi and the common rice dumpling, mitarashi dango is being sold.

Japan is closer than you think.