Category Archives: Art

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.

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

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.

Japanese Film Festival at San Francisco: From ‘Helter Skelter’ to ‘Lesson of the Evil’

Japanese films don’t only air in Japan alone. In fact, Japanese and fans of J- films are in for a treat at the first ever upcoming Japanese Film Festival held in San Francisco. So what should fans look forward to at the nine day J-Fest in Bay Area?

The J-Film fest is the first of its kind to happen in Bay Area of the greater north of California. This is slated to be part of the J-POP Summit Festival that showcases J-music and culture.  Fans of J-cinema are sure to enjoy nine days of full-length features at the inaugural JFFSF or Japan Film Festival of San Francisco.

Curtains will go up at the San Francisco New People Cinema for the screening on July 27. Both live action and anime flicks will be shown every day until August 4. The hit sword swinging, “Rurouni Kenshin” is included in the J-cinema spectrum.

Other notable titles set for screening at the event include Mika Ninagawa’s thriller, “Helter Skelter” featuring the sexy and talented, Erika Sawajiri. Psycho-thriller, “Lesson of the Evil” starring Hideaki Ito is also included in the J-fest films.

Lesson of the Evil

As for anime otakus, better get those tickets early for the US premiere of “Naruto Shippuden: The Lost Tower”, “Hunter X Hunter: Phantom Rouge”, “Summer Wars”, “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time” and “Wolf Children.”

Naruto Shippuden: The Lost Tower

If you are a J-film lover or Japanese in San Francisco, better be in the Bay Area in celebration of Japanese cinema.

Akihabara: The One Stop Japan Spot for Otakus

Japan is notable for its many splendour tourist spots such as Shibuya, Okina and Kyoto. However, if there is one spot Otaku’s from all over the world wish to visit and this would be none other than Akihabara. Akihabara has been considered Japan’s one-stop-shop for all anime lovers and enthusiasts.

Where in Japan:

Located in Sotokanda, Tokyo Prefectur, Akihabara (秋葉原) is two stations north of Tokyo Station. Locals call the area Akiba after the local shrine. This area has gained quite the recognition from all over the world due to its diehard otaku culture. Major developments have already occurred thanks to the Akihabara Crossfield complex that promotes Akihabara as the centre for global electronics technology and trade.

How to Get There:

It’s easy to head to Akihabra thanks to Japans’ complex train systems plus their trains give meaning to “faster than a speeding bullet.” There are two options of which are as follows:

  1. From Tokyo Station: Akihabara is located two stations north of Tokyo Station by Keihin-Tohoku or JR Yamanote Line. The trip costs 130 yen and will only take three minutes. However, during the weekdays, Keihin-Tohoku line skips one station between Akihabara and Tokyo which will cut off a few seconds off travel time.
  2. From Shinjuku Station: Travellers should take the JR Chuo Line (colour orange) from Shinjuku to Ochanomizu Station of which takes approximately ten minutes. After, take a quick transfer to JR Sobu line (colour yellow) for one more station headed to Akihabara. This trip takes two minutes max. Alternate options also include taking the yellow train without transfer from Shinjuku to Akihabara for seventeen minutes trip. The fare costs 160 yen for either case.

What to See:

As mentioned, Akihabara is the centre for Otaku enthusiasts and lovers. From maid cafes to Tokyo anime centres selling merchandise and games, everything can be found here. It’s best to load up the wallet because the merchandise scattered around can easily lure Otakus in.

  1. Maid Cafes: Cosplay themed restaurants abound where food is served basically by waitresses in frilly and colourful attires. These “maids” also engage in fun activities with the guests.
  2. drinks

  3. Tokyo Anime Center: This is found on the UDX building of Akihabara Crossfield where anime related exhibitions are held.
  4. akihabara-2

  5. Gundam Café is extremely popular where food is served in gundam themes. A gift shop is also connected where visitors may purchase souvenirs and goods.

gundam-cafe

Why Visit Akihabara:

While Akihabara is heaven on earth for Otakus, some visit the area for real steals when it comes to the latest gadgets and electronics. Various centres offer whopping deals that are definitely a real steal as compared to any other place in Japan or overseas.

When to Visit:

Akihabara is open all year round! Take a trip to one of Japan’s busiest and most Otaku-friendly place on earth.

Important Reminders:

Japanese don’t like tourists taking photos inside stores. Unless you’re a famous celebrity or you’ve got special permission, keep the trigger happy camera’s to yourself or outside the store.

New Kabukiza Theater in Tokyo Shown

The new Kabukiza theater in Tokyo was shown to the media on Sunday. Reporters saw the stage equipment, dressing rooms and the rehearsal space.

The stage is still the same size. The theater has an extra lift that is large enough to carry the Kabuki actors and props for scenery changes.

Newcomers to Kabuki can use a tablet computer to read the actors’ lines and background information about the plays.

A group of Kabuki actors will parade through Ginza’s main street on Wednesday. The new Kabukiza will officially open on April 2nd.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=6EoDdwmii6I

Japan’s Renewed Kabuki-za Theater in Ginza Lights Up

Lights began to shine on Tokyo’s celebrated home of traditional kabuki theater on Thursday, as the renovated venue prepares to raise the curtains on a new era.

The new Kabuki-za theater, part of a 29-story office building in the upscale Ginza shopping district, has now started an evening illumination program ahead of its April opening.

The theater occupies the bottom floors of the tower, retaining some elements of the original facade, which evokes medieval Japanese castles and temples with its curved roofs and red paper lanterns.

Standing 145 meters (470 feet) high, the new skyscraper is the tallest building in the area. Overlooking an eastern section of the Japanese capital, the summit of Mount Fuji can be seen on clear days.

Leslie Kee, photographer arrested for nude male photos, released from police custoday

Prosecutors have released Singaporean photographer Leslie Kee, who was arrested Monday in Tokyo on suspicion of selling photo collections containing images of male genitalia, police sources said Thursday.

The prosecutors also released two Japanese organizers of a photo exhibition who allegedly sold photo books containing the images.

The Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office skipped seeking detention warrants from a court after the three acknowledged the allegations, the sources said.

Haruhiko Kawaguchi’s 12 Japanese Couples Wrapped In Plastic Bags

Japanese artist Haruhiko Kawaguchi took nearly 80 duos (most of them real-life couples) and trapped them in vacuum-sealed bags. The process called for the participants to pose and hold their breath for 10 to 20 seconds, the time it took to snap a few photographs.

Each couple needed about 5 liters of lube (at 10 times normal concentration) to ensure that their skin wouldn’t burn in the process. Reportedly, only one guy pissed his pants during the whole ordeal.

Read the rest of the story: 12 Japanese Couples Wrapped In Plastic Bags.

Five Hokusai works confirmed as authentic prints at Japan Ukiyoe Museum

A museum in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, said Monday five woodblock prints it owns have been confirmed as authentic works by famed ukiyo-e artist Katsushika Hokusai.

Fake copies of the set have been circulating in large quantities since the Meiji Era, with only a few originals confirmed. With the latest discovery, the Japan Ukiyoe Museum became the only institution to possess originals of all five works in the set.

The five works, all 26-by-19 cm, are based on ghost stories, and are believed to have been created at around the same time as Hokusais masterpiece, the “Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji,” which was painted between 1832 and 1833.

Read the rest of the story: Five prints are confirmed as Hokusai works.