Category Archives: Culture

Deadly Landslides and Floods Strike Across Northern Japan

At least six people are dead following severe flooding and landslides that struck the northern part of the country Friday.
The English-language Japan Times reports four people were found dead Saturday in Senboku city, Akita Prefecture, after a landslide destroyed several homes.
The Japan Meteorological Agency said nearly 5 inches of rain fell Friday at the Lake Tazawa meteorological station in Senboku, much of it falling in just four hours.

To the east in neighboring Iwate Prefecture, Japanese television network FNN reported a 91-year-old woman was killed in a landslide and a 62-year-old man was swept to his death by a raging river.

The intense thunderstorms occurred at the northern edge of a major heat wave that has spread from China into Japan in recent days.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=24a_RfFBQtw

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=7aUWkIbZj0I

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.

Trail over tainted dumplings underway

A trial has been held for a Chinese man accused of poisoning dumplings which sickened 10 people in Japan, Japanese and Chinese media say.

Factory worker Lu Yueting admitted putting insecticide in frozen dumplings that were later exported to Japan, Xinhua news agency said.

The 2008 incident led to a scare over Chinese food and strained diplomatic relations between the two countries.

The trial comes as a senior Japanese minister visits China.

Lu Yueting worked in Tianyang Food company in China’s Hebei province from 1993 to 2009.

He was accused of using a syringe to put insecticide into the frozen dumplings over frustration with his wages and colleagues.

Read the rest of the story: Man tried over China-Japan tainted dumplings.

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

Tenjin Festival in Osaka

An annual summer festival has climaxed in Osaka City with a grand boat procession and display of fireworks.

The Tenjin Matsuri, one of Japan’s top 3 festivals, began in the 10th century. It originated as a ceremony to welcome the principal deity of the Osaka Tenmangu shrine, who legend said would make an annual appearance at this time of year.

One of the highlights of the 2-day festival, a land procession, took place on Thursday.

Led by a traditional drum team, about 3,000 people dressed in traditional costumes paraded from the shrine beside floats and portable shrines.

They proceeded along a 3-kilometer route for about 2 and half hours.

Passengers in Japan Push 32-ton Train Car to Free Woman

Dozens of Japanese train passengers pushed a 32-ton train carriage away from the platform to free a woman who had fallen into the 20-centimeter eight-inch gap between the train and platform. The act of heroism was captured by a newspaper photographer.

A public announcement that a passenger was trapped prompted about 40 people to join train officials to push the carriage, whose suspension system allows it to lean to either side, the Yomiuri newspaper reported.

The unnamed woman in her 30s was then pulled out uninjured to applause from onlookers at JR Minami-Urawa station, just north of Tokyo.

After just an eight-minute delay, the train went on its way.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=WR7o1TFZCFU

Japan’s Emperor and Empress Invited to India in November

Japan’s Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko will visit India as state guests for about a week from Nov. 30.

The trip plan for the Imperial couple was decided at a cabinet meeting Tuesday.

The Indian government has invited the Emperor and the Empress as the two countries marked the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties last year.

This will be the first trip to India for the couple since the Emperor’s accession to the throne in 1989.

Under their provisional schedule, the Emperor and the Empress will leave Tokyo for Delhi on Nov. 30 and move to Chennai, southern India, on Dec. 4 before returning home on Dec. 6.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=8TijivrLp_g

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

Japanese miracle pine returns to tsunami-hit town of Rikuzentakata

A pine tree that became a symbol of hope after it survived the March 2011 tsunami in north-east Japan was opened to the public in the devastated town of Rikuzentakata on Wednesday.The 250-year-old “miracle” pine – the only one among 70,000 trees left standing along the towns coastline after the disaster – initially survived, but was removed last September after its roots died from exposure to salt water.Experts preserved the 27-metre 89ft tall tree in its near-original state by inserting a metal skeleton into its trunk and adding replica branches and leaves made from a synthetic resin.In response to online criticism of the projected cost of the restoration project, the town decided to raise money from donations in Japan and overseas, and easily exceeded its target of 150m yen £1m.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=J5zGzay4bA8

Read the rest of the story: Japanese miracle pine returns to tsunami-hit town.

Fire breaks out at world famous sushi restaurant, Sukiyabashi Jiro

A fire broke out on Monday morning in a Ginza building housing the Michelin Guide 3-star sushi restaurant Sukiyabashi Jiro.

Police said the fire started at around 11:30 a.m. in the B2 floor of the 9-story building at Ginza 4-chome. According to TV media, the fire started in a storeroom for restaurant supplies. Firefighters were quoted as saying that a sushi chef at Sukiyabashi Jiro on B1 floor had been using straw to smoke bonito and that the straw most likely ignited after he returned it to the storeroom.

Firefighters said the ceiling of the storeroom was destroyed but there were no injuries caused by the fire which took about an hour to extinguish.

Sukiyabashi Jiro has received 3 Michelin stars for six years in a row.