Museum tour in English: Kakiemon exhibit at the Toguri Museum of Art (Wed. May 10, 7-8:30 pm)

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A splendid and very large new work by Kakiemon XV: this covered jar with cherry blossom design (2017)

The Harvard Club of Japan has graciously allowed me to offer my contacts a few places in a private tour I am doing for them on Wednesday May 10 at 7 pm at the Toguri Museum of Art, a very nice small museum in Shoto, near Shibuya Station, that specializes in fine Japanese porcelain. This time, we will be enjoying a special exhibition of porcelain in the Kakiemon style. It will be my only tour for this exhibition, and the last at this museum until at least next fall, so if you’ve been wanting to join one of my tours, please grab this chance — there are only a few places available.

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This octagonal dish with a “Hob-in-the-Well” design is a typical example of the Kakiemon style, from the second half of the 17th century during the Edo period.

Details on the tour are here. To sign up, please contact Jonathan Harlow (Harvard Club Director of Events) for at jonathan@jonathanharlow.com

For more information on the exhibition, see my article in the Japan Times.

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Watch the time! Thursday at 4, Friday at 6

In my original post about my gallery talks this week at the Tokyo Photographic Art Museum, I forgot to insert the time for the talk on Friday, which begins at 6 pm.  That information is now in the original post, but for the benefit of those who get notices of new posts by email, and may not see post updates,  I’m making a fresh post that will generate an email notice of the correct time information. Hope to see you!

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Museum tours in English: early Japanese photography (Thurs. April 13 and Fri. April 14)

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Ambrotype portrait of Toyoko, wife of Matsudaira Tadanari, Yamanouchi Studio, c. 1868-1882.

Please join me this week, at the Tokyo Photographic Art Museum in Ebisu Garden Place, on Thursday April 13 at 4 pm or Friday April 14, 2017 at 6 pm, when I’ll give guided tours in English of  the exhibition, Dawn of Japanese Photography: The Anthology.  The tours are free with regular museum admission (700 yen for adults, less if you’re a student or over 60) and open to everyone without reservations.

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Some of the photographs are exhibited in freestanding cases so you can see both front and back. It’s important to view photographs as objects as well as images!

The exhibition presents the highlights and latest findings of a ten-year project to survey and catalog holdings of early Japanese photographs in museums, libraries and schools throughout Japan. Our understanding of the history of early photography in Japan is constantly expanding and being updated — this project turned up many previously unknown yet very important works, which we’ve brought together so you can see and learn.

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Daguerreotype portrait of Tanaka Mitsuyoshi taken in 1854 by Eliphalet M. Brown Jr., official photographer to Commodore Perry.  Private collection.

If you’ve been on my museum tours before, you know they are lively and informal. I try to keep keep things accessible for total beginners while offering new information and insights for those who may be already deep into the subject matter. There are lots of interesting “firsts” to see in this exhibition, including the first photographs taken of a Japanese person as well as the first photographs taken by a Japanese person. (Quiz question: do you think these “firsts” were taken on Japanese soil or overseas?)

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Albumen print showing damage to a shrine caused by the Shonai earthquake of 1894. Photographer unknown. Collection of the Homma Museum of Art in Sakata, Yamagata Prefecture.

You don’t need to contact me to get a space; just turn up! Each tour will last 50-60 minutes, but it’s fine to leave earlier if you’re pressed for time. Thursday’s tour is likely to be less crowded than Friday, just because of the time. The Tokyo Photographic Art Museum  — yes, this is the same museum that used to be called the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography — is about a 10-minute walk from JR Ebisu Station (through the covered SkyWalk walkway) and about 12-minutes from Ebisu station on the Hibiya subway line.  We will assemble in the third-floor lobby outside the exhibition.

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Museum tour in English: modern Japanese ceramics (Friday Jan. 20)

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Picture plate in the “new Majolica style” (1905) by Itaya Hazan (1872-1963). Collection of Tokyo Tech Museum and Archives.

Please join me at the Shoto Museum of Art in Shibuya on Friday January 20, 2017 when I’ll give a guided tour in English of Ceramics Japan: Tracing Japanese Modern through Ceramics. The tour will begin at 6:30 pm and is free with regular museum admission (500 yen for adults, less if you’re a student or over 60).

The exhibition provides an excellent overview of Japanese ceramics in the modern era, which is to say from the Meiji Restoration of 1868 until the end of World War II. It covers everything from the export ceramics that set off the Japonism boom in the West to what was made in Japan during the war, a topic rarely covered. The focus is on design, and the very deliberate way Japanese ceramic designers first responded to foreign tastes and trends, and then set about searching for a unique Japanese aesthetic for ceramics.

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Lidded pots with mythical shishi lions, decorated in Tokyo in the Satsuma style by Niimura Tomezo in gold and overglaze enamels. Early Meiji period/late 19th century. Private collection.

If you’ve been on my museum tours before, you know they are lively and informal. I try to keep keep things accessible for total beginners while offering new information and insights for those who may be already deep into the subject matter. There are lots of cool and unexpected things to see in this exhibition, including the first Western-style dinner set successfully made in Japan (the “Sedan” pattern made by Nippon Toki, which later became Noritake) and the sort of sink made in the 1920s for oh-so-modern multi-family dwellings like the famous Dojunkai apartments in Omotesando.

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I love these dishes designed by Hino Atsushi and manufactured by Okura Toen in the 1920s using a traditional maki-e etching technique Private collection.

Advance reservations are not necessary, and it’s fine to just turn up if you can. But it’s helpful to me if you let me know you’re coming so I have an idea of how many people are coming. You can do that through the contact form on this blog, by leaving a comment or by email to gordenkeralice(at)gmail.com. Hope to see you there! The Shoto Museum is about a 15-minute walk from the Hachiko exit of Shibuya Station, and closer to Shinsen Station on the Keio Inokashira Line.

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Ceramic tiles were introduced in Japan as a novel building material and became popular after the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 because they were seen as modern and safer. Colorful tiles like this were made by many companies, including Danto Kabushiki Kaisha in Osaka.

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[This trip is now full.]Nov. 12″Discover Another Kanagawa”

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Regular readers of this blog know that I’ve been working with Kanagawa Prefecture for over a year to design short tours for people like me:  foreign residents of Japan who enjoy learning and getting out of the to discover lesser known but eminently worthwhile destinations. To date, I’ve brought groups to four great spots in Kanagawa: the lovely Manazuru peninsula, fascinating Oyama (“Edo’s Disneyland”), the Tanzawa mountain range and most recently, to Ashigara to see  mounted archery, plum blossoms and sake making. Well, I’ve got another little goodie in the works, and I’m posting advance notice so those interested can save the date: Saturday,  November 12.

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This time, we’ll venture to Minami Ashigara at the western edge of the prefecture, over towards Mount Fuji. It’s a place of real natural beautyーcitrus trees dotting steep green hillsides, green valleys amid mountains and small-scale farms and rice patties, yet close enough to Tokyo and Yokohama for an easy day trip.  In keeping with Kanagawa’s effort to promote the western part of the prefecture as the natural place for healing, this time I’m incorporating Japanese-style wellness into my usual mix of culture, fun and exploration   The goal will be to stimulate the mind and senses while relaxing and refreshing the body and soul.

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First stop: the tiny village of Yagura (pop. 280) which solved its twin problems of wild boars and isolation by planting zarugiku, the wonderful poofs of chrysanthemums you see in the photo above. Now some 10,000 people visit during their annual flower festival. We’ll be visiting when the festivities are just over and things are quiet and peaceful again, but the flowers are still in merry bloom. It’s a lovely place in a beautiful valley, and a few of the villagers will give us a guided walking tour so we can hear their interesting story.

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Then we’ll hop onto our bus and head to Saijoji, a 14th century Zen monastery  built deep in a virgin cedar forest. It’s very much an undiscovered gem — even most Japanese haven’t heard of it. We’ll get a taste of life there — first with a lunch of authentic “shojin ryori” (Buddhist vegan/vegetarian cuisine), then by walking the beautiful grounds with an English-speaking monk who will answer our questions and tell us about the many legends associated with the temple.


I’m always looking for ways to quiet my over-active mind, so naturally Zen meditation is something I’ve wanted to try. But for all my years in Japan, I never have. It just seemed so..well, intimidating. The lotus position…monks patrolling with sticks. But Saijoji makes it easy to dip your toes in the water. Nice clean space. Comfy pillows that facilitate sitting cross-legged, and stools if your knees can’t take even that. Just 20 minutes, and our English-speaking monk will explain how to breathe and what to do when your mind wanders. And no one will get hit — I promise! If you like it, you’ll know where to come back for a weekend workshop or even an overnight stay. Truly, there’s no need to travel all the way to Koya-san for an authentic Zen experience — it’s right here in our back yard!

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Finally, for that total refresh and relax experience, we’ll head over to the to “Only Y0u” hot-springs resort. (Did you notice the pun? “Yu” means “hot water” in Japanese). It’s got indoor and outdoor baths (segregated by sex). Feel the restorative power of lots and lots of warm water and all those minerals.

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Even if hanging out naked isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other ways to relax here.  They’ve got lots of decks, all over the place looking  out at the trees, with both friendly group areas and quiet out-of-the-way spots for introverts and those who want to catch some winks.  Cafe snacks and drinks are available for purchase. And if you’re interested, while we’re there, you can take a free health check developed by the prefecture in cooperation with doctors and scientists, based on principles of Oriental medicine.  It’s interesting, kind of fun, and can be done on your own phone or the provided tablets.  They’ve even translated it for into (sort of) English. You should be able to take away personalized, specific suggestions for improving your health naturally. (I need to eat more purple foods.)

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The cost of this day-tour is just 9,400 yen, which includes lunch, all transportation during the tour, the cost of the Zen meditation workshop, a gift bottle of local sake, guide fees and use of the facilities at the onsen hot-springs resort including towel, locker, hair dryers and pajama-like lounge wear.  Signs up will begin Tuesday Oct. 4 at 5 pm — I’ll tell you how and post the relevant links here and on Facebook as soon as I have them, but to be honest, that might not be until the day before, on Monday.  We’ve only got space for 25, and based on signups for the last tours, this will probably fill up the same evening registrations open, or maybe the following day.  Please mark your calendars, and check back. I really hope you can join us!

Here’s some fine print for those who like details earlier rather than later:

Meeting place: We’ll start and end at Odawara Station (on the JR Ueno-Tokyo Line, the Shinkansen Tokaido Line, and the private Odakyu Odawara and Daiyuzan lines), meeting up in front of the Starbuck’s at the west exit at 8:45 so we will depart by 9:00. 

How to get there? A no-change regular JR Ueno-Tokyo (Tokaido) Line train bound for Odawara departs Tokyo station at 7:09 (Shinagawa 7:19; Yokoyama 7:37) and arrives at Odawara at 8:34. One-way fare from Tokyo is 1, 490 yen (Shinagawa 1,320 yen; Yokohama 970 yen). If you buy a Green Ticket before boarding, you can upgrade to the first-class Green Car for 700 yen one way. From Shinjuku, for 1,770 yen (which includes 890 yen for a reserved seat) you can take the luxurious Sagami #57 “Romance Car” super-express on the Odakyu Line which departs at 7:10 and arrives Odawara at 8:27. Or save by taking the regular Odakyu Line express (kyuko) departing Shinjuku 7:01 and arriving Odawara 8:37. One-way fare is 880 yen. It’s also possible to take the Shinkansen bullet train, catching the Kodama #637 bound for Shin-Osaka that departs Tokyo Station at 7:56 (Shinagawa 8:04, Shin-Yokohama 8:16) and arrives in Odawara at 8:31. Fare from Tokyo including an unreserved seat is 3,220 yen one way (Shingawa 3,050 yen, Yokohama 1,950 yen).

 

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Event notice: Kobe beef luncheon Sat. May 14

 

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Kobe beef is one of Japan’s most famous foods, known all around the world. But what makes it different from other beef? Is it true that the cows are fed beer and given daily massages? Find out — and try Kobe beef for yourself — at this gourmet 7-course “kaiseki” style lunch, in which seasonal ingredients are beautifully presented in small, healthy portions, at one of the few restaurants in Tokyo certified as serving genuine Kobe beef.

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While Chef Maeda prepares us a special menu, your guide (yours truly; me!) will explain the fascinating history of Kobe beef. Fun and delicious, this excursion is great preparation for entertaining those out-of-town visitors who ask for Kobe beef.

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Date and time: Saturday May 14, 12:00-14:00

Cost: 10,000 yen per person for a 7-course lunch including dessert and coffee or tea, and tax, service and lecture fee. Wine and champagne can be ordered separately, including by the glass (800 yen and up for wine, 1,000 yen for champagne).

Location: Kobe Beef Kaiseki 511, 4-3-28 Akasaka, Minato-ku. Closest station: Akasaka Mitsuke

If you’d like to join us, send me a msg through the contact form on this blog, or an email to gordenkeralice(at mark)gmail.com.

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Night Museum: Hang with me and the ‘saurs, Friday June 3 in Ueno

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Update: This tour is now full.  So sorry to disappoint those who aren’t able to participate. I will try to organize another one of the permanent exhibition. Let me know if you’d be interested.

Come join me Friday evening June 3 at the National Museum of Nature and Science in Ueno Park for a tour of Dinosaur Expo 2016, a special exhibition that is held just once every three years. Our guide will be Dr. Makoto Manabe, the museum’s chief paleontologist, who speaks English fluently and is a wonderful educator. He’s also the rock star of dinosaur study in Japan, as I discovered when he tried to lead me through the exhibition for an advance look-see — fans kept stopping us and asking to have their picture taken with him!

If it’s been a while since you updated your knowledge about dinosaurs, this tour will offer plenty of surprises. Highlights include the newest reconstruction of Spinosaurus, the largest known carnivorous dinosaur, shown here for the first time in Japan. Spinosaurus was first discovered by a German paleontologist in 1912, but the fossils he brought back to Munich were destroyed during World War II.  As a result, the dinosaur was almost completely forgotten until 2008, when new remains were discovered in Morocco.  Now, based on studies of these and other newly discovered Spinosaurus bones, scientists believe the animal moved on four feet and was semi-aquatic, hunting in the water as well as the land.

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We’ll also get to watch Dr. Clive Coy, a paleontologist in from the University of Alberta, as he cleans the fossils of a small dinosaur called Saurornitholestes, which he uncovered in the Canadian Bad Lands a few years ago. It’s slow, careful work, to say the least, and he’ll chat with us about what he’s doing.

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The exhibition will be open to other visitors when we visit, but Friday evening is less crowded than other times. To be sure everyone can hear well, we’ll have earphone head-sets connected wirelessly to Dr. Manabe’s microphone.  Other topics we’ll cover will include baby dinosaurs — we’ll see a baby skeleton visiting Japan for the first time — origin, endothermy, herbvivory, flight, aquatic adaptation, and dinosaur calls.

Date and time: Friday June 5, 6:30 to 8:00 pm
Meet: 6:20 pm at the entrance to Dinosaur Expo 2016, National Museum of Nature and Science, Ueno Park, Tokyo
Cost: 2,000 yen for adults, 1,000 yen for children (elementary to high-school kids welcome)

Tour is now full –space was very limited.

And if you’ve got 15 minutes to bone up on spinosaurus, check out this nice talk by German paleontologist Nazir Ibrahim.

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