(Event full, registrations closed.) Meet the Artist: Free Guided Tour, Izumo Museum of Quilt Art, Sat. Sept. 17, 2022

Update 9/8: this event is now full and registration is closed. In cooperation with Mutsuko Yawatagaki, one of Japan’s leading quilters, I will give a special tour in English on Saturday Sept. 17 at The Izumo Museum of Quilt Art in Shimane Prefecture. This is Japan’s only museum dedicated to the art of quilting, founded by the artist in 2006 in a beautiful traditional Japanese house. We will be viewing the fall exhibition, Magnificent Mountains of Japan: From Fuji to Oyama, on view from Sept. 1 to Nov. 29, 2022.

The Izumo Museum of Quilt Art

The quilts are all made using vintage kimono and obi — themselves works of art — as well as other traditional Japanese fabrics. One of my favorites is this amazing representation of Mt. Fuji created from over a thousand tiny pieces of handcrafted kimono fabric.

We will also see the Oyama quilt, made using cotton pilgrims’ wear, in its very first showing in San’in. Come learn about the fascinating connection between Mt. Daisen in Tottori and Mt. Oyama, near Tokyo in Kanagawa Prefecture! Why are the same characters 大山 used for two mountains but with such different readings??

Date: Saturday September 17, 2022

Time: Guided tour in English: 1:30 to 2:30 pm (Please arrive by 1:15)

Free time: 2:30 ~ You are welcome to remain in the museum after the tour, to look at the works again and/or visit the café and gift shop).

Workshop: 3:00 to 4:30 If you wish, join the workshop time to make a coaster in your choice of designs from the pilgrimage jackets used in the Oyama quilt. (Fee: 500 yen per coaster; kits to make at home for sale in the museum gift shop.)

Location: The Izumo Museum of Quilt Art in Izumo, 330 Fukutomi, Hikawa-cho, Izumo, Shimane Prefecture. Free parking is available at the museum.

Guide: Alice Gordenker. The artist, Mutsuko Yawatagaki, will accompany the tour to provide commentary and answer questions.

Fee: Free. As this event is supported by a grant from the Toshiba International Foundation, both the tour and museum admission is free for everyone. Participants will also receive a gift of two free tickets that can be used at the museum at a later date (a 1,400 yen value). Optional coaster-making: 500 yen per coaster; your choice of designs.

Coaster kits are new 100 percent cotton fabric and available only at the museum. Coasters measure 13 cm x 13cm. Think ahead to Christmas gift-giving!

Sweet set: After the event, the museum café is offering (for those who wish it) a special Izumo sweet set of a fresh seasonal wagashi made by Nagira Choshudo and a fresh chocolate truffle from Izumo’s newish gourmet chocolatier Nanairo. 800 yen, including a drink (coffee, tea or macha).

How to sign up: As this is special program supported by a grant for international understanding, priority will be given to foreign residents of Japan, who may sign up in English here. Applications from Japanese nationals are also welcome. If space is available, we will happily invite you to join us, and send a confirmation no later than one week in advance, by Sept. 10. 日本人の申込 Please register your name and contact information here.

Questions? Send a message to Alice Gordenker via this form.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Videos about Noh and Kyogen on Mt. Oyama

With English subtitles, available only until March 31, 2022

For those of you have joined me on Mt. Oyama for outdoor Noh performances, and also for those who haven’t, here are links to newly created videos with English subtitles about last fall’s event, in October 2021. The camera gets closer to the performers than we could, so even if you were there these videos are worth watching. You’ll gain a different perspective, for sure.

For copyright reasons, these videos will only be available through the end of March (2022), so please watch them while you can. 

This first video (5 minutes) is a digest of the talk given on site by Prof. Keizō Miyamoto of the Center for International and Interdisciplinary Research on Noh Theatre, briefly explaining the history of Noh on Oyama. You’ll see some of the masks and costumes preserved in Oyama that were on display, as well as, in the background, the Oyama pilgrimage quilt we had made from the pilgrim’s wear traditionally worn in the Oyama pilgrimage. There was no English interpretation during Prof. Miyamoto’s talk but there are English subtitles on the video, which really helps. 

The second video (34 minutes) is a digest of all the performances on Oct. 5 and 6, 2021, opening with a cute medley of the performances by children.  You’ll see excerpts of the Hitori Okina, a sacred rite in which the actors perform divine figures who dance for peace, prosperity, and safety across the land performed by Yamashina Yaemon ( a Living National Treasure); the Afuri Shrine Kagura Dance, a Shinto ritual dance for the gods performed by shrine maidens; the Kyogen “Hagi Daimyo” (The Bush Clover Lord), comical theater performed by Yamamoto Tōjirō (another Living National Treasure); the Noh play Takasago, with lead roles played by Kanze Kiyokazu, the 26th hereditary head of the Kanze School of Noh, and his son, Kanze Saburōta. Also, a short segment from the Kyogen “Fumiyamadachi” (The Poetic Bandits) and the Noh play Kurama Tengu (The Goblin of Kurama). The lead role was performed by Yamashina Yaemon, a Living National Treasure. 

 

Enjoy! We hope to see you in Oyama for the Fire Festival and Takigi Noh performances this fall, dates to be announced soon (but always weekdays in early October).

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Japan’s Poetry Islands: Free Online Presentation

Sign up here!

Image by Kit Nagamura

This just isn’t the time for in-person events, alas, but thanks to online meeting software, we can still come together and learn from the safety and comfort of our own homes. To that end, my colleague Kit Nagamura and I are pleased to offer a free one-hour online presentation about two things we love: waka poetry and the beautiful Oki Islands. No prior knowledge of either subject is needed — everyone is welcome –but we do hope to offer new tidbits of information for even the well-informed.

You’re looking at a rare ocean caldera. Yes, this is the Oki Islands. Photo by Alice Gordenker

The Oki Islands are in western Japan, located off the coast of Shimane Prefecture. Although remote, they are not and never have been, as isolated as their distance from the mainland might suggest. There’s a long history of exchange with other regions that, along with its geology and unusual flora and fauna, has contributed to a unique local culture. Some of that exchange was in the form of trade, as you’d expect, but the islands also became a place of exile for those who fell out of favor with the court in Kyoto. As the first speaker, I’ll cover that and other introductory topics.

Relaxing at the new Entô hotel, which elevates lodging in the Oki Islands to new standard. Feet and photo by Alice Gordenker

Then I’ll turn things over to Kit, a photographer and poet herself, who will tell us about waka poetry, a poetic form that developed in Japan in the seventh century and is still much written and recited today. The lines in a waka poem are rendered in a rhythmic pattern of 5-7-5-7-7 sound units, often erroneously equated with syllables, in which emotions — loss, frustration, desire, awe at nature — are encouraged and openly expressed.

Oki’s famous horses, grazing freely on Nishinoshima. You can trek right by them. Photo by Kit Nagamura

That will bring us to one of the islands’ most famous exiles, the Emperor Go-Toba, who was banished from Kyoto in 1221.While in Oki, Go-Toba not only managed to continue his role as editor of the Shin Kokinshu, a collection he conceived of and which was destined to became one of the most revered collections of waka, but he also wrote hundreds of new poems. Kit will share a few of those (in English), providing insight into the exiled emperor’s circumstances on the remote island where he was to spend the last 19 years of his life, never to return to the mainland. She’ll also take us around some of the sites associated with Go-Toba that can still be seen today.

Kit and Alice at Oki Shrine, dedicated to Emperor Go-Toba, November 2021

The date and time of this webinar varies depending on where you live. It’s Friday evening Feb. 25 for viewers in North America, which, because of the time/date difference, is Saturday morning Feb. 26 for those of us in Japan, as well as viewers in other parts of Asia, and Australia and New Zealand (waving to Nicola!). For those of you in Europe, it’s Saturday morning in the way wee hours. Sorry about that. But sign up anyway; we’ll send you a link to the recording so you can watch later at your own convenience.

Oki shoreline. Image by Kit Nagamura

Here are specific times: Kit and I, here in Japan, will be sitting down at our computers at 11:00 am JST on Saturday Feb. 26. I believe that’s 1 pm for those of you in Australia.

Times in the US are 9 pm EST (Boston, New York, etc.); 8 pm CST (Chicago, etc.); 7 pm MST (Denver, etc.); and 6 pm PST (SF, LA, etc.). 

Here’s that sign up link again. And for helpful background and a fun read, check out Kit’s Jan. 22 article in the Japan Times.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Postponed due to omicron: Quilting with Kimono Workshop and Mt. Oyama Tour

UPDATE (Jan. 26) Due to the increase in corona infections, this workshop is postponed. We do not have a date to reschedule yet but we hope it may be possible to hold it in April or May. If you haven’t already registered, or put your name on the wait list, you can still give me your contact information here: https://forms.gle/nLDaGt3ii1EXSZEU6 I promise to contact everyone when I know more.

Sign ups now open! 17,000 yen for a fully guided tour (in English) including lunch, all materials and much more. Read on for full details and lots of photos.

Love Japanese fabrics? Enjoy needlework and crafts? Just want to have a nice outing with nice people and do something creative? If so, please join me Sunday, Feb. 13, 2022 on Mt. Oyama (Kanagawa Prefecture) for a fully guided tour with special access and a needlework workshop with Mutsuko Yawatagaki, one of Japan’s most famous quilters and founder of the Izumo Museum of Quilt Art. If you’ve been following what I’ve been up to the last year or so, you’ll know she designed the Oyama pilgrimage quilt seen in the photo below.

The quilt will be on display halfway up the mountain at the beautiful Oyama Afuri Shrine, so from the station we’ll there together, catching a city bus, walking the Koma Sando shopping street and riding the stylish green cable car for the last part of the climb.

The cable car takes about 5 minutes to bring us to Oyama Afuri Shrine. It won a Good Design Award.

Once there, we’ll look at the quilt together, guided by Ms. Yawatagaki’s daughter, who is also the director of the Izumo Museum of Quilt Art. Then we’ll be invited inside the inner sanctums of the shrine to learn about the Oyama pilgrimage traditions from Shinto priest Kunihiko Meguro. (Eagle-eyed readers will recognize him as the priest who appeared in my film, Horimono: Japan’s Tattoo Pilgrimage, which was filmed inside the shrine exactly where we’ll be.) He’ll conduct a seishiki sanpai Shinto ceremony for us, ensuring we have the gods’ blessings for the rest of our day and success in our craft project!

Kunihiko Meguro. He’s a wonderful guide and a lot of fun.

After the ceremony, we’ll nip next door to Teahouse Sekison, the shrine’s lovely cafe designed by architect Yasushi Horibe, for a hot tea or coffee. If the skies are clear, we’ll have a fabulous view from the outdoor space; the interior, with its beautiful local wood, is always a pleasure.

茶寮 石尊(伊勢原) - 厚木市観光協会 あつぎ観光なび
The tatami seating at Teahouse Sekison. There’s also a section with chairs and an outdoor deck.

If you want to try their famous matcha tiramisu (500 yen, payable at the cafe), we’ll pre-order so you’re sure to get one.

ミシュラン2つ星絶景を神社カフェで!大山阿夫利神社「茶寮 石尊」 | 神奈川県 | トラベルjp 旅行ガイド
Macha tiramisu served in a wooden masu sake cup. Rich enough to share!

After a quick look around the shrine, we’ll head back down on the cable car and go to the Meguro family’s ryokan, which is a traditional shukubo serving pilgrims. There, we’ll enjoy a vegan Japanese lunch highlighting the tofu that Oyama is famous for, and then settle in for the highlight of the day — the needlecraft workshop with Ms. Yawatagaki!

A deluxe vegan bento lunch is included in the workshop fee. For our group, Ms. Meguro will also provide each guest with their own yudofu (tofu in hot broth).
No description available.
Oyama is famous for tofu.

For the workshop, we’ll provide you with everything you need to make a 95 x 40 cm (37 x 15 inch) tapestry that can be hung on the wall like a hanging scroll or used flat as a table runner. No quilting experience is necessary — if you can do a simple stitch by hand with needle and thread, you can do this! The set is designed so you can probably finish it at the workshop (about two hours), but if you’re worried about being slow, don’t! You’ll have the know-how and all materials to complete it at home.

The tapestry we’ll make can be hung as a hanging scroll or….
…used as a table runner.

The fabrics we’ll use are new and are reproductions of designs in kimono fabric from the Edo to Taisho eras, produced by Ms. Yawatagaki’s museum. For the central image, you can make your own choice of several designs. She may have a few others on offer at the workshop, but if you like, you can reserve one of the designs below when you sign up. (It’s ok to change to a different design on the day of the workshop, if you see something you like better among any of the designs still available.)

All these designs come from Edo to Taisho-era kimono.

The cost for this tour is 17,000 yen, which includes lunch, a hot drink during our morning break, a donation to the shrine and all the materials for the tapestry. (A small discount has been applied thanks to a grant from the Toshiba International Foundation, which allows us to defray some of the costs without passing them on to you.) For convenience, and a little savings, we suggest that all participants buy the Tanzawa-Oyama Free Pass (2,520 yen from Shinjuku, less if you’re boarding the Odakyu Line closer to Isehara where we’re meeting. The pass covers your round-trip train ride to and from Isehara + all the bus and cable care rides we’ll take together. And it’s good for two-days in case you come early/or stay after the tour. For information on the Free Pass, see my detailed instructions on how to buy it.

I’ll send instructions for meeting closer to the time to those who sign up, but plan on meeting at Isehara station on the Odakyu Odawara Line at 8:55 am. (There’s a fast, direct train from Shinjuku departing at 7:50 and arriving 8:53). We’ll return to the station by 4 or 4:30. Trains are frequent so you can be home for dinner. If you want to do an overnight in Oyama, either before or after the workshop, for sightseeing and/or hiking, I’ll help you with arrangements. One option is to stay on at the inn where we’ll be doing the workshop for 10,000 yen per person, including dinner and breakfast the next morning. There are also business hotels near the station.

Regarding payment and cancellation: please pay in advance by Feb. 1 via bank transfer (furikomi) or PayPal. Once you’ve paid, you can cancel anytime for a refund (less a 1,000 yen service charge) if you find someone to take your place. Otherwise, for cancellations up to two days before (by 9:00 am on Feb. 11), we’ll refund 10,000 yen.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Updated 5/2022: Getting to Mt. Oyama for Less: How to Purchase the Tanzawa-Oyama Free Pass

Anyone who knows me knows I send a lot of visitors to Mt. Oyama, once one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in Japan and still a great destination for hiking and gourmet tofu lunches. The mountain’s proximity to Tokyo and Yokohama makes it perfect for daytrips, and transportation is easy and affordable. Isehara station (on the Odakyu Odawara line) is the gateway. Express trains depart frequently from Shinjuku station, making the trip to Isehara in about 60 minutes.

This post will save you some yen and hassle by making it easy to purchase the Tanzawa-Oyama Free Pass, which is good for two-days and bundles the various forms of public transportation into one convenient, money-saving ticket. (The “free” means you can use it freely; there is a charge.) There are two types: Ticket A, which includes round-trip transportation on the cable car, and Ticket B, which is cheaper because it doesn’t. If you’re going up the mountain and don’t want to hike all the way, get Ticket A. If you’re coming just to see Noh and don’t have time for sightseeing, get Ticket B.

You have three options for getting your pass: the first is new — as of 2022, you can now the Tanzawa-Oyama Free Pass in digital form. This video in English explains how.

Option 2 is to buy the pass at an Odakyu Sightseeing Service Center, like the one in Shinjuku Station pictured below, or at any ticket window at any station along the Odakyu Odawara Line. You can do this in advance, if you want, but you will have to specify the station you’ll be departing from and returning to (Shinjuku, Yoyogi Uehara, Ebina, etc.) and the first day you want to use it.

Option 3 is to purchase the Tanzawa-Oyama Free Pass from a ticket machine. Here’s a step-by-step explanation, with photos, to help you do that. Note: the travel period for passes you buy from machines begin on the day of purchase, so you can’t buy a pass in advance from a machine.

To start, find a machine. You want one that includes the word フリーパス (free pass) along the top. Fortunately, that’s most of the machines.

Select English. You’ll get this screen next. Select ODAKYU Line (top left with blue stripe).

At the next screen, select FREE PASS (the icon with the trees at the top right).

More buttons to push! This time, select the green button that says “Tanzawa-Oyama.”

Now choose which type you want: with the cable-car or without. If you want to ride the cable-car, choose (A). If you don’t need the cable-car, choose (B). Note: I was buying in Odawara (yes, you can travel from that direction too) so my fare options will be different from what you’ll see. It’s pro-rated by distance so the closer you are to Isehara/Oyama, the cheaper the pass.

Then you’ll get the payment screen. So go ahead and insert your money. Remember, your total depends on where you’re buying and may be different from mine.

And voila — you’re done! Your ticket will look like this. It goes through the automatic ticket gates at the stations. On the buses, just show it to the driver as you exit. If you ride the cable car, the attendant will take it and clip it. Hang on to the ticket until you arrive back at your home station.

Getting from Isehara Station to Mt. Oyama

Upon arrival, hit the bathrooms at the top of the stairs as you come up from the platform. The bathrooms inside the gate are cleaner and nicer than what you’ll find after you exit the station. When you’re ready to exit the station, slip your pass into the gate and don’t forget to take it with you. Turn right out of the ticket gate (there’s only one) and follow the signs for the North Exit and the stairs to the bus stop. There is a tourist information office halfway down the stairs that provides free maps and brochures in English and other foreign languages. At the bottom of the stairs, walk straight ahead to the bus stops, which are just beyond the public toilet.

At bus stop #4, board any bus bound for the cable car station, marked 伊10, 11 or 12. You board from the back. No need to take the little paper slip from the automatic machine at the door — you’ve got the Tanzawa-Oyama Free Pass! Buses run about twice an hour on weekdays and more frequently on weekends. Check with your usual online routing service but as of this writing (Sept. 2021) the schedule looks like this:

If you’re coming to see outdoor Noh (Oct. 5-6, 2021) get off the bus at the Shamukyoku-iriguchi 社務局入口 bus stop (18 minutes from the station). After the bus pulls away, cross the street to the red bridge over the river and walk straight for 1-2 minutes to reach the shrine administration building (that’s the Shamukyoku) and the Noh stage. Follow instructions from the people offering direction and let them know you’re looking for the international sign-in desk (インバウンド受付).

If you’re going up Mt. Oyama, whether hiking or taking the cable car, ride the bus from the station for about 25-30 minutes to the last stop. From there, head up hill to the Koma Sando shopping street, stairs lined with restaurants, craft shops and pickle stands. At the top of the stairs you have a choice: start your hike on the trails that begin there, or ride the cable-car to Oyama Afuri Shrine. From there, you can access additional trails, including the path to the summit, or simply visit the shrine and enjoy the view. Don’t miss the passageway under the shrine, to the left of the counter where amulets are sold. Inside, you can fill your water bottle with sacred water from a dragon spout and view artifacts associated with the shrine. This level of the mountain also offers traditional refreshment stands and a stylish café with outdoor seating that serves beverages and light meals. (Teahouse Sekison, Tel (0463) 94-3628; closes at 4 pm).

Hint for those who seek extra comfort: Some of the super-express “Romance Car” trains now stop at Isehara, allowing you to travel in a reserved seat, without changes, in as little as 47 minutes. The schedule is convenient for hikers, with two or more trains in the morning, depending on the day of the week, and two in the afternoon for the return trip to Tokyo. (More on weekends and holidays.)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Ticket Giveaway: Noh and Kyogen Outdoors on Mt. Oyama

5 (Photo by Meguro Kunihiko)
Photo by Meguro Kunihiko

(Update Sept. 2: All seats have been taken for both nights but I’ve started wait-lists — links below, one for each of the two nights. I’ve added information on the Kyogen and more information on special education opportunities.)

Join me at special performances of Noh and Kyogen at the Oyama Afuri Shrine on Mt. Oyama in Kanagawa Prefecture. On Oct. 5 (sold out; wait list open) and Oct. 6 (just two spaces left), when top actors from the Kanze School of Noh and the Okura School of Kyogen— including Living National Treasures — will share their art outdoors, as Noh was originally performed. There will be an English guidebook as well as explanation in English and Japanese provided via an app to your phone or i-Pad (free loaner tablets available), making this an excellent opportunity both for those who are new to Noh and seasoned viewers who would like to deepen their appreciation. This year, there will be a special exhibition of Noh masks and costumes next to the stage.

Thanks to a grant from the Agency for Cultural Affairs, I have a limited number of free tickets to offer to foreign residents of Japan. If you’d like to come with a Japanese friend or partner, I can secure a reservation for them at a discount (4,000 yen reduced to 3,000 yen). For full information on the program, including transportation and how to sign up, see below.

A note on Covid-19: The venue is outdoors, with plenty of natural ventilation, but for everyone’s safety, the numbers of spectators has been reduced by half and masks will be required. Even if Kanagawa extends the State of Emergency, in its current form, into October, the program will be allowed to go ahead. If stricter restrictions are requested, it is possible that spectators will regretfully not be allowed. If that happens, we will notify you immediately by email.

Stage 3 Meguro Kunihiko
Noh outdoors at Oyama. Photo by Meguro Kunihiko.

Program: Tuesday Oct. 5, 4:30 to 7:00 pm

3:30 Venue opens. Prof. Keizō Miyamoto of the Center for International and Interdisciplinary Research on Noh Theatre, will give a 20-minute lecture on Noh masks and costumes in the exhibition space. Lecture is in Japanese but a handout in English will provided for foreign visitors who understand some Japanese but can benefit from some comprehension assistance.

4:00 Richard Emmett, a Noh performer and professor at Musashino University, will provide explanation in English about Noh and the evening’s program exclusively for our group.

4:30 Program begins:

HITORI OKINA

A sacred rite in which the actors perform divine figures who dance for peace, prosperity, and safety across the land. Performed by Yamashina Yaemon, a Living National Treasure.

AFURI SHRINE KAGURA DANCE

A Shinto ritual dance for the gods performed by shrine maidens.

KYOGEN: HAGI DAIMYO (The Bush Clover Lord) Comical theater performed by Yamamoto Tōjirō, a Living National Treasure.

NOH PLAY: TAKASAGO 高砂 Lead roles played by Kanze Kiyokazu, the 26th hereditary head of the Kanze School of Noh, and his son, Kanze Saburōta.

This play was written by the great playwright Zeami, and is representative of the auspicious plays that revolve around a deity blessing the world — goodness knows, we need that now! The dignity of the pine tree is compared to the flourishing state of poetry, which in turn is a symbol of peaceful times. The highlight of the first half of the play is a scene where an old couple make this comparison, while sweeping pine needles and purifying the land under the tree. In the second half, look for the dignified dance of the deity Sumiyoshi Myōjin. While this deity is usually depicted as an old man, here he appears in the form of a young and vigorous man. Among the dances in Noh, this one is exceptionally energetic. Towards the end of the play the movements, corresponding to the libretto, are particularly grand and expressive. If you’ve ever been to a traditional Japanese wedding, you may have heard auspicious songs, called shūgen-utai, borrowed from this play, Takasago.

Full synopsis and story paper here.

This program on Tues. Oct. 5 is now full. To get on the wait-list, please sign up HERE:

Program: Wednesday Oct. 3, 4:30 to 7:00 pm

HITORI OKINA

A sacred rite in which the actors perform divine figures who dance for peace, prosperity, and safety across the land. Performed by Kanze Yoshinobu.

AFURI SHRINE KAGURA DANCE

A Shinto ritual dance for the gods performed by shrine maidens.

KYOGEN: FUMIYAMADACHI (The Poetic Bandits) Two bandits get into a quarrel while trying to ambush a passerby. Comical theater performed by Yamamoto Noritoshi.

NOH PLAY: KURAMA TENGU (The Goblin of Kurama). The lead role, is performed by Yamashina Yaemon, a Living National Treasure.

Full synopsis and story paper here.

This program is now full. To get on the wait list, please sign up HERE.

Transportation: The closest station is Isehara on the Odawara Odakyu Line, about one hour from Shinjuku station by regular express trains (590 yen).  From the North Exit of Isehara Station, board a bus at bus stop #4 bound for Oyama Cable Car and alight at Shamukyoku- Iriguchi (社務局入口).  The Noh stage is about 2 minutes walk from the bus stop. There will be extra buses back to Isehara station after the performance. Fare is 310 yen, IC cards OK. You can save a little by purchasing the Tanzawa-Oyama Free Pass at any Odakyu station. It costs 1,580 yen (for Type A, without the cable car, which you don’t need unless you come early and wish to take a trip up the mountain to hike, enjoy the view or pay a visit to the main building of Oyama Afuri Shrine and/or Oyama Temple.) There will be extra buses going back to Isehara after the program. There is free parking at the venue for those who wish to drive.

Link to Google Maps: Oyama Afuri Shrine Noh Stage

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

View now: “Horimono: Japan’s Tattoo Pilgrimage”

Catching up with some news, I’m happy to announce that the short documentary I made with David Caprara and Kira Dane was picked up by Vice News for worldwide distribution. I hope you’ll watch it — it’s only 17 minutes. As I post this, it’s already been viewed a quarter-of-a-million times by people all over the world.

The film, which challenges Japanese stereotypes concerning tattoos, was made possible through a crowdfunding campaign that attracted over two hundred investors from around the world. As you’ve probably heard, tattoos are highly stigmatized in Japan — you can’t enter many beaches, gyms or hot-spring baths if you have one, and many employers won’t knowingly hire anyone with a tattoo. This is because people in Japan associate tattoos with the yakuza, Japan’s feared but waning criminal underworld. But the perceived connection is something much more recent than most people realize, a faulty image concocted largely by Japan’s movie industry. Most Japanese are unaware that the full-body tattoos known as “horimono” can actually be traced back to the same flourishing urban culture that brought us ukiyo-e woodblock prints and grand-scale kabuki theater. In our film, we follow a group of tattooed individuals on their annual pilgrimage to a sacred mountain shrine, a traditional that has continued for more than 120 years.

This project was an outgrowth of my previous work with the people of Mt. Oyama, where the shrine — Oyama Afuri Jinya —is located. Oyama was once one of the most popular pilgrimages in Japan, every summer attracting great throngs of pilgrims during the short pilgrimage season, which lasted for just three weeks in July. At a time when the population of Edo (present-day Tokyo) was said to be one-million people, 200,000 pilgrims would travel together on foot to Mt. Oyama, which is located about 50 kilometers west of the capital in what is now Kanagawa Prefecture.

I’ve written a light tourism piece about Mt. Oyama for Metropolis Magazine and a more scholarly, in-depth article for the Toshiba Foundation’s Japan Insights website, along with posts for their blog about an amazing fire ritual at one temple on Oyama and the important Buddhist statuary in another.

David, Kira and I also produced an written interview and a short video with a modern-day tattooist who sticks to the traditional tebori (hand-poked) methods. I have upcoming speaking engagements in February, both online and in person, about the Oyama pilgrimage, Japanese tattoos and the rise of the modern misperceptions.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Online Gallery Tour, Early Japanese Photography (now available on demand)

Tokyo Station under construction (1911), by Miyauchi Kōtarō, collection of Yokosuka City Museum

Update Dec. 21: The online guided tour I gave on Dec 18 is now available for viewing any time. It introduces an exhibition on early Japanese photography at the Tokyo Photographic Art Museum through Jan. 24, “History of Early Japanese Photography: Kantō Region, Images of Japan 1853-1912.”

Watch it here, on the museum’s YouTube channel.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Event notice: tea ceremony, Sat. Dec. 7

interior

The “Kōka” teahouse in the garden of the Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum, an Important Cultural Property

UPDATE NOV. 13: THIS PROGRAM IS NOW FULL.

Experience an authentic tea ceremony with English explanation in a historic teahouse within a beautiful Japanese garden. Saturday Dec. 7, 2019 at 11:30 am. Hosted by the Mushakōji Senke School of Tea at the Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum, guided/interpreted by me.  Sign ups (in English) on the museum’s English-language sign-up page.

Location: “Kōka” Teahouse, in the garden of the Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum

Host: a tea master from the Chōsō group of the Mushakōji Senke School of Tea, one of the three historical households directly descended from the 16th century tea master Sen no Rikyū.

teien.jpg

The garden is beautiful in all seasons. It was recently restored, after a closure of several years.

Capacity:  20  (reservations will be closed as soon as a session reaches capacity). This will fill up quickly so if you’d like to attend, please don’t delay in signing up.

Fee: 1,000 yen per person for one session (includes a serving of “usucha” tea and a traditional sweet). You will also need to purchase regular museum admission (1000 yen), which gives you access to the museum, the current exhibition. You’ll be able to see the beautiful Art Deco house that is the museum’s main building and the current exhibition of Japanese and Asian ceramics, painting, lacquerware and basketry.  Or you can buy just the  garden-only admission (200 yen).

teaceremony

Picture from an earlier tea ceremony event with English.  There is time to admire the utensils and ask questions, and photography is ok (before and after the ceremony).

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Event notice: outdoor Noh Oct. 2 & 3

5 (Photo by Meguro Kunihiko)

Photo by Meguro Kunihiko

Join me at special performances of Noh and Kyogen at the Oyama Afuri Shrine on Mt. Oyama in Kanagawa Prefecture. On Oct. 2 and 3, 2019, top actors from the Kanze School of Noh — including Living National Treasures — will share their art outdoors, as Noh was originally performed. There will be an English guidebook and earphone commentary in English, making this an excellent opportunity both for those who are new to Noh and seasoned viewers who would like to deepen their appreciation.

Stage 3 Meguro Kunihiko

Noh outdoors at Oyama. Photo by Meguro Kunihiko.

Program: Wednesday Oct. 2

HITORI OKINA

A sacred rite in which the actors perform divine figures who dance for peace, prosperity, and safety across the land. Performed by Yamashina Yaemon, a Living National Treasure.

AFURI SHRINE KAGURA DANCE

A Shinto ritual dance for the gods performed by shrine maidens.

KYOGEN: HI-NO-SAKE (“The Liquor Pipe”)

Comical theater performed by Yamamoto Tojiro, a Living National Treasure.

NOH: TSUCHIGUMO (“The Ground Spider”)

The lead roles are played by Kanze Kiyokazu, the 26th generational hereditary head of the Kanze School of Noh.

Synopsis: In the first scene, a mysterious monk appears in front of the military commander Minamoto no Raiko, who is feeling ill. The monk hints that he is not what he appears and spins out threads, revealing that he is in fact a spider-like monster known as tsuchigumo. Raiko pulls out a sword by his pillow and attacks but the monk/monster disappears. In the second scene, Raiko’s retainers are assembled at Mt. Katsuragi, intending to hunt down the monster that has threatened their leader. A huge spider emerges from a mound in the ground and attacks again and again with spider threads. A fierce battles ensues but in the end the spider is slayed.

To reserve a seat for this performance with a 500 yen discount and including program and earphone rental (3,500 yen, payment at the door) sign up HERE:

Program: Thursday Oct. 3

HITORI OKINA

A sacred rite in which the actors perform divine figures who dance for peace, prosperity, and safety across the land. Performed by Kanze Yoshinobu.

AFURI SHRINE KAGURA DANCE

A Shinto ritual dance for the gods performed by shrine maidens.

KYOGEN: NEONGYOKU (“Singing in One’s Sleep”)

Comical theater performed by Yamamoto Noritoshi.

NOH: MOMIJIGARI (“Viewing Autumn Leaves”)

The shite, or lead role, is performed by Yamashina Yaemon, a Living National Treasure.

Synopsis: In the first scene, a beautiful lady of seemingly high rank is on an excursion to Togakushi-yama with a retinue of female attendants to see the fall colors. While they are enjoying a banquet, a warrior of the Taira clan who has been out deer-hunting approaches. He is Taira no Koremochi, played by the waki or secondary actor. Rather than disturb the party by riding past, he dismounts, intending to continue on his way. But the lady invites him to drink with her. Koremochi becomes intoxicated as the lady presses drinks upon him. Her dance increases in tempo. When he finally falls asleep, she leaves him in the forest, saying he should never wake from his dream.  In the second scene, a deity appears to Koremochi and reveals that the lady is a demon. The deity presents Koremochi with a divine sword and tells him to kill the demon. The lady returns, transformed into a fire-breathing demon.  After a pitched battle, Koremochi slays the demon with the sword.

To reserve a seat for this performance with a 500 yen discount including program and earphone rental (3,500 yen, payment at the door) sign up HERE:

Transportation: The closest station is Isehara on the Odawara Odakyu Line, about one hour from Shinjuku station by regular express trains (590 yen).  From the North Exit of Isehara Station, board a bus at bus stop #4 bound for Oyama Cable Car and alight at Shamukyoku- Iriguchi (社務局入口).  Fare is 310 yen, IC cards OK. The Noh stage is about 5 minutes walk from the bus stop. There will be extra buses back to Isehara station after the performance.

Link to Google Maps: Oyama Afuri Shrine Noh Stage

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment