Sunday, October 25, 2009

Kobo Daishi Statue Dedication Ceremony

It had been well over a month since the new statue of Kobo Daishi had made it's appearence at the front entrance of the Koyasan Buddist Temple located in the heart of Little Tokyo. It was a generous gift to the temple which had long served the Japanese-American Community since just before the outbreak of war in 1941. After some careful planning, the dedication took place this month before the monthly Goma Fire Ritual.

Kobo Daishi is credited with bringing Shingon Buddhism to Japan during the Heian Period. The statue depicts Shugyo Daishi at the age of 42 before he became known as Kobo Daishi.

This statue was described as not neccessarily being historiclly accurate to the physical appearence of Kobo Daishi, rather the image of the founder of Koyasan Buddhism that resides in the hearts of it's followers.

The Kobo Daishi Statue Dedication Ceremony was well attended by many people and we were fortunate enough to be there for this most rare and special occassion. Magnificently cast, this statue will greet both visitors and worshipers alike to the Koyasan Buddhist Temple for many years to come.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Kabuki – Backstage to Hanamichi

One can never underestimate the power and majesty opera can have on one’s senses. As clearly demonstrated with last year’s visually stunning Noh Theater performance at the Aratani Theater in Little Tokyo - Los Angeles, language barriers or lack of spoken language proves to be no barrier at all when it comes to Kabuki. Performances here in the United States are rare and not to be missed and last night was no exception. The Shochiku Company came to the renowned Aratani Theater in Little Tokyo to perform two sold out performances of this most rare and exquisite art.

In 2005 I had the unique pleasure of seeing the Shochiku Company’s performance of The Grand Kabuki featuring national treasure actor Nakamura Ganjiro III in a performance of Chikamatsu-za’s The Love Suicides. There, I had seen something that had exceeded my own expectations as demonstrated during the show’s tearful finale. But last night’s presentation was quite different. Now after seeing The Grand Kabuki you have to wonder, well how can you top that? Honestly, there is no way you can make such comparisons. All one can do is behold and allow onself to be captivated by the magic that is Kabuki.

As true to it’s advertising, the event was truly a behind the scenes look at how Kabuki is put together. Now I have seen many films from Japan showing the makeup process but never have we seen anything on the other elements involved. We were treated to an introductory lecture from the lead actor Matanosuke Nakamura who explained how the various instruments are played and how they are used to provide to the overall imagery. Such as for example the sound of snow falling with the use of a large Taiko drum or the use of flute and shamiesen. This presented a greater understanding to Kabuki that had I seen this lecture would have made the 2005 tour even deeper for me. What we bore witness to in 2009 was far different from the 2005 tour and yet equally entertaining.
But it didn’t stop there. We were treated to a live on stage demonstration of how makeup is applied complete with all it's symbolism explained in intricate detail. The wardrobe demonstration provided us with a glimpse of how the actors embody the soul of their characters. It was truly fascinating to see so many key elements come together before our very eyes and there were still there were performances to behold.

When I watched the Grand Kabuki in 2005 I was treated to a comedy and a tragedy. This year’s presentation offered us something completely different yet equally dramatic. The first performance was Sagi Musume (Heron Maiden) that was first performed in 1782. This was a solo performance of a maiden who dances on a frozen pond in what was billed as “A play of unrequited love.” This involved the actor demonstrating the various female poses and gestures while the effects of snow petals fell from the ceiling while the Taiko drum dazzled our auditory senses. The actor would go through several costume changes on stage characterized as transformations of torments and pleads of pity. It was visually stunning as it was dramatic.

I was truly mesmerized by Sagi Musume but the show did not end there. As with the earlier Kabuki there would be a fifteen minute intermission followed by another lecture this time involving the mechanics of the stage hands and how contribute both on stage as well as behind the scenes.
The performance that followed was Shakkyo (The Stone Bridge). This was the famous Lion Dance I had seen in documentaries about Kabuki which reminded me of Noh Theater in its elaborate character design. This dance based on an ancient Buddhist fable featured both male and female lions with their large elaborate colored wigs. White for male and red for female. This featured shishi (soul stirring) and Keburi (swinging of long hair) – One can honestly say SUGOII NE'!
I can not say when we will be fortunate enough to see another Kabuki performance here in Little Tokyo but what I can say is if you get the rare opportunity to see a Kabuki performance outside of Japan, Do not miss it! It was an incredible night out and good to see so many people dressed in elaborate kimono especially the few Americans in Kimono at this very special sold out performance. I love seeing other Americans who appreciate Japanese culture as much as I do. It was good to even run into a fellow Shinkendoka James Huang at the performance as well as meet Miyuki Sohara -the director of the new Geisha Documentary HANNARI. I would like to thank the JACCC, The Consul General of Japan, and the Shochiku company for both enlightening us as well as culturally enriching us with this most rare and beautiful art.

Domo Arigatou' Gozaimasu!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Oda Nobunaga Invades South Park?

So there I was searching for some cool Takeda gear when I came accross this mug over on Cafe Press. Lil' Nobunaga? Nani???? I almost about spit up my drink at this silly South Park characterization of the legendary warlord. Who knows if the real Oda had a sense of humor but if you do you can score this and other items at:

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Gaijin-Gourmet

I have to say I've had fun making this blog. So why stop there?
Be sure to check out my Cooking Blog - The Gaijin-Gourmet

Friday, October 2, 2009

Dorama Haiku - Preview of Act I

I'm pleased to present as my first official post a preview of my debut novel Dorama Haiku. My book is set in three acts in three different time periods covering three different dramas.

Act I - Kaikoku no Higeki - A Foreign Tragedy.
This is a historical drama set in Japan of 1866 during the last days of the Tokugawa Shogunate. Tragedy Needs No Translation.

Act II - The Depth of Echoes aka The Passenger
Is a modern day ghost story set in contemporary times in New York City. A requiem for the restless!

Is a Science Fiction story set in the far reaches of space dealing with love, and loss that only desolation knows.

I've been working on it all summer and some of you have been dying to read it so here is just a preview from the latest draft from Act I : Kaikoku no Higeki - A Foreign Tragedy.

I hope you enjoy!
- One paragrah from Chapter 3 - Kaikoku no Higeki - A Foreign Tragedy

This scene takes place at the American Consulate in Hakodate' Ezo May 1866. In this scene William Merrick who works as a translator for the American Consulate is briefed on his precarious new assignment. His mission is to escort the stranded Wayfield Party safely from Shimoda to the capitol in Edo. What complicates his task is the newly imposed state of martial law implimented by the Bakufu Government in Edo. This has restricted travel to and from Edo while the Shogun leads a doomed army to attack the powerful Choshu Clan. This story is set during the Second Choshu Expedition of 1966.

- From Chapter 3
A look of concern appeared on Merrick’s face as he looked around the room as the men understood the serious implications of the situation. “What of the Bakufu Navy?” inquired Merrick. 1st Officer Ichiro looked to Superintendant Okuda who nodded with caution. “The battle will be on land. There is little we can do,” expressed 1st Officer Ichiro as the Elder Okuda sat in silence. Vice Consul Bertrand interjected; “There are many factions in Edo and Kyoto that are aligning against the Tokugawa Shogun.” The grim faced Colburn added; “The Bakufu assures us they have control of the situation but the reality is that the Bakufu in Edo may collapse and the consequence of that collapse could have serious implications for all westerners here.” Merrick had seen the banners reading “Sonno-jōi” – Expel the Barbarian’ along the outskirts of the foreign quarters of Edo. He had been well aware of the anti-western sentiments that existed in various parts of the country. Merrick could only look around then room and come to ask the most dreadful of possibilities. “And what if the Shogun is killed?” asked Merrick. “Chaos,” replied the Elder Okuda in a deep reserved voice. “Absolute Chaos.”



Welcome to my new blog!

This will be my new blog that will cover my interests, rants, and general news for all my current endeavors. As some of you may have guessed, Japanese culture and history play a large part of my everyday life. When possible I will share things here from time to time. I hope you will find this blog to be informative as well as entertaining in the time to come.