Monday, August 30, 2010

一日の画像 - きょのしゃしん - Picture of the Day

Photo By Louis Rosas from Niesei Week Grand Parade.
さよなら なつ! - Goodby Summer 2010!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

侍冑 Samurai Yoroi – Up Close & Personal

Every August in Little Tokyo Los Angeles brings about another fun filled Nisei Week of festivities that have been going on since the late 1930’s. The streets become alive with traditional dances, Tanabata streamers, parades, martial arts demonstrations (including Shinkendo), Taiko drum performances, and many cultural displays. And regretably I missed this year’s Grand Nisei Week Parade (due to scheduling conflicts), I did manage to catch the some of the always popular Taiko groups and displays at the JACCC center that featured beautiful bonsai trees, Kabuki showcases, and my personal favorite from The Samurai Store, Samurai Yoroi Armor. 

Back in 2007, I had the privilege of meeting some of the exceptional craftsmen of the Samurai Store at the Japan Expo held at the Los Angeles Convention Center. They were kind enough to even let me try on Ichimonji Retainer styled Yoroi made for the Akira Kurosawa film RAN. Now I have worked in the film business before and have worn everything from elaborate costumes to alien armor but nothing I have ever worked with compares to this. These authentic looking Yoroi is so well constructed you could probably fight in them and survive and that's because they take their work seriously just as the craftsmen did generations ago in Japan.

Well fast forward three years later, these guys still remembered who I was and were kind enough to let me inspect their latest display for this years Nisei Week as well as try out their one Iaito sword. And as student of Shinkendo I can say I was impressed with their well crafted Iaito. I would certainly would like to get one for my own use before moving up to a real shinken for tameshigiri (test cutting). As certainly as I can attest, the Samurai Store produces some of the finest Yoroi you can find without raiding a musuem or an actual castle!

Based in Tokyo, the Samurai Store has been providing quality craftsmanship Samurai Yoroi for Samurai Films, Martial Artists, and Private Collectors. They do make custom armor and nobori to match any Clan replica or display. Of course, owning armor is quite an investment. For those looking swords for display or actual martial arts training, the Samurai Store also makes quality Iaito Swords which are excellent for Shinkendo Tarengata & Iaido demonstrations. So if you are looking for some quality work from Japan or just looking to live out your Samurai dreams, talk to the Samurai Store. Enjoy!

Friday, August 6, 2010

広島記念 Hiroshima Commemoration 2010

Every first Sunday of August and every August 6th since that fateful morning in 1945 people gather to commemorate one of the greatest tragedies (if not atrocities) committed by a civilized nation against a civilian population during a time of war. Well over 166,000 men, women, & children, civilians all, wiped out in a single bright flash and resulting mushroom cloud of ash. And what was even worse, the horrors did not stop there for those who were lucky enough to survive the initial nuclear blast. Every year I write about these things and every year I will get one unapologetic American arguing for the bombings justification for avenging the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. 3000 military deaths do not justify 166,000+ civilian deaths in any war or any such instance. Who started the war is not a relevant argument. American history books will tell you The Japanese did at Pearl Harbor. What they wont tell you is how the US imposed an oil embargo essentially bring Japan to it’s knees in 1941 before the Arizona sunk nor will they tell you how American Planes were fighting in China under the guise of the American Volunteer Group weeks before Pearl Harbor. But we can argue about who was right and who was wrong well past the last Hibakusha passes us on and it still will not erase the fact that this great tragedy took place and yet despite it all, what Hibakusha I have met bears no malice towards the nation that wiped out their families and forever left them with scars no American textbook will talk about. It wasn’t that long ago that Enola Gay pilot Paul Tibbets went on to his grave unrepentant for his actions during that raid. What saddens me is to hear that his 66 year old son is equally unapologetic and very angry that the Obama Administration has done the moral and correct thing by sending the first US Ambassador John Roos since the war’s end to participate in this years commemoration at peace Park in Hiroshima. I would rather see Obama himself attend but this first gesture by a fair and just president is perhaps the first of many steps to true reconciliation that has been long overdue.

It was a year ago that I attended my first Hiroshima commemoration service at the Koyasan Betsuin in Little Tokyo where I had met my first Hibakusha who insisted we call her Oba-Chan. It struck me how happy the Hibakusha were to have so many Americans come to these memorial services and this year was no different. Oba-Chan was happy to see us again and so was this years Hibakusha guest speaker Kaz Suyeshi thanked us for attending this years Hiroshima Memorial service led by Asahi Sensei at the Koyasan Betsuin in Little Tokyo. Each year the Hiroshima Peace Flame is brought out and each participant offers a candle for the victims long past. It is a moving solemn experience that brings the tragedy to life. In school we were taught that this was necessary to end the war and that our government had no other choice. When you listen to the humble words of the Hibakusha survivors they will tell you there was always a choice and I am inclined to agree. I have come to develop strong feelings about this issue. While I will still get criticism from people who claim they had some relative they never knew killed in Pearl Harbor, I now have met people who were just school children who watched the lone silver B-29 drop the single atomic bomb over their city obliterating the world around them. It is hard to hear their stories as you take notice of their half covered scars that they have lived with since that day and yet they say tell it without hatred or resentment. They are a better people than me and that’s one of many reasons I say Nippon wa Ichiban.

Today is August 6, 2010. I was invited to a special Hiroshima commemoration at the Garden of Oz atop Beachwood Canyon in the Hollywood Hills. (Sorry I could not take any photos of this event due to the sign posted.) It was a solemn event that started at 7:55 Am marking the start of the Enola Gay’s approach to Hiroshima. Steven Velez played a moving cello piece while Keiko Nakada Sokei performed a special tea ceremony for the dead in full kimono. The cello continued until 8:15 the minute the bomb was dropped. Hibakusha Kaz Suyeishi rang a Tibetan bowl ten times in remembrance of those lost at that fateful moment so long ago. This was not some random footnote out of a history book. This was real. Suyeishi-San was only 18 years old when she saw the bomb drop. The flash had knocked her to the ground. She had tried to cover her eyes and ears as she had been instructed but could have never imagined what happened after she awoke from her state of unconsciousness. The blue sky had gone and the city was silent. “Yare itai!” went the cries of her in the distance as she lay there with third degree burns under the wooden pilings of what was her house. It’s difficult to imagine being there with her at that moment yet there she was all these years later sharing her experience with us as tea and dove sweets from Kyoto was served to all who joined to pay their respects for those who had suffered so long ago. As repeated from Sunday’s service at the Koyasan Betsuin last Sunday, Suyeishi-San asked us to pledge to love and understand one another and that there be no more Hiroshima’s, No more Nagasaki’s, no more war. Once again I thanked Suyeishi-san for extending the invite to the beautiful Garden of Oz Contemplation of Compassion Hiroshima ceremony. As I left the ceremony I took notice of a single plague at the gate to the garden which read:
Cherish the sun for those who no longer can not’
Koyasan Betsuin 08.01.2010