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Book Review: Samurai Assassins: “Dark Murder” And The Meiji Restoration 1853-1868 By Romulus Hillsborough

This first-ever account in English of the assassins who drove the revolution details one of the most volatile periods in Japanese history!

Samurai Assassins coverHillsborough refers to this, his latest book, as ‘a study of the ideology and psychology behind the “samurai revolution”’ and that it certainly is. Thankfully for once, it is not a book that focuses on or sensationalises the assassinations of ‘foreign barbarians’ in a period in Japan when political assassinations flourished, not least of which were those of the foreigners residing in Japan. This a fact attested to by the British Legation’s interpreter Thomas McClatchie, himself a student of Kenjutsu under Sakikabara Kenkichi, in his 1879 letter to Morita Kan’ya’s invitation to visit the Kabuki theatre – ‘In Japan people like the so called rōnin with their katana swords have long been in Read more…

Review: The Old Jōruri Puppet Play ‘The Tale Of The High Priest Kōchi’

Performance was held on 2nd and 3rd June 2017 at the British Library.

London performamce small format croppedThe evening, attended by around 250 people, opened with a welcome from Mana Takatori, the Director General of the Japan Foundation, and Hamish Todd, the Head of East Asian Collections at the British Library. Then Professor Torigoe Bunzō described how the manuscript was discovered and how valuable it is given that it is the only extant original copy.

In 1962, when at the time he was a Professor at Waseda University, Torigoe Bunzō was teaching at Cambridge University and Read more…

Art Review: Hokusai: Beyond The Great Wave – An Exhibition At The British Museum

Exhibition dates: 25th May – 13th August 2017

http://www.britishmuseum.org/whats_on/exhibitions/hokusai.aspx

 

the great wave off kanagawa

Katsushika Hokusai was born Tokitarō in 1760 in Honjo Warigesui, the present-day Kamezawa area of Sumida City. He was adopted by Ise Nakajima, an artisan, who made and supplied metal mirrors to the Shōgun’s court and, according to “Katsushika Hokusai Den” (Biography of Katsushika Hokusai) by Kyoshin Iijima, a mother who was granddaughter to Kobayashi Heihachirō, an expert swordsman and high ranking retainer of Read more…

Film Review: Never Ending Man: Hayao Miyazaki

“I’ve always done my best so I have no regrets” – Hayao Miyazaki

C7Jx7ZRVAAA4D8DA fascinating, albeit somewhat melancholy, insight into Hayao Miyazaki in later life. The documentary begins with a brief review of Miyazaki’s main oeuvre – clips in rapid succession from his feature length animations, the foundation on which his well-deserved reputation is founded after which is his public announcement of his retirement in 2013 at the age of 72. These two elements set the scene against which his later actions are Read more…

Spring and New Year Kabuki in Tōkyō – Part Two National Theatre of Japan and Asakusa Kōkaidō

February 11, 2017 Leave a comment

The second and final part of a selection of Kabuki plays in review!

kabuki-postersApart from the performances at the Shinbashi Enbujo and the Kabukiza there were two other theatres also putting on New Year-Spring performances.

A Tōshi Kyōgen was performed at the National Theatre of Japan and there were two, matinee and evening, Shinshun Read more…

Review: Spring and New Year Kabuki in Tōkyō – Part One Shinbashi Enbujo and the Kabukiza

February 6, 2017 Leave a comment

Plays in Review: Futago Sumidagawa, Genpei Nunobiki no Taki – Yoshikata Saigo, Shikorobiki, Shōgun Edo wo Saru, Otsu-e Dōjōji, Igagoe Dochu Sugoroku – Numazu, Matsuura no Taiko

otsu-e-dojoji-goro-ya-no-ne-ichikawa-somegoro-resizeThis year, 2017, to mark the New Year and Spring in Tōkyō seven Kabuki shows were scheduled during January. Matinee and evening performances at the Shinbashi Enbujo, the Kabukiza and the Asakusa Kōkaidō Public Hall, and a Tōshi Kyōgen, full length play, at the National Theatre of Japan.

There were two Tōshi Kyōgen included in the New Year/Spring Read more…

Film Review: Silence – A Film By Martin Scorsese

January 9, 2017 Leave a comment

Sometimes silence is the deadliest sound!

silence_posterBased on Shusaku Endo’s 1966 novel Martin Scorsese’s film ‘Silence’ is the third adaptation of the novel following ‘Chinmoku’, a 1971 film adaptation by Masahiro Shinoda, and the 1996 Portuguese version ‘Os Olhos da Ásia’ (The Eyes of Asia) by João Mário Lourenço Bagão Grilo.

Directed by Martin Scorsese, with a screenplay by Scorsese and Jay Cocks, it is set in the historical ‘Kakure Kirishitan’ (Hidden Christian) period of 17th century Japan. The main story takes place between 1640-1641, a few Read more…

Film Review: Your Name Directed by Makoto Shinkai

December 12, 2016 Leave a comment

Visually stunning, the film is both uplifting and full of pathos!

Anime feature filmYour Name, directed by Makoto Shinkai (5 Centimetres per Second, 2007, and Kotonoha Niwa – The Garden of Words, 2013), produced by Genki Kawamura (‘Kokuhako’, 2010, and ‘Ookami Kodomo no Ame to Yuki’, 2012) with character design by
Masayoshi Tanaka (‘Toradora’, 2009, ‘Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day’, 2011, and ‘The Anthem of the Heart’, 2015) and animation by Read more…

Event: Hyper Japan Christmas Market 2016 In Pictures

December 11, 2016 Leave a comment
A colourful weekend full of music, food and fun!

image0037Photo feature by James Fielding.

This years’ Hyper Japan Christmas Market took place at Tobacco Dock between the 25th-27th of November.   Although it was three day event, sadly Diverse Japan could only attend on the Saturday.

As usual at Hyper Japan, a wide range of activities took place over the weekend along with some great stage performances.

Read more…

Book Review: Where The Dead Pause And The Japanese Say Goodbye – A Journey By Marie Mutsuki Mockett

December 5, 2016 Leave a comment

Its pages are often full of a light that illuminates a fundamental human experience!

where-the-dead-pause-and-the-japanese-say-goodbyeOn Friday 11th March 2011 at 2.46pm local time the 9.0 magnitude Tōhoku Earthquake, the most powerful on record to have ever hit Japan, struck off the Pacific Coast of Tōhoku triggering Tsunami’s some of which reached up to 133 feet (40.5 metres) and travelled up to 6 miles (10 km) inland. Nearly 16,000 people were killed, over 6,000 injured and just over 2,500 people are still missing. It is against this back drop that Mutsuki Mockett weaves her way through a landscape of grief; that of her own personal, complicated, grief at the loss of her beloved father, and that of the people of the region from where some of her ancestors came. Read more…

Film Review: Mifune – The Last Samurai

October 16, 2016 1 comment

A celebration of the greatest actor from the Golden Age of Japanese Cinema!

mifune_strandbanner

Doing the rounds of this year’s film festivals and screened at this year’s British Film Institute’s London Film Festival is ‘Mifune: The Last Samurai’, a new documentary directed by the Oscar winning Director Steven Okazaki (‘Days of Waiting’, ‘Unfinished Business’), produced by Toshiaki Nakazawa (‘13 Samurai’, ‘Hara Kiri: Death of a Read more…

Book Review: Japanese Stone Gardens: Origins, Meaning, Form

September 13, 2016 1 comment

Written by Stephen Mansfield with a foreword by Donald Richie!

japanese-stone-gardens-book-coverWith a foreword by the formidable Donald Ritchie, in itself a recommendation, the Japanese Stone Gardens is divided into two parts. The first covers the pivotal points during the development of the Japanese dry landscape garden (kare-sansui), often referred to these days as a Zen garden. It explains how this developed from the pre-animistic use of stones as markers of space to their use as connections to the natural world and the landscape, their use as mystical vectors with which to communicate with the Gods, the influence of Korea and China, their eventual Read more…

Book Review: Samurai Revolution By Romulus Hillsborough

August 29, 2016 1 comment

The Dawn of Modern Japan as seen through the eyes of the Shōgun’s Last Samurai!

samurai revolution front coverThis book, based on twenty-five years of research by Romulus Hillsborough who spent sixteen years living in Japan, joins his growing portfolio of his other works on the pivotal characters and themes of the Bakumatsu Period and the Meiji Restoration bringing many of them together in a welcome work that covers the pivotal period that heralded the end of the Japanese feudal era and the beginning of the industrial and political modernisation of Japan.

Something of a tome ‘Samurai Revolution’ is written as two books. The first covers the conflicting interests of the Tokugawa Bakufu in Edo (modern day Tōkyō) and the Imperial Court in Kyōto and the inter clan alliances which had been forged nearly three hundred years before in the triumphs and Read more…

Yago no Kai (Yajūrō–Shingo Company) European Tour 2016

A great introduction to an art which is still able to reach an overseas audience!

KabukiIn Paris the Yago no Kai Kabuki Company’s performances took place in the Grande salle, the 300 seater theatre, at the Maison de la Culture du Japon à Paris (May 12-14).

Two other European countries are scheduled on their whistle-stop tour this May, in Switzerland at La salle Théodore Turrettini at the Bâtiment des Forces Motrices in Geneva (May 17 & 18), and in Spain Kabuki returns for the first time since 1987, after an Read more…

Book Review: Japanese Plays – Classic Noh, Kyogen And Kabuki Works

Nothing reflects the beauty of life as much as Japanese theatre!

Japanese PlaysThe original Introduction gives a fairly detailed explanation of Noh, Kyōgen and Kabuki though there isn’t much in the way of explanations of each of the plays’ individual origins, historical context, or development, either in the Introduction or in the rest of the book at the beginning of each play, the intention perhaps to preserve the book in its original form. It would however perhaps have been helpful to provide some sort of reference material in say a selective bibliography, even if only for the most important plays.

Although this isn’t provided in the book’s current form research on the Internet would make it relatively easy to cross reference the plays on line to find more information even if the Internet is something that wasn’t available when the book was originally published in 1934. For example Read more…

Music Review: No Cars – YOKO GOES TO BOLLYWOOD

The album gives people lots of smiles, and one can’t resist laughing, thinking ‘they are bonkers’!

No Cars Yoko Goes to BollywoodFollow NO CARS (read Diverse Japan’s interview with the band) as they travel down the Silk Road to India; their journey is not an easy one as hunger, thirst, and vast amounts of tip-ex await them but it is certainly enjoyable. Luckily for us these intrepid travellers have recorded their adventures as infectious pop-punk melodies in the album YOKO GOES TO BOLLYWOOD.

These three Japanese girls and their Raccoon drummer have created a rather fun story in their latest album. It gives you the chance to imagine the quartet as they walk all the way to Read more…

Book Review: Photography In Japan 1853 – 1912

A delight to the eye and a treasure trove of information!

Girl in Heavy StormPhotography in Japan 1853-1912 , originally published in 2006, provides a fascinating glimpse into the world of early photography in Japan often little known outside academic circles or those with a specific interest in the period when Japan was undergoing rapid modernisation.

Though most people are generally unaware of the larger scope of the world of early photography in Japan and the early photographs of both non-Japanese and Japanese photographers, some with little more than a passing interest may be aware of the photographs of Felice Beato, which have recently had a fair amount of publicity, some of which are included in this book. The book follows the beginnings of photography in Japan from its introduction by foreigners through its Read more…

Film Review: Obon Brothers – A Film By Akira Osaki

October 23, 2015 Leave a comment

A charming and heart-warming portrayal of a man down on his luck!

Obon Brothers

Akira Osaki (read interview here) has not had an easy time in the Japanese film industry. After the failure of his debut film Catchball-Ya, Osaki struggled to secure funding for a new film. Again and again his projects were dropped in the early stages, and this made him frustrated about the film industry he was working so hard to be accepted in. This anger has been translated into his latest film, Obon Brothers, a dark comedy penned by his close-friend, and Read more…

Film Review: Ryūzō And The Seven Henchmen (Ryūzō to Shichinin no Kobuntachi)

October 12, 2015 Leave a comment

A fast paced and quick witted comedy!

Ryuzo_7_Japanese_Theatrical_Release_Poster 2Produced by Office Kitano and released in Japan on 25th April 2015 the film stars the 74 year old Tatsuya Fuji as Ryūzō, whose performance is the mainstay of the film’s success, and is directed by the critically acclaimed Beat Takeshi (aka Takeshi Kitano). The film is a delightful and, in places, very funny romp into the twilight existence of a group of Yakuza headed up by the Read more…