adventure of my life (Hajime Hirayama:平山新)

my interpritation

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Arts and crafts         2014.2.27

  Japan is like most of other countries in that the artistic impression has been affected by various factors. Certainly Chinese culture and Buddhism influenced early Japanese arts. However Japan absorbed and integrated these ideas and created distinctive Japanese style. These can be seen in Japanese artistic technics such as tea ceremony, flower arrangement, and ukiyo-e. Image of season and nature appear over and over again in Japanese arts. For example, cherry blossoms, colorful autumnal leaves, MT Fuji covered with snow. Some common art materials are from nature, such as bamboo, lacquer  to name just a few.The art of bonsai or miniature potted tree, and Japanese garden - both of which requires good care over a long time - are also good samples of Japanese appreciation of nature’s beauty. Japan’s art crafts reached marvelous level in the Edo period. At that time many fudal lords encouraged  art crafts making  to gain revenue. Ceramics, lacquerware , woven fabrics, and dolls were produced。Some are mass produced. Even today more than 200 items are designated as the traditional art craft products by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. The genre of ukiyo-e had strong influence in the edo period.  Ukiyo-e literary means “picture of floating world”.  This woodblock prints  featured beautiful women, kabuki actors, sumo wrestlers, and landscapes. Some of them could be called prototype of today’s manga. It is also well-known that ukiyo-e  influenced western impressionist artists like Vincent Van Gogh. Because ukiyo-e allows mass production , ordinary people could  enjoy ukiyo-e.When the time of rapid modernization at the end of 19th century, the popularity of ukiyo-e dramatically declined. Recently, the interest of Japanese art is increasing domestic and overseas. The visitors of Japanese exhibition is increasing and the number of young craftsmen also  increased. The tea ceremony is getting more and more popular outside of Japan,  and some  foreign craftsmen have settled in Japan to  engage in Japanese  traditional craft making.


Japan became united in around 4th Century when the ancestors of the current  Emperor control the entire nation that stopped the wars. But most of the Japanese historty, the emperors  believed to be divine   and trancended worldly politics.  The real power were delegated by the emperor to the strongest  political leader of the time. During the Heian Period, the Imperial Court ruled Japan and  the Capital of Japan was moved in 794  from Nara to Heian -Kyo, known as Kyoto today.The Japanese culture has distinctive Japanese flavor in painting, literature and Buddhist art. The warriors, or Samurai became very powerful and took over Japan  at the end of the Heian Period.During the Heian Period (794-1192), the Imperial Court ruled Japan and  the Capital of Japan was moved in 794  from Nara to Heian -Kyo, known as Kyoto today.     The Japanese culture has distinctive Japanese flavor in painting, literature and Buddhist art. The warriors, or Samurai became very powerful and took over Japan  at the end of the Heian Period.‏During the 1192- 1867, Japan was ruled by the military government known as bakufu with shogun or general as it head . In the 14 th-16 th Century, Japan suffered political instability, anarchy and civil war. In the mid 16th Century Europeans introduced Christianity and firearms. At the end of the 16thh Century respected Samurai, Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi united Japan again to it's glory. Culture flourished and  was greatly focused around the Samurai, such Zen , a form of Buddhist Meditation and Noh, a traditional Japanese Stage Play as well as flower arrangement, tea ceremony and building of great temples, shrines , castles or Shiro.  

Annual events

In Japan, we have many festivals called matsuri,  and other annual events throughout the year. Some have existed in Japan for centuries and others are recent imports. For example, the Gion matsuri in Kyoto has been held yearly for over 1000 years, while Christmas celebrations became popular after world war 2. One of the very important festivals is Obon, which is held memorial services for the soul of deceased. During the summer, it is common to see bon dances where the member of the neighborhood join in traditional dance. It is thought that the deceased come back their home during the Obon season. The dance and other aspects of Obon ceremonies are performed to guide and entertain the spirits of the deceased. Most regions observe Obon in the middle of August, some areas, such as Tokyo, celebrate obon in July. When the lunisolar calendar was scrapped in 1873, the government insisted that obon continue to be held on the same dates – even though there was a one month difference in real time. Old traditions die hard – most of Japan resisted the government and to this day continues to celebrate obon during August. For the interesting annual events of children, we have setubun and shitigosan. During setubun, children can throw roasted beans to the inside and outside of the house to ward off   evil spirits and other misfortune. In some families, an adult might put on a demon’s mask and approach the children. The demon is pelted with beans until he leaves. Shitigosan is the festival when girls of 3 and 7 and boys of 3 and 5 dress up – often in kimono – and visit a shrine with their parents to pray for the children’s good health. This custom originated at a time when child mortality rates were much higher. The Japanse also celebrate annual events like Christmas and st. valentine’s day. Although you might be strange that a country with few Christians would adopted Christians customs , these two fit well with Japanse culture. These are very similar to same traditonal  Japanse events such as chugen and seibo in that gifts are exchanged. This exchange of gifts has been an important way for Japanse to how gratitude to others and to foster human relations. So these imported events allow Japanse to exchange gifts among family members and close friends.  
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