Japan from the inside out

Posts Tagged ‘Japan’

Nengajo 2013

Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, January 1, 2013

THE first greeting traditionally offered in Japan on New Year’s Day is Akemashite, o-medeto gozaimasu.

So, akemashite, y’all! And Happy New Year!

Posted in Holidays | Tagged: , | 22 Comments »

All you have to do is look (152)

Posted by ampontan on Monday, December 31, 2012

Nakamura Mari, who has been performing as a busker (with an electric keyboard) in front of train stations until the last train of the day. She’s sold 80,000 CDs in four years. A group of 15,000 fans provided her enough support to get her a solo gig at Budokan in Tokyo. The performance here is at Shibuya Station.

Posted in Music, Photographs and videos | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Ichigen koji (275)

Posted by ampontan on Monday, December 31, 2012

– A person who has something to say about everything

A certain media outlet asked me to review some book about the South Korean presidential election. When I asked them if I could choose the book to review, they told me to choose whichever book I liked from my perspective. When I asked them if they would accept a book with a slanted viewpoint, they said that would be fine. I accepted the job on those terms. But then they told me I couldn’t use the book I selected.

– Kimura Kan, Kobe University professor

Posted in Mass media, Quotations, South Korea | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

All you have to do is look (151)

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, December 30, 2012

Floats at the Sakurayama Hachiman-gu fall festival in Toyama, Gifu.

Posted in Festivals, Photographs and videos | Tagged: , , | 5 Comments »

Ichigen koji (274)

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, December 30, 2012

– A person who has something to say about everything

South Korean historical scholar Cheong Jae-jeong’s statement that Takeshima is the same as Mt. Fuji for the South Korean people is absurd. The intellectuals and the mass media give their full support to the government’s propaganda that small islets which had no meaning for them 60 years ago are now the symbol of the race. Cheong is affiliated with the Korean Northeast Asian History Foundation, which is a propaganda organ. It would be pointless to conduct joint historical research with them.

– The Tweeter known as Aceface

Posted in History, International relations, South Korea | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

All you have to do is look (150)

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, December 29, 2012

The 21st Kagura Festival in Aso, Kumamoto. The festival brings together different styles of Shinto kagura dance from around the country. This year 10 groups participated.

Posted in Arts, Photographs and videos, Traditions, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

All you have to do is look (149)

Posted by ampontan on Friday, December 28, 2012

Kukuchi-jo, a (perhaps) Korean-style fortress, now a national historical structure in a national park in Yamaga, Kumamoto. It is not known when it was built, but the name first appears in written records in 698. Here’s the Japanese-language website.

Posted in History, Military affairs, South Korea | Tagged: , | 15 Comments »

Ichigen koji (272)

Posted by ampontan on Friday, December 28, 2012

– A person who has something to say about everything

Whenever the Emperor is brought up, the Japanese dispense with reason and lose their capacity for judgment. The Japan that existed before the Second World War again shows its face. It’s the same with the Japanese government and their attitude that they can’t let anyone say one word about the Emperor.

– A Choson Ilbo editorial

Posted in Imperial family, Quotations, South Korea | Tagged: | 6 Comments »

Ichigen koji (273)

Posted by ampontan on Friday, December 28, 2012

– A person who has something to say about everything

That portion of the elite capable of performing a role globally will in the future become detached from most of the low income group. Opinions on whether this type of society should be permitted are probably divided. But the age in which people called for prosperity for everyone is over.

– The Tweeter known as Galois225

Posted in Quotations, Social trends | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

Life in the Edo period

Posted by ampontan on Thursday, December 27, 2012

MANY Japanese are fascinated by the Edo period, which extended from 1603-1868. Among the many reasons is that was a period of vigorous cultural activity that was distinctively Japanese, as the country had withdrawn from most interaction with the rest of the world. In the words of the Kodansha Encyclopedia, developments during the period “strongly influenced the political organization, social structure, ethical practices, and aesthetic perceptions of modern Japan.”

Author and columnist Tachibana Akira wrote an article published in the Weekly Purieibooi earlier this year whose intent was to keep the interest in the period grounded in reality. The title of his article was, If you want to learn about life in the Edo period, go to a slum in India. Here it is in English.

You sometimes hear people frustrated with the lack of growth in the Japanese economy say they would like to return to the ordered society of the Edo period. They seem to think that life was by far more humane in pre-modern society than today’s free market-based society.

Researchers in the new academic discipline of historical demography are studying past population trends using records of the population registers called shumon aratamecho and ninbetsu aratamecho. What can we learn about daily life in the Edo period studying the movement of people and changes in the population?

The historians have discovered some strange phenomena as a result. While the population increased in most regions during the Edo period, they declined in the (highly populated) Kanto and Kinki regions. These two regions contained the cities of Edo (Tokyo), Osaka, and Kyoto, which had more than one million people each. Why did the population grow in regional areas and fall in the cities?

It’s because living conditions in those cities at the time were foul.

Other than those instances in which their farmland was expanded through reclamation or other projects, all but the eldest sons of farm households went elsewhere to seek work. Most of them left home at age 14-15 to become apprentices. It was common to take up such work as the weavers of Nishin brocade or to become attached to commercial establishments.

The apprentices lived packed into the back rooms under the roof in commercial establishments. They became particularly susceptible to infectious diseases. Extensive harm was unavoidable if there was an outbreak of smallpox or dysentery.

While the infant mortality rate was high during the Edo period, it was not unusual for people in agricultural villages to live into their 60s. In the three largest cities, however, deaths from malnutrition or infectious disease in one’s teens or twenties were a frequent occurrence.

The population of Japan in the ordered society of the Edo period remained constant at roughly 26 million. This was not because of the stability of society, however, but because the population increases in the farming villages were weeded out in the cities. Edo, Kyoto, and Osaka were death traps for the young people who went there to find work.

The poor from outlying regions who came to Edo found employment as construction laborers, peddlers, or menials at commercial establishments. If they were thrown out of work, it is likely they had few options other than begging or prostitution to survive.

If you think about it, their lives must have resembled those of the poor in India or Southeast Asia. Those who can’t survive in Indian agricultural villages often wind up in the slums of Delhi or Mumbai. In impoverished countries, it is not unusual for women to find that prostitution is their only means to live. This gives rise to an immense sex industry that ranges from upscale establishments authorized by the government (police) to illegal street prostitution. It is very similar to the prostitution system of the Edo period that reached its zenith with the Yoshiwara quarter in Edo. (The name Yoshiwara became used for similar districts throughout the country.)

Conditions in impoverished countries are very similar. That poverty also existed in the Edo period, and many people had no choice other than to live in nagaya in the slum districts.

You don’t need a time machine to experience life in the Edo period. All you have to do is go to a South Asian slum.


Mr. Tachibana’s Japanese-language website has an English title: Stairway to Heaven. It features a photograph of the ladders to heaven painted on the side of a mountain near the sacred Yamdrok Lake in Tibet.

Posted in History | Tagged: , , | 6 Comments »

All you have to do is look (148)

Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Twelfth-century warlord Taira no Kiyomori worshipped at the Kamo Shinto shrine in Tatsuno, Hyogo. The shrine recreates in period costume a procession with Kiyomori and his wife Tokiko.

Posted in Photographs and videos, Shrines and Temples, Traditions | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Ichigen koji  (270)

Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, December 26, 2012

– A person who has something to say about everything

I do not repudiate either the “post-nation state” or regional devolution. It might be that the bright future for mankind is a borderless aggregation of free individuals. But that is a world of self-responsibility requiring extreme self-sufficiency with considerable costs. It is not frivolous behavior that resembles a son having an argument with his father, storming out of the house, and demanding that he keep sending money.

– Baba Masahiro

Posted in Quotations | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Matsuri da! (139): Drunken elegance

Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, December 26, 2012

DID you get well and truly sloshed over the long weekend that included Christmas Eve and Christmas? The percentage of Japanese slumped face down on the bar or snoring in their easy chairs was probably no larger than it would be for any other weekend, however. Christmas is a working day here, unless it falls on Saturday or Sunday.

drunken elegance

Besides, not everyone in this part of the world behaves badly when they redline on liquor. In fact, there’s a certain tradition of drunken elegance that’s been turned into a religious ritual and dance. It’s called the konju, which originated as an imitation of the movements of some Chinese guy in ancient times who got a snootful and started rambling. It arrived in Japan in 736, but doesn’t survive in its original form. That’s because it was modified during the reign of the Emperor Ninmyo, which places it somewhere in the early to mid-Eighth Century.

The dance is so elegant, in fact, it’s often performed at Shinto ceremonies throughout Japan. One example was its presentation at the Bugaku festival of the Hodaka Shinto shrine in Matsumoto, Nagano. The folks at the Hodaka shrine thought it would be fun to couple a traditional dance festival with their Daisengu Festival, which rolls around once every 20 years. The konju was part of the choreography.

The performance was held at a site just as elegant for its beauty. The backdrop was the 3,190-meter-high Mt. Okuhodaka in the Japanese Alps. The stage was placed next to a bridge and a pond.

Come clean, now — that’s not how you behaved at the office Christmas party, was it?

Here’s a performance of the dance at a different time and different place. He does look a bit ripped, doesn’t he?

Posted in Arts, China, Festivals | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Nippon Noel 2012

Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Christmas tree at Huis ten Bosch, a theme park in Sasebo, Nagasaki, that recreates The Netherlands with full-scale copies of old Dutch buildings.

Christmas in Japan is a festival of light. For even more creative examples, hit the tag at the bottom of the post.

Merry Christmas to Mr. Lawrence, and to you all!

Posted in Holidays, Social trends | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

All you have to do is look (147)

Posted by ampontan on Monday, December 24, 2012

Winter illumination in Sapporo’s Odori Park

Posted in Photographs and videos | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »