HIDDEN JAPAN

A Child of All Time: Butoh Dancer Ohno Kazuo at 98

April 15, 2019

“The physical form I assume now is but the fruit of what I’ve inherited from those who have existed before me. What, you might ask, has become of our ancestors’ ideas and emotions? Where do you suppose our creativity springs from? There’s no way that it springs forth from our finite and limited knowledge of life.”

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Concretizing the Japanese Dream: Alex Kerr on State-sponsored Vandals, True Romance and Contemporary Genii

March 28, 2019

“A revolution of a sort must take place but I am not at all sure that will happen in Japan. Part of the problem in Japan is that in some ways it’s very comfortable. Japan needn’t really do anything and could go right on as it is and no one would notice.”

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On Learning Pottery in Japan

March 22, 2019

We never talked about our own work in aesthetic terms. I never asked, and they never volunteered. We never talked about the “significance” of our work, or its place in society. There seemed to be no place for the pained self-consciousness that afflicts so many American potters and students.

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Tanuki! Tanuki!

March 19, 2019

The popularity of the tanuki has much to do with its humorous and winsome image. With its plump body, awkward movements and simple-minded trickery, the tanuki presents a comical, safe and manageable impression compared to the cunning fox, the other trickster.

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Mizuki Shigeru: Giving form to kehai

March 1, 2019

“A ghost doesn’t just all of a sudden appear out of nowhere; they are of necessity, always announced prior to their actual appearance by a sensa­tion of kehai or something eerie. In other words, without the feeling of fear no ghost will make its presence known.”

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Re-evaluating Connections Between Food Waste and Hunger

February 18, 2019

The Japanese government reports food surplus at 3-4 million tons each year. In comparison, annual rice consumption is roughly 8 million tons. This is the equivalent of one bowl of rice being discarded for every two bowls eaten. Food banks will never be able “overfish” the vast ocean of food surplus that is available.

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The Garden on the Table

February 18, 2019

Frozen pea and potato chip casserole. Long before I came to Japan, that dish, symbolic of all those Family Potluck church dinners of childhood, had cemented in my mind the basic incompatibility of religion and good food. Years, later, the experience of Japanese temple food, or shojin ryori, came as a revelation to me…

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Satori in the Conbini

February 16, 2019

I stopped at the neighborhood 7-Eleven conbini on my way home nearly every night. It became a strange little ritual. Each night I could shed my mousy English-teacher-in-Japan existence with fellow worshippers at the altar of consumer goods..

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Wendy Nakanishi Kitchen Tales Yasmin Flett illustrations

Kitchen Tales

February 12, 2019

I left the comfortable and unchallenging world of my childhood when I was in my early twenties, eventually settling in Japan where I married a farmer. We are resident in rural Shikoku, and I have got acquainted with the roots of cooking through my relationship with my husband’s mother, whom I call Okaasan.

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Yakushima

January 28, 2019

The Jomon sugi is so mammoth, and contains so many crooks and crannies in its branches and trunk, and such an abundance of rotted pockets, that it is host to a number of other trees and bushes growing high up in the air. And within breathing room of the Jomon sugi are other giants, also harboring their own families of trees.

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Everyman with a Thousand Faces

December 28, 2018

Isse Ogata is a renaissance man in the stratified world of Japanese arts. On stage, his breadth and depth are unparalleled and his artistry shows the marks of genius: original, immediately recognizable, and impossible to imitate.

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How to become Japanese: A Guide for North Americans

December 26, 2018

A tremendous amount of the stress of acculturation for North Americans in Japan arises from the interpersonal tension between their self-assertive and individualized selves and the self-effacing and collectively-minded Japanese.

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Journeys of Reverence: A daughter and mother’s decades on the Shikoku henro pilgrimage

December 25, 2018

In 1995, inspired by Oliver Statler’s Japanese Pilgrimage, we first set out on the 88 temples pilgrimage around the island of Shikoku, known as the Shikoku Henro, stretching over a distance of 1200 km.

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Soaring over Sorachi

November 30, 2018

As one of the few places like it in all of Japan, Sky Park draws visitors from around the world to glide. Cities like Takikawa have shrunk since the coalmines closed in the seventies and eighties…But the thousand tourists who visit Takikawa annually to ride in a glider provide a good boost to the city.

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One-Straw Messenger: Larry Korn, author and natural farming advocate

September 27, 2018

Larry Korn was a 26-year-old farmhand from the United States living and working at a communal farm in rural Kyoto in 1974 when he decided to go and see for himself an enigmatic farmer-philosopher he had been hearing about through the grapevine in Japan: Masanobu Fukuoka.

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Shokunin and Devotion

September 22, 2018

The Japanese word ‘shokunin’ is often translated as ‘artisan’ in English. Although it isn’t incorrect by definition, the translation seems to lose the spirit of what a shokunin does. I’m reminded of this every time I explain the works and lives of shokunin to an overseas audience, which happens to be what I do for a living.

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Comfort

September 16, 2018

A kotatsu is a low table with a blanket or quilt spread over it and a heating device inside. In old houses like ours, the area under the table is often actually sunk into the floor, so the legs can stretch out and the feet can rest directly on the little heater.

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Butsudan Boys

September 15, 2018

“Portraits of Eldest Sons” is a series of photographs addressing the relationship between young men and their family homes. Photographer Saito Hiroshi took indvidual portraits of himself and his friends—all young men aged around 20 or 21, and all eldest sons—in the rooms where their family butsudan, in-house Buddhist altars, are displayed.

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Beets

Noguchi Isao on Heirloom Seeds

September 3, 2018

“Since ancient times, farmers would carefully select seed from vegetables that grew well and tasted wonderful, in addition to other characteristics including shape and color. By saving such seed season after season, these native seeds became trusted as stable varieties over centuries.”

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Baisao, The Old Tea Seller: Life and Zen Poetry in 18th-century Kyoto

August 30, 2018

“I’ve got the whole universe in this tea caddy of mine.”

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Douglas Brooks Japanese boatbuilding

An Apprentice Boatbuilder in Japan

August 25, 2018

I returned to Japan expressly to interview one of the boatbuilders I met on that first trip. Mr. Koichi Fujii was the last builder of taraibune, or tub boats, and with the help of an interpreter I did my best to begin documenting what he knew.

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Before you go, be sure to check out our latest issue:

KJ 93: Food