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Japan Dissents

Andrews doesn’t paint radicals as innocent victims, however. He describes in great detail the violent, sometimes deadly infighting that tore apart the protest movement in the 1960s and 70s, and argues that this self-destructive behavior nudged the general population toward political apathy in the decades that followed.

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The Museum of Forbidden Art

The museum’s obscurity, and Savitsky’s own lack of social standing or professional reputation in the art world, meant that no one in authority thought to look at what he was doing. Savitsky took the opportunity to quietly buy up the works of Russian painters who had been killed, sent to the gulags in Siberia, or otherwise fallen foul of the State.

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

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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ToPoJo’s “Deep Beatitude”

The whole matter of Beat Lit/Beat Culture’s engagement with Japan has been overdue for thoughtful attention for too long. With writing on Beat Generation personalities and their work at near-saturation point in English, Japan’s pivotal informative role in helping incubate Beat ethics, aesthetics, and insight practices especially has remained oddly elusive.

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The Allen Ginsberg of Japan

Kazuko Shiraishi, in person, is similar to her poetry: vivacious, playful, intelligent, flirtatious and most important, loving. This year she turns 87, but still exhibits some of these characteristics, both in her personality and in her work.

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Shokunin and Devotion

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

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

“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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The Stone Carver

He walked back to the main street, along the row of stone workshops.  Through the open doors of one he saw, through a haze of white dust, a row of squatting carvers working frantically, pounding their chisels into the stone in a clanging chorus.

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Knowing Nature

The pre-modern Japanese were not, of course, innocent of environmental exploitation—they razed many mountainsides and turned many fields after reciting the requisite prayers—but they understood their relationship to the environment in a radically different way than modern Japanese do.

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Honyarado: Losing Kyoto’s Counter-Culture Hub

Opening in 1972, Honyarado became a hub and stronghold of anti-war activities and a symbol of youth counterculture. We campaigned for the release of political prisoners in South Vietnam and South Korea, and supported court cases against obscenity charges.

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Noguchi Isao on Heirloom Seeds

“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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KJ Summer 2018 Reads: Titles from Tuttle

As part of their 70th-year anniversary celebrations, KJ has teamed up with Tuttle Publishing, the Asia specialist, for this four-part series.

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

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

Into the Hills

Into the Hills

Up into the Northern Hills,
up the slender, winding road
to the last bus stop; get out, walk
the narrowing valley to the end,
climb steep stone stairs.
Pause there for a cup of tea.

Mio Heki kintsugi repairing ceramic cup in studio Kyoto Japan close-up

Mio Heki: Kintsugi Artist and Urushi Master

“I see urushi as a way to connect ourselves and our culture with nature in so many ways. Because urushi and kintsugi art is all natural, it is a good way to remind ourselves that we are all part of nature, being pieces of our universe.”

Tuttle Kimono Design

Kimono Design: An Introduction?

This is an extremely beautiful book. Every page explodes with color and pattern: exquisite embroidery, wonderful hand painting, complex dyeing, evocative renditions of natural motifs. An astonishing variety is presented.

Douglas Brooks Japanese boatbuilding

An Apprentice Boatbuilder in Japan

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.

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

KJ 92: Devotion