Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Japanese Market Showcase: Kobo-san Flea Market

via Flickr by Simon Q
If you happen to be in Kyoto on the 21st of the month, then you should definitely check out the Kobo-san Flea Market at the Toji Temple. Heralded as one of the biggest and most well known flea markets in Kyoto, it’s a year-round, not-to-miss monthly event that’s especially popular with the locals.

The market was established in remembrance of the founding Buddhist priest of the Toji Temple, Kukai. He died on March 21st, 835 AD, and was later honoured with the title of Kobo Daishi. This is why the market is now held on the 21st of each month and why the locals refer to the market as Kobo-san rather than its official name, Mieuiku. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Toji Temple is regarded as one of Kyoto’s “must see” sights. So why not squeeze in some stellar shopping at the same time?!

via Green-Tour Kyoto

The Kobo-san Flea Market regularly hosts between 1000 and 1300 vendors, and boasts an epic variety of products. You can find everything from fresh vegetables, to handcrafted ceramics, gently used kimonos, and even antique machine tools. And despite its name, there are also a number of stalls that sell new goods, such as shoes, hats and fans.

via donnawatsonart.blogspot.ca
That wraps up our virtual tour of Japan!  What did we miss? Let us know in the comments below. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Japanese Showcase: Sumida River Fireworks Festival

via Flickr by Yoshikazu Takada
Summers in Japan are practically synonymous with spectacular fireworks shows, but perhaps the largest and most popular of all is the Sumidagawa Fireworks Festival held in Tokyo.

Held on the last Saturday of every July, along the banks of the Sumida River, this festival dates back to 1733 and initially began as a competition between two neighbouring areas and their rival pyrotechnic teams. While this competitive spirit has since faded, the tradition of using two separate sites to launch the fireworks remains. Now held annually, the festival features a dizzying array of over 25,000 different coloured fireworks set off in many different patterns and character shapes.

via Flickr by Tokyo Times

This festival draws a mammoth crowd to the city – approximately one million people arrive in Tokyo on the day of the event. Many will come as early as lunchtime to claim their spot for the spectacular sights to be seen later that evening. And while there are many great locations to take in the fireworks, the most coveted are on the traditional wooden rafts that float on the river; those that are lucky enough to snag one of these actually have the rare opportunity to view fireworks from both launching sites!

via Flickr by Pietro Zuco

Have you been lucky enough to witness this festival firsthand? Tell us about it in the comments below; we would love to hear from you!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Japanese Showcase: Itchiku Kubota Art Museum

What type of clothing could be more beautiful or representative of traditional Japan than the kimono? Today we’ve decided to take a stop at the Itchiku Kubota Art Museum along our virtual tour of Japan. Not only does this museum have exquisite panoramic views of Mount Fuji and Lake Kawaguchi, but it also houses the most important collection of kimonos from the 20th century.  These kimonos were created by Itchiku Kubota (1817-2003), and were dyed and created using the “Itchiku Tsujigahana” technique.

Itchiku Kubota Art Museum via Flickr by Tanaka Juuyoh
It is for good reason that Itchiku Kubota is considered the most important Japanese textile artist of the 20th century. At the age of 20, Kubota first encountered Tsujigahana from the Muromachi period at the Tokyo National Museum. This technique was common from the Muromachi period to the early Edo period (1338-1573), but became a lost and unpracticed technique by the 17th century. It was a life changing experience, to say the least:

“My heart was beating faster; I was moved, trembling and fascinated in the face of such mastery and refinement of beauty. For over three hours I remained transfixed there in the deserted museum hall contemplating this little fragment of fabric which seemed to have been on display in the showcase for me alone.”

While Kubota made a living by hand-drawn Yuzen, he devoted himself to reviving this lost dyeing process. Finally, after many years of trial and error, he discovered a technique to revive Tsujigahana, which he named “Itchiku Tsujigahana.”

The “Itchiku Tsujigahana” technique is the result of Kubota’s lifelong devotion to the recreation of the lost “Tsujigahana” technique. Kubota held his first exhibit in 1977 at the age of 60. The beauty of the “Itchiku Tsujigahana” technique quickly gained a reputation and the exhibition was also held abroad in Paris, New York and London. The Itchiku Kubota Art Museum opened in 1994, and houses 104 of his creations to be viewed publicly.

Have you ever been to the Itchiku Kubota Art Museum? Tell us about it in the comments below!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Japan: 13 Fun, Fast Facts

Another month, another country! This time we're visiting the stunning country of Japan, one of our personal favourites. Have you ever wondered why it’s referred to as the “Land of the Rising Sun”? Or the reason why Japan experiences so many earthquakes? We’ve got those questions answered and more!

via Flickr by wisegie
Here are 13 interesting, quirky and random facts about Japan to get us started:

1. Archeological evidence suggests that there were people living in Japan as far back as 39,000 years ago!

2. The Japanese name for Japan is “Nihon” or “Nippon,” which translates into English as “sun origin.” This is where the nickname “Land of the Rising Sun” originates.

3. Almost three quarters of Japan’s land is forest or mountains, and the highest point in the country is the majestic Mount Fuji.
via Flickr by midorisyu
4. Japan is made up of over 6,800 islands.

5. Japan is situated along the “Pacific Ring of Fire,” so it is home to many volcanoes and the country experiences many earthquakes every year.

6. Tokyo is the capital city (as well as the largest) of Japan, but other major cities include Osaka, Nagoya and Sapporo.

via Flickr by Guwashi
7. As of July 2012 there are over 127 million people living in Japan. This is the 10th largest population in the world!

8. Japan is home to some of the most punctual trains in the world. The average delay is only 18 seconds!

9. Snowmen  (yuki daruma) are built with two spheres, instead of three. They are built in this shape after the round shape of the Daruma doll.

10. When eating noodles you must slurp loudly, because this indicates that your food is delicious!

via Flickr by Toshihiro Gamo
11. Famous Japanese people include artist and peace activist Yoko Ono, animation director Hayoa Miyazaki, and actor Masi Oka.

12. Traditional Japanese Haiku is the shortest form of poetry in the world. It consists on only three lines and 17 on.

13. The most popular spectator sport is baseball, even though Sumo is widely recognized as the national sport of Japan.

via Flickr by Edward Dalmulder

Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments below!