Miharu Takizakura – Fukushima

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Blossoms cascade like a waterfall from the top of one large benishidare (weeping cherry blossom) tree, leaving a stream of petals on the ground. During its nocturnal light-up period, this sakura is especially beautiful; all will be moved by such a magical sight.


Miharu Takizakura – Fukushima

Hours: 6am – 6pm
Admission: 300 yen (free for junior high students and younger)
Address: Sakurakubo 91, Taki, Miharu-machi, Tamura-gun, Fukushima
Access: 30-min by bus from JR Miharu Station
URL: http://www.tif.ne.jp/lang/en/sightseeing/topic.html?id=41&category=4

Nebuta Matsuri

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Nebuta Matsuri Aomori City, Aomori Prefecture
Aug. 2 – 7
Highlight: fireworks festival on the final day

Aomori city comes alive every summer to celebrate the Nebuta festival. Historically the festival functioned as a means of keeping harvesters awake as they worked in the fields gathering rice and other produce. As dusk approaches the parade begins and many floats feature illuminated lanterns with various designs and shapes.

Pilgrimage to the 33 Kannon Buddha Temples


Aizu Culture through the eyes of a pilgrim


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Aizuwakamatsu, or Aizu for short, is a historic castle town known as the “land of the last samurai” in the Aizu district of Fukushima Prefecture in Tohoku. The people of Aizu were people of good faith and had a custom of paying respect to all 33 Kannon Buddha temples in the form of a pilgrimage. More than a tough, ascetic ritual, though, this pilgrimage was for entertainment.
In the Edo period, people would journey to the temples for sightseeing; even now, many people make the pilgrimage with friends. The image of Kannon makes its appearance everywhere, from wonderful temples in the city to the stone Buddhas in the mountains. Follow us on our journey as we visit some of them.

Visit the 33 Kannon Buddha Temples around Aizuwakamatu

Kannon, known as Kuan Yin or Goddess of Mercy to the Chinese, was known to have 33 manifestations. Most of the temples are modest, wooden structures, each dedicated to the various manifestation of Kannon. For example the Eryu-ji temple is dedicated to Juichimen Senju Kannon, the eleven-faced, one-thousand armed Kannon. The massive statue, standing at 8.5 meters high, was carved out of one single tree by Kobo Daishi (Kukai), the founder of Shingon Buddhism, in 808. It is designated as a National Treasure of Japan.

The temple itself was built in 1190. The statue is guarded by 28 Busyu divine generals and the gods of Wind and Thunder. The temple is believed to help visitors to overcome their negative attitude in life.
Another unique temple on the trail is Sazaedo Temple on Iimoriyama Hill, built in 1796 with an extraordinary, 16.5 meters high, three-storey hexagonal structure with a sloping double-helix ramp. Visitors ascend the ramp in a clockwise direction and descend anti-clockwise, thus not retracing any steps in their spiral track. It is an ingenious design.
Sazaedo
Sazaedo

In a forest on a remote mountain in Aizumisato, built in 830 at an altitude of 380 meters high, stands a simple but important rustic wooden temple called Sakudari Kannon Temple that is wedged against a rock face. It is said that Kukai founded this temple and carved its 80 centimeters high principle image, Kubinashi Kannon, which is placed upon an altar in a grotto concealed from public view. Not only is the structure of the temple truly amazing, the view is simply breathtaking.

Sakudari Kannon Temple
Sakudari Kannon Temple
Aizumisato
Aizumisato
Sakudari Kannon Temple
Sakudari Kannon Temple

Road to the Edo Period

The main street of Ouchi-Juku
The main street of Ouchi-Juku
There is a place where you can still enjoy the same experiences as a traveler from long ago: Ouchi-Juku, which lies south of Aizuwakamatsu on an old road called “Aizu Nishikaido.” The village is reminiscent of the old post towns on the ancient trade route in the Edo period; merchants and feudal lords would pass this way to rest and refresh. It is a living museum of old traditional houses with thatched roofs and bustling shops selling food, drinks and souvenirs. Here, you can experience and enjoy how the people of Aizu spent their everyday lives and lived their faith.

Another Japan Heritage

Aizu is a region steeped in samurai culture and natural beauty. One of the many scenic spots here is Lake Inawashiro, a beautiful lake surrounded by mountain ranges. It is a popular place for recreation for the local people, and also serves as the lifeline of the area by providing water for agriculture and hydro-electricity. The building of the canal during the Meiji era lead to the agricultural development of a previously barren land, and is considered a Japanese heritage site.
Lake Inawashiro
Lake Inawashiro
Tsuruga Castle
Tsuruga Castle
Eryuji Temple
Eryuji Temple
Sazaedo
Hours: 8:15am – sundown (April through December), 9am – 4pm (January
through March) Admission: 200 yen (middle and primary school students), 300
yen (university and high school students), 400 yen (adults)
Access: 4-min by
Akabe bus from Aizu-Wakamatsu Station, get off at Imoriyama shita.
Sakudari Kannon Temple
Access: 12-min by car from Amaya Station (Aizu Railway Line)
Ouchi-Juku
Access: 15-min by car from Yunokami Onsen Station (Aizu Railway Line)
Lake Inawashiro
Access: Area around Inawashiro Station (Ban-etsu-West Line)
The interior of a local restaurant in Ouchi-juku
The interior of a local restaurant in Ouchi-juku

Japan Heritage
http://www.bunka.go.jp/seisaku/bunkazai/nihon_isan/pdf/nihon_isan_pamphlet_english.pdf

There are two other Japanese Heritage sites in Tohoku.

In this edition, we briefly mentioned “The waterway that cleared the way to the future” (Fukushima Prefecture), and the “Culture honed by Date Masamune” (Miyagi prefecture) inspired by Sengoku warlords, these will be featured in our next publication of WAttention Tohoku 2017 Autumn & Winter Edition.
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Nature and worship “A journey of rebirth”


In The Realm of the Gods at Dewa Sanzan

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In many cultures, mountains often have religious significance and are regarded as abodes of the gods. Tohoku has three holy mountains, known collectively as Dewa Sanzan, that is regarded as one of the most sacred sites in the country. Its landscape is defined by the stunning natural beauty of mystical mountains, volcanic lakes, hot springs and farmlands. This is where the soul of Japan lies in its traditional and religious culture, and where ancient mountain worship is still very much practiced. Against this background, we embarked on an epic journey to trace the footsteps of pilgrims who are followers of Shugendo.

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The Three Mountain Blessings

Shugendo is an ethnic religion influenced by Buddhism, Shintoism, Taoism and spiritual faith. Its main purpose is to strengthen the connection between people and nature, reaching enlightenment in this way. Practitioners preach the teaching that “nature is a manifestation of the gods and we should live alongside it with respect.” Mountains and forests have paramount importance in Shugendo. The Dewa Sanzan mountains of Mt Haguro (419m), Mt Gassan (1984m) and Mt Yudono (1504m) are the centres of pilgrimage in the region. The followers, known as Shugenjas or Yamabushi (mountain monks), have been following the rites of worship for the last 1,400 years. Followers embark on long pilgrimages and practice austere feats of physical endurance of natural elements as an ascetic rite of passage to gain spiritual power. We had the privilege of experiencing the immersive ceremony of Shugendo first hand by visiting the three sacred mountains that represents the present, death and rebirth at Mt Haguro, Mt Gassan and Mt Yudono respectively.

Praying in the Official Shinto Style at Mt. Haguro
We arrived at Mt. Haguro as dusk was setting in and, after a short visit to Ideha Museum nearby to get an insight of Shugendo and Dewa Sanzan, we entered the sacred site through the torii, a wooden gateway that is found in all sacred sites in Japan. A long flight of stone steps, known as the Ishi-Dan, led down to an enchanting forest with towering cedar trees along the ancient pilgrim route. The 1.7km trail built in 1648 has 2,446 steps leading to the Sanjin Gosaiden shrine at the summit. There are 33 carvings etched on the steps and it is believed that if you can find all 33, your wishes will come true. As we were pressed for time, we could only follow the sacred path as far as the 600-year-old Goju-no-to, the five-storied pagoda, a recorded national treasure. In the gloom of the forest, the ornate pagoda exuded an air of mysticism that lent to the belief that a deity of the forest lives in it.
The Ishi-Dan, Mt. Haguro
The Ishi-Dan, Mt. Haguro

When we arrived at Sanjin Gosaiden, the main shrine at the summit, we were met by a Yamabushi dressed in his traditional religious garb. He sounded a horagai, a religious conch trumpet, as a welcome and to ward off bad spirits. We were led to the inner sanctum of the shrine. There, a monk dressed in a splendid ceremonial robe with motifs of cranes performed a special ceremony accompanied by a beating taiko drum, followed by space clearing of malevolent energy around us by wafting a pole with white paper strips attached to the end and ringing bells to cleanse the air. He then chanted some mantras in a trance-like voice, which reverberated around the room, sending powerful vibrations into the ambience. We felt blessed and awed as we bowed twice, clapped our hands twice and bowed once again, completing the ritual where we were “spiritually born.”

Sanjin Gosaiden, Mt. Haguro
Sanjin Gosaiden, Mt. Haguro
Shukubo, Mt. Haguro
Shukubo, Mt. Haguro
We stayed the night at a shukubo, a traditional temple lodge owned by a Yamabushi and his wife, who welcomed us graciously by kneeling Japanese style where they sat on the floor with their legs folded behind them. The delightful lodge was immaculately clean and the minimalist décor was the personified tranquility that we badly needed after a long journey. I would highly recommend staying in a shukubo to attain a Zen state of mind. Early next morning, our landlord performed a Shinto ritual prayer to bless us and wished us a safe journey to Mt Gassan and Mt. Yudono.

Stepping to Mt. Gassan and Mt. Yudono

We headed to Mt. Gassan in howling wind and rain to visit a shrine. The pilgrimage trail was officially closed for the season, but we braved the elements by treading precariously on the path of a slippery, wooden walkway laid across a marshland of dwarf bamboo and grassland.
After twenty minutes’ walk, we reached a small shrine presided by a giant stone rabbit, the guardian of the mountain.

Mt. Yudono
Mt. Yudono
This mountain symbolized the path to death and it was apt that the short journey we took in the inclement weather seemed to convey that message. In the summer, pilgrims could hike to the summit, where the main shrine lies; from there, they could also hike to Mt. Yudono, the last mountain on the holy trail.
Our visit to Mt. Yudono was an epic experience where we were sworn to secrecy by the priest about the ceremony of “rebirth” that we underwent to symbolize being spiritually reborn to start a new journey in life. It is a taboo to divulge the secret of the ritual, but suffice to say that the experience is something I will always remember.

Dewa Sanzan is a pilgrimage, but mere mortals with spiritual interest will find the journey enlightening and soul stirring. Reflecting on my own awesome experience of the religious encounter, I now appreciate why mountains belong to the realms of the gods.

Hagurosan

Access: 40-min by bus from JR Tsuruoka Station, get off at Zuishinmon.
55-min by bus to the summit.
URL:http://www.dewasanzan.jp/publics/index/47/

Gassan

Hours: Closed late September until June
Access: 1h30-min by Shonan-
Kotsu bus from JR Tsuruoka Station to Gassan Hachigome.
URL:ttp://www.dewasanzan.jp/publics/index/48/

Yudonosan

Hours: Closed late September until June Admission: 500 yen
Access: 1h30-min by Shonan-Kotsu bus from JR Tsuruoka Station to
Yudonosan.
URL:http://www.dewasanzan.jp/publics/index/49/

WAttention Photo Contest Spring 2016 Results

WAttention would like to thank all fans of Japan for sending us your best shots of Asakusa, Ueno, ramen, and Japanese Spring for our fourth photo contest. Starting with the winning photo, which impressed for capturing the colorful combination of Sensoji Temple with sakura, blooming in full glory, we bring you a selection of our favorites here below!

"Tokyo as its best ..... Cherry Blossom" by Thierry RAVASSOD
“Tokyo as its best ….. Cherry Blossom” by Thierry RAVASSOD

 

"Love Canal at Nakameguro" by Heath Smith
“Love Canal at Nakameguro” by Heath Smith

 

"asakusa nightview" by Markus Riedl
“asakusa nightview” by Markus Riedl

 

by CNC Bailey
by CNC Bailey

 

by Risa F
by Risa F

 

"Watching Sakura Tree near the River Banks" by Gerdie Nurhadi
“Watching Sakura Tree near the River Banks” by Gerdie Nurhadi

 

"Night cherry blossom viewing at Ueno" by Meng-Jiun Chiou
“Night cherry blossom viewing at Ueno” by Meng-Jiun Chiou

 

"Downtown Sky" by taka waka
“Downtown Sky” by taka waka

Thank you for all your beautiful photos.
The WAttention Summer 2016 Photo Contest is now open for entries. Check it out here.

Aoyama Gakuin celebrates victory

Today at 12:40pm, Aoyama Gakuin University held a victory ceremony in front of Goucher Memorial Chapel, celebrating its second consecutive win at the 92nd Hakone Ekiden race.

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Aoyama Gakuin 4th-year Kazuma Kubota jokingly asking the audience to raise their hand if they came to see him.

Coach Susumu Hara and the ten participating runners each shared brief words of appreciation and encouragement before a flood of students, faculty and visitors.

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A banner hanging by the campus entrance on Aoyama-dori Street, which reads, “Because we suffered more than anyone else, we had more  fun than anyone else.”

 

 

WAttention Photo Contest: Best of 2015 (3)

We kicked off our WAttention Photo Contests on Google+ this past April, and with so many great submissions, we thought we’d round up the year by posting our favorites.

Our final contest this year featured fabulous shots of Shinjuku, Yokocho (Japanese Drinking Alleys), and Japanese Winter. From bright neon lights to soft white snow, these pictures below caught our attention, especially the winning photo at the end!

The snow monkeys of Nagano in the winter
“The snow monkeys of Nagano in the winter” by Heath Smith

 

"Cocoon and Lasers" by Masayuki Yamashita
“Cocoon and Lasers” by Masayuki Yamashita

 

"Light rain in an alley in Chiyoda Ward" by Leon Wu
“Light rain in an alley in Chiyoda Ward” by Leon Wu

 

"Tokyo Metropolitan Government" by Hiroshi Sata
“Tokyo Metropolitan Government” by Hiroshi Sata

 

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“Winter: Interesting symmetrical trees at Shinjuku Gyoen” by Rachel Fay

 

"Nature is higher than human beings" by Masayuki Yamashita
“Nature is higher than human beings” by Masayuki Yamashita

 

"Yakitori Alley" by Heath Smith
“Yakitori Alley” by Heath Smith

 

"Japanese Winter Scenery, Ueno Tosho-gu" by Hiroshi Sata
“Japanese Winter Scenery, Ueno Tosho-gu” by Hiroshi Sata

And the winning photo is…

"Shinjuku O-Guard: After shooting the Sompo Japan Building, only to look back!" by Masayuki Yamashita
“Shinjuku O-Guard: After shooting the Sompo Japan Building, only to look back!” by Masayuki Yamashita

This shot impressed for capturing Shinjuku’s phenomenal night scenery colored with flashy neon lights.

Looking forward to seeing your best photos in our next contest starting on Jan. 1, 2016. Check our website, Facebook, and Google+ pages for more details!

WAttention Photo Contest: Best of 2015 (2)

We kicked off our WAttention Photo Contests on Google+ this past April, and with so many great submissions, we thought we’d round up the year by posting our favorites.

Moving on to Fall, we were more than pleased with the wonderful photos posted of Tokyo Must-Buy Omiyage, Shibuya, and Autumn Colors. Again, don’t miss the winning shot, featured at the end!

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“Momiji”, Jojakuko-ji Temple in Kyoto, Nov. 2014, by Cheryl Lim

 

"A Portrait of Hachiko" by Rochelle Dumlao
“A Portrait of Hachiko” by Rochelle Dumlao

 

"Fall, Ryoan-ji Kyoto, late Nov.-Dec. 2014" by Stephen Wee
“Fall, Ryoan-ji Kyoto, late Nov.-Dec. 2014” by Stephen Wee

 

"Koya Splendor" on Mount Koya, fall 2009, by Marc Sorbe
“Koya Splendor” on Mount Koya, fall 2009, by Marc Sorbe

 

"Tokyo Omiyage, Asakusa" by 利姆歐失
“Tokyo Omiyage, Asakusa” by 利姆歐失

 

"Mt. Kona autumn, Nov. 2009" by Marc Sorbe
“Mt. Koya autumn, Nov. 2009” by Marc Sorbe

And the winning photo is…

"Seconds before the crowds start filling the Shibuya Scramble intersection" by Krimmer Rine
“Seconds before the crowds start filling the Shibuya Scramble intersection” by Krimmer Rine

This photo impressed for capturing the anticipation of Tokyoites and tourists heading into the Shibuya Scramble intersection.

Catch our third and final installment for the year next time, featuring Shinjuku, Yokocho (Japanese Drinking Alleys), and Japanese Winter.

WAttention Photo Contest: Best of 2015 (1)

We kicked off our WAttention Photo Contests on Google+ this past April, and with so many great submissions, we thought we’d round up the year by posting our favorites.

Starting with our summer contest, here were some of the best of our photos themed on Mt. Fuji, Japanese summer, Shinjuku and Shibuya. Be sure to scroll to the end to catch the winning photo!

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“The 29th Kanagawa Shimbun Fireworks Festival 2014” by Hazel Tan
"Lake Yamanakako is the lake situated closest to Mount Fuji. When I was here it was about 2 weeks before the cherry blossoms were in full bloom but the silhouette became a rather interesting aspect of the scene." by Kathy Nguyen
“Lake Yamanakako is the lake situated closest to Mount Fuji. When I was here it was about 2 weeks before the cherry blossoms were in full bloom but the silhouette became a rather interesting aspect of the scene.” by Kathy Nguyen
"Mt Fuji with Shinjuku Skyscrapers" by Masayuki Yamashita
“Mt Fuji with Shinjuku Skyscrapers” by Masayuki Yamashita
"Shibuya Crossing" by Kathy Nguyen
“Shibuya Crossing” by Kathy Nguyen
"A matsuri in Shimbashi on a Friday night" by Brian Kemper
“A matsuri in Shimbashi on a Friday night” by Brian Kemper
"Kabukicho" by 毛國駿
“Kabukicho” by 毛國駿

And the winning photo is…

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“Waking up during the twilight hours to capture the beautiful Mount Fuji. View from ryokan at Kawaguchi Lake.” by Alvin Chua

This shot impressed for capturing the sublime twilight tranquility of Mt. Fuji over the Yamanashi townscape.

Check our next article, which will feature our top shots of Shibuya, Autumn Colors, Tokyo Must-Buy Omiyage, and Shibuya!

Opinion: Kendo and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics

So, even though the Olympics is to be held in Tokyo in 2020, the most representative of its martial arts, kendo, is not to be added as an Olympic sport. Judo, however, was introduced at the 1964 Olympic Games, which was also the last time the international sporting event was held in Tokyo.

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If kendo, which literally means the way of the sword, is ever to be introduced as an Olympic sport, then surely a Tokyo Olympics would be the best chance to do so. However, the kendo world at large seems split over this prospect – and understandably so.

As someone who practices kendo – and who recently took part in the World Kendo Championships held in Tokyo this June – I agree that kendo is not like any other sport.

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Each kendo match starts and ends with “rei”, or a bow, as a sign of respect to the opponent. This match is Singapore vs Japan in the Quarter Finals of the World Kendo Championship 2015.

For one thing, to show any sign of glee or to do a victory pose or to punch the air and cheer – an understandable natural reaction to a hard-earned point- would result in an immediate cancellation of the point just scored as this shows disrespect to your opponent.

Scoring a point, is also not a straightforward affair. Other than actually hitting the right place (head, hand, torso or neck), the process (showing an active attacking stance), spirit in which the point was scored and follow-through (by showing continued physical and mental alertness – hence, no victory poses) are equally important.

Electronic scoring, as in fencing, or judgement made after watching a video replay, as is now possible in the case of sumo, is not used.

A scene you will never see in a kendo match.

Hence, the fate of the player lies in the hands of the three judges at hand, and their understanding of the game at play. It is not uncommon for players to feel that they lost the match due to nebulous judgement calls, but then the spirit of kendo dictates that one should reflect on how the point you thought you scored just wasn’t good enough.

A revered swordsman in the Edo era – when kendo started its roots – once said, “There is such a thing as an unfathomable victory, but no such thing as an unthinkable loss.” Which means that one should always reflect on one’s losses, and not bask in the glory of a win.

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Kendo is a Japanese martial art that uses a bamboo sword and involves rigorous training geared toward developing both combat technique and character by instilling virtues like courage, honor, etiquette – in a bid to overcome one’s greatest enemy: oneself.

Unlike other martial arts such as judo, one’s grade (or “dan”) is not indicated in any visible way. There is no differentiation by colored belts. How one carries oneself and the maturity of play is the only indication – short of asking one politely, “Excuse me, but may I ask what dan are you?”. (Usually for purposes of standing in line with the more senior person nearer to the higher seat of authority.)

If kendo were to become an Olympic sport, its popularity would rise and more people may take up the sport. But, it could risk declining into just that – a sport, where speed and strength dictate a win, over technique and spirit.

So, the irony will remain, for a long time to come, that kendo is its own greatest enemy to becoming an Olympic sport, yet, it is the one sport left in the world that remains true to the original Olympic spirit of cultivating friendship, respect, solidarity and fair play – and not the pursuit of fame, gold medals or sponsorship deals.

Read also: Five places to enjoy the Olympics in Tokyo before 2020

The Japan Subculture Cheat Sheet

From Atom Boy to Akihabara – everything you need to know about Subculture in Japan

 

It’s not too far off to say that every Japanese grows up on a diet of anime and manga, differing in just a matter of degree – and whether one grows out of it. Indeed, it would be hard to find any Japanese who has not heard of Doraemon, One Piece or Studio Ghibli. With such anime as a common reference for society here, why is it still called a “sub” culture, and how did cutesy characters, spaceships and Godzilla get so mainstream? WAttention spoke with up-and-coming Japanese pop culture critique Uno Tsunehiro, for a brief history of subculture in Japan.

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Godzilla and Post-War Catharsis

Godzilla, the giant radiation-breathing reptile, rampaged onto the scene prior to anime in the early 1950s. It comes under the genre of a special effects production and was a reflection of post-war Japan in its Cold War tensions and atomic age anxieties. “Since direct reference to the war was taboo, Godzilla served to do that,” said Uno, who’s also chief editor of a current affairs magazine “Planets”.

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From Manga to “TV Manga” 

At around the same time, the “god of manga” Osamu Tezuka started “story manga”, or manga with richer story lines and character development, making manga not just entertainment for children but across all ages as well. In 1966, Tezuka created the first animated TV series of his monthly manga, “Astro Boy” or “Tetsuwon Atom”. Uno says anime was then referred to as “TV Manga”, and due to high production costs, animation was limited to use of still frames and emphasis was placed on the plot instead. “Astro Boy” dealt with very poignant issues, such as death, loss and acceptance – the anime is about a flying robot created to replace the son of a scientist, who died in a car accident, and his adventures and relationships in the human world.

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Manga’s popularity gained speed and by the 70’s, manga appeared not just in monthly magazines, but took the form of weekly manga magazine instead.

 Anime and Akihabara Boom

According to Uno, Tetsuwan Atom was the first anime boom, followed by Space Battleship Yamato in the 70’s and Mobile Suit Gundam in the 80’s, and Evangelion in the 90’s. In a natural evolution, manga progressed from the page to the screen and into real life via merchandising. All sorts of posters, toys and trinkets are made to allow fans to identify themselves by the manga or anime that they identify with. Plastic models of Battleship Yamato and Gundam characters are still coveted by otakus today in Akihabara. The word “otaku” (literally, “homebody” but referring to hard core fans of anime/subculture) was coined in the 1980s – in a derogatory manner. But now, otakus declare their existence with pride, with female otakus arguing that the term isn’t gender specific.

With the advent of the internet in the late 1990s, Japanese anime exploded to worldwide popularity, and so did Akihabara, the mecca for anime and manga fans. “2005 to 2006 can be said to be when the Akihabara Boom started,” said Uno.

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No Longer a “Sub” culture?

So why are anime and manga are still referred to as a subculture, rather than being part of Japan’s culture?

“For the older generation, anime and manga will be deemed to be a subculture. But gradually, there will be nothing to stop anime and manga from being accepted as a main culture. And then, anime and manga won’t be so ‘cool’ anymore,” said Uno.

Ok, So What’s Next?

Live Idols is where the next Subculture boom lies, Uno predicts. The Live Idols concept started gained popularity from the year 2000, with the original 48-member idol girl group AKB 48 making its debut in 2005. Unlike mainstream TV idols, these Live Idols perform at a regular venue, gaining a local fan base. The concept behind Live Idols is “idols you can meet” – indeed, handshake sessions are a key part of a Live Idol’s existence, and their handshake count would put most politicians to shame. CD releases come with lottery tickets for a chance to attend a “handshake event” to meet members.

So, after quick rundown on the evolution of Japanese subculture, are you ready to unleash you inner otaku yet?

About WAttention Selects

Introducing Japanese crafts from the past that are right in the now

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Would you have imagined that the skills involved in creating designs for the kimono can be transported to decorations for a leather iPad case? Or that you can own a piece of wall panel made from a magnolia printing block carved centuries ago? Or rediscover the tactile joy of writing in this age of typing and tapping on surfaces to communicate?

 

In this age of fast fashion and disposable dailies, WAttention presents the discerning reader with a selection of crafts from shokunin (職人), or craftsmen, who are keeping with the times – adapting their products to modern needs while preserving processes done by hand and techniques developed from wisdom past.

 

Dedication to detail and design can be said to be an unspoken code of honour in the line of monozukuri (物作り) , or literally “making things”, in Japan. This ethos harks back to eras ago, and continues today – albeit in dwindling numbers of craftsmen who take pride in perfecting their art, placing the satisfaction of their customers over mass production and huge profits. Indeed, there is no replacement for sincerity that speaks for itself in the finish of a product.

 

This WAttention Selects series aims to make Japanese tradition and history a part of your everyday life. It’s suggesting a touch of something different, for those who aspire to a life above the ordinary. Why not make your life richer with talking points for your friends and family with such items as a fude pen, handmade leather iPad or iPhone case with a kimono heritage and wall panels or prints that will connect you to Kyoto in the Nara period?

 

Akashiya Fude Pen

 

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There are fude pens and then there are Akashiya Fude Pens, harking back 300 years ago. Akashiya from the ancient city of Nara maintains the traditional handmade method of making fude, the calligraphy writing brush – a 14-step process, using a careful selection of 15 types of animal hairs to get just the right hardness and absorbency for a smooth calligraphy stroke. This is as much an art piece in itself, as it is a tool for the art of calligraphy.

 

Nishimura Yuzen-Chokoku

 

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Yuzen-chokoku is a pattern paper carving technique used in the yuzen-zome dyeing process of kimono. Takeshi Nishimura from Kyoto is a living legend in the world of yuzen-chokoku, With shrinking demand in the kimono market, Nishimura decided to transfer his craft to products used in daily life to add a touch of tradition to the modern, by carving designs on leather products.

This has resulted in two series: Nishimura with Collectif Prémices, which is a collaboration of leather accessories with a French design team, and Nishimura with iPad.

 

Maruni Kyo Karakami

 

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Kyoto-based Maruni continues to observe the ancient methods of making Kyo Karakami – by hand, and with all-natural materials, from magnolia printing blocks harking back nearly 200 years, to ingredients derived from seaweed and shells to make the colouring materials. The crushed shells give karakami printing designs its unique iridescent shine that adds to the paper’s timeless appeal. The patterns are classic designs from the Nara Period symbolizing auspicious tidings and happiness. Evolving from the use of shoji (Japanese sliding doors), Maruni uses Kyo Karakami on a series of wall panels that add a touch of zen to any home.