Azuchi Momoyama Period Art

Suit of Armor flanked by sword and bow Japan Late Momoyama period-early Edo period early 17th century

Cherry Blossom Viewing (detail), Momoyama period (1573–1615), 17th centuryKano Naganobu (1577–1654)Pair of six-panel folding screens; ink, color, and gold on paper; each 58 7/8 x 11 ft. 8 1/4 in. (149.4 x 356.1 cm)Tokyo National Museum, National Treasure

Hasegawa Tohaku. Pine Forest. Momoyama Period. 16-17th C

Gift Of Conservation From Japan Comes To Houston Museum

In January 2009, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, will unveil a pair of 17th-century six-paneled screens from its permanent collection newly restored by conservation experts in Japan.
The screens were among only nine objects selected last year from prestigious Asian collections around the world for a competitive conservation program overseen by Japan’s National Research Institute for Cultural Properties.

The MFAH will present the transformed screens, last shown at the museum in 2005, in Art Unfolded: The Gift of Conservation from Japan from January 17 through February 22, 2009 in the Caroline Wiess Law Building. The exhibition will feature a presentation describing the conservation process, including materials used, and a video of the Hie Sanno festival depicted on the screens. The screens, titled Hie Sanno Sairei-Zu, will eventually be the centerpiece of a new MFAH gallery devoted to Japanese art scheduled to open in winter 2009-2010.

Conservators at the Association of Conservation for National Treasures, Kyushu Branch Studio at the Kyushu National Museum, carefully implemented their conservation of the Hie Sanno screens over nine months. They treated the painted panels of the screen for surface damage and pigment deterioration, replaced the backing and border fabrics of the panels, and reattached the original metal fittings.

"Japan’s passion for the preservation of tradition and art is well-recognized, and the museum is fortunate to be the recipient of that passion," said Wynne Phelan, MFAH conservation director. "The masterful work of the Kyushu experts has guaranteed the long-term preservation of the screens."

The Hie Sanno Sairei-Zu screens derive from the practice of painting panoramic views of the city of Kyoto and its environs that evolved in the 16th century. Festival screens adopt the same elevated vantage point and panoramic presentation as city view paintings, but also have a unique narrative and anecdotal quality. Festival screens became an independent subject matter in the Momoyama period (1573-1615), and are often remarkably faithful to the topography and events being portrayed.

The Hie Sanno festival is held every April in tribute to peace and a rich harvest. It dates from 1072 and takes place at the Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine in Sakamoto, an historic village on Lake Biwa that lies at the foot of Mount Hie, near Kyoto. Sairei in the title of the screens means festival and Zu means diagram or illustration.

The MFAH screens, each about 5 feet by 12 feet, describe the village and shrine complex set against the beautiful landscape around Lake Biwa. The narrative of the screen reads right to left. The upper middle part of the right screen shows the Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine complex. A distinctive large red gate (torii) marks the boundary of the shrine’s sacred space.

The Jinko-sai, the great procession of large portable shrines from other villages, departs through the Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine’s red gate toward Sakamoto. The heavy shrines are transported by many men as other men on horseback oversee the proceedings. In the left screen, villagers watch as the portable shrines are carried onto boats on Lake Biwa to return to their villages.
Hie Sanno Sairei-Zu was given to the museum in 1996 as a bequest of Mrs. Dudley C. Sharp, Sr., who was a generous supporter of Asian art at the MFAH. --

6th Asian Print Awards (2008 APAs) Presented in Singapore; Recognizing Innovations and Outstanding Achievements Across Asia

Singapore, Nov 30, 2008 (ACN Newswire via COMTEX) -- The 6th Asian Print Awards took place at the Shangri La Hotel in Singapore on Friday night, November 28, at a gathering of Asia's leading print professionals and print manufacturers. The event featured more than 20 awards with over 700 participants witnessing first hand the creme de la creme of Asian printers.
Paul Callaghan, Chairman of Asian Print Awards (APA) said, "Print is relevant to most businesses. Such a visual industry requires the recognition and support from its peer members to encourage higher standards and the continual pursuit of the highest possible quality. The event is a platform to showcase the works of even the most humble business alongside with the main industry players to allow a true exhibition of the capabilities present in Asia.

"The objectives set out by the Asian Print Awards are to recognise the best Asia has to offer in all areas of print and packaging production. 'Achieving excellence' and being awarded a medal is the ultimate accolade that Asian companies can strive for. To ensure the value of the awards, fair play is strictly enforced and entries are judged through coded entry numbers to guarantee that neutrality takes place."

The 6th APA has always enjoyed strong support in the Asian print community from countries such as China, Hong Kong, Japan, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mauritius, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam. This year there is also a huge influx of entries from Japan; an estimate of 250 more entries than the previous year as the awards gain more recognition in Asia. Winning gold at the APA took more on quality than before as jurors said that relevance and excellence were just basics for consideration. Entries have to ensure an element of precise print fineness to win gold.

"It must be remembered that this competition is judged on the quality of the print, it does not matter how fancy or clever a design may be or the number of processes used, the ultimate goal is to achieve print excellence," said Alf Carrigan, chairman of the judging panel for APA.
This evening of celebration has covered all areas of print production, with special focuses on Platinum Sponsor Awards including: Best in digital colour proofing - Epson; Best use of the digital printing process - Fuji Xerox; Best application of creative colour - GMG, Best in Sheetfed offset - Heidelberg; Best in innovative printing - Kodak; Best in more than one production process - Phoenix Blankets; Environmental Printer Awards - technotrans; Best in web offset printing - UPM; and Best in packaging printing and converting processes - Bottcher Systems.

- 6th Asian Print Awards '2008 APA' Winners - 1. Posters, Showcards

Gold - Cyberprint Company Limited - Thailand
Silver - Aksorn Sampas Press (1987) Co. Ltd - Thailand
Bronze - Yamada Photo Process Incorporation - Japan
Bronze - Taisei Futaba Industry Co. Ltd - Japan

2. Leaflets, Flyers, Folders and Brochures

Gold - Taisei Futaba Industry Co. Ltd - Japan
Silver - Ramya Reprographic Pvt Ltd - India
Bronze - Pragati Offset Pvt Ltd - India
Bronze - Aksorn Sampas Press (1987) Co. Ltd - Thailand

3. Postcards and Greeting Cards

Gold - Phongwarin Printing Ltd - Thailand
Silver - Taisei Futaba Industry Co. Ltd - Japan
Bronze - Supornchai Die-cut Part Ltd - Thailand

4. Multi-Piece Productions and Campaigns

Gold - PT Suburmitra Grafistama - Indonesia
Silver - C&C Offset Printing Co Ltd - Hong Kong
Bronze - Cross Incorporation - Japan
Bronze - Trinity Publishing Co Ltd - Thailand

5. Catalogues, Booklets

Gold - Cyberprint Company Limited - Thailand
Silver - Urano Co. Ltd. - Japan
Bronze - C&C Offset Printing Co Ltd - Hong Kong
Bronze - Yamada Photo Process Inc - Japan

6. Sheetfed Magazines

Gold - BHS Book Printing Sdn Bhd - Malaysia
Silver - SPH Magazines Pte Ltd - Singapore
Bronze - Amarin Printing & Publishing Public Co Ltd - Thailand
Bronze - Silverpoint Press Pvt Ltd - India

7. Calenders

Gold - Thomson Press India Limited - India
Silver - Pragati Offset Pvt Ltd - India
Bronze - Cyberprint Company Limited - Thailand

8. Limited Editions and Art Reproductions

Gold - C&C Joint Printing Co (HK) Ltd - Hong Kong
Silver - Pragati Offset Pvt Ltd - India
Bronze - Cyberprint Company Limited - Thailand
Bronze - Li Feng Ya Commercial Printing (Shenzhen) Pte Ltd - China

9. Book Printing (Less than 4 colours)

Gold - Everbest Printing Co Ltd - China
Silver - C&C Joint Printing Co (HK) Ltd - Hong Kong
Bronze - Shoeido Printing Co Ltd - Japan

10. Book Printing (4 or more colours)

Gold - C&C Offset Printing Co Ltd - Hong Kong
Silver - Eins Corporation - Japan
Bronze - Sirivatana Interprint Co Ltd - Thailand
Bronze - Everbest Printing Co Ltd - China

11. Packaging offset printing

Gold - K.P.P. Packaging Pte Ltd - Singapore
Gold - Shanghai Jielong Art Printing Co Ltd - China
Silver - Linocraft Printers Sdn Bhd - Malaysia
Bronze - Printing Solution Co Ltd - Thailand

12. Web Offset (Coated Stock 70gsm and up)

Gold - Sirivatana Interprint Co Ltd - Thailand
Silver - Shanghai Li Feng Ya Commercial Printing (Shenzhen) Pte Ltd - China
Bronze - C&C Offset Printing Co Ltd - Hong Kong

13. Web Offset (LWC 65gsm or less)

Gold - Times Printers Pte Ltd - Singapore
Silver - C&C Offset Printing Co Ltd - Hong Kong
Bronze - Ringier Print (HK) Ltd - Hong Kong

14. Digital Printing Electrographic/Laser

Gold - PT Suburmitra Grafistama - Indonesia
Silver - Soontorn Film Co Ltd - Thailand
Bronze - C & C Security Printing - Hong Kong

15. Digital Printing Ink Jet

Gold - Standard (Chan's) Co - Hongkong
Silver - Asahi Advertising Incorporation - Japan
Bronze - Shivang Creations Private Limited - India

16. Embellishment

Gold - Sirivatana Interprint Co Ltd - Thailand
Silver - Leo Paper Products Limited - Hongkong
Bronze - Winson Press Pte Ltd - Singapore

17. Self Promotion

Gold - Pragati Offset Pvt Ltd - India
Silver - Leo Paper Products Limited - Hongkong
Bronze - ICR Co. Ltd (International Creative Room) - Japan

18. Innovation in Printing

Gold - Siam Offset Co Ltd - Thailand

19. Speciality Printing

Gold - C&C Offset Printing Co Ltd - Hong Kong
Silver - Morio Co Ltd - Thailand
Bronze - Prodon Enterprises - India

20. Digital Colour Proofing

Gold - Sirivatana Interprint Co Ltd - Thailand
Silver - Schawk Imaging (Shanghai) Co., Ltd. - China
Bronze - Siam Toppan Packaging Co Ltd - Thailand

- 2008 APA Platinum Sponsor Awards -
I. Best in Sheetfed Offset - Heidelberg Platinum Sponsor Award
Entrant: Cyberprint Company Limited
Country: Thailand
Prepress: Soonthorn Film
Printer: Cyberprint Company Limited
II. Best Application of Creative Colour - GMG Platinum Sponsor Award
Entrant: Shivang Creations Private Limited
Country: India
Prepress: Shivang Creations Private Limited
Printer: Shivang Creations Private Limited
III. Best in Digital Colour Proofing - Epson Platinum Sponsor Award
Entrant: Sirivatana Interprint Co Ltd
Country: Thailand
Prepress: Sirivatana Interprint Co Ltd
Printer: Sirivatana Interprint Co Ltd
IV. Best Use of the Digital Printing Process - Fuji Xerox Platinum Sponsor Award
Entrant: PT Suburmitra GXtra Phoenix Blanket
Country: Indonesia
Prepress: Kisah Personal Publishing
Printer: PT Suburmitra Grafistama
V. Best in Innovative Printing - Kodak Platinum Sponsor Award
Entrant: Siam Offset Co Ltd
Country: Thailand
Prepress: Imagin Graphic Co Ltd
Printer: Siam Offset Co Ltd
VI. Best in Web Offset Printing - UPM Platinum Sponsor Award
Entrant: Sirivatana Interprint Co Ltd
Country: Thailand
Prepress: Sirivatana Interprint Co Ltd
Printer: Sirivatana Interprint Co Ltd
VII. Best in Packaging Printing and Converting Processes - Bottcher Systems Platinum Sponsor Award
Entrant: K.P.P. Packaging Pte Ltd
Country: Singapore
Prepress: K.P.P. Packaging Pte Ltd
Printer: K.P.P. Packaging Pte Ltd
VIII. Best in More than One Production Process - Phoenix Blankets Platinum Sponsor Award
Entrant: Hong Kong Economic Times Limited
Country: Thailand
Printer: Cyberprint Company Limited
IX. Environmental Printer Awards - technotrans Platinum Sponsor Award
Entrant: Thumbprints Company Sdn Bhd
Country: Malaysia

2008 APA Gold Sponsors
Agfa, Asian Printing Equipment Centre, CGS Publishing Technologies, Day International, EskoArtwork, Fuji Film, Goss International, Hewlett Packard, Hostmann - Steinberg, IST METZ GmbH, Komori, Konica Minolta, MAN Ferrostaal, MAN Roland, Oce, Ricoh, Dainippon Screen, Thai Print Awards 2007

2008 APA Patrons
Esko Artworks, Canon, KBA, X-Rite (Official Supplier of 6th APA)

2008 APA Supporting Associations
Print & Media Association Singapore (PMAS), The Thai Printing Association, PEIAC, Indonesia Print Awards (IPA)

2008 APA Title sponsor
Messe Dusseldorf GmbH - event organiser of drupa 2008
About Asian Print Awards (APA)

The Annual Asian Print Awards was founded to recognise outstanding achievement in the print and packaging industries across Asia. With more than half the world's population represented in this fast growing area, communication in the form of printed matter links Asia's diverse cultures. It is imperative that such print achievements do not go unrecognised, especially among the population base that Asia enjoys. The entries are judged on a wholly quality oriented set of criteria to ensure that fair play is enacted at all times. To further enforced neutrality, the companies' names will not be disclosed and entries are judged through a coded entry number. The Independent Judging Panel comprises ten highly qualified personnel from within Asia and around the world. Please visit

About Callahan Publishing Pte Ltd

Callahan Publishing delivers the only regional printing trade publications in Asia. It closes the knowledge gap between the United States and Europe by delivering the latest development in the Asian markets. The magazines by Callahan Publishing are circulated to more than 11,000 companies in 13 countries monthly, including developing markets like China and Indochina. These magazines are a genuine source of market information for printers, manufacturers and suppliers. It also provides launch platforms for new products introduced to Asia. Please visit

Contact: Callahan Publishing Pte Ltd
116 Lavander Street
Unit 03-02
Pek Chuan Building
Singapore 338730
E-mail: paul[at]

Poof! goes the art work as taboos broken

The skies above the Hiroshima Peace Memorial were perfectly clear last Tuesday morning — until a small plane appeared and started writing in smoke a Japanese word that could be translated as "Bang!"

In an article the next day, the local Chugoku Shimbun reported it was flooded with phone calls from citizens who had seen the skywriting, which was obviously designed to remind them of the atomic bombing of the city 63 years ago. Most callers, the newspaper reported, expressed "displeasure."

It turns out that the stunt was the latest project by artist group Chim 596 Pom, whose shock tactics The Japan Times covered this summer. They were filming the word as it floated in the sky above the memorial that they planned to submit for a solo show at Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art next month.

But not any more. The stunt was denounced by Sunao Tsuboi, head of an association of atomic-bomb victims' groups in Hiroshima, and attracted vitriolic criticism on the infamous 2Channel Web site, resulting in Ryuta Ushiro, the normally footloose leader of Chim 596 Pom, offering a public apology. The exhibition was also canceled.

The Japanese word the artists wrote in the sky was "pika" — the kind of term used in manga to describe bright flashes of light. It is also used in popular literature to describe the blinding flash of an atomic-bomb explosion. Ushiro said he had hoped the work would draw attention to perceived ignorance among younger generations about the atomic bombing.

But that wasn't enough to placate the detractors. Tsuboi commented wryly that the artists were entertaining themselves at the expense of others and that they should think more seriously about the issues involved. 2 Channel was awash with complaints, from resentment that Tokyo-artists were exploiting Hiroshima to simple statements of hatred.

With that abuse, the public apology and, above all, the canceled exhibition, Chim 596 Pom, who had enjoyed a meteoric rise of late, have suffered a big setback. And it has been at the hands of one of this country's long-standing, unique and formidable artistic taboos: facetiousness with respect to the atomic bombings.

Journalist Makoto Murata, who has been observing the Japanese art world for 30 years, says "the atomic bombings have always been a sensitive issue," noting that 10 years ago the Chinese artist Cai Guoqiang ran into similar difficulties when he tried to hold one of his famous explosion works in Hiroshima. (His international reputation has now made such projects possible.)

There are other artistic taboos in Japan that outsiders might find puzzling. The Emperor is accorded such protection that he is no doubt the envy of royal families the world over. In 1986, Nobuyuki Oura's "Holding Perspective," a collage series depicting him alongside, for example, tattooed buttocks, caused a stir when it was purchased by the Museum of Modern Art, Toyama. Over 300 rightwingers turned up at the prefectural assembly demanding the works be sold, and they ended up getting their way.

Murata remembered that in the mid 1990s, too, another argument flared when a similarly "disrespectful" painting by Kikuji Yamashita was being considered for a major retrospective of the artist. The show ended up going on without it.

Japan's museums have always been averse to sexually explicit art, too, says Murata. "Museums just wouldn't show such work, exercising jishu kisei — or self-regulation or restraint."
Four years ago, the Yokohama Museum of Art was forced to pull a sexually confrontational exhibit from its walls. The video work, by Tadasu Takamine, showed a disabled person being assisted in masturbation.

Still, Murata says the Takamine case demonstrates that over the last few years Japan's museums have become more willing to confront their nation's taboos.

"In the past, museums just wouldn't have shown such work," he says. These days they might show it, but try to circumvent problems by issuing warnings to visitors about the content.
The Mori Art Museum adopted that approach with shunga — pornographic ukiyo-e (genre painting) woodblock prints — in 2003. The Yokohama Triennale has done the same this year.
While purists might fret that such warnings undermine the very shock that such art is likely trying to harness, it seems there is currently no other option.

There are indications that advance notice might have saved Chim 596 Pom, too. Among the shouted abuse online were comments asking why the artists and the museum hadn't informed the victims' groups in advance. The suggestion is that with fair warning, even their understandably delicate sensibilities might have been able to cope with the affront.

The Healing Art of Reiki

Reiki is a Japanese type of spiritual practice also used for stress reduction and relaxation. It is a technique that also helps promote healing either for self or for other people. It is characterized as a practice of "laying of hands".

The healing powers of the technique are based on the idea that there is an unseen "life force energy" that flows through each person. This life force is said to be the reason why people are alive. When one's life force energy is low, then people are likely to get sick or feel weak. If the life force is high, people fell healthy and happy.

Reiki is also a form of meditation used as a type of therapy for treating physical, emotional, and mental diseases. The name Reiki is taken from two Japanese characters that describe energy itself. The word "rei", which means "unseen" or "spiritual" and "ki" which means "energy" or "life force" is combined to become Reiki. In English, its meaning is usually given as "universal life energy".

It was Mikao Usui who was known to have developed Reiki in 20th century Japan. Story has it that Usui received the ability of healing after going through three weeks of fasting and meditating on top of Mount Kurama. Practitioners of Reiki use a technique similar to that of the laying on of hands.

This action is said to promote the channeling of "healing energy" to another person. The energy flows through the palms and brings along with it healing powers that can be used for self-treatment as well as for treating others.

Reiki is a simple, natural as well as safe method of dispensing spiritual healing and self-improvement. It is said to be effective in providing alternative treatment for virtually every known illness and malady. Not only that, Reiki also helps create an added beneficial effect, that of spiritual healing. This method is also said to work well when combined with other medical or therapeutic techniques to help relieve side effects and promote recovery.

Reiki, although seen as a very powerful healing technique, is an amazingly simple to learn. Reiki and the ability to use it effectively cannot be taught in the usual sense. The skill is said to be "transferred" to the student during a Reiki class. This ability is not merely learned but is passed on by a Reiki master to the student during a gathering known as "attunement". After the skill has been passed on, it allows the student to tap into an unlimited supply of "life force energy" that can then be used to improve one's health and enhance the one's quality of life.

Although the practice of Reiki may be spiritual in nature, it is not considered as a religion. There are no set of beliefs that one should learn about before learning to practice the technique known as Reiki. The practice does not depend on any form of dogma.

It will work whether the student believes it or not. But it is said that the practice of Reiki helps people to keep in touch of their spiritual selves rather than the intellectual concept that it provides.

The practice of Reiki also aims to develop and promote living in harmony with others. Aside from practicing Reiki and its principles, the founder of the Reiki system, Mikao Usui also recommends the practice of simple ethical ideals that can lead to peace and harmony among people. Getting to know what Reiki is may help people not only become a healing channel but also a tool to promote peace among other people.

Visit us at and find out more about the ancient healing art of Reiki, what is a Reiki attunement, how you can obtain a Reiki certification and howReiki crystals can help you.

Japan, China building stronger ties through art

Norio Sugawara / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior Writer

Cultural exchanges in various fields are recently under way between Japan and China, helping the nations deepen their ties through contemporary art.

The exhibition "Avant-Garde China," to be held until Oct. 20 at the National Art Center, Tokyo, in Roppongi, Minato Ward, Tokyo, is designed to look back at the past 20 years of contemporary Chinese art.

With about 50 important works from contemporary artists on display, the exhibition shows the outline of Chinese art in the post-Cultural Revolution era.

In the past, contemporary Chinese art has been shown in one-person exhibitions or along with other Asian art.

Of the artists often known as the best four painters in China, works of three, including Wang Guangyi, are on display.

Also on display are video documentaries, including footage of radical performance pieces by artists such as Ma Liuming, that describe oppression under China's one-party rule.

The exhibition also includes works created by artists who left the country around the time of the Tiananmen Square Incident in 1989, but it focuses on the works created before they left to emphasize works originating in China.

Among the 14 artists--counting a two-person collaboration as one--and two artistic groups, the exhibition includes artists whose works were deemed immoral and were censored by the authorities around the time of the Tiananmen incident.

The most significant point of the exhibition is that the works are ones Japanese experts wanted to present to the public, rather than those the Chinese wanted to present.

According to spokesmen for the National Art Center, Tokyo, and the National Museum of Art, Osaka, which organized the exhibition, the Chinese sounded out the possibility of jointly organizing the exhibition.

Fearful of not being able to select the works it wanted to display, the Japanese side declined the joint approach and collected works directly from artists living in China and from museums and art galleries, both inside and outside China.

Consequently, the Japanese organizers had to spend extra time and money on such tasks as clearing customs to bring the works into Japan. Thanks to these efforts, the organizers were able to hold an exhibition "with contents that met our standards," as Akira Tatehata, director of the National Museum of Art, Osaka, put it.

Sun Yuan and Peng Yu's displayed collaborative work, "Home for the Aged," featured resin images of elderly people in wheelchairs, highlighting the aging society issue.

The duo, who came to Japan while the exhibition was being held, described the environment surrounding the art scene in China, saying: "No country gives its people unlimited freedom. We've presented our works in a closed-door, underground setting, but today we can exhibit our works with more freedom than ever before.

"Whether or not people really understand what we intended to create, we're becoming more popular."

Cultural interactions are deepened when we really understand our partners and the exhibition deserves some credit for the recent increase in art exchanges between Japan and China.
Six years ago, the Tokyo Gallery + BTAP, based in Ginza, Tokyo, opened a gallery in Beijing. In spring this year, two other Japanese galleries opened in Beijing.

One of the two, the Mizuma Art Gallery, based in Meguro Ward, Tokyo, opened a gallery in Caochangdi, Beijing, promoting the works of young Japanese artists such as Makoto Aida and Akira Yamaguchi.

Sueo Mizuma, who owns the gallery, said, "There are a number of foreign galleries, including first-class galleries from New York, that have opened branches in Beijing, and attracted visitors from all over the world.

"From this enthusiasm, I knew by intuition that Beijing would become the center of the art scene in Asia. In the past, Japanese artists headed for Europe and the United States to pursue success, but in the years ahead their success in China will open their way to the world, I think," he said.
The other Japanese gallery in Beijing is Wada Fine Arts, based in Tsukiji, Chuo Ward, Tokyo.

Yumie Wada, the gallery's owner, said, "We started our trading with people who came to our shop in Beijing from Indonesia and Singapore. While our headquarters are in Tokyo, our Beijing branch is serving as a key showcase."

Galleries from other Asian countries have also opened branches in China. A leading gallery in Seoul held an exhibition of contemporary Japanese art at its Beijing branch, selling almost all the works put on sale, this year and last year.

A gallery based in Taipei plans to hold a one-person exhibition of a young Japanese painter at its branch in Shanghai, indicating that Beijing is not the only place where foreign galleries are opening in China.

In China, taxes of more than 30 percent are to be imposed on imported art works and their trading. On the other hand, foreigners can enjoy lower office rent and labor costs to operate their galleries.

When it comes to art auctions in recent years, the rapidly rising prices of Chinese art have sparked interest among collectors in works created in neighboring countries, in particular, those paintings created by young Japanese artists.

Now that the Beijing Olympics are over, and with the Chinese economy losing steam, changes that could impact the art scene there are expected. Yet, there are likely to be between Japan and China a growing number of exchanges of contemporary art that promote democracy and freedom in the years ahead.


Origami is the ancient art of Japanese paper folding, an art form spanning over 1,000 years.
A folk art, a creative art, a mathematical puzzle, a game-- all of these terms describe origami. Some people are attracted to origami for its simplicity, while others marvel at the minds of people who can devise the patterns for such ingenious creations. Some look to origami as a way to entertain, while others find it has a calming, relaxing effect.

Origami is unique among paper crafts in that it requires no materials other than the paper itself. Cutting, gluing, or drawing on the paper is avoided, using only paper folding to create the desired result. No special skills or artistic talent are needed for origami, although a good amount of patience and perseverance are very helpful. Models can be folded by following instructions exactly. Experimenting with different folds may lead to a totally new, original paper-fold.

The word "origami" comes from the Japanese language. "Ori" means folded and "kami" means paper. Paper-folding as a traditional folding art pervaded the Japanese culture more strongly than any other. But traditional paper-folding did not exist in Japan alone.

Papermaking was developed in China two thousand years ago but the Chinese did not readily share this knowledge. It eventually traveled to Korea and then Japan by the seventh century. This "trade secret" then spread in the direction of the Arab world, reaching Spain by the twelfth century.

Origami was first practiced in the Japanese imperial Court, where it was considered an amusing and elegant way of passing the time. Over the centuries the skill has been passed down to ordinary people, who took it up with enthusiasm and made it into the folk art that it is today. Today in Japan the art of paper-folding is as widely practiced by children, parents and grandparents as it was centuries ago. And for a number of years now origami has been immensely popular here in the western world.

During this journey, did simple paper-folding spread with the knowledge of papermaking? Or did each country independently discover that paper could not only be written and drawn on, but manipulated into forms? Despite the fact that some traditional models from different paper-folding traditions are similar, most people believe that each tradition developed its own paper-folding ideas.

Creative Paper-folding:

Today, origami is an international creative pastime. Building upon the basics of the traditional designs, many folders follow the creative path of leaders such as Master Akira Yoshizawa and philosopher Miguel de Unanmuno, devising their own new designs. The repertoire of a couple hundred traditional folds in the beginning of the twentieth century has grown to over tens of thousands now with endless number yet to be discovered.

Originally considered a child's activity origami now attracts the interest of mathematicians, engineers, scientists, computer programmers, college professors and professional artists. It is an art form than can be practiced by preschoolers to senior citizens, those who are hospitalized, handicapped, or blind, those who wish to share a craft with a group of friends, and those who wish to explore the infinite possibilities of paper-folding.

This excerpt is taken from The Art of Origami by Gay Merrill Gross.

Japanese Prints Tell the Story of Modern Japan in Exhibition at the Ringling Museum

SARASOTA.- Selected works from the Ringling Museum’s important collection of Japanese shin hanga and sosaku hanga woodblock prints, dating from the first half of the 20th century, are presented in Tradition and Transformation: Modern Masters of the Japanese Print, through January 4, 2009 in the Ulla R. and Arthur F. Searing Wing.

“We are committed to building awareness of Asian art at the Museum,” said Dr. John Wetenhall Executive Director of the Ringling Museum. “It is our hope that the Ringling Museum of Art will be recognized not only for its strength in Baroque and Renaissance art, but also for our breadth and quality of Asian art.”

Woodblock printing is an ancient art of Japan, dating back to the Nara period (710-784). Two woodblock print movements, shin hanga and sosaku hanga, emerged during the twentieth century, each reflecting the unique range of tastes, talents and interests of Japan’s modern culture, yet echoing the traditions of their ancestors.

Artists of the shin hanga or “new prints” movement present the modern beauty of Japan and Japanese culture using the traditional collaborative methods of their ancestors. In efforts to popularize their work, these artists incorporated Western aesthetic elements into their prints.

These elements included a greater sense of perspective, color gradation and the inclusion of an expanded spectrum of subject matter indicative of modern life such as utility poles and industrial symbols.

Artists of the sosaku hanga or “creative prints” movement are less traditional than the shin hanga artists. An earthquake in 1923 destroyed Tokyo and became the catalyst for the sosaka hanga movement. Mimicking the city’s resurrection through use of concrete and steel versus traditional wooden structures, artists of the sosaku hanga movement rebuilt woodblock printing on modern terms. Using the same medium, the artists became more individualistic in their methods as well as in their subject matter, content and aesthetic qualities and representation.

Tradition and Transformation features 40 examples of shin hanga and sosaku hanga from the Ringling’s permanent collection and includes such noteworthy artists such as Kiyoshi Saito and Koshiro Onchi.

Renowned Japanese artist to teach two courses at DSU this fall

Dickinson State University will offer two unique art courses this fall thanks to the generosity of artist Eitaro Sato, who has volunteered to serve as a visiting professor of art. Sato also will supply materials for the students in the calligraphy course, including ink, brushes and rice paper.
Sato is a Japanese artist who specializes in sculpture and calligraphy. He has won numerous prizes in both venues and is highly respected in Japan as a nationally recognized sculptor of bronze. He also is the executive director of Satoe Academy, the Japanese government-authorized non-profit school corporation that administers and manages one law school, one university, two colleges, four high schools, two junior high schools and one elementary school. All of Sato’s schools are located in or near Saitama, Japan, which is near Tokyo.

“The university is fortunate to have an artist of Mr. Sato’s caliber volunteer to teach our students,” said Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Rich Brauhn. “We appreciate his willingness to share his time and talent and look forward to his arrival on campus this fall.”

Sato will teach a calligraphy course and a clay sculpture course from Sept. 1-Oct. 31. The 1-credit courses will meet one day a week and are open to enrolled DSU students and to the general public as audit courses. The calligraphy course will be held at Hawks Point and the clay sculpture course will be held in the Art Building on South Campus. Sato will be accompanied at DSU by Professor Michio Matsui, who will act as interpreter. Matsui is a faculty member in the School of Tourism at Kobe Shukugawa Gakuin University, Kobe, Hyogo, Japan.

Matsui describes Sato, who is 81 years old, as “very disciplined,” stating that he rises each day at 4 a.m. to work on his art before going to his office to oversee his 11 schools.

Sato, Matsui and Junko Tanaka, principal at Sakae Higashi Junior-Senior High School, Saitama, Japan, visited DSU last week to explore the campus and finalize arrangements for Sato’s fall courses. During their visit, Sato gave calligraphy demonstrations to a number of people on campus. To see a photo of Sato at work, please visit

Those interested in enrolling in one or both of Sato’s courses can contact the Office of Academic Records at 701-483-2331 for more information. Those wishing to audit a course will be required to pay a small fee. Some experience in sculpture is recommended for the clay sculpture course. No experience is necessary to enroll in the calligraphy course. Class sizes are limited to 15-20 students per course.

Call: Japan Media Arts Festival 08

The Japan Media Art Festival is now accepting submissions on different categories. It’s the biggest in Japan about media art and definitely worth a try - entries must have been produced or released between October 6th, 2007 and September 26th, 2008, Deadline is September 26th.

Japanese Buddhist Art

The Planets and the Northern Constellation
Japanese, Kamakura period, 13th century
Panel; ink, color, and gold on silk

See remarkable holdings include statues, paintings, and ritual objects. Notable are the wooden image of Miroku, the Bodhisattva of the Future, by the late twelfth-century master sculptor Kaikei, the eighth-century icon of the Historical Buddha Preaching on Vulture Peak, and the exquisite twelfth-century paintings of Batô Kannon, the Horse-headed Bodhisattva of Compassion, and Bishamonten, Guardian of the North.

All pictures are zoomable for closer examination, perhaps works in IE only.
Website Collection Page: Japanese Buddhist Art by Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.Or choose The Interactive Tour.

White-robed Bodhisattva of Compassion
Japanese, Muromachi period, first half of the 16th century
Hanging scroll; ink, color, and gold on silk

Through the Looking Glass

By LiAnn Ishizuka

In an age flooded with online self-portraits, a UCLA J-Wave lecture examines an often overlooked Japanese art phenomenon from the 90s: Girl Photography.

Walk into any SoCal Borders or Barnes & Noble and you'll notice an aisle (or even an entire corner) overflowing with books in Hiragana/Katagana markings with bubbly animations staring you down as you pass. Anime, which dates nearly two decades, has journeyed over five thousand miles west, and Southern California is what Adrian Favell, professor of Sociology at UCLA, calls "a gateway to Japanese contemporary creative industries" which feeds our Western obsession of everything J-popular. In a three day program of events at UCLA in March of 2008, "J-Wave USA" shared, absorbed, consumed, and discussed the omnipresent wave that is Japanese contemporary culture. But, they also made sure not to forget the lesser known Japanese phenomena that might not have made it across Pacific, or at least not with such a loud splash. Flash back to the 90s and Japan's art scene. Abroad, everyone recognized the iconic Superflat style of Takashi Murakami and the subtlety of Yoshitomo Nara, but something got overlooked. With just a camera in their hands, Mika Ninagawa and Mikiko Hara spurred the boom of "Girl Photography," art made by and for young women inverting the concept of purikura low-art and infusing in it a high-art sensibility. At the J-Wave conference, Ninagawa and Hara's works were presented in a lecture entitled "Sweet and Bitter: Contemporary 'Girl Photography' from Japan," given by Hiromi Nakamura, curator at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography.

Nakamura begins by speaking about the implications and complexities of mirrors: "With a mirror to provide accurate reflections both of the self and the essential nature of things, one can always set off on a journey to any place and at any time." The "Girl Photography" of Ninagawa and Hara are largely self-portraits, and Nakamura suggests the notion that the camera can't really lie. It is a reflection of the self and the "essential nature of things." Translated from the original kanji characters, photography literally means "copies truth."

The trend of girl photographers in Japan is something that found a niche in the 90s, because the work was seen as original and unique, disregarding one's educational and professional background. Artists Mika Ninagawa and Mikiko Hara do not have technical training in photography, and Nakamura suggests that their success reflected the skepticism of that time. Audiences were looking for fresh and surprising narratives. The feminized "Girl Photography" welcomed the rise of "kogyaru power" -- the idea that high school students are the creators of their own fashion trends. These schoolgirls made statements by accessorizing their school outfits with baggy loose socks and carrying high-tech gadgets. Fast forward to the present, and the 'girl photography' of years past has disappeared, just another fad in the fast-changing Japanese art scene. For the most part, the media openly absorbed their photographic travelogues as quickly as they forgot about them. However, Mika Ninagawa and Mikiko Hara, now mothers, transcend these trivialities. Mina Ninagawa recently made her directorial debut with Sakuran, the live-action film adaptation of Moyoco Anno's manga series. Mikiko Hara's collection of works, Hysteric Thirteen of Dashwood Book's Hysteric Glamour series, was published in 2005.

In the end, what made this type of art unique and so easily consumed was the sweetness from the era of Hello Kitty lovers and 'kogyaru' pop culture combined with bitterness of youth, of being a girl. This, Nakamura says in her lecture, "appeals to something else, to the depths of humanness and to a more mature sensibility."

Click here for Mika Ninagawa's official website, and click here to see a sampling of Mikiko Hara's work over the years.

Simple art of serenity

"DESIGN the pond with respect to its position in the land, follow its request; when you encounter a potential site, consider its atmosphere; think of the mountains and waters of living nature and reflect constantly upon such settings."

So wrote Tachibana no Toshitsuna towards the end of the 11th century, in Sakuteiki, perhaps the world's earliest gardening manual.
Inspired by themes of Buddhism, which arrived in Japan from China in the 5th century, Japanese gardens honour the balance between nature and humanity. The principals of Japanese garden design derive from an observation of nature: gardens may be a symbolic re-creation of a landscape through the placement of just a fewrocks or may represent, in miniature, a complete landscape.

Throughout his life Shiro Nakane, one of Japan's foremost landscapers, has been acutely aware of the country's most revered and respected gardens. The son of Kinsaku Nakane, who restored many of the country's greatest gardens after the deprivations of World War II, Nakane grew up in the ancient Japanese capital of Kyoto, amid the post-war restoration of the city's treasured temples, shrines and gardens.

His personal library is the repository of the pictorial records of the rebuilding of these great gardens, sites now well known to garden lovers across the world: the Katsura and Shugakuin imperial gardens, the gold and silver pavilions and the revered moss garden, precious sites that hadbeen neglected during the war, when survival took precedence.

The different elements that contribute to the success of the Japanese garden - often painted with such a light hand that they are difficult to articulate - are influenced by the principals set out in Sakuteiki. Scale is important in the creation of a restful garden, and a balance of one-third active - that is, planted - space and two-thirds passive is considered optimum to engender a sense of calm. The relationship of a garden to its environment - the borrowed scenery, or shakkei, perhaps distant mountains, or simply a tree in a neighbour's garden - is crucial.
Shiro Nakane adds three essential elements: the stone lantern, the water basin and the pine tree. "The pine tree has been a feature since the 11thcentury, but the water basin and stone lantern were used only from the 16th century," he says.

The plant list employed in Japanese gardens is not extensive: judicious use of a restricted palette contributes to the peaceful atmosphere so central to them; the colour green is a key factor.
Contrary to popular belief, Nakane says, flowers are also important in Japanese gardens as they reflect the changing seasons. Early spring finds hillsides covered in cherry blossom - revered as central to ideas of elegance, delicacy and the melancholy of fleeting beauty - and azaleas about to bloom in hues of cerise, purple and pink.

Two species of pine are most often used and signify endurance: the Japanese black pine (Pinus thunbergia), and the red pine (Pinus densiflora), which may be shaped through the decades to create layers of elegant, horizontal limbs that drape long needles.

The outstretched arms of a Japanese weeping maple, with its fine, filigreed leaves, might be reflected in still water and Osmanthus fragrans, native to Japan, is greatly prized for its scent, along with gardenias and daphne. Pieris japonica is revered, flowering in spring with cascades of white bells, often arresting against a carpet of emerald green moss.
Winding paths, set with stepping stones placed to temper the pace of a journey, are softened with kidney weed, Dichondra micrantha. Paths that flank a lake may be edged with small-leaved box, with miniature bamboo or mondo grass.

Japanese gardens fall into different categories, although several styles may be embodied in a single garden. Dry gardens, or dry landscapes - karesansui - are derived from a Zen Buddhist focus on meditation, the path to self-awareness. Temple gardens were intended to be more striking, many built by shoguns as a display of wealth and power.
Stroll gardens, such as Shugakuin, were often created by the ruling elite as personal pleasure grounds, while tea gardens were incorporated into the grounds of temples and embodied ideals ofdiscipline.

Nakane and his staff are engaged in the continual monitoring of Kyoto's most important gardens: at Shugakuin, his firm has completed a full inventory of plants. "We even counted the pebbles," he recalls. "All 153,000."

Along with a minimalist respect that eschews waste, Nakane explains that history and time are crucial to the unique nature of the Japanese garden. "Our national aesthetic says that Japan should stay until everything is covered in moss," he explains. "Long tradition is important. We do not change for change's sake.",25197,23932256-13223,00.html

A dream realized

At Zbraslav Chateau, a visionary Asian art exhibit

By Tony Ozuna
For The Prague Post
June 18th, 2008 issue

Part two of the monumental exhibition “Figural Painting of East Asia” at Zbraslav Chateau has been extended for two weeks, until June 22. In its entirety, the exhibit spans centuries of Chinese and Japanese figural painting, from the beginning of the first millennium to the 20th century.

The exhibition is a tribute to Lubor Hájek (1921–2000), the founder and director (from 1952 to 1986) of the National Gallery’s Oriental Art Collection, who organized the same show at Brno’s Dům umění (House of Art) in 1980.

Hájek had intended the exhibition to be accompanied by an extensive catalog that he spent years preparing, writing the texts and doing the layout for reproductions of 180 works chosen mainly from the National Gallery’s special collection of Asian art (most of which are stored in a depository due to their fragility). Unfortunately, there weren’t enough funds to realize this integral complement to the exhibition.

Now, eight years after Hájek’s death and 28 years since the original show, his dream has been realized. The current director and curator of the Collection of Asian Art, Helena Honcoopová, has reconstructed the exhibition and finally had Hájek’s catalog published, with financial help from the Japan Foundation and the Tiang Ting-Kuo Foundation of Taiwan. Though the text is only in Czech, it contains some fine-quality reproductions.

Lubor Hájek was a Czech pioneer in the history and philosophy of Asian art. A student of Indology and comparative religion at Charles University after World War II, he taught himself the history of Asian art, beginning with his tenure as an editor for the Czech magazine New Orient. In 1951, he was authorized by the National Gallery to establish a new state collection of Oriental Art, and practically single-handedly built a very basic collection into the current holdings of some 12,000 pieces, particularly strong in the ancient art of China.

Hájek remains unique, without peers in his time or since. He was the last of the Czech Orientalists, meaning he had a broad knowledge of Asian art and history from various regions and periods, rather than being a specialist, like the vast majority of today’s scholars. This was to his advantage, giving him the necessary basis for objective comparisons.

Moreover, Hájek was a philosopher whose elegant essays compared the development of Asian art with developments in European art. Unfortunately, most of his publications were written for export and not made available locally, including the original text for the catalog. Thus, his scholarly contributions were overlooked in his own country.

There are visual delights in every section of this exhibition, which in its entirety was originally divided into nine sections (five devoted to Chinese art and four to Japanese works). For instance, from the section “Classical Tradition of Figural Painting,” there is a fine painting of Chinese polo players on brown silk, originally created by Zhao Mengfu (1254–1322) but presented here in a copy from the 17th–18th century. And Magnificent Horses (done in ink and pigment) from around 1600 is a masterpiece.

There are also grand Chinese portraits from the 1500–1800s done in elegant detail and color. These were commonly made by having family members describe the features of deceased ministers to professional portraitists, like criminal investigative sketches are done today.
Most of the display on the second floor of the exhibit is devoted to Japanese art, specifically the figurative tradition of Yamato-e (classical Japanese pictures), with folding screen or panel paintings of courtesan beauties, as well as a section of an erotic scroll (shunga) from around 1800 showing three positions from the Manual of Love-Making.

In the section “Written Idea and Ink Play” in the main salon, there are some remarkable works in which Chinese masters from the 17th and 18th centuries combine thin brush work (for fine or playful detail) with rougher or more flowing sections of finger painting.

Even if you missed the first part of this exhibition, the second half is worth seeing, filled with the National Gallery’s usually hidden treasures of East Asian figural painting, displayed in the unique arrangement of sections determined by Hájek. It is smartly incorporated within the context of the permanent installation of Asian art (one of the largest such displays in Europe) and the special two-year exhibit “The Art of Korea,” on loan from the National Museum of Korea until 2009.

Until June 29, you can also see “Art for Daily Life,” a special traveling show of handmade contemporary Japanese crafts from the Japan Foundation’s collection, including regionally unique types of ceramics, metalwork, lacquerware, wood and bamboo crafts, paper and more.
The National Gallery’s vast collection of Asian art will remain at Zbraslav Chateau for only another year, after which it will be moved from the Baroque chateau — a former monastery designed by Santini — to a much smaller exhibition space in Kinský palác on Old Town Square (600 square meters compared with the current 2,400 square meters), as the chateau will revert to private ownership. Try to visit this remarkable oasis of Asian art, just 15 minutes by bus from Smíchov, while it’s still possible.

Mount Fuji Ukiyo-E

Mt. Fuji off Kanagawa

Hokusai (1760-1849) created "Mt. Fuji Off Kanagawa" (popularly known in the West as "The Wave") as part of his subscription series, "Thirty-Six Views of Mt. Fuji," completed between 1826 and 1833. This is one of the best-known Japanese woodblock prints, and with others of this period inspired the entire French Impressionist school. James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834-1903, of "Whistler's Mother" fame) was strongly influenced by the strong lines and bright colors of Japanese prints.

You can buy a poster of this beautiful woodblock print on Amazon:

Mount Fuji in Clear Weather. This is often also known as "Red Fuji".

Scenic Mount Fuji


Balinese arts troupe to visit Japan

Denpasar, Bali (ANTARA News) - A 13-member Balinese arts troupe is slated to leave for Japan on Sept 3 for a three-week long mission.

"They will conduct a series of art performances in a number of Japanese cities from Sept 3 to 20," I Nyoman Budi Artha, chief of the Pusaka Sakti Batuan dance gallery in Gianyar, said on Monday.

A travel agent which had so far dealt with Japanese tourists to Bali would sponsor the mission, he said.

"The Balinese arts troupe`s mission is aimed at entertaining the Japanese people as well as at promoting Bali`s tourism in Japan," he said.

The arts troupe was the winner of the third prize of the Batuan Art Festival (BAF) held at Batuan village in Gianyar district, Bali, from May 29 to June 2, he said.

Videogame guru Miyamoto - still ahead of the curve

Father of Donkey Kong, Mario, Zelda and, most recently, the Wii, Nintendo's Miyamoto still approaches his work like a humble craftsman

It's OK to liken Shigeru Miyamoto to Walt Disney.

When Disney died in 1966, Miyamoto was a 14-year-old schoolteacher's son living near Kyoto, Japan's ancient capital. An aspiring cartoonist, he adored the classic Disney characters. When he wasn't drawing, he made his own toys, carving wooden puppets with his grandfathers' tools or devising a car race from a spare motor, string and tin cans.

Even as he has become the world's most famous and influential video-game designer - the father of Donkey Kong, Mario, Zelda and, most recently, the Wii - Miyamoto still approaches his work like a humble craftsman, not as the celebrity he is to gamers around the world.

Perched on the end of a chair in a hotel suite a few dozen stories above Midtown Manhattan, the preternaturally cherubic 55-year-old Miyamoto radiated the contentment of someone who has always wanted to make fun. And he has. As the creative mastermind at Nintendo for almost three decades, Miyamoto has unleashed mass entertainment with a global breadth, cultural endurance and financial success unsurpassed since Disney's fabled career.

In the West, chances are that Miyamoto would have started his own company a long time ago. He could have made billions and established himself as a staple of entertainment celebrity. Instead, despite being royalty at Nintendo and a cult figure, he almost comes across as just another salaryman (though a particularly creative and happy one) with a wife and two school-age children at home near Kyoto. He is not tabloid fodder, and he seems to maintain a relatively nondescript lifestyle.

Mario, the mustached Italian plumber he created almost 30 years ago, has become by some measures the planet's most recognized fictional character, rivaled only by Mickey Mouse. As the creator of the Donkey Kong, Mario and Zelda series (which have collectively sold more than 350 million copies) and the person who ultimately oversees every Nintendo game, Miyamoto may be personally responsible for the consumption of more billions of hours of human time than anyone around. In the Time 100 online poll conducted this spring, Miyamoto was voted the most influential person in the world.

But it isn't just traditional gamers who are flocking to Miyamoto's latest creation, the Wii. Eighteen months ago, just when video games were in danger of disappearing into the niche world of fanatics, Miyamoto and Satoru Iwata, Nintendo's chief executive, practically reinvented the industry. Their idea was revolutionary in its simplicity: rather than create a new generation of games that would titillate hard-core players, they developed the Wii as an easy-to-use, inexpensive diversion for families (with a particular appeal to women, an audience generally immune to the pull of traditional video games). So far the Wii has sold more than 25 million units, besting the competition from Sony and Microsoft.

In an effort to build on this success, Nintendo released its Wii Fit system in North America May 19. It is a device that hopes to make doing yoga in front of a television screen almost as much fun as driving, throwing, jumping or shooting in a traditional game.

In a global media culture dominated by American faces, tastes and brands, video games are Japan's most successful cultural export. And on the strength of the Wii and the DS hand-held game system, Nintendo has become one of the most valuable companies in Japan. With a net worth of around $8 billion, Nintendo's former chairman, Hiroshi Yamauchi, is now the richest man in Japan, according to Forbes magazine. (Nintendo does not disclose Miyamoto's compensation, but it appears that he has not joined the ranks of the superrich.)

"Without Miyamoto, Nintendo would be back making playing cards," said Andy McNamara, editor in chief of Game Informer, the No. 1 game magazine, referring to Nintendo's original business in 1889. "He probably inspires 99 percent of the developers out there today. You can even say there wouldn't be video games today if it wasn't for Miyamoto and Nintendo. He's the granddad of all game developers, but the funny thing is that for all of his legacy, for all of the mainstay iconic characters he's designed and created, he is still pushing the limits with things like Wii Fit."

Started as a staff artist

Miyamoto graduated from the Kanazawa College of Art in 1975 and joined Nintendo two years later as a staff artist. The original Donkey Kong was a prime force in gaming's early surge of popularity, along with arcade classics like Space Invaders, Asteroids and Pac-Man.

He rose quickly at the company, and his name has been synonymous with Nintendo since the 1980s, when the original "Mario Bros." games helped save the industry after the collapse of Atari, maker of the first broadly popular home console. When Atari failed amid a slew of unpopular games, Nintendo rekindled faith in home gaming systems; the Nintendo Entertainment System, released in the West in 1985, became the best-selling console of its era.

Since then Miyamoto has been directly involved in the production of at least 70 games, including recent hits like Mario Kart Wii, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Super Mario Galaxy and Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Miyamoto supervises about 400 people, including contractors, almost entirely in Japan. The popular new installments in classic game franchises have maintained his credibility among core gamers even as he has reached out to new audiences with mass-market products like the Wii.

Through all his games, his designs are marked by an accumulation of care and detail. There is nothing objective about why a goofy guy in blue overalls like Mario should appeal to so many, just as there is nothing objective in how Disney could have built a company on talking animals. Rather, the reason I stood in line at a pizzeria more than 20 years ago to play Super Mario Bros., the reason Miyamoto is almost a living god in the game world, is that his games have some ineffable lure that inspires you to drop just one more quarter (or, these days, to stay on the couch just one more hour).

Just as a film is not measured by the quality of its special effects, a game is not measured merely by its graphics. This concept is lost on many designers, but not on Miyamoto. And just as a film buff might prefer to watch an old black-and-white movie instead of, say, "Iron Man," even Miyamoto's earliest games hold up as worthy diversions. (The story of two men battling for the world record in Donkey Kong was made into a film, "The King of Kong," last year.)

"There are very few people in the video game industry who have managed to succeed time after time at a world-class level, and Miyamoto-san is one of them," Graham Hopper, a Disney veteran and executive vice president and general manager of Disney Interactive Studios, said in a telephone interview. "The level of creative success that he has achieved over a sustained period is probably unparalleled."

Given that its roster of characters includes not only Mario and Donkey Kong but also Princess Peach, Zelda, Bowser and Link, it's easy to imagine that Miyamoto designs his games around those characters.

The truth is exactly the opposite. According to Miyamoto, gameplay systems and mechanics have always come first, while the characters are created and deployed in the service of the overall design. That means a focus on the seemingly prosaic basic elements of game design: movement, setting, goals to accomplish and obstacles to overcome.

"I feel that people like Mario and people like Link and the other characters we've created not for the characters themselves, but because the games they appear in are fun," he said. "And because people enjoy playing those games first, they come to love the characters as well."

Moving into realism

Miyamoto's work is evolving from a reliance on invented characters and fanciful, outlandish settings like Mario's Mushroom Kingdom or Zelda's mythical Hyrule. With games like Nintendogs (inspired by his pet Shetland sheepdog), Wii Sports, Wii Fit and coming next, Wii Music, Miyamoto is gravitating toward everyday hobbies: pets, bowling, yoga, Hula-Hoop, music. It is as if an artist who had mastered the abstract had finally moved into realism.

It has proved the perfect strategy as Nintendo reaches out to nongamers who may not care to understand why this frantic plumber keeps jumping on top of turtles, or why that gallant fellow in green has to keep rescuing the same princess over and over. At this moment, when consumers crave the ability to shape and become a part of their entertainment, whether through MySpace or "American Idol," the latest star in Nintendo's stable of characters is you - or rather Mii, the whimsical avatar Wii users create of themselves.

With a track record like his, it would be foolish to bet against him. When it comes to the Walt Disney of the digital generation, no one knows fun better.

10 Japanese Customs you Must Know Before a Trip to Japan

If you know these key Japanese customs, you’ll get closer to the locals and see beneath the surface of Japan.
1. Addressing Someone, Respect

Bowing is nothing less than an art form in Japan, respect pounded into children’s heads from the moment they enter school. For tourists, a simple inclination of the head or an attempt at a bow at the waist will usually suffice.

The duration and inclination of the bow is proportionate to the elevation of the person you’re addressing.
For example, a friend might get a lightning-fast 30-degree bow; an office superior might get a slow, extended, 70-degree bow. It’s all about position and circumstance.

In addition to bowing, addressing someone properly is key. Just as a “Dr. Smith” might feel a little insulted if you were to refer to him as “Smith”, so would a Japanese if you do not attach the suffix “san” to their last name, or “sama” if you are trying to be particularly respectful.

Usually children are content with just their first names, but you can add the suffix “chan” for girls and “kun” for boys if you like.

2. Table Manners

Some simple bullet points here:
- If you’re with a dinner party and receive drinks, wait before raising the glass to your lips. Everyone will be served, and someone will take the lead, make a speech, raise his drink, and yell “kampai!” (cheers).

- You will receive a small wet cloth at most Japanese restaurants. Use this to wash your hands before eating, then carefully fold it and set it aside on the table. Do not use it as a napkin, or to touch any part of your face.

- Slurping noodles or making loud noises while eating is OK! In fact, slurping hot food like ramen is polite, to show you are enjoying it.

- You may raise bowls to your mouth to make it easier to eat with chopsticks, especially bowls of rice.

- Just before digging in, whether it be a seven-course dinner or a sample at a supermarket, it’s polite to say “itadakimasu” (I will receive).

3. No Tipping

There is no tipping in any situation in Japan – cabs, restaurants, personal care. To tip someone is actually a little insulting; the services you’ve asked for are covered by the price given, so why pay more?

If you are in a large area like Tokyo and can’t speak any Japanese, a waiter or waitress might take the extra money you happen to leave rather than force themselves to deal with the awkward situation of explaining the concept of no tipping in broken English.

Just remind yourself: a price is a price.

4. Chopsticks

Depending on the restaurant you decide upon for that evening, you may be required to use chopsticks.

If for some reason you aren’t too adept with chopsticks, try to learn before passing through immigration. It’s really not that hard.

One false assumption among many Japanese that’s slowly being dispelled by time is the “uniqueness” of Japan. Japan is an island nation; Japan is the only country that has four seasons; foreigners can’t understand Japan; only Japanese can use chopsticks properly.

I cannot count the number of times I’ve been told I use Japanese chopsticks with skill and grace, despite the fact I’ve seen three-year-olds managing just as well.

If you’re dining with a Japanese, don’t be surprised if you receive a look of amazement at your ability to eat like a Japanese.

5. Thresholds

Take off your shoes at the entrance to all homes, and most businesses and hotels. Usually a rack will be provided to store your shoes, and pair of guest slippers will be sitting nearby; many Japanese bring a pair of indoor slippers just in case, though.

Never wear slippers when you need to step onto a tatami mat (used in most Japanese homes and hotels; the standard unit of measurement for area even today), and be careful to remove the toilet slippers waiting for you in the bathroom.

It is extremely bad form, for example, to reenter the main room of a house wearing slippers that have been running across dirty linoleum.

6. Masks

SARS is long gone, though I did happen to see a “SARS Preparation Kit” during my brief stay in a Japanese hospital.

Nevertheless, sterilized masks, like the ones you’d see in the emergency room, are commonly used by salarymen, office ladies, and municipal workers to protect other people from their germs.

Rather sensible when you think about it, as masks do not protect the wearer so much as the ones around him. The reason could be anything from a slight cold to simply being worried about exposing other people; don’t let it concern you on your Japanese vacation.

7. Conformity

When groups of high school students in Japan were asked to identify the dangers facing children today, the majority agreed on the number one threat: individualism.

Japanese society is focused on the group. Western cultures are focused on the individual.
Does this mean that the Japanese are nothing more that worker bees in a vast hive of steel and concrete? Certainly not, but their presentation of such individual qualities are carefully calculated and given in doses.

Drawing attention to yourself as an individual is a huge no-no: don’t blow your nose in public, try to avoid eating while on the go, and don’t speak on your cell phone in crowded public areas like trains or buses.

The main problem with this is that foreigners simply can’t avoid standing out; we stick out like sore thumbs no matter how long we’ve been here, or how much we know about Japanese culture and society.

As a result, being in Japan gives foreigners the status of D-level celebrities: you’ll get glances, shouts for attention, calls to have pictures taken with people, requests for autographs (happened once to me on a southern island), and overall just more awareness of being a “stake that sticks out”.

8. Bathing

Public bathhouses are alive and well in Japan.
Sento, or neighborhood bathhouses, can be found from the largest area in Shinjuku to a small town on the island of Shikoku.

Onsen, or hot springs, are very popular as weekend excursion resorts.

Unlike in western cultures, the Japanese bath is used after you have washed and rinsed, and feel like soaking in extra-hot water for 10, 20, 30 minutes. It’s an acquired taste to be sure, but can be very relaxing.

If you happen to be invited into a Japanese household, you will be given the honor of using the bath first, usually before dinner. Be extra careful so as to not dirty the water in any way; the sanctity of the ofuro (bath) is of utmost importance.

Take the time to visit a sento if you have the opportunity. These are places without barriers, without regard to skin color, age, or language… well, they are separated by sex with the exception of some mixed-bathing areas.

Lying in the hot water and slowly listening to my heart beat slow down is a time when I feel most attuned to Japanese culture.

9. Speaking English

Japanese will generally assume you are a native English speaker until you prove otherwise.

Even during a short visit, you’ll see:
-A group of schoolchildren in neatly pressed Prussian uniforms walking across the intersection, shouting “Hello! Hello! Herro!” as they assess your foreign features

-A random person just walking up to you and asking “Where are you from?”
Friendly? Certainly. But I can see how constant celebrity status might get confusing or frustrating for travelers who don’t speak English.

Although you may speak some or fluent Japanese, the default language of choice is English.

Many Japanese will insist on using their own English language ability, however limited, to converse with foreigners, in spite of the fact that the person on the opposing end may have more knowledge of the local tongue.

10. Safety

Every Japanese person I have met warns me to be safe in my travels, to take care of my belongings. Every foreigner tells me not to worry, nothing can go wrong, nothing will be stolen.

This may be based on individual experience, but there are other issues:

- The fear of crime in Japan is high, especially among Japanese citizens.

- Murders happen. I repeat, murders happen. People are attacked, robbed, assaulted, raped, beaten, and swindled

However, Japan’s low crime rate is evident when you see businessmen who have missed the last train sleeping outside on a park bench, or a group of 5-year-old boys walking by themselves for over a kilometer to make the starting bell at school.

Celebrating the kimono

Special to the Times

The kimono, a fashion classic with a fascinating history, is very much alive.
Right now, fashion-minded shoppers can find "kimono-sleeved" blouses on sale, a hot spring item, while lingerie designers consider the short, kimono-style wrap robe a staple of intimate apparel.

But an up-close look at the beauty of the traditional floor-length kimono, which emerged in Japan in the eighth century as both an all-purpose everyday garment and a robe for special occasions, is a lot harder to come by.

Through July 20, 85 original and breath-taking kimono (the plural is the same as the singular) are on display, in all their brilliance of color and riotous range of pattern, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art's new Perelman Building. The exhibit, "Fashioning Kimono: Art Deco and Modernism in Japan," has been brought to U.S. shores for the first time by Swiss collector Jeffrey Montgomery. It dates from the early to mid-20th century, when the kimono was at its height of its creative design, its patterns heavily influenced by Europe's budding Art Deco and Art Nouveau movements.

Included are a wide range of artfully woven and hand-painted silks: from watercolor-like Japanese pastoral scenes, which typically include cranes and bamboo, to oversize florals, abstract patterns and bold geometrics, which jump out at you like 1960s Op Art.

The unusual color combinations and freedom of design are stunning. One typically fanciful stylized floral pattern pits orange and pink rose-like flowers, set inside gold six-pointed stars, against a background of magenta. A 1910 stencil-printed silk weave boasts enormous white and yellow camellias, with long, languorous green or blue leaves, all set against a brilliant red.
A 1930s example looks like intertwined strands of DNA: mingled vertical lines of yellow, red and white, in bold contrast to a black background. The pattern seems totally contemporary, but was actually influenced by European Cubist art of the time.

As the exhibit's title indicates, the explosion of interest in what European artists and designers in the early to mid-20th century called "Orientalism" was matched by the strong influence of European Art Deco and Modernism on Japanese kimono patterns.

Also not to be missed are nine rare men's kimono, with a whole different dynamic. These are each of solemn black silk -- on the outside. But they are propped open to reveal linings covered with calligraphy or gorgeously hand-illustrated scenes: battlefield encounters, processions of feudal lords, boats passing under Mount Fuji.

The idea, explains Kristina Hoagland, the exhibit's curator and the museum's associate curator of textile and design, was to modestly "hide your extravagance" by placing the intricately inked adornment out of sight, inside the kimono.

Japanese sumptuary laws frowning on public display of wealth, she says, encouraged the idea of hidden beauty in male apparel. Hoagland compares the custom to the wearing of designer labels on the inside, as they used to be through the 1950s, lending pride to the owner and his "in the know" class of friends alone.

Montgomery, who gathered the collection over 30 years, recently described his first glimpse of them, at the exhibit's press opening.

"I felt an extraordinary energy, and a relation to both Art Nouveau and Art Deco in many of them. I'm still taken by their beauty, but when I first found them, they were being discarded."
That was the result of changing values after World War II. Prior to that, the kimono was proudly seen as Japan's national costume. After the war, when Japan sought to Westernize, the kimono was no longer welcome. Thousands of kimono were tossed away or burned. The era of the "living" kimono, when the garb was worn routinely, ended.

Yet the kimono's international fashion influence did not. It had started as early as 1910, when French fashion pioneer Paul Poiret helped bring women out of stiff-boned corsets and into softer silhouettes, using wide, loose sleeves, and cocoonlike wrap coats, clearly kimono-inspired. Although the kimono remained in post-war use in Japan for ceremonial occasions alone, at the turn of the 21st century, a new generation of Japanese women rediscovered it. Today, women in their 20s and 30s in Japan are sometimes seen sporting a kimono at graduation ceremonies, or even wearing them as coats.

Meanwhile, a growing interest in vintage kimono has helped unearth precious originals long packed away and preserved.

This gorgeous exhibit shows clearly that while today's high-speed world may be a recent phenomenon, the interplay of cultural influence between nations is hardly brand new.

Hello! Fashion: Kansai Yamamoto, 1971 to 1973 at The Philadelphia Museum of Art

Flying Saucer Dress, Spring/summer 1994, (Designed by Issey Miyake, Japanese, born 1938). Polyester plain weave, Philadelphia Museum of Art; Gift of Issey Miyake.

PHILADELPHIA.- Kansai Yamamoto (born 1944), one of the founding fathers of Japanese contemporary fashion, is best known for his work of the 1970s and 1980s. Inspired by the colorful art of Japan’s Momoyama period (1568–1615) and traditional Kabuki theater, his exuberant designs contrast with the Zen-like simplicity and deconstructed silhouettes favored today by designers such as Yohji Yamamoto, Rei Kawakubo, and Issey Miyake.

Kansai opened his first boutique in Tokyo in 1968 and eventually expanded worldwide. His collections debuted in the United States in 1971 at Hess’s in Allentown, Pennsylvania, a department store known for its controversial fashion shows of American and European styles selected for their potential to influence ready-to-wear clothing designs. (Rudy Gernreich’s topless bathing suit was first modeled at Hess’s in 1964.) That same year Kansai became the first Japanese designer to show in London, where his clothing was seen by musician David Bowie; Bowie later commissioned Kansai to create the wardrobe for his Ziggy Stardust stage persona. The designer was again featured in Hess’s showing of Asian trendsetting fashions for fall/winter 1973 at One World Trade Center in New York. All of the Kansai ensembles on view in this gallery were modeled at the New York event; several were shown earlier in London.

Since his last collection for fall/winter 1992, Kansai has lent his name to licensed products ranging from eyeglasses to tableware. His fashion show spectaculars have become the framework for the grand Kansai Super Shows, the first of which was held in Moscow’s Red Square in 1993. Others held since in Japan, Vietnam, India, and Berlin have drawn audiences in the hundreds of thousands.

Kansai recently returned to fashion as a designer of traditional Japanese garments in a contemporary idiom including kimono (2004) and Hanten festival–inspired coats (2007). He continues to produce Super Shows as part of a larger initiative to invigorate the arts in Japan and serves as a government advisor on tourism and cultural affairs.

To the Beat of a Different Drum

Both visually stunning and amazingly educational, visitors to the Children's Japanese Art Festival didn't need a plane ticket to be transported to the far east last Friday night.

After a year long study of Japanese arts and culture students from Jefferson, Washington and Lincoln Elementary schools in Lindsay came together at Washington Elementary to show off their educational venture to Japan.

Art projects and painted lanterns were everywhere you looked. It seemed every child was dressed in a colorful Kimono and was enthusiastically ready to tell or show friends and relatives what they had learned.

The evening also included multiple special guests including the Director of the Japan Information Center at the Consulate General of Japan in San Francisco, Midori Yamamitsu, Japanese Koto player Mrs. Tokumoto, the Fresno Gumyo Taiko Drummers, Professor of Sculpture at COS Richard Flores, Japanese artist Hiroko Sakai and brush and ink artist Joy Harvey.

The school district focused on the study of Japanese art and culture as a follow up plan to the Japan Fulbright Memorial Teachers Program. The program started with hands on research and study for three weeks in Japan by Director of Professional Development in Art Education, Michelle Bussey.

Throughout the year Japanese art history, geography, haiku, brush and ink, raku ceramics, silk painting, block printing and scroll painting techniques have found their way into classrooms.

In addition, Bussey brought Japanese artists, Megumi and Hiroko Sakai to conduct professional development, classroom visits, and participate in the Family Literacy and Art Night event Feb. 27. Both we present again at the Children's Japanese Festival.

Meiji Art Techniques

Among the early Meiji artists who were studentsof Fontanesi was Asai Chu. Asai became an advanced painter, who later founded the Meiji Art School In his Kotaba Village, Asai had used the technique taught by Fontanesi of placing a tree in the center of the painting. The tree branches spread out, touching the edge of the canvas. Moving towards the foreground, we see that the artist used shading in tones of black and gray to create space. The dark black can be seen on the house at left. The gray tone is shone as spots on the ground that could either be shadows or the artist's attempt to show the roughness of the ground.
Other techniques can be seen in Mallard Still Life by Iwahashi. Here Iwahashi shows a duck hanging head down with one of its feet and wing tied together. Behind the duck is a wooden wall with the duck's shadow casting on it. Although in this painting the artist uses little modeling, there is evidence that Iwahashi used this technique. For example in the area between the body of the duck and the wing Iwahashi darkens it by using a light tone of black to create a sense of volume and shadow. The shadow of the duck casting on the wall is quite effective in creating a sense of space and three-dimensionality. The shadow itself consists of different shades of black. On careful observation, the outer edge of the shadow is a light grayish black that gets darker inside. Also notice the light reflecting on the duck's belly adding to the realistic appearance that Meiji artists want to achieve.

Meiji Art from the Khalili Collection Part 2

In this painting Van Gogh freely follows a print "The plum tree teahouse at Kameido (Kameido Umeyashiki)" by the Japanese print artist Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858). The teahouse at the Kameido shrine in Tokyo was famous for its plum tree blossoms and attracted many people. Van Gogh was probably fascinated by the contrast between the gnarled plum tree in the foreground and the visitors to the garden seen in the distance. He enlarged the image by tracing the original work and transferring it to canvas by means of a grid. By using starker colors and a style typical of his work from this period, the picture becomes more an interpretation of Hiroshige’s print than a real copy. The border contains a mixture of calligraphy taken from four other Japanese prints. The text has no coherent meaning, it is primarily decorative.

Meiji Art from the Khalili Collection

The artist Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) had a great regard for Japanese prints: ukiyoe colour woodcuts. Indeed, he wrote to his brother, Theo, that looking at them made him feel "much gayer and happier." Van Gogh's early paintings were predominately dark and sombre scenes of peasant life, but when he moved to Paris to live with Theo in 1886, he discovered how much he loved the delightful rich colors of Japanese prints. In his late Paris period Van Gogh admired this graphic art so much that he made three paintings in the style known as japonaiserie, based on prints of Keisai Eisen (1790-1848) and Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858) (Figs. 1 and 2). In 1888 he moved to Arles, from where, on 15 July, he wrote to Theo "All my work is based to some extent on Japanese art." Van Gogh's admiration for Japanese art became something of a religion for him. As he saw it, if modern art were to have a future, it must look toward, and indeed, be totally inspired by, the art of Japan. "For my part I don’t need Japanese pictures here, for I am always telling myself that here I am in Japan," he wrote from Arles. He observed everything around him as if it were "through Japanese eyes," and in this way noticed the tiniest details in the natural setting.
While living in Paris, Van Gogh had only collected Japanese graphic works. He admitted to being a collector of a minimal sort, not a large-scale buyer like the De Goncourt brothers. From Arles he wrote to Theo in 1888, saying that he seemed to have missed out on the fact that there 'was something else besides' the "ordinary print." However, this would not seem to be an entirely accurate report; possibly he was less interested in other genres, for he certainly must have seen other types of Japanese art. In the Parisian shops such as Siegfried Bing's where Japanese woodcuts were on sale, so too were oriental ceramics, enamels, metalwork, and lacquer. Japanese decorative art had designs and motifs encapsulating the emotions inspired by nature and the four seasons; themes that had a profound influence on Van Gogh.
While living in Antwerp Van Gogh had decorated his room with Japanese prints. When he came to Paris japonaiserie was all around in books and in magazines, and real works were in the houses of friends and in shops. Transferring such images into paintings gave Van Gogh the chance to study Japanese art and experiment with strong and contrasting colors. Figure 1 was based on a print Sudden shower on the Great Bridge near Atake (Ôhashi no yûdachi) by the celebrated ukiyo-e artist Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858). In it, people walking on a bridge in the rain cross the Sumida river on which, in the distance, a log raft is being poled. Vincent intensified the colors of the original work and added a border with random characters that he copied from prints like Hiroshige’s The Flowering Plum Tree.