Art Buff - Tokyo International Arts Festival 2008

All art buffs should put this on their calender as the Tokyo International Arts Festival 2008 will be held throughout March 2008. This year’s line up will include artists from Argentina, Belgium and Switzerland among the other Japanese artist who will be showcasing their art during the month of March. Now, art is a pretty subjective topic where what’s art to one may not be art to another. But nonetheless, The Tokyo International Arts Festival is a much anticipated event.

Check out a cool video from the event from past years:

Studies of Japanese Art by Period

Meiji (1868-1912)

The best survey of Meiji art (excluding Western-style painting) is Frederick Baekeland's exhibition catalogue, Imperial Japan: The Art of the Meiji Era, 1868-1912 (Ithaca, N.Y.: Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, 1980). Also useful is Meiji: Japanese Art in Transition, edited by Robert Schaap (The Hague: Haags Gemeentemuseum, 1987), a catalogue of an exhibition of lacquer, prints, and Japanese-style paintings. Barry Till, The Arts of Meiji Japan, 1868-1912: Changing Aesthetics (Victoria, B.C.: Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, 1995) is an exhibition catalogue with a rather routine introduction of some 20 pages, and illustrations (mostly black and white) of about 140 objects, mostly prints but also ceramics, cloisonné, lacquerware, sculpture (ivory, wood, metal), etc., many made for export to the West. Persons whose taste runs to such things as early Buddhist painting and sculpture or Kamakura emaki or Edo screens (whether Kano or Rinpa or whatever) will not find much that gives delight here. This ware - with highly detailed enamel decoration - is not to be confused with the earlier ware characterized by a cream-colored body and a clear but somewhat yellowish glaze. For a lavish presentation of Meiji art, see a five-volume collection (actually, eight books, since some volumes consist of more than one book), Oliver Impey and Malcolm Fairley, Meiji no takara: Treasures of Imperial Japan (London: Kibo Foundation, 1995). These abundantly illustrated volumes set forth objects in the Nasser D. Kahlili Collection as follows: volume 1, lacquer; volume 2, in two parts (360 color plates), metalwork; volume 3, enamels; volume 4, lacquer (in two parts); volume 5, ceramics (in two parts). Also illustrating the Kahlili collection is Joe Earl, Shibata Zeshin: Masterpieces of Japanese Lacquer (London: Kibo Foundation, 1997), with 311 color plates, showing paintings and lacquer objects (inro and large-scale pieces). Satsuma, a Meiji ceramic ware made for export, is the subject of a book by Louis Lawrence, Satsuma (London: Dauphin Publishing, 1991), with almost 100 pieces illustrated in color. For bronzes, cloisonné, and lacquer, see Oliver Impey and Malcolm Fairley, The Dragon King of the Sea: Japanese Decorative Art of the Meiji Period from the John R. Young Collection (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 1991). For metal only, see Joe Earle, Flower Bronzes of Japan (London: M. Goedhuis, 1995). We have also heard of, but not seen or been able to trace, Masterpieces of Meiji Metalwork. (London: Barry Davies Oriental Art, 1991).

On Japan's encounter with the West, see Julia Meech-Pekarik, The World of the Meiji Print: Impressions of a New Civilization (New York: Weatherhill, 1986), a highly informative book that examines, through a popular medium, Japan's keen interest in Western culture during the late 19th century. Ann Yonemura, Yokohama: Prints from Nineteenth-Century Japan (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian, 1990) is a catalogue of an exhibition of 19th-century photographs and newspaper drawings and some 85 color prints of Yokohama and its first foreign residents, from 1859 to the 1870s. The interest is chiefly sociological rather than artistic. Elizabeth de Sabato Swinton, In Battle's Light: Woodblock Prints of Japan's Early Modern Wars (Worcester, Mass.: Worcester Art Museum, 1991) reproduces in color 80 triptychs of prints of Japan engaged in Western-style war (the Sino-Japanese War and the Russo-Japanese War), and informatively discusses the social context as well as the artistry of each work.

On the crisis in Japanese art evoked by opening the door to the West, see John M. Rosenfield, "Western-style Painting in the Early Meiji Period and Its Critics," in Tradition and Modernization in Japanese Culture, edited by Donald H. Shively (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1971). Paris in Japan (Tokyo: Japan Foundation, 1987) is a highly informative exhibition catalogue showing 77 Japanese oil paintings (1890 to 1930) influenced by French art. Minoru Harada, Meiji Western Painting, translated by Akiko Murakata, adapted by Bonnie F. Abiko (New York: Weatherhill, 1974) is valuable for its abundant illustrations.

The sights of Meiji Japan were recorded by the print artist Kobayashi Kiyochika, whose work is abundantly illustrated, with highly informative comments about the scenes, in Henry D. Smith II, Kiyochika: Artist of Meiji Japan (Santa Barbara, Calif.: Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1988). Photographers, too, recorded Meiji Japan. See Margarita Winkel, Souvenirs from Japan: Japanese Photography at the Turn of the Century (London: Bamboo, 1991), and Japan Photographers Association, A Century of Japanese Photography (New York: Pantheon, 1980).

There is much more interest today in the Meiji period than there was when this bibliography was first prepared, partly because the academic study of art has been moving away from connoisseurship to a more socially and politically based study - from, one could say, text to context. An interesting book that concentrates on the social context of art collecting is Christine Guth, Art, Tea, and Industry: Masuda Takashi and the Mitsui Circle (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993). Guth examines the relationships circa 1900 between art collecting and the tea ceremony on the one hand and, on the other hand, the business activities of the director of the Mitsui conglomerate, Masuda Takashi (1848-1938).

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The art of making sushi

By Maggie Crane, WINK News
Story Created: Feb 4, 2008 at 7:56 AM EST

Blu Sushi was born out of boredom. Hong Kong born sushi chef Kevin Mak used to own a chinese restaurant, but thanks to a buddy in the sushi business, Kevin switched careers. Thirteen years and three businesses later, he hasn't looked back.

Sit at the bar at Blu Sushi and watch the sushi chefs at work. They make it look so easy. But is it?

Sushi chef Kevin Mak makes food into edible art, and he's teaching me how to make a roll called "" It's named after a good customer."

In the beginning, you have to make sure your hand is a little wet, so the rice will not stick to your fingers," Mak says.

Well it stuck to mine anyway, and it's no wonder --"We use sushi sticky rice from Japan and mix it with a little sugar, a little salt and a little vinegar," Mak says.Next, we add on spicy tuna, cucumber, and tomago, which is egg mixed with a little sugar and vinegar, and then wrap it up in soy paper."

Make sure your fingers hold all of the ingredients in the middle," Mak instructs me.But that's harder than it looks! Mak is an old pro. He wraps nearly 300 rolls every night, and so do his six other chefs. That's a heck of a lot of raw fish! Mak wraps each roll in about a minute.

Mak says shashimi, which is only raw fish -- no rice -- only needs a little soy sauce and wasabi for flavoring.

Most people have heard of wasabi -- that little green glob on the side of your plate. It comes from the root of a plant and packs a serious punch."Some people say 'oh I love spicy,' but, wasabi is a different kind of spicy, they say 'wow! This goes all the way to the top of the head'" Mak says. What you won't see is what goes on behind the scenes. Blu Sushi gets fresh fish from all over the world."We get it from Canada, from Japan, from Brazil -- everywhere," Mak says. "It just depends where I can get the freshest fish.

"Tuna comes in different grades, and an A++ fish will reel in big bucks."Some, maybe a 500 pound fish or a 700 pound fish, can go for like $50,000 for one fish," Mak says.

But that fish often goes to the sushi capital of the world."Like 80% goes to Japan because they pay a really high price," Mak says. "We have a lot of great tuna too -- it just depends on how much you want to pay for it.

"The different knives sushi chefs use are almost as important as the quality of the fish itself.

"You can get a knife for $50 but they run up to $5,000 for one knife," Mak says.

Even the stones used to sharpen the knives can cost hundreds of dollars a piece.

From succulent sushi to sharp skills, Kevin Mak has one goal every day.

"All the time we try to create something for our customers that they cannot eat at another restaurant," Mak says. "Really, they're not my customers. They're my friends -- they're all my friends!"