Japanese Historic Woodblock Prints

Woodblock Print
Unknown woodblock print from the 19th century

japanese woodblock
Tamamo-no-Mae, the evil kitsune of Japanese legend. Woodblock print by Yoshitoshi, from New Forms of Thirty-Six Ghosts. (1889-1892))

Ukiyo-e woodblock print by Kitagawa Shikimaro, Japanese Edo era: 1600s-1800s

Woodblock print from the mid-1800's by artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi, original currently located in the Brooklyn Museum

Utagawa Toyokuni's Edo period Ukiyo-e woodblock print

Dominic Walsh Choreographs to Japanese Mythology in Uzume

The set-up:
This past weekend, Dominic Walsh Dance Theater presented the world premiere of Uzume, a collaboration with Asia Society Texas Center that showcased the talents of taiko master Kensaku Satou and DWDT staples Domenico Luciano and Hana Sakai.
The execution:
Uzume is inspired by the Japanese myth of how light was brought back into the world. When the storm god Susanowo wreaks havoc on the earth, his sister, the sun goddess Ameterasu, becomes distraught and hides herself inside a cave. There is no convincing Ameterasu to leave her sanctuary until she is captivated by a strange noise. The sound is Uzume, the goddess of the dawn, dancing madly on a wooden tub. Intrigued, Ameterasu leaves her cave, thus bringing light to the world of darkness. It's no wonder that Walsh has turned to this story for inspiration; in this narrative, it is dance that brings light to the world.

The movement is spellbinding. Luciano and Sakai emerge from the washi set design as if they were breathing life into inanimate matter. Their bodies in the opening sequence are mangled and disjointed, each gesture accented with force, each turn of the head punctuated by a spasmodic pulse. Luciano's long body is perfect for the classical maneuvers and familiar poses of ballet that make up half of Uzume's choregraphy. But his magnetism is also a result of his superb attention to detail; what he conveys with his fingers and hands is more than what many dancers are able to convey through their whole bodies.
One of the most exciting sequences is a solo by Sakai that requires her to bourree to the crescendos of the drum. While her feet move in rapid torrents, her upper body contracts and extends in unnatural, yet beautiful, shapes. She dances with verve and supernatural purpose, a swan possessed. The costume design intensifies the ballet/Japanese dance fusion of both Luciano and Sakai and masks the inherent strength of their performance. Moving across the tissue-papered stage, they give the impression of origami dancers set loose on restless wind.
Attention must be paid to the other half of this flawless equation. Taiko drummer Kensaku Satou is a whirlwind of a performer. Having no previous experience with taiko, I was under the assumption that a percussion form from Japan would be a meditative, zen-inducing affair. On the contrary, Satou drumming was an invigorating, life-giving force that not only accompanied the dance, but shaped it.
Taiko, at least Satou's performance of it, encapsulates beat, rhythm and melody. During one pulsating sequence, his drumming had an almost jazzy, funky flair, and he played directly to the audience. In this supremely enjoyable moment, Satou could have been a New Orleans street performer. He certainly has the swagger to match, and a smile bright enough to power the entire Asia Society complex, and then some.
The verdict:
Mesmerizing. Even if the particulars of the Uzume myth are forgotten, the performances of Luciano, Sakai, and Satou will not be. Uzume is like every other Dominic Walsh production: not just a dance concert, but an experience to be cherished forever.
The performance took place this weekend at the Asia Society Texas Center.


Matsuri celebrates Japanese culture

LIHU‘E — Matsuri translates to mean festivals, and during the Kanyaku Imin, or 100th anniversary of the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawai‘i, the Matsuri Kaua‘i was born.
“Last year, we didn’t have a Matsuri because of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan,” Kaua‘i Film Commissioner Art Umezu said. “This year, the Japanese people vowed to return and the Matsuri, the 27th, was again held.”
Saturday, a steady throng of people flowed through the Kaua‘i War Memorial Convention Hall, hosted by the Kaua‘i Japanese Cultural Society, eager to experience the Japanese culture, including the familiar bento, Japanese dance, crafts, and this year, a newly-introduced Kendama skill contest.
The Kanyaku Imin was celebrated in 1985 and the Matsuri seed was nurtured by a group of dancers and karaoke singers to perpetuate the Japanese culture and strengthen Kaua‘i’s bond with the people of Japan, states a mayoral proclamation celebrating the Matsuri Kaua‘i 2012.

Mayor Kazuhiro Miyamoto of Moriyama City arrived with a dozen visitors, stopping to enjoy the ‘ukulele classes with the Lihu‘e Senior Center before joining Tsugio Kawashima in a tree planting ceremony at Kaua‘i High School to reinforce and solidify the Rotary Exchange Student program started by Kawashima who was one of the first people to call and offer help to Kaua‘i following the destruction of Hurricane ‘Iniki in 1992.
These sister city relationships between the County of Kaua‘i and Japan are also part of the Matsuri celebration, Mayor Miyamoto, enjoying his first trip to Hawai‘i and Kaua‘i, offering his greetings to Matsuri guests followed by a program of song and dance by its visitors.
The County of Kaua‘i currently enjoys sister city relationships between the City of Oshima-Gun, Yamaguchi Prefecture, the City of Ishigaki, Yaeyama Gunto, Ryukyu Islands, the City of Moriyama, Shiga, and the City of Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture.
In addition to the presentations of karaoka, dance, martial arts, taiko drumming, kimono kitsuke for adults and children, chado, or tea ceremony, origami, oshibana, mochi pounding, bonsai demonstrations, and a mini bon dance, two films were offered for free.
“Dale Rosenfeld just saw one of the films and was almost moved to tears,” said Sue Kanoho, executive director of the Kaua‘i Visitors Bureau.
Joyce Takahashi expressed a similar sentiment, referring to “Can You See Our Lights,” a chronicle of the efforts by residents of three northern Tohoku towns, Rikuzentaka, Soma and Minami Soma, as they repaired and rebuilt their lives following the earthquake and tsunami which struck Japan last year.

Despite the challenges the people faced, the townspeople banded together and continue to host their annual summer Obon festivals to honor the souls of the departed.
“Fukushima Hula Girls” follows a troupe of hula dancers from the Spa Resort Hawaiians, a large, Hawaiian-themed park in Iwaki City, as the dancers travel to the devastated areas in Japan, providing encouragement, joy and smiles.
Both films were offered at no charge to Matsuri Kaua‘i guests through the Kaua‘i Film Commission, the Office of Economic Development, and the Honolulu Japanese Consulate.
Matsuri Kaua‘i 2012 is brought to the people of Kaua‘i through the Kaua‘i Japanese Cultural Society, the county’s Office of Economic Development, the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority and the County of Kaua‘i to showcase the island’s different groups’ talents and to perpetuate the Japanese culture.

Gardens in Japan

Arima Grand Hotel of Arima Onsen in Kobe, Hyogo prefecture, Japan

Enjoji in Nara, Nara prefecture, Japan

Byoodoo-in's Pheonix Hall in Uji, Kyoto prefecture, Japan

"Sorakuen" in Kobe, Hyogo prefecture, Japan