Japan Modern Culture: 令和 ReiWa, the new Era

令和: ReiWa, the new Era

Exactly one month ahead of Prince Naruhito's accession to the throne, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga announced the beginning of the new Era for Japan.

Reiwa, formed by the kanji 令 (rei) "auspicious", "ordered" and 和 wa "harmony", "peace", reflects the spiritual unity of the Japanese people, because "culture is born and nourished when people take care of each other lovingly" explained Prime Minister Shinzo Abe immediately after the announcement.

photo credits: asia.nikkei.com

Time passes following the Era of the Emperor

In the Japanese culture, the periods of time throughout history are subdivided according to the system of "eras", gengō (元号): it involves the use of two kanji that represent the hopes, ideals and good intentions for the period to come, followed by the number from the year of the emperor's mandate. According to this system, from 1989 the current era is Heisei 31 (平成31), or the 31st year of the Heisei Era (31 years of "achieving peace" under the guidance of Emperor Akihito). From May 1st, 2019 we will be officially in the Reiwa Era (令和1 - Reiwa 1).

photo credits: tg24.sky.it

The roots of Reiwa

Unlike all previous eras whose names were inspired by Chinese literature, Reiwa has its roots in Man'yōshū, 万集 "The Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves", the oldest collection of Japanese poetry that has survived till today. The authors belong to all walks of life: members of the imperial family, peasants, soldiers, artisans and monks. This choice breaks an over 1300 years old tradition and has a highly symbolic value for Modern Japan. We are wishing for an era of hope and unity and, above all, an era aimed at the preservation of nature. Reiwa will face a path aimed at harmony and to give strength to a nation that in the course of history has always raised up with pride in every adversity and that has never been pulled back.

But how was this name decided?

The choice was made between a list of 30 proposals prepared by Japanese and Chinese literature and history experts appointed by the government for this important task. The traditional procedure requires the Government to make the final choice in a cabinet session, after which the chosen name is revealed to the Emperor in office and he prepares the decree for the proclamation of the new Era.

photo credits: kelo.com

Naruhito, Emperor of the Throne of Chrysanthemum

First born of the current Emperor of Japan Akihito and Empress Michiko, Naruhito (皇太子徳仁親王) became the crown prince to the throne following the death of his grandfather, Emperor Hirohito in 1989. Known for his countless charitable works and a series of absolved imperial functions, he will become the 126th Emperor of the Throne of Chrysanthemum (the oldest ever interrupted monarchy in the world) on May 1st, 2019 following the abdication of his father on April 30th, 2019.

The blank pages of a new beginning

The word Reiwa is so full of serenity, even in its pronunciation! The harmony, the peace, the balance that characterize a the people of a nation like that of the Rising Sun thus finds its fulfillment. Just a few days ago, I had a fixed idea in my mind: "a new beginning", I even wrote a thought entitled "Start of a new chapter", and having woken up with the announcement of this new Era, shook me positively. Furthermore, after hearing Prime Minister Abe's speech, my heart was filled with hope. I like the proposal for greater openness to work for those coming from abroad and I believe that this can bring a prosperous future for Japan worldwide.
The spirit of cohesion, solidarity and peace may seem an utopia, but it must start from the small things, from us and then spread like the waves produced by a pebble falling into the water.


Japan Traditions: Wakakusa Yamayaki Matsuri

One of Japan's most famous matsuri is the Wakakusa Yamayaki Matsuri held in the city of Nara on the fourth Saturday of January.

photo credits: matsuritracker on flickr

Le Origini

On the top of the third hill of Mount Wakakusa we find the Uguisuzuka Kofun, a keyhole-shaped tombstone.
Legends say that in the past if the mountain was burned by the end of January in the new year, it was possible to repel deaths returning from their graves. On the contrary, if the mountain was not burned by the end of January, a big period of misfortune layed before the city of Nara. As a result, the stories tell that people passing by Mount Wakakusa began to ignite the mountain without permission.

 

photo credits: smartus & matsuritracker on flickr

Following this, there were some incidents where the fire from Mount Wakakusa came to approach the boundaries of the Todaiji and Kohfukuji temple repeatedly. Because of this, in December 1738, the Nara magistrate's office (Bugyosho) prohibited people from burning the mountain. However, the arson fires continued at the hands of anonymous people and on some occasions approached the nearby cities and temples. To avoid similar dangers, the city of Nara established a rule to allow people to burn the mountain with the participation of representatives of the Todaiji and Kohfukuji temples along with the Nara Bugyosho at the end of the Edo period.

photo credits: toshimo1123 on flickr

The Yamayaki festival (burning mountain) comes from superstitions to calm the spirits of the dead at the Uguisuzuka Kofun located at the top of the mountain, so the Yamayaki could also be considered as a moment of service in memory of the dead.

Modern history and present day

Since 1900, there have been a series of changes related to Wakakusa Yamayaki Matsuri. Firstly, the time was shifted from day to night and even its date moved to 11 February (Day of the Empire), although during the period of World War II, the celebrations were held during the afternoon. Later, in 1910, the organization passed into the hands of the prefecture of Nara.

 

photo credits: karihaugsdal on flickr

After the end of the war, the Yamayaki once again became an evening event together with a fireworks display of over one hundred fireworks.
During the fifties, the date of the Yamayaki was moved to January 15, the "Coming of Age day", while in 1999, due to the implementation of the so-called "Happy Monday System Act" (law that moved some public holidays on Mondays) , the festival was celebrated on the Sunday before the "Coming of Age day".

photo credits: toshimo1123 & nwhitely on flickr

Since 2009 we find the combination that still exists today, where the event is held on the fourth Saturday in January with a fireworks display of hundreds of fireworks.
On this matter, this is the only event in Nara that uses the Shakudama fireworks that have a diameter of over 30cm. An absolutely magical fireworks display that we guarantee will always remain engraved in your memories.

Mount Wakakusa

Mount Wakakusa is 342 meters high and 33 hectares wide and is covered with grass with delicate slopes. Here you can see deers, seasonal flowers and plants, like the traditional Japanese cherry trees in spring and the fantastic autumn colors typical of Japan. Also from its top, it is possible to see the whole panorama of the city of Nara with all its historical part.

 

photo credits: 158175735@N03 & mashipooh on flickr

Mount Wakakusa is surrounded by many UNESCO world heritage sites such as the temples Todaiji and Kohfukuji and the spring forest of Mount Kasuga, so be very careful to avoid accidents such as spreading the fire.

The parade

Led by the sound of shell horns played by the mountain priests of the Kinpusenji Temple, more than 40 people face the solemn parade through the park, wearing the traditional costumes of the representatives of the temples of Kasugataisha, Todaiji and Kohfukuji and of the officers of the judiciary office of Nara in the Edo period.

 

photo credits: toshimo1123 & katiefujiapple on flickr

The event begins with the Gojinkahotaisai, the sacred fire acceptance ceremony held at the Tobohino park, on the site of the Great Round Bonfire. In this ceremony, the sacred fire is transferred from the Great Round Bonfire to the torches. Following this, the parade will take the sacred fire to the Nogami temple. Once arrived at the Mizuya temple, the sacred fire brought by time Kasugataisha will be transferred to a series of torches. Once at the Nogami Temple, at the base of Mount Wakakusa, the sacred fire forms another great bonfire.

 

photo credits: katiefujiapple on flickr

During the parade, the fire is accompanied by constant prayers in the first place for the safety of the Yamayaki. The fire is then transferred back to the torches, accompanied by the songs of the priests of the temples Todaji, Kohfukuji and Kinpusenji. At this point, the parade moves towards the big bonfire in the center at the base of the mountain where it is lit, thus giving birth to the spectacle of light and heat.

photo credits: nara-park.com

Access

Mount Wakakusa is about a 10 - 15 minute walk from the Todaiji temple and Kasuga Taisha. The mountain can also be reached on foot from Kintetsu Nara station in about 35 minutes or from JR Nara station in about 50 minutes. Alternatively, you can use buses departing from both the station and Kasuga Taisha for a small fee.
If you are in Japan during this period, the next Yamamaki will take place in a few days, January 26, 2019. Do not miss it and we’ll wait for your stories!

photo credits: ks_photograph


Japan Travel: The imperial Palace & Gardens

photo credit: Google Images

I’ve been to Tokyo a few times now and one of my favourite spot in the whole city are the Imperial East Gardens in the Chiyoda area. Whenever I’m in the city, I always find a moment (sometimes even more than one) to visit this amazing place, a green heart in Tokyo, full of history and tradition but surrounded by the modernity of this frantic city.

The Tokyo Imperial Palace (皇居 Kōkyo, literally "Imperial Residence") is the primary residence of the Emperor of Japan. With its large parks it is located in the heart of the Chiyoda ward and contains buildings including the main palace (宮殿 Kyūden), the private residences of the Imperial Family, an archive, museums and administrative offices.
The current palace is built on the site of the old Edo Castle built by the shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu and the total area including the gardens is 1.15 square kilometres.

The history

 

photo credit: japan-guide.com

Edo castle

Built by Tokugawa Ieyasu and assigned it to be the residence of the Tokugawa family, after the end of the shogunate and the Meiji Restoration, the Emperor left the Kyoto Imperial palace and moved to Edo Castle. This became his new residence and it was renamed to Tōkei Castle (東京城 Tōkei-jō), at this time, Tōkyō had also been called Tōkei.

On 5th May 1873, the Nishinomaru Palace (formerly the shōgun's residence) was destroyed by a fire, and the new imperial Palace Castle (宮城 Kyūjō) was constructed on the site in 1888.
The non-profit organisation "Rebuilding Edo-jo Association" (NPO法人 江戸城再建) founded in 2004 has the aim of a historically correct reconstruction of at least the main donjon. This group plans to collect donations and signatures on a petition in support of rebuilding the tower of the old castle so that the capital city can have a symbolic building.

 

photo credit: Wikipedia, thetraveltester.com

The Old palace

In the Meiji era, most structures from the Edo Castle disappeared. Some were cleared to make way for other buildings while others were destroyed by earthquakes and fire.
In this case, the wooden double bridges (二重橋 Nijūbashi) over the moat were replaced with stone and iron bridges while the buildings of the Imperial Palace constructed in the Meiji era were made of wood.
When you first face the Imperial Palace you are suddenly transported into the classical and traditional Japanese architecture, but if you have the chance to walk those halls you’ll discover that on the inside, the palace is a mixture of then-fashionable Japanese and European elements. Western chairs, tables and heavy curtains furnish the spaces, the floors of the public rooms have parquets or carpets while the residential spaces us traditional tatami mats.

Guests were received in the main audience hall, which was the central part of the palace. Its floor space was more than 223 tsubo (approximately 737.25 m2 - 7,935.7 sq ft) and the interior the ceiling was in traditional Japanese-Style, while the floor was made out of parquet. For the roof, a style similar to the Kyoto Imperial Palace was maintained, however it was covered with fireproof coppered plates rather than the traditional Japanese cypress shingles.
More concrete buildings were added in the late Taishō and early Shōwa period, such as the headquarters of the Imperial Household Ministry and the Privy Council.

During the Second World War, on the night of 25th May 1945, most structures of the Imperial Palace were destroyed in the Allied firebombing raid on Tokyo. Due to this, a new main palace hall (宮殿 Kyūden) and residences were constructed on the western portion of the site in the 1960s and this area was renamed Imperial Residence (皇居 Kōkyo) while the eastern part was renamed East Garden (東御苑 Higashi-Gyoen) and became a public park in 1968.

 

photo credit: tokyobling.wordpress.com

The Imperial Palace today

After surviving defining moment in history, the modern palace Kyūden (宮殿) was designed for various imperial court functions and reception is located in the old Nishinomaru section of the palace grounds.
As of today, the residence of the current Emperor and empress is located in the Fukiage Gardens and it is now on a much more modest scale, compared to what originally was.

Except for Imperial Household Agency and the East Gardens, the palace is generally closed to the public, except for reserved guided tours from Tuesdays to Saturdays. Each New Year (January 2) and Emperor's Birthday, the public is permitted to enter through the Nakamon (inner gate) where they gather in the Kyuden Totei Plaza in front of the Chowaden Hall. On this occasion, the Imperial Family appears on the balcony before the crowd and the Emperor normally gives a short speech greeting and thanking the visitors and wishing them good health and blessings.

The Gardens

 

Fukiage Garden

This is probably the oldest garden of the complex. The Fukiage Garden has carried the name since the Edo period and this is where the Imperial Family lives today.
The Fukiage Ōmiya Palace (吹上大宮御所 Fukiage Ōmiya-gosho) in the northern section was originally the residence of Emperor Showa and Empress Kōjun and was called the Fukiage Palace. After the Emperor's death in 1989, the palace was renamed the Fukiage Ōmiya Palace and was the residence of the Empress Dowager until her death in 2000.
Here you can also find the Three Palace Sanctuaries (宮中三殿 Kyūchū-sanden), parts of the Imperial Regalia of Japan and the sanctuary plays a religious role in imperial enthronements and weddings.

 

photo credit: Wikipedia

Tōkagakudō (Music Hall)

The Tōkagakudō (桃華楽堂, Peach Blossom Music Hall) is located to the east of the former main donjon of Edo Castle in the Honmaru and it was built was built in commemoration of the 60th birthday of Empress Kōjun on 6 March 1963. The ferro-concrete building covers a total area of 1,254 m2 (13,500 sq ft) and each of its eight outer walls is decorated with differently designed mosaic tiles.

Ninomaru Garden

If you want to have a quick look of the whole Japan vegetation, this is where you should be since symbolic trees representing each prefecture are planted in the northwestern corner of Ninomaru enceinte. Such trees have been donated from each prefecture and there are total of 260, covering 30 varieties.

 

Kitanomaru

Located in the northern part of the enceinte of Edo Castle, this public park is famous for being the house of the Nippon Budokan Hall, one of the biggest sites for concerts, sports event and more.
Here you can also find a bronze monument dedicated to Prince Kitashirakawa Yoshihisa (北白川宮能久親王 Kitashirakawa-no-miya Yoshihisa-shinnō).

East Garden

And last but not least, the East Gardens the most famous of this whole complex. This is where most of the administrative buildings for the palace are located and encompasses the former Honmaru and Ninomaru areas of Edo Castle, a total of 210,000 m2 (2,300,000 sq ft). Located on the grounds of the East Garden is the Imperial Tokagakudo Music Hall, the Music Department of the Board of Ceremonies of the Imperial Household, the Archives and Mausolea Department Imperial Household Agency, structures for the guards such as the Saineikan dojo, and the Museum of the Imperial Collections.

Construction work began in 1961 with a new pond in the Ninomaru, as well as the repair and restoration of various keeps and structures from the Edo period. On 30 May 1963, the area was declared by the Japanese government a "Special Historic Relic" under the Cultural Properties Protection Law.

 

This is actually my personal favourite and whenever I come to Tokyo, I always try to spend one afternoon here. It’s one of the most visited landmarks of the city, that’s true, but in spite of all the tourists walking around, there is this magical atmosphere of tranquillity in the air and it’s the perfect spot to just sit, read a book, write on your notebook all the adventures you’ve had in this amazing city and just take in all the history this place has seen.

Access

The Otemon entrance to the East Gardens is a short walk from Otemachi Station on the Chiyoda, Tozai, Marunouchi, Hanzomon and Mita Subway Lines. It can also be reached in a 10-15 minute walk from Tokyo Station.

Opening Hours

9:00 to 16:30 (until 17:00 from mid April through August; until 16:00 from November through February). Admission ends 30 minutes before closing.

Closed

Mondays, Fridays, New Year (Dec 28 to Jan 3) and some special occasions. If Monday or Friday is a national holiday, the gardens are closed on the following day instead.

Admission

Free


Japan History: Tokugawa Ieyasu

Photo credits: wikipedia.org

Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川家康, Jan. 30, 1543 - June 1, 1616) was the founder and first shōgun of the Tokugawa shogunate, who effectively commanded the Battle of Sekigahara in Japan in the 1600s until the reconstruction of Meiji in 1868. Ieyasu obtained power in 1600, became shōgun in 1603, and abdicated in 1605 remaining in power until his death in 1616. He was one of the three unifiers of Japan, along with Lord Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi.

Tokugawa Ieyasu, originally Matsudaira Takechiyo, was the son of Maytsudaira Hirotada, the daimyo of Mikawa of the Matsudaira clan and of Odai-no-kata, the daughter of the samurai lord Mizuno Tadamasa. His parents were 17 and 15 years old when Ieyasu was born.
In the year of his birth, the Matsudaira clan broke up. In 1543, Hirotada's uncle, Matsudaira Nobutaka, defeated the can Oda. This gave Oda Nobuhide a way to attack Okazaki. Hirotada divorced from Odai-no-kata by sending her back to his family to remarry again, in fact Ieyasu had 11 brothers and sisters.
As Oda Nobunaga continued to attack Okazaki, Hirotada in 1548 asked for help from Imagawa Yoshimoto who accepted the alliance.
Oda Nobuhide, having learned of this agreement, had Ieyasu kidnapped by his entourage on his way to Sunpu. Ieyasu was only five years old at the time.
Nobuhide threatened to execute Ieyasu unless his father broke all ties with the Imagawa clan. However, Hirotada refused, stating that sacrificing his son would show his seriousness in his pact with Imagawa. Despite this refusal, Nobuhide chose not to kill Ieyasu, but instead held him hostage for the next three years in the Manshoji Temple of Nagoya.
In 1549, when Ieyasu was 6 years old, his father Hirotada was assassinated by his own vassals, who had been corrupted by the Oda clan. Around the same time, Oda Nobuhide died during an epidemic. The death of Nobuhide has dealt a blow to the Oda clan. An army under the command of Imagawa Sessai besieged the castle where Oda Nobuhiro, the eldest son of Nobuhide and the new head of the Oda clan lived. With the castle about to fall, Sessai offered an agreement to Oda Nobunaga, the second son of Nobuhide. He offered to renounce the siege if Ieyasu had been delivered to Imagawa.

Photo credits: Rekishinotabi on flickr

The ascent to power (1556-1584)

In 1556 Ieyasu officially became an adult, with Imagawa Yoshimoto presiding over his genpuku ceremony. Following the tradition, he changed his name from Matsudaira Takechiyo to Matsudaira Jirōsaburō Motonobu. He was also allowed for a brief period to visit Okazaki to pay homage to his father's grave and to receive the homage of his nominal servants, guided by the karō Torii Tadayoshi.
A year later, he married his first wife, Lady Tsukiyama, a relative of Imagawa Yoshimoto, and changed his name to Matsudaira Kurandonosuke Motoyasu again. When he was allowed to return to Mikawa, Imagawa then ordered him to fight the Oda clan in a series of battles.
Motoyasu fought his first battle in 1558 at the Siege of Terabe. Terabe's castellan in western Mikawa, Suzuki Shigeteru, betrayed Imagawa by defeating Oda Nobunaga. This was within the territory of Matsudaira, so Imagawa Yoshimoto entrusted the campaign to Ieyasu and his servants of Okazaki. Ieyasu led the attack in person, but after taking external defenses, he began to be afraid of a counterattack, so he retired. As anticipated, the Oda forces attacked its lines, but Motoyasu was prepared and drove out the Oda army.
He managed to deliver supplies to the siege of Odaka in 1559. Odaka was the only one of the five frontier forts challenged by the Oda clan attack, nevertheless it remained in the hands of Imagawa. Motoyasu launched diversions against the two strong neighbors, and when the garrisons of the other forts came to his aid, Ieyasu's supply column managed to reach Odaka.
In 1560 the leadership of the Oda clan had passed to the brilliant leader Oda Nobunaga. Imagawa Yoshimoto, head of a large army (perhaps 25,000 people) invaded the territory of the Oda clan and Motoyasu was assigned a separate mission to capture the stronghold of Marune. So he and his men were not present at the Battle of Okehazama where Yoshimoto was killed in Nobunaga's surprise assault.

The Alliance with Oda

With the death of Yoshimoto and the Imagawa clan in a state of confusion, Motoyasu took the opportunity to assert his independence and bring his men back to the abandoned Okazaki castle to claim his place.
Motoyasu then decided to ally with the Oda clan. A secret agreement was needed because Motoyasu's wife, Lady Tsukiyama, and her newborn son, Nobuyasu, were held hostage to Sumpu by Imagawa Ujizane, Yoshimoto's heir.
In 1561, Motoyasu conquered the fortress of Kaminogō, detained by Udono Nagamochi, attacking in the night, setting fire to the castle and capturing two of the sons of Udono, who he used as hostages to free his wife and son.
In 1563 Nobuyasu was married to Nobunaga's daughter Tokuhime.
For the following years, Motoyasu undertook to reform the Matsudaira clan and make peace with Mikawa. He also strengthened his main vassals by assigning them lands and castles. These vassals included: Honda Tadakatsu, Ishikawa Kazumasa, Kōriki Kiyonaga, Hattori Hanzō, Sakai Tadatsugu and Sakakibara Yasumasa.

In the early days of Mikawa Ieyasu's daimyō he had difficult relationships with the temples of Jōdō, which became increasingly numerous in 1563-64.
During this period, the Matsudaira clan also faced a threat from a different source. Mikawa was an important center for the Ikkō-ikki movement, where the peasants united with the militant monks under the Jōdo Shinshū sect and rejected the traditional feudal social order. Motoyasu undertook several battles to suppress this movement in its territories, including the Battle of Azukizaka. In a fight, he was almost killed by two bullets that did not penetrate his armor. Both sides were using the new gunpowder weapons that the Portuguese introduced to Japan only 20 years earlier.

Photo credits: wikipedia.org

Growing political influence

In 1567, he changed his name again, this time to Tokugawa Ieyasu. In doing so, he claimed the descent from the Minamoto clan. No evidence was actually found for this alleged lineage from the Emperor Seiwa. Yet, his family name was changed with the permission of the Imperial Court, after writing a petition, in which he was awarded the courtesy title Mikawa-no-kami.
Ieyasu remained an ally of Nobunaga and his soldiers were part of the Nobunaga army that conquered Kyoto in 1568. At the same time Ieyasu was expanding its territory. Ieyasu and Takeda Shingen, the head of the Takeda clan in the province of Kai, made an alliance with the aim of conquering the whole territory of Imagawa. In 1570, Ieyasu's troops conquered the castle of Yoshida (modern Toyohashi), and entered the province of Tōtōmi. Meanwhile, the Shingen troops conquered the province of Suruga (including the capital of Imagawa, Sunpu). Imagawa Ujizane fled to the castle of Kakegawa, which Ieyasu laid siege to. Ieyasu then negotiated with Ujizane, promising that if he surrendered, he would help Ujizane regain Suruga. THe latter had nothing left to lose, and Ieyasu immediately ended his alliance with Takeda, forcing a new alliance with Takeda's enemy, Uesugi Kenshin of the Uesugi clan. Through these political manipulations, Ieyasu obtained support from the samurai of the Tōtōmi province.
In 1570, Ieyasu established Hamamatsu as the capital of his territory, placing his son Nobuyasu at the head of Okazaki.
The same year, he led 5,000 of his men to support Nobunaga at the Battle of Anegawa against the Azai and Asakura clans.

Conflict with Takeda

In October 1571, Takeda Shingen, now an ally of the Odawara Hōjō clan, attacked the Tokugawa lands at Tōtōmi. Ieyasu asked Nobunaga for help, receiving from him about 3,000 soldiers. At the beginning of 1572 the two armies met in the battle of Mikatagahara. The considerably larger Takeda army, under the expert leadership of Shingen, overwhelmed the Ieyasu’s troops and caused serious casualties. Despite his initial reticence, Ieyasu was persuaded by one of his generals to withdraw. The battle was a great defeat, but in the interest of maintaining the appearance of a dignified retreat, Ieyasu shamelessly ordered the men of his castle to light torches, play drums and leave the gates open, to adequately receive the returning warriors. To the surprise and relief of the Tokugawa army, this spectacle made General Takeda suspicious, so instead of besieging the castle, they camped out for the night. This error would have allowed a band of Tokugawa ninja to raid the field in the following hours, further disrupting Takeda's disoriented army, and in the end, Shingen's decision resulted in the cancellation of the entire offensive. Incidentally, Takeda Shingen would not have had another chance to advance on Hamamatsu, much less on Kyoto, since he would have died shortly after the siege of Noda Castle a year later, in 1573.
In 1575, Takeda attacked Nagashino Castle in the province of Mikawa. Ieyasu appealed to Nobunaga for help and the result was that Nobunaga personally headed a very large army (about 30,000 fighters). The Oda-Tokugawa force of 38,000 fighters won a great victory on June 28, 1575, at the Battle of Nagashino, however Takeda Katsuyori survived the battle and retreated back to the province of Kai.
For the next seven years, Ieyasu and Katsuyori fought a series of small battles, following which Ieyasu's troops managed to wrest control of the Suruga province from the Takeda clan.

In 1579, Ieyasu's wife and his heir Nobuyasu were accused by Nobunaga of conspiring with Takeda Katsuyori to assassinate Nobunaga, whose daughter Tokuhime (1559-1636) was married to Nobuyasu. This is why Ieyasu ordered his wife to be executed and forced his eldest son, Nobuyasu, to commit seppuku. Ieyasu then named his third son, Tokugawa Hidetada, as heir, since his second son was adopted by another rising power: the general of the Oda clan, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who would soon become the most powerful daimyo of Japan.
The end of the war with Takeda came in 1582 when a combined Oda-Tokugawa force attacked and conquered the province of Kai. Takeda Katsuyori was defeated at the Battle of Tenmokuzan and then committed seppuku.

Uma containing the ashes of Tokugawa Ieyasu in Nikkō
Photo credits: wikipedia.org

Death of Nobunaga

At the end of June 1582, Ieyasu was near Osaka and far from his territory when he learned that Nobunaga had been murdered by Akechi Mitsuhide. Ieyasu managed the dangerous journey back to Mikawa and he was mobilizing his army when he learned that Hideyoshi had defeated Akechi Mitsuhide in the battle of Yamazaki.
Nobunaga's death meant that some provinces, governed by Nobunaga's vassals, could be conquered. The head of the province of Kai made the mistake of killing one of Ieyasu's helpers so he promptly invaded Kai and took control. Hōjō Ujimasa, head of the Hōjō clan, responded by sending his much larger army to Shinano and then to the province of Kai. No battle was fought between the Ieyasu’s troops and the great army of Hōjō. However, after some negotiations, Ieyasu and Hōjō accepted an agreement that left Ieyasu in control of the provinces of Kai and Shinano, while Hōjō took control of the province of Kazusa (as well as pieces from both the provinces of Kai and Shinano).
At the same time (1583) a war was waged to rule Japan between Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Shibata Katsuie. Ieyasu took no position in this conflict, relying on his reputation both for prudence and for wisdom. Hideyoshi defeated Katsuie at the Battle of Shizugatake and with this victory, he became the most powerful daimyo in Japan.

Ieyasu and Hideyoshi (1584-1598)

In 1584 Ieyasu decided to support Oda Nobukatsu, the eldest son and heir of Oda Nobunaga, against Hideyoshi. This was a dangerous act and could have led to the annihilation of the Tokugawa clan.
The Tokugawa troops took the traditional Oda stronghold of Owari while Hideyoshi replied by sending an army there. The Komaki campaign was the only time one of Japan's great unifiers fought each other. The campaign proved to be undecided, and after months of marches and unsuccessful feuds, Hideyoshi resolved the war through negotiation. First made peace with Oda Nobukatsu, and then offered a respite to Ieyasu. The agreement was stipulated at the end of the year and Ieyasu’s second son, Ogimaru (also known as Yuki Hideyasu) became Hideyoshi’s adoptive son.
Ieyasu's aide, Ishikawa Kazumasa, chose to join the daimyo and so he moved to Osaka to be with Hideyoshi. However, few other Tokugawa keepers have followed this example.
Hideyoshi was understandably suspicious of Ieyasu, and this was five years before they fought as allies. The Tokugawa did not participate in the invasions of Hideyoshi of Shikoku and Kyūshū.
In 1590, Hideyoshi attacked the last independent daimyo in Japan, Hōjō Ujimasa. The Hōjō clan ruled the eight provinces of the Kantō region in eastern Japan. Hideyoshi ordered them to submit to his authority, but they refused. Ieyasu, even if he was a friend and occasional ally of Ujimasa, joined his great strength of 30,000 samurai with the huge Hideyoshi army of about 160,000 men. Hideyoshi attacked several castles on the edge of the Hōjō clan with most of his army besieging Odawara Castle. Hideyoshi's army captured Odawara after six months. During this siege, Hideyoshi offered a radical deal to Ieyasu. He offered to Ieyasu the eight provinces of Kantō that were about to take from Hōjō in exchange for the five provinces Ieyasu controlled at the time, including Ieyasu’s one, Mikawa. Ieyasu accepted this proposal. Prey to the overwhelming power of the Toyotomi army, the Hōjō accepted the defeat, the top leaders Hōjō killed themselves and Ieyasu entered the field taking control of their provinces, putting an end to the clan kingdom of over 100 years.

The Battle of Sekigahara (1598-1603)

Hideyoshi, after another three months of illness, died on September 18, 1598. He was nominally succeeded by his young son Hideyori but, at only five years, the real power was in the hands of the regents. In the next two years Ieyasu made alliances with various daimyōs, especially those who had no love for Hideyoshi. Fortunately for Ieyasu, the oldest and most respected, Toshiie Maeda, died just a year later. With Toshiie's death in 1599, Ieyasu led an army to Fushimi and conquered Osaka Castle, Hideyori's residence. This angered the three remaining regents and began to structure their plans on all fronts for the war. It was also the last battle of one of Ieyasu's most loyal and powerful servants, Honda Tadakatsu.
The opposition to Ieyasu focused on Ishida Mitsunari, a powerful daimyo who was not one of the regents. Mitsunari conceived Ieyasu's death, and news about this plot reached some of the Ieyasu generals. They tried to kill Mitsunari but he escaped and obtained protection from none other than Ieyasu himself. It is not clear why Ieyasu protected a powerful enemy from his men, but he was a strategist and may have thought it would be better to drive the enemy army with Mitsunari rather than one of the regents.
Almost all Japanese daimyōs and samurai split into two factions: the western army (Mitsunari group) and the eastern army (anti-Mitsunari group). Ieyasu supported the anti-Mitsunari group and formed them as its potential allies. Ieyasu’s allies were the Date clan, the Mogami clan, the Satake clan and the Maeda clan. Mitsunari allied himself with the other three regents: Ukita Hideie, Mōri Terumoto and Uesugi Kagekatsu and many daimyō from the eastern end of Honshū.
In June 1600, Ieyasu and his allies transferred their armies to defeat the Uesugi clan, who was accused of planning an uprising against the Toyotomi administration. Before arriving in the territory of Uesugi, Ieyasu learned that Mitsunari and his allies had moved their army against Ieyasu. He held a meeting with the daimyos and they agreed to follow him, so he led most of his army west to Kyoto. At the end of the summer, Ishida's forces captured Fushimi.
Ieyasu and his allies marched along the Tōkaidō, while his son Hidetada followed the Nakasendō with 38,000 soldiers. A battle against Sanada Masayuki in Shinano province delayed Hidetada's forces, so they did not arrive in time for the main battle.
Fought near Sekigahara, this battle was the largest and one of the most important battles in Japanese feudal history. It began on October 211600, with a total of 160,000 men facing each other. The battle of Sekigahara ended with a complete victory of Tokugawa. The western block was crushed and in the following days Ishida Mitsunari and many other Western nobles were captured and killed and Tokugawa Ieyasu was now the de facto governor of Japan.
Immediately after the victory at Sekigahara, Ieyasu redistributed the land to the vassals who had served him, he left some the daimyōs unharmed, like the Shimazu clan, but others were completely destroyed. Toyotomi Hideyori (Hideyoshi's son) lost most of his territory that was under the management of the western daimyō, and was degraded to ordinary daimyō, not to a governor of Japan. In subsequent years the vassals who had sworn loyalty to Ieyasu before the battle became known as fudai daimyō, while those who promised him loyalty after the battle (in other words, after his power was unquestioned) were known as Tozama daimyō. The latter were considered inferior to the Fudai daimyōs.

Shōgun (1603-1605)

On March 24, 1603, Tokugawa Ieyasu received the shōgun title from Emperor Go-Yōzei and he was 60 years old. He had survived all the other great men of his time: Nobunaga, Hideyoshi, Shingen, Kenshin. As shōgun, he used his last years to create and consolidate the Tokugawa shogunate, which inaugurated the Edo period and was the third shogunal government (after Kamakura), claiming the descent from the Minamoto clan, through the Nitta clan. His descendant will then marry into the Taira clan and the Fujiwara clan. The Tokugawa shogunate ruled Japan for the next 250 years.
Following a well-established Japanese model, Ieyasu abdicated his official shōgun position in 1605 and his successor was his son and heir, Tokugawa Hidetada. There may have been several factors that contributed to his decision, including his desire to avoid being bound by ceremonial duties, to make it harder for his enemies to attack the true center of power and to ensure a smoother succession of his son. The abdication of Ieyasu had no effect on the practical extension of his powers or his government. However, Hidetada assumed the formal role of the shogunal bureaucracy.

Ōgosho (1605-1616)

Ieyasu, as a retired shōgun (大 御所 ōgosho), remained the effective ruler of Japan until his death. He retired to Sunpu Castle, but also oversaw the construction of Edo Castle, an impressive construction project that lasted for the rest of Ieyasu's life. The result was the biggest castle in all of Japan, the cost of building it was supported by all the other daimyōs, while Ieyasu collected all the benefits. The central donjon, or tenshu, burned in 1657 and today, the Imperial Palace is in place of that castle.
In 1611 Ieyasu leading 50,000 men, visited Kyoto to witness the coronation of Emperor Go-Mizunoo. In Kyoto, Ieyasu ordered the reconstruction of the imperial court and buildings, forcing the remaining Western daimyos to sign an oath of loyalty to him.

In 1613, he composed the Kuge Shohatto (公家諸法度), a document that submitted the court under the daimyo’s close supervision, leaving them as simple ceremonial nominees.
In 1615 Ieyasu prepared the Buhat shohatto (武家諸法度), a document that illustrated the future of the Tokugawa regime.

Relations with foreign powers

Like Ōgosho, Ieyasu also oversaw diplomatic affairs with the Netherlands, Spain and England. Ieyasu chose to remove Japan from European influence from 1609, although the shogunate continued to grant preferential commercial rights to the Dutch East India Company and allowed them to maintain a "factory" for commercial purposes.
From 1605 until his death, Ieyasu frequently consulted with the English master of arms and pilot, William Adams, who, fluent in Japanese, assisted the shogunate in the negotiation of commercial relations.

Significant attempts to limit the influence of Christian missionaries in Japan date back to 1587 during Toyotomi Hideyoshi's shogunate. However, in 1614, Ieyasu was sufficiently concerned about the Spanish territorial ambitions that he signed an edict of Christian expulsion. The edict banished the practice of Christianity and led to the expulsion of all foreign missionaries. Although some minor commercial operations remained in Nagasaki, this edict drastically limited foreign trade and marked the end of Christian witness open in Japan until 1870.

Siege of Osaka

The last threat to Ieyasu's dominion was Toyotomi Hideyori, Hideyoshi’s son and rightful heir. He was now a young daimyo who lived in Osaka Castle. Many samurai who opposed Ieyasu gathered around Hideyori, claiming to be the legitimate ruler of Japan. Ieyasu criticized the opening ceremony of a temple built by Hideyori because it was as if he had prayed for the death of Ieyasu and the ruin of the Tokugawa clan. Ieyasu ordered Toyotomi to leave Osaka Castle, but the inhabitants refused and summoned the samurai to gather inside the castle. Then the Tokugawa, with a huge army led by Ieyasu and the shōgun Hidetada, besieged Osaka Castle in what is now known as the "winter siege of Osaka". In the end, Tokugawa was able to join the negotiations and an armistice after the attack and after threatening Hideyori's mother, Yodo-dono. However, once the treaty was agreed upon, Tokugawa filled the castle's outer moats with sand so that his troops could cross it. Through this stratagem, Tokugawa obtained a huge tract of land through negotiation and deception. Ieyasu returned to Sunpu Castle, but after Toyotomi refused another order to leave Osaka, he and his allied army of 155,000 soldiers attacked Osaka Castle again in the "Osaka Summer Siege".
Eventually, in 1615, Osaka Castle fell and almost all the defenders were killed including Hideyori, his mother (Hideyoshi's widow, Yodo-dono) and his newborn son. His wife, Senhime (Ieyasu’s niece), pleaded to save the lives of Hideyori and Yodo-dono, but Ieyasu refused and forced both to commit a ritual suicide, or perhaps both killed. In the end, Senhime was sent back to the Tokugawa clan alive.

The death

Ieyasu died at the age of 73 in 1616. It is thought that the cause of death was cancer or syphilis. The first Tokugawa shogun was posthumously deified with the name Tōshō Daigongen, the "Great Gongen, the light of the east". It is believed that a Gongen is a Buddha who appeared on Earth in the form of a kami to save sentient beings.
In life, Ieyasu had expressed th desire to be deified after his death to protect his descendants from evil. His remains were buried in the Gongen mausoleum in Kunōzan, Kunōzan Tōshō-gū. As a general opinion, many people believe that after the first anniversary of his death, his remains were buried again in the Nikkō Shrine, Nikkō Tōshō-gū and they are still there today. Neither of the two sanctuaries offered to open the tombs, so the location of the physical remains of Ieyasu is still a mystery. The architectural style of the mausoleum became known as gongen-zukuri, or gongen style. First he was given the Buddhist name Tosho Dai-Gongen, then after his death he was changed to Hogo Onkokuin.

Ieyasu Tomb in Tōshō-gū
Photo credits: wikipedia.org

Ieyasu's rule era

Ieyasu had a number of qualities that enabled him to rise to power. He was both attentive and audacious, in the right times and in the right places. Calculating and subtle, Ieyasu changed alliances when he thought he would benefit from the change. He allied himself with the late Hōjō clan, then he joined the army of conquest of Hideyoshi, who destroyed Hōjō and he himself took over their lands. In this he was like the other daimyo of his time. That was an era of violence, sudden death and betrayal. He was neither very popular nor personally popular, but he was feared and respected for his leadership and his cunning. For example, he wisely kept his soldiers out of Hideyoshi's campaign in Korea.
He was capable of great loyalty: once he allied himself with Oda Nobunaga, he never went against him, and both leaders took advantage of their long alliance. He was known to be loyal to his friends, and was said to have a close friendship with his vassal Hattori Hanzō. It is said, however, that he remembered the wrongs he had suffered and that he executed a man because he had insulted him when he was young.

Ieyasu protected many former Takeda servants from the wrath of Oda Nobunaga, who was known to harbor a bitter rancor toward Takeda. But he also knew he was ruthless, for example, he ordered the executions of his first wife and his eldest son, a son-in-law of Oda Nobunaga and he was also Hidetada's wife uncle.
He was cruel, implacable and ruthless in eliminating Toyotomi survivors after Osaka. For days, dozens and dozens of men and women were hunted down and executed, including Hideyori’s eight-year-old son from a beheaded concubine.
Unlike Hideyoshi, he had no desire to win anything outside of Japan. He just wanted to bring order, end the open war and rule Japan.
While at the beginning it was tolerant of Christianity, its attitude changed after 1613 and Christian executions increased sharply.
Ieyasu's favorite pastime was falconry. He considered it an excellent training for a warrior. "When you go to the countryside, you learn to understand the military spirit and the hard life of the lower classes: you exercise your muscles and you train your limbs. You can walk and run and become indifferent to the heat and cold, and therefore it is very unlikely that you may suffer from some disease ". Ieyasu often swam and even in old age it is said that he swam in the moat of Edo Castle.
He also took a scholarship and religion, attending scholars such as Hayashi Razan.

Two of his famous quotes

Life is like a long journey with a heavy burden. Let your pace be slow and steady, do not stumble. Persuade yourself that imperfection and inconvenience are the greatest thing of mortals, and there will be no room for dissatisfaction or despair. When ambitious wishes arise in your heart, remember the days of extremism that you went through. Tolerance is the root of all tranquility and security forever. Watch the wrath of your enemy. If you only know what it means to conquer, and you do not know what it means to defeat. Find flaws in yourself rather than others.

The strong virile in life are those who understand the meaning of the word patience. Patience means limiting one's inclinations. There are seven emotions: joy, anger, anxiety, adoration, pain, fear and hate, and if a man does not give way to these he can be called a patient. I'm not as strong as I could be, but I always knew and practiced patience. And if my descendants want to be as they are, they have to study patience.


Japan Modern Culture: The New Tsukiji Fish Market opens and is called Toyosu Market

 

photo credit: nika-88 on flickrkaripkarip on flickr

All the fans of Japan have heard of the Tsukiji Fish Market at least once. Tsukiji's wholesale fish market (in Japanese 築地市場, Tsukiji shijō) was the largest fish market in the world. It was in Tokyo, in the Tsukiji district, and it moved to the Toyosu area last October.

Visited every year by thousands of tourists, today's Toyosu (Tsukiji) Fish Market hosts a number of workers ranging from 60,000 to 65,000, including accredited sellers, administrative staff and workers.
The Tsukiji Fish Market was, and still is, a showcase on an important element of Japanese gastronomic culture and the nation's economy. Considered a national institution, from October it finally established its roots in Toyosu's new space, retiring after 80 years from the space in the Tsukiji district. The Tokyo fish market continues to maintain its record as the largest wholesale fish market in the world.

Tsukiji Fish Market has always been one of the symbols of the iconic relationship between Japanese cuisine and the ocean. It is not rare to find international chefs and restaurateurs from across the city walking among the auctions every morning and being bewitched by the atmosphere of this place.

 

photo credit: yuichi38 on flickr & 584laurel on flickr

History

The history of the Tsukiji is equally impressive. Over 500 species of fish sold daily, including some really expensive sushi cuts, 700 thousand tons of product sold each year, more than 12 million euros in daily turnover.

Already replacing the previous market in the Nihonbashi area destroyed by the Great Kanto earthquake in 1923, the Tzukiji fish market opened its doors in 1935. With its hundreds of stalls, the market is famous for selling fish that varies from scampi to whale, but especially for the daily auction of bluefin tuna, sold for thousands of dollars each. A tradition that also continues in Toyosu's new market is also that of the New Year's auction where restaurateurs compete against each other to pay the highest price for the first tuna on January 1st each year.

 

photo credit: jpellgen on flickrthisisinsider.com

The market opens at 5 am and is also very popular with tourists. If you want to take advantage of your jet lag, be sure to get in line to be selected in the small group of visitors who are allowed to watch the tuna auction.
The tuna appear in various sizes and, during the auction, they are placed on the ground, in order, still frozen. Each cut is provided with a tag that indicates its weight, quality and provenance, and comes without head and tails so as to be able to view the color of the meat.

At the end of the auction, all visitors can put themselves in even longer queues to see those in charge of cutting and preparing ready-to-use tuna slices. It is here that you can see and taste the classic sushi cut and the best sashimi you can eat.

 

photo credit: thisisinsider.com & jpellgen on flickr

Where is the Toyosu Fish Market now?

IThe New Tsukiji Fish market, now renamed Toyosu Fish Market, is located near Shijomae Station on the Yurikamome Line, in Tokyo's Koto district, about 2 km east of Tsukiji. It is housed in 3 interconnected buildings (two for the sale of fish and one for the sale of fruit and vegetables). The buildings are connected directly to the station with a covered overpass, making it perfect for any climate. Toyosu is almost twice the size of the old Tsukiji market, about 40.7ha which allows it to maintain its status as the world's largest fish market.

 

photo credit: CNN.comthisisinsider.com

Admission to the Toyosu Fish Market

Entry to the Toyosu Fish Market is free and you can watch auctions from dedicated platforms. You just need a visitor pass to enter the buildings and you can also taste all the delicious dishes in the restaurants, most of which was transplanted by the old Tsukiji.
There is not much else around there, but if you want to stay in the area, you can go explore the nearby Odaiba. Furthermore, it is said that in 2022 the Senkyaku Banrai will be opened, a street dedicated to shopping, a major part of a project to make the community more livable and lively.

photo credit: falloutxthisisinsider.com


Japan Modern Culture: Kimi no Na wa - Your Name

Kimi no Na wa - Your Name

Photo credits: Tumblr.com

Your Name (original title: 君の名は。- Kimi no Na wa.) is the popular Japanese animated film directed by Makoto Shinkai and produced by CoMix Wave Films. Between 2016, year of the release, and 2017 it has become a big box-office hit not only in Japan but all over the world.
The work has the traits of a teenage love story, but also that of a sci-fi thriller with references to Japanese traditions and culture. With continuous changes of perspective and time, a vivid and enveloping animation, a soundtrack that accompanies scenes and underlines every detail, Your Name has won millions of fans over.

The Plot

Photo credits: www.zerochan.net

The focus of the story is two high school kids, Mitsuha Miyamizu and Taki Tachibana.
Mitsuha lives in the small mountain village of Itomori, near Tokyo, and loves spending her time with her two friends Sayaka and Tessie. She has a younger sister and a father, a local politician, who seems to care little for them. Their mother died and the two sisters live with their grandmother. Mitsuha, like her grandmother, is destined to become a Miko, a priestess of the local temple of which her family is the guardian. But this kind of life doesn’t suit her, as well as causing her a bit of embarrassment with her schoolmates. What she really wants is to move to the glittering metropolis and live like a normal girl, or better, be reborn as a handsome boy from Tokyo.

Taki, on the other hand, lives right in the centre of Tokyo and leads a normal life with his school duties, friends and his part-time job. In his free time, he works as a waiter in an Italian restaurant, Il Giardino Delle parole (The garden of words), a name that is a clear reference to Shinkai’s previous work. He is a bit impulsive but still kind at heart, and hopes to become an architect in the future. Like the other male coworkers, he is in love with his beautiful colleague Miki Okudera.

One day, however, the life of the two protagonists, who live without knowing of each other's existence, is overturned by something unbelievable. In what seemed like a normal morning, the two find out they have switched their bodies without any plausible explanation. These exchanges will continue for some time and after the initial surprise, the two try to adapt to their new condition. Communicating mainly through a diary on their cell phones they will, in a way, help each other. Mitsuha, with her sweet and affable side, will help Taki to have a date with the colleague he is in love with. Taki, with his temperament, will help Mitsuha face his classmates and become more self-confident. It will not take long before they begin to feel something for each other, even though they have actually never met.

 

Photo credits: twitter.com

One day Mitsuha tells Taki about a comet that will pass by on the day of his date with the beautiful Okudera. At Itomori, that will be the day of the autumn festival. The boy does not understand what she's talking about but, when he tries to call Mitsuha on the phone for the first time, his attempt fails. He understands that for them it is no longer possible to switch bodies and so he decides to go and meet her in person. When he finally discovers the name of her village, he also finds out that it had been destroyed three years before. A fragment of the comet Tiamat had fallen on Itomori destroying the village almost completely and killing a third of the inhabitants, Mitsuha as well.
Taki then goes to the sanctuary of the local guardian god, Musubi, on top of Mount Hida just outside the village. After entering the holy place he decides to drink the Kuchikamizake, the sake prepared by Mitsuha and that he himself, with her body, had left there as an offer. This allows him to actually travel back in time. He sees Mitsuha's past and wakes up in the girl's body again, just before the comet's fall. Aware of what will soon happen Taki does everything to ensure that the inhabitants of the village recognise the danger themselves. But he also knows that this is his last chance to see Mitsuha. He runs to meet the girl at the top of Mount Hida, where his body of the future had been left. Here, the two protagonists can see each other, for a few moments, before their memories are erased. Their commitment saves the village thus changing the course of history, but at the same time leaves a sense of emptiness inside of theme. A hole left from something to which they can not give either a name or a face that urges them to look for each other, even if they have no recollection of what had happened.

The Success

Photo credits: one--anime.blogspot.it

The film, which premiered in July 2016 at the Anime Expo in Los Angeles, was then released in Japanese cinemas starting from August that year. Immediately acclaimed as a masterpiece, in the triumphal march it reached 92 countries, earning more than 355 million dollars. This makes it the number 1 highest-grossing-anime in history. A goal that even authors themselves did not expect to reach.
This commercial success made it the 2nd-highest-grossing film of all time in Japan after Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away. It is also the 4th highest-grossing film after Titanic and Frozen. It has also earned the title of most watched Japanese anime in several other countries of the world.

As for Italy, the first Italian trailer was released only on December 6, 2016. Subsequently, the film was screened in about 160 theatres from 23 to 25, January 2017 thanks to a collaboration between Dynit and Nexo Digital. The success at the box-office was so great that several other dates were decided, bringing in a gross income of around 700,000 euros.

Looking at these numbers, it’s no surprise that director Shinkai has been sometimes referred to as Hayao Miyazaki’s successor; a title that the person himself has humbly refused saying he does not deserve it.

Themes and Symbolism

Photo credits: instarix.com

The inspiration for the story came to the author from works such as Inside Mari by Shūzō Oshimi, Ranma ½, as well as from classical works such as the Torikaebaya Monogatari dating back to the Heian period (794-1185). Another source of inspiration for the author seems to have been an ancient poem by the poet Ono no Komachi, who lived between 800 and 900. In one of her poems, the woman wrote: "Before I slept I thought of him, and into the dream he strayed. Had I known it was a dream, in the dream I would have stayed."

In fact, rather than swapping, the two protagonists of Your Name dream of each other. This is possible because Mitsuha is a priestess devoted to the God Musubi, the deity that governs experiences and human connections. When Taki, in Mitsuha's body, reveals himself to her grandmother, the old woman does not seem so surprised. Indeed, she herself had experienced the same thing since it is a particular family power, even though she no longer remembered the boy in her dreams.

Photo credits: forum.gamer.com.tw

Located at the top of a mountain that appears to be the crater caused by a previous appearance of the comet, the temple is a sacred place. It represents the boundary between the kingdom of Gods and Earth, between the realm of the living and that of the dead. To return to the mortal world you have to leave a part of yourself, and Mitsuha left a part of herself in the sake she prepared. The creation of the Kuchikamizake is a family tradition, along with traditional dances and braiding threads. It is a particular method of creating sake which involves chewing rice to activate its fermentation.

In this regard, Mitsuha grandmother’s words are very important:
“Musubi is the old way of calling the local guardian kami.
Tying thread is Musubi. Connecting people is Musubi.
These are all the kami’s power.
So the braided cords that we make are the kami’s art and represent the flow of time itself.
They converge and take shape. They twist, tangle, sometimes unravel, break, then connect again.
Musubi-knotting. That’s time.
Musubi is also sharing something with others”

These words not only represent a very profound spiritual concept but also make us understand the power of Taki’s gesture when he drinks the sake prepared by Mitsuha. In fact, this gesture is a symbolic act of profound connection in which the young man assumes in himself a part of Mitsuha and of her spiritual power, allowing him to meet her as well.

Photo credits: fakemorisummer.wordpress.com

Equally symbolic is the fact that the two of them meet at sunset. In fact, according to ancient legends sunset is the moment when the boundary between the world of the spirits and the world of the humans fades for a short moment and that is why they can finally meet, even though Mitsuha had died 3 years before. The two, however, had to sacrifice their memories in order to return to the earthly world.
Another Japanese legend finds its space in the story. Taki and Mitsuha seem to be linked by what many know as the 'red thread of fate’ that is said to tie two people destined to be together. The red thread that, in this case, is symbolized a thread that Mitsuha herself had made and then gave to Taki.

Shinkai, who as we said before did not expect the worldwide success it had in terms of audience, said that it was his intention to create a film that targeted Japanese youth. He wanted to create something that would push them to believe in their future.
He said: "I created this movie hoping that younger audiences would believe that ‘maybe there is the one in my life I might have not met yet but hopefully will see tomorrow or in the future.’ "

Photo credits: www.amazon.co.jp

Another important issue addressed by the film is the juxtaposition between the small rural village and the great metropolis of Tokyo, something that the author himself has experienced. In fact, he grew up in a small village and later moved to Tokyo, which is common to many young Japanese people.
Here we see Mitsuha, she lives immersed in local traditions but yearns for the city life; and we see Taki, immersed in city life, that learns to appreciate the past and traditions.
Once again, it is the grandmother's words that help us: "Even if the words have been lost, it is important to preserve these traditions". With this, it looks like she wants us to remember where we come from, in opposition to her son, a corrupt local politician who chose to abandon the temple completely.
Ancient traditions represent the founding substratum of a community, what the present is based on and which binds people together. And also what enables them to face even the darkest times.
Japan is no stranger to natural disasters, just remember the recent earthquake in 2011 or the great Kanto earthquake in 1923. And how to forget the atomic disaster that put an end to the Second World War. In all these occasions Japan has always found a way to start anew, placing one interest over the others: what can we do to prevent this from happening again. No wonder then that in this film the two protagonists try to prevent what would have been a real tragedy.
The goal of the film is to give hope but at the same time, it also invites us to never forget our roots and the spiritual union that they can create.
We could, therefore, say that Your name has a cathartic function for viewers.

Strong Points

Photo credits: Lovejude

Whether you are among those who liked the film or not, Your Name certainly has several objectively strong points.
First of all is the animation and the extremely realistic rendering of its setting. It is, after all, the style of its author. The film’s landscapes are described in detail and the colors are warm and bright. The images are so vivid that they are able to convey, simply by colour, the intense and pure emotions of the protagonists, thus contributing to the cathartic function of the film.
Also worthy of mention is the soundtrack that was composed by the vocalist of the Japanese rock band Radwimps, Yojiro Noda.
Noda, specially requested by Shinkai himself, had only one request to respond to :
“make it in a way that the music will (supplement) the dialogue or monologue of the characters".
And considering the results we can say that this soundtrack is one of the keys to the success of the film..

This world seems like it still wants to keep me tamed
As you wish, then- I'll struggle beautifully.
Your Name Theme song - Yojiro Noda

Yet despite the positive critics, Shinkai claimed that the film is actually not as good as he had thought. The lack of time and funds forced him to deliver to the public a work that he himself calls incomplete. He stated : "There are things we could not do, Masashi Ando [Director of animation] wanted to keep working [on] but we had to stop for lack of money ... For me, it’s incomplete, unbalanced. The plot is fine but the film is not at all perfect. Two years were not enough."

Related Products and Remake

Photo credits: Amazon.co.jp

In addition to the film, products related to Your Name include other works, such as a novel, manga, film guides and CDs. In December 2016 alone, the sales of these products amounted to around 2.5 million copies.
The novel and manga of the same name were published in Italy by the J-Pop publishing. The Blu-ray and normal DVD versions, released in July 2016, arrived in Italy in November 2017.
Sales confirmed the success in cinemas.

Last September it was also announced that Your Name will soon have a Hollywood live-action adaptation.
The chosen producer is none other than J.J. Abrams (Star Trek, Mission impossible). The announcement has already triggered reactions from many people, both fans of the film and those who are simply curious. There are many who voiced worries that this adaptation could overturn what is already considered as a masterpiece.
Records do not seem to play in favour of this live-action. It is still recent news that the director of Death Note's Netflix remake had to close his Twitter account after being strongly attacked for his work. Attacks that did not spare another adaptation of the popular anime Ghost in the shell, whose film starring Scarlett Johansson did not satisfy its fans.
Your Name is certainly not an easy film to adapt to the western setting because of its numerous references to particular places and cultural and religious concepts that are specific to Japan. Just consider Mitsuha and her family, the guardians of the shrine of the deity Musubi, and the ancient traditions of the village.
As for places, in addition to Itomori which is a fantasy village, there are real cities. Not only Tokyo, but also Hida, and that the Itomori Lake itself is inspired by a famous Japanese lake, Lake Suwa.
Only time will tell us how this adaptation will turn out, and needless to say, we, as well as the fans, will be keeping our eyes peeled for it.

Trailer:

SalvaSalva

SalvaSalva


Japanese Culture: Ramen

Ramen: The “emperor” of Japanese cuisine.

Photo credits: narutonoodle.com/

Until a few years ago, for ethnic cuisine enthusiasts, going to a Japanese restaurant strictly referred to consuming Sushi: a dish made of raw fish and rice.

This dish, with its colourful and evocative shapes, winks at the most fashionable diners (but not just them!), who have the opportunity to taste "first with their eyes, then with their mouth".  But now another famous dish from Japan has finally made its way to our tables with many people going crazy about it.

We are talking about Ramen (ラーメン,拉麺 rāmen), perhaps the real representative dish of the country. It is so famous throughout Japan that each region boasts a different way to prepare it. Different region, different recipe. Let’s taste them all then...

It is a soup dish with many ingredients: noodles, pork, Nori (海苔) or dried seaweed, boiled eggs, and the kamaboko which is also known as surimi. Its most famous form, the spiral one, is called Naruto (like the manga character of the same name whose name derives from this ingredient). Ramen can be made with either a seafood-based or meat-based broth, various garnishes, and different ways to flavour it; sesame seeds or pepper, for example, miso or soy sauce.

Story of a Soup

Photo credits: travelcaffeine.com

Although it is unclear when the popularisation of this plate began in Japan, it originally came from China as one of its main ingredients is the Chinese mian,or wheat noodles. But we must say that in recent years, there has been a reintroduction of this dish in China, as ramen is no longer considered a traditional dish from China, but a Japanese imported product. In China, they are called rìshì lāmiàn or "Japanese style Lamian", which is considered as a completely different dish from the Chinese lāmiàn.

Ramen has always been a dish to be enjoyed outside and at the beginning of the 20th century, there were numerous kiosks manned by Chinese handlers. Then, after the Second World War, Japanese soldiers returning from China, where they had learned this culinary tradition, opened several restaurants across the country. From that point on, there has been an evolution that led to ramen as we know it today.

It is so appreciated that in 1994, the Shin-Yokohama Raumen Museum, which is entirely dedicated to this delicacy, was opened in Yokohama.

‘Company’ Ramen.

Photo credits: jpninfo.com

As previously mentioned, it was not an oddity to taste bowls of ramen in street stalls in the past. These stalls are still popular today, although not as widespread as they once were. This is because ramen is also considered a street food to be enjoyed in traditional Yatai's or stalls. On the other hand, the best restaurants are the Ramen-ya with just a few seats at the counter and at the tables as well, but with the purpose of eating ramen only. It is not unusual to find ramen in amusement parks or in karaoke's menus. It may also happen that after work colleagues stop by an Izakaya, a pub with the formula Nomihodai "all you can drink" - Tabehodai "all you can eat". Here, with a limit of three hours, diners can enjoy ramen together with liquor and other foods with a fixed-price menu.

Honourable mentions and regional variants

Photo credits: zerochan.net

Although the classic recipe is common throughout Japan, there are always innovative variants.

Here we have to mention the Blue Ramen, of beautiful and brilliant colour, and we want to specify that this is completely natural! But this is an extreme innovation.

“Traditional” regional variants are:

  • Tokyo variant, with thick noodles, chicken and soy broth, garnished with bamboo shoots, shallots, sliced pork, seaweed, spinach, an egg and a little bit of Dashi. We recommend that you try shops in Ikebukuro, Ogikubo and Ebisu wards.
  • Sapporo is famous for their "winter" version, sometimes garnished with seafood, butter, pork, corn and bean sprouts.
  • Yokohama has the le-kei , coddled eggs for which each customer can choose the desired softness and then break it so to flavour the broth, also adding onion, pork, spinach and seaweed.
  • Kitakata, with its thick but flat noodles, served with pork broth.
  • Hakata and its broth made of pork bones, thin noodles, ginger, vegetables, mustard and sesame seeds.

If reading this article made you really hungry we want to recommend some places where you can taste ramen in Italy:

Nozomi

Via Pietro Calvi 2, 20129 Milano, Italia
+39 02 7602 3197
http://www.nozomi.milano.it/

Casa Ramen

Via Porro Lambertenghi 25, Milano, Italia
+39 02 3944 4560
https://www.facebook.com/casaramen

Zarà Ramen

Via Solferino, 48, 20121 Milano, Italia
+39 02 3679 9000
https://www.facebook.com/zazaramen/

Mi-Ramen Bistro

Viale col di lana, 15 | Viale Col Di Lana, 15, 20136, Milano
+39 339 232 2656
http://mi-ramenbistro.it/

Osaka

Corso Giuseppe Garibaldi 68, 20121 Milano, Italia
+39 02 2906 0678
http://www.milanoosaka.com/

Ryukishin

Via Ariberto 1, 20123 Milano, Italia
+39 02 8940 8866
http://www.ryukishin.it/

Banki Ramen

Via Dei Banchi 14 Rosso, 50123, Firenze, Italia
+39 055 213776

Waraku

Via Prenestina 321/A, 00177 Roma, Italia
+39 06 2170 2358
https://www.facebook.com/Waraku-192626757583758/

 


Japanese Culture: Lolita fashion

Lolita fashion - (ロリータ・ファッション Rorīta fasshon)

photo credit: mangakas-onfire.blogspot.it

Probably, those who have a romantic vein suspended in an undefined past, would like to be like a beautiful porcelain doll. Maybe they would like to have lovely dresses that would rival those of Marie Antoinette ad go to a dreamy Tea Party.

All this things are possible thanks to the Lolita phenomenon, one of the most famous and sophisticated Japanese trends. As a mix between Baroque and Victorian style, it is really appreciated in its home-country but is also known all around the world.

The name refers to, although it doesn’t celebrate, Vladimir Vladimirovič Nabokov’s novel, but this trend is not a tribute to a young and provocative sensuality. In fact, it represents beauty that hides innocence, the elegance in hiding more than showing. Moreover, the name ‘Lolita’ is a Wasei-eigo, a word that includes all those anglophone words that in their original language have a completely different meaning or don’t even exist, but that are part of the Japanese vocabulary.

photo credit: honoluluacademy.org

It’s not certain when this type of clothing was created. Some think in late 70’s, although it is true that it become popular by the end of the 90’s. This trend was greatly influenced by the musical genre of Visual Kei. It is no coincidence that this type of music is really theatrical not only in its sound but also in band members’ dresses too.

Exemplary are MALICE MIZERE partly thanks to their co-founder and leader of the band Mana (also called Mana-sama by his fans). In particular Mana influenced the “Gothic Lolita” also signing his own brand Moi-même-Moitié.

photo credit: pinterest

Gothic Lolita and Sweet Lolita

photo credit: my-lolita-dress.com

The Lolita Style is divided into two distinctive trends (also divided into many sub-styles) : The Gothic Lolita, maybe the most famous one, and the Sweet Lolita.

The GothLoli (ゴスロリ gosu rori): The Gothic Lolita as we said is probably the most famous type but its name is erroneously attributed to the whole genre. Black is the dominant color celebrated in all its possible shades. But it doesn’t disdain other dark colors like burgundy, dark blue, violet, and emerald green. These colors are often used in both cloth and make-up with heavy and dramatic smokey eyes and lipstick that stand out on the white powder. In fact, this is the only exception to the Lolita style in which this type of powder is used because in all the other styles a more natural look is preferred. The dense embroideries of the clothes are inspired by grim stories with their skulls; or religious themes with crosses (gothic crosses) used in jewelry too. Coffins are used as small purses and small black lacy umbrellas refine the outfit.

photo credit: pinterest

The Aristocrat Style is one of the many sub-genres of the Gothloli but is more mature and somber, as its name suggests, purposely more “aristocrat” and very elegant.

Since the Gothic Lolita style is based on the Victorian Style, that as we remember is emblematic of the Gothic and the refined, we have to take notice of the similarity with the western steam-punk.

Ama-loli (甘ロリ ama rori) : the Sweet Lolita on the other hand prefers pastel colors and especially pink. The same goes with make-up here less dramatic, almost more natural. Nevertheless, it still remains an elaborate style, especially emphatic on the eyes with light shades of pink and fake eyelashes for doll-like eyes, as well as light nuances for the lips. This style too is inspired by the Victorian Age but even more it is influenced by French Rococo. This is a more ‘child-like’ lolita style, were ribbons and bows are dominant. The embroidery are inspired by the world of fairy tales, unicorns and small miniature french sweets like Macaron. They are jewels to show off together with small rucksacks with the shape of small bears or rabbits and the inspiring heroine is “Alice in wonderland”.

photo credit: pinterest

Sub-genres and the Prince

The world of lolitas is various and elaborated, there are genres to suit every taste. The Wa Lolita is a mix between lolita clothes and traditional kimonos, with a Obi around the waist and the classic Geta as shoes; The Qi Lolita, that comes back to the Chinese style where instead of kimonos it modifies Chinese qípáo; The Sailor Lolita is based on the classic sailor uniform with its more elaborated variation; or the Pirate Lolita.

And if you think that the Lolita style is all “Sugar and cinnamon” we also have the Guro Lolita. Here lolitas are inspired by the horror genre with fake blood standing out on pure-white dresses to give the idea of broken porcelain dolls.

photo credit: pinterest

But there are really a great number of examples we could speak about.
A particular note must be given to the Ōji (王子 prince) Style for all those that think that the lolita style is only a girl’s trend. The Prince style is based on models of clothes used by young Victorian Dandies, so here we have short trousers and knee socks. But this doesn’t mean it is a men-only style. If a girl would like to get close to the lolita world and wanted to have a more androgynous style this is the right choice for her.

Must-have, various Brands, animes and influence outside Japan.

There are some cult objects that every Lolita with this name must have in her wardrobe: the Cutsew, blouse with big blows and puff sleeves or the Petticoat, the undergarment used to give a larger shape to skirts and dresses.
For those who would like to know how can lolitas have such beautiful and thick hair… well you must know that it is a wig.
Lolitas embellish them with big ribbons and Bonnets too, the typical small hats used in the past, and this goes together with iconic shoes in a Mary Jane like style. Even if these shoes for kids come from the past century they are the shoes that every Lolita wears.

photo credit: pinterest

Aside from that of Mana-sama, other popular brands are Angelic Pretty, e Baby, The Stars Shine Bright, this last one with boutiques not only in Tokyo but in Paris and San Francisco too.
We must say that the lolita fashion is very expensive, but there are Indie brands
as beautiful as the most famous one that are certainly less expensive. And in Japan there’s the possibility to buy lolita clothes in department stores too, or there are dedicated web sites that sell second or third hand clothes. In other words it is a style open to everyone.

The Lolita phenomenon found its way to many successful animes too.
Some examples are Paradise Kiss by Ai Yazawa better known as the ‘mother’ of Nana; Princess Princess, where the lolita fashion is seen through the eyes of three boys; Le Portrait de Petit Cossette, female and Noir version of the Portrait of Dorian Gray; and Rozen Maiden too, where the protagonists are precisely beautiful dolls.

As we said, Lolitas are famous not only in Japan but we can meet a great number of small communities from America to Europe.
Lolitas gather together in refined Tea Houses to celebrate the 5 o’clock tea with the class and the style that distinguishes them from any other trend.