Bringing Japan to Italy: episode 07 - Yoko Takada

A few months ago, in conjunction with the Novegro comics festival, we had the opportunity to interview Yoko Takada. For this seventh episode of 『Bringing Japan to Italy』, the artist specializing in Japanese culture, tea ceremonies, Kimono dressing and much more speaks to our microphones.

Yoko Takada has kindly granted this exclusive interview for Japan Italy Bridge to help promote and share more the Japanese culture. Furthermore, we talk about the similarities between Japan and Italy, and why the bow is so important in the land of the rising sun. Did you know that? Enjoy the video!


Giappone, secret beauty with Alex Kerr

Alex Kerr, writer, orientalist and author of the book "The Beauty of secret Japan" will hold a special conference on Thursday 11 July at 18.30 at the Palazzo Reale in Milan.

Published by EDT, "The beauty of secret Japan" arrives in the bookstore where Alex Kerr tells of Japan and its ancient culture that is disappearing today. In this book, the author tells "from within" the millenary culture of Japan, with deep and passionate knowledge. Kerr talks about the sensuality of kabuki theater, the art of calligraphy, the tea ceremony, the rituals of Shintoism and the different Japanese religions. Without failing to talk about Zen monasteries, traditional architecture, the mysteries of everyday life and much more.

In "The beauty of secret Japan" the author describes the surviving natural and landscape beauties, such as the wonderful valley of Iya, on the island of Shikoku. Here, at the end of the seventies, Kerr bought an ancient rural house, Chiiori (the house of the flute). After the restoration where he paid great attention to traditional materials and techniques, Alex Kerr makes it the starting point of personal and passionate research towards the disappearing Japan.

alex kerr

Biography

For those of you who don't know Alex Kerr, we're talking about an American writer living in Japan for over forty years. Kerr is also considered one of the most esteemed orientalists in the world and is the first and only Western writer to have been the recipient of the Scincho Gakugei Literary Award for the best non-fiction work in Japan.

Kerr has dedicated his life to the study of the culture and traditions of ancient Japan. From calligraphy to teaching traditional arts, from collectors to the restoration and architectural restoration of disused traditional houses. Kerr's activities have created a form of sustainable tourism in the most unknown and unspoiled rural areas of Japan.

The Alex Kerr Conference

Of the beauty and secrets of ancient Japan, Alex Kerr will speak at his conference at the Palazzo Reale in Milan, Thursday 11 July 2019. Organized by the EDT publishing house in collaboration with Associazione Culturale Giappone in Italia, Alex Kerr will present us not only his new book but also his life experience in Japan.

At the end of the conference, there will be a tasting of three types of Japanese tea offered by La Teiera Eclettica di Milano.

We at Japan Italy Bridge will be there, and obviously, we are waiting for you!

Information

When: Thursday 11 July, 6.30pm
Where: Palazzo Reale | Sala Conferenze Piazza Duomo 14, Milano
Accreditation: The conference is free with a request for accreditation by mail or telephone to 0115591851 | a.dantoni@edt.it


Age of Samurai: Battle for Japan soon on NETFLIX

For all the TV series addicted that lately are going through a crisis of abandonment (or disgust) for the latest Game of Thrones series, do not despair, "Age of Samurai: Battle for Japan" is on its way.

photo credits: wikipedia.org

Age of Samurai: Battle for Japan, the series

According to Deadline, Netflix in collaboration with Blu Ant Media-run Smithsonian Canada, would have included in its programming Age of Samurai. in fact, described as a real Game of Thrones of feudal Japan, the series will tell the wars between the various kingdoms of that era.

According to previews, the focus of the series will be the figure of Date Masamune, the famous samurai also known as One-Eyed Dragon. He fought alongside the three founding fathers of Japan, warlords who led fierce samurai armies against one another. The purpose of these wars was the unification of the nation about 400 years ago.

The epic figure of Date Masamune, whose legend tells of having lost an eye infected with smallpox as a child, is the protagonist. Furthermore, after killing his younger brother, he succeeded his father as clan leader when he was only 17 years old.
Also conquering the neighboring clans, Date Masamune began the rise to power to unify northern Japan under his control.

Production details

Netflix has commissioned to produce the series at the Canadian production company Cream Productions, already behind the PBS series The Dictator's Palybook, BTK: A Killer Among Us and Fear Thy Neighbor.

Furthermore, executive producers, as well as Cream's CEO and co-founder David Brady, President Kate Harrison and senior production executive Matthew Booi, will be Simon George of the movie Jason Silva for Nat Geo Origins: The Journey of Humankind, Barbarians Rising for History and Showtime documentary Pariah: The Lives and Deaths of Sonny Liston.

photo credits: dualshockers.com

According to the source, Age of Samurai: Battle for Japan is already being filmed in Japan, the United States and Canada. The series is in fact expected to land on Netflix by the end of the year.

We look forward to it and look forward to seeing this new series in one go! And you?


Festa del Giappone 2019 Video Report

On June 9th, we had the pleasure of participating in the "Festa del Giappone". Organized by our friends from Giappone in Italia at the Circolo Magnolia in Milan, the event was a real success!

Among stalls, workshops, conferences, and shows connected to Japan, the public was able to dive even for a little bit into the true Japanese culture. Furthermore, Kokeshi dolls, paintings and many delicacies that have attracted the attention of all visitors. While starting from the Okonomiyaki passing through the typical Japanese curry rice to the famous Takoyaki, the Japan Festival also involved several personalities from the Rising Sun scene in Milan.

We at Japan Italy Bridge have made a little video recap and we hope to see you at the next Japan Festival!

 


Bringing Japan to Italy: episode 06 – Takarabune

A few months ago, in conjunction with the Japan Matsuri in Bellinzona, we had the opportunity to interview one of the very few Awa Odori dance troupe: Takarabune!

The Awa Dance Festival (阿波踊り), the largest dance festival in Japan, is held from August 12th to 15th as part of the Bon Festival in Tokushima prefecture of Shikoku in Japan.
The earliest origins of this style of dace are found in the Japanese Buddhist priesthood dances of Nembutsu-odori and hiji-odori of the Kamakura period (1185 – 1333), and also in the kumi-odori, a lively crop dance that was known to last for several days.

The Takarabune group has been traveling the world for years to bring joy and to share the culture of Japanese festivals with all other foreign nations.
In an exclsive interview for Japan Italy Bridge they tell us how they see the relationship between Italy and Japan and their thoughts on our beautiful country. Enjoy!

Follow Takarabune

Website: takarabune.org
Facebook: facebook.com/Takarabune.official
Instagram: @takarabune_official
Twitter: @Takarabune_info


Poké Don @ TENOHA & | RAMEN

That the Japanese diet is one of the best in the world is well known. Just like in the Italian style, also in Japan they don't like to cover the flavors of the various ingredients too much. No sauces too strange or too intrusive, just a little wasabi or teriyaki and the dish is ready to be served.

If you haven't tried the & | Taste at TENOHA, we suggest you to take a tour to get a taste of real Japan in Milan. But even more, we advise you to pass by TENOHA & | Ramen, a small corner dedicated to this typical Japanese dish, launched last November 28th.
If you are like me, I'm sure you will love the hot ramen even in August. However, if you prefer something fresher, don't despair, the POKE’ DON have arrived.

With a diverse range of options, the new Poké Don from TENOHA & | RAMEN, offer a wide choice moving from salmon and avocado to a vegetarian option, passing through spicy flavors too.

Accompanied by shoyu sauce with yuzu, sesame sauce, soy sprouts, edamame, wakame but also more "Italian" ingredients such as cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots and marinated egg, these new offerings make your mouth water just by looking at them!

We at Japan Italy Bridge have tried them for you and we have gone crazy for the Salmon Avocado and Tori Poké versions and now we are curious to know which one will be your favorite!

Information & Opening hours

where: Via Vigevano 20, Milano
Lunch: 12:00 - 15:00
Dinner: 19:00 - 23:00 | 19:00 - 23:30 (Friday and Saturday)
No reservations


Japan Italy: "An Italian in Japan" the serie - Michela Figliola

Warm Cheap Trips, Michela Figliola and her experience

A few months ago we launched the column "An Italian in Japan" where we interview our compatriots in the land of the Rising Sun. Few succeed in realizing the dream of going to live in Japan and we want to share with you the experiences of those who succeeded! Today we present Michela Figliola, a very Italian girl who lives and works in Japan!

JIB: Tell us who you are shortly

M: Michela, from Brescia, in fact from Franciacorta, in love with travels. At the age of 28 I decided to leave my permanent position in Italy and move to Japan, a country that I love very much and where, despite its oddities, I feel at home.

JIB: Where does your passion for Japan come from?

M: I don't really remember what triggered it. I have always been attracted by the East, by its very different culture and its traditional landscapes. A series of events made me increasingly familiar with Japan and its classical culture and I was bewitched more and more every day. I still love to discover its history and deepen its many cultural nuances.

JIB: You have moved to Japan since a while now, what are the steps you took to live in this country?

M: The dream of moving here was born about 6 years ago, on the first trip. From there I evaluated the various options, including that of starting my own business. In the end, especially for a monetary issue, I fell back on the classic student visa to learn the language and then find a full-time job once here.
Although less expensive than the visa business, the Japanese school is still not cheap, so it took me a few years to save enough to afford school and expenses in Japan. Together with a work permit and working for 28 hours a week, you can partially cover your daily expenses.

JIB: Tell us about one of the funniest experiences you had since you lived in Japan.

M: More than fun experiences, these are meetings: once I met a pig with a rainbow tuft, while I was walking through the streets of the Asakusa area. While on another occasion, coming out of an izakaya near home, I met the famous Sailor Suit Old Man, the old man dressed as a schoolgirl!

JIB: Your blog, warmcheaptrips.com, what it was born of and how you developed the idea until it got to what it is today

M: The blog was born in 2015, after yet another trip organized in detail in autonomy, struggling to find the answers I was looking for. At the suggestion of a friend who asked me to pass her one of my old itineraries so that she replicate it, I decided to put everything that was hidden on my PC online and help other people to travel.
I have always loved writing, as well as traveling and initially, the blog was a way to show what I could do, a sort of portfolio about who I am and how I approach things.
Then over time it became something more professional and I started investing more and more time in it, in order to give useful and interesting information to readers, specializing in cultural itineraries, historical journeys and of course, Japan, especially the less known one.

JIB: From the point of view of a westerner, what are the difficulties and the differences that you have found in the first times in Japan compared to Italy

M: Personally, having started with a lot of preparation on all those that can be thorny aspects for the Italians, I didn't have great difficulties. I feel very comfortable and in line with the Japanese attitude. The only thing that every now and then jars a little about me is the total lack of elasticity that in some cases would be useful for solving problems quickly and easily. Or the fact that they rarely express their real opinion and say things between the lines. Reasoning differently from ours, we are not always able to grasp the real point of the situation.

JIB: Many think that Japan is a totally different land from Italy but instead we have found many more similarities than we can imagine. What do you think about it? What are the strongest similarities?

M: Let's say that for many things the two countries resemble each other very much, above all it is impressive how similar they are to being on opposites.
We say that the major similarities are mainly the love for beauty and aesthetics, especially in clothing and in posture. But also in the kitchen: simple flavors, but rich in taste, where the elements that make up the dish have a perfect balance.
There are strong traditions and a lot of attachment to regional cultures and dialects, as well as the playful way in which they divide the country into North and South (or better, east and west) because of different habits and attitudes!

JIB: Projects for the future?

M: Now I am waiting for the new immigration visa, if it doesn’t arrive, I will return to Italy for a year and I will look for work in some company that can offer me a future transfer.
Obviously, I hope that everything goes well and can continue to stay here, working for the current company that deals with the organization of tours and events in Tokyo and the management of Social Networks on behalf of other activities. In parallel I would like to continue my blog, continuing to write about travels both in Japan and around the world.

JIB: How is Italy seen in Japan?

M: They love everything that is Italian, and they often see Italy as a symbol of elegance and refinement. And they have the idea of a very stereotypical Italian man: always full of compliments and attention that fills his woman with flowers and gifts. Lately, however, Italy is seen as a dangerous country to travel to, because of the thefts and scams of which the Japanese are often victims!

JIB: May in Japan, what's special about this month in the land of the Rising Sun?

M: This year there was the "mega golden week", a series of national holidays that offer about a week of pause from work, but in 2019 it was particularly long because there was the change of Emperor! The Heisei era ended on April 30 and the new Reiwa era began on May 1st, when Prince Naruhito ascended the throne.

JIB: Do you think there is a future for even closer collaboration between the two nations?

M: The interest in Italy by the Japanese is very high, and the interest of the Italians towards Japan increases more and more. Not only from a tourism point of view, but also from an economic point of view and from the exchange of goods, so yes, we will certainly move towards an even closer collaboration between the two countries.

JIB: Do you ever miss Italy? Do you plan to return here permanently?

M: I was fine in Italy too, but I'm better here. Thanks to technology it is still very easy to communicate with Italy so I never feel nostalgic. Sometimes, however, I suffer terribly from the lack of some homemade foods or dishes, but fortunately, there is still a lot of great food here too!

JIB: Give a greeting and advice to all our readers

M: Japan is a fantastic country to visit, don't limit yourself to the great classics, but explore the less traveled areas. Here you will experience the true essence of Japan and you will be able to fully enjoy its culture and tradition. To better understand this country, you have to open your mind, stop judging what seems different and let yourself get carried away by Japan. Always be respectful of the country you are visiting, almost as if you were a ghost, especially if you visit less touristy areas.
Instead, if you are thinking of moving to Japan, study its history and focus on what could be negative aspects of everyday life. Do not trust those who say that everything is perfect! I love it, but I know that for many other people many things could weigh a lot, especially those who are very attached to Italian culture and human relationships as they are in Italy. Here the relationships are extremely different, be aware of them before you decide to transfer!

Follow Michela

Website: warmcheaptrips.com
Instagram: @warmcheaptrips


Japan Tradition: Sanja Matsuri

photo credits: Yoshikazu TAKADA

The festival of the three temples

The Sanja Matsuri (三社祭) is one of the most famous festivals, largest and "wildest" festivals in Tokyo dedicated to the Shinto religion. The festival is held in honor of Hinokuma Hamanari, Hinokuma Takenari and Hajino Nakatomo, the three men who founded the Sensō-ji temple.

The Sanja Matsuri is held on the third weekend of May at the Asakusa temple and the sumptuous parade involves three mikoshi (portable temples), dances, traditional music and lasts about three days.

Like most Japanese festivals, the Sanja matsuri is also a religious celebration dedicated to the spirits of the three men, founders of the temple. This festival seems to have been born in the 7th century and is also known as "Kannon Matsuri" and "Asakusa Matsuri" and with a different shape than today.
The modalities in which today's Sanja Matsuri is organized were established during the Edo period when in 1649 the shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu commissioned the construction of the Asakusa temple.

If you happen to be around Asakusa during the festival days, you can feel an atmosphere full of energy. People flock to the streets surrounding the Sensō-ji temple to the sound of flutes, whistles and taiko (traditional Japanese percussion).

photo credits: Atsushi Ebara, Yoshikazu TAKADA

The Mikoshi

The main attraction of this festival is the three mokoshi belonging to the Asakusa temple. These three elaborate temples in black lacquered wood have the function of being a miniature and a portable version of the Asakusa Temple. Decorated with sculptures and golden leaves, they weigh about a ton and are transported by long poles held together by ropes. For each mikoshi there is a need for about 40 people for safe transport and during the day, around 500 people participate in the transport of each temple.

The "parade" of these mikoshi is perhaps the most important moment of the day and the streets are crowded as they pass. As they are also transported, they are agitated and made to bounce strongly, because it is said that this leads to intensifying the power of the Kami inside and that it helps to increase luck in the respective neighborhoods.

While the three main mikoshi are the most important objects in the streets during the Sanja Matsuri, there are about 100 other smaller mikoshi scattered in the neighborhood on Saturday. Many of these temples are also transported by women or children.

photo credits: KMrT, Leo U

Day after day

The Sanja matsuri, is a festival that lasts several days and begins on Thursday with an important religious ceremony. This function requires the priest responsible for the temple to perform a ritual that makes the Kami of the three founders of the temple move from within into the three mikoshi. The latter will then be the protagonists of the parade that will last all weekend in Asakusa.

By opening the three small doors of the mikoshi the three spirits are invited to enter the miniature temples where they will stay for the duration of the festival. The interior of these mikoshi is also concealed from the public by a thin cotton curtain.

photo credits: Yoshikazu TAKADA

But the actual parade begins on Friday, known as Daigyōretsu (大 行列) which literally means "great parade".
The famous procession goes down via Yanagi Street and continues to the Nakamise-dōri up to the Asakusa temple. This festival is also well known for the sumptuous costumes of the participants, but also for the geishas and city officials who wear hakama, traditional Japanese clothes.
In the evening, six mikoshi from the most central neighborhoods are sent in procession on the shoulders of several dozen people.

photo credits: Hong Seongwan, Yoshikazu TAKADA

The following day, Saturday, about 100 mikoshi belonging to the 44 districts of Asakusa gather at the Kaminarimon and then leave on parade via the Nakamise-dōri in the direction of Hōzōmon. Once here they pay their respects to Kannon, the goddess of Mercy. Later, the mikoshi are taken to the Asakusa temple where the Shinto priest blesses them and purifies them for the coming year. Once the ceremony is completed, these small portable temples are transported back to their respective neighborhoods.

However, the most important event of the Sanja Matsuri takes place on Sunday. It is in this day in fact that we can see the parade of the three mikoshi belonging to the Asakusa Shrine. They march along the Nakamise-dōri to arrive at the Kaminarimon on Sunday morning. These three mikoshi enclose the three spirits of the three founding men of the Sensō-ji temple and, during the final day of this festival, they come to visit and bring blessings to the 44 districts of Asakusa.
When evening arrives, the three mikoshi find their way back to the Asakusa temple creating another great procession that lasts until late at night.

photo credits: ageless foto, Yoshikazu TAKADA

Yakuza Show

This festival of monumental size, also allows to mix fringes of the population that usually remain very detached. It is indeed common to find the Yakuza performing in fundoshi, without shame or fear, proudly showing their tattoos. In the eyes of a westerner, not accustomed to Japanese culture, this could almost seem like a comic scene. However, don't dare to laugh if you don't want bad luck to hit you!

photo credits: Hong Seongwan, syasya_akemi