This summer I went to the Earth Celebration on Sado Island, a three-day festival centered around the amazing taiko-drumming of Kodo.
Sado Island (佐渡島 sadogashima) is the home of Kodo (鼓童), the most well-known taiko drumming group in Japan, and probably in the world. I had seen Kodo perform indoor concerts, once in Kobe and once somewhere else, but this was my first time going to Sado for the festival.
Imagine what these drums sound like live. It’s like precise and rhythmic thunder. Truly amazing and totally mesmerizing. Also notable are the physiques of the players themselves. Those guys are ripped. Anyway…
The festival itself is an extremely family friendly environment. Many people brought their children and even babies to the event. Our group included my family, which included a 1-year old and my wife, another couple and their 3-year old and 1-year old, another adult, and mother with a 5-month old and a 3-year old. I also saw a dude walking around with a ferret, and regular teenagers and seniors as well.
There are also classes and workshops available each day where you can learn to dance or to beat a taiko drum. Most of the workshops require reservations and fill up months in advance of the festival, so if you want to participate in one be sure to plan ahead. We did not take part in any of the workshops this time.
There was a main stage on the festival grounds that had schedules performances throughout the day. There wer also countless food stalls and shops selling the usual “hippie” fare. If you’ve been to a flea market or outdoor crafts festival in Japan you will be familiar with the bags, hats, drums, and other trinkets that are for sale.
The Kodo performance, which is the main event each day, starts at around 6:30 PM and ends at about 9:00 PM. Most participants purchase their dinner on the festival grounds and bring them to the concert area to eat while waiting for the show to start. No photography is allowed during the Kodo performance, so I don’t have any to show. The other photographs and videos here are from the other not Kodo performances during the festival. There are plenty of Kodo photos and videos around the web if you want to see the performers in action!
And now, the moment you have all been waiting for… I shall share tips for concert survival!
Bring a towel, it’s hot during the summer and you’re going to sweat.
Bring a large towel or something to claim your space and sit on during the main event — everyone does.
If you’re trying to save money, bring your own water. Water is for sale at about 100 yen a bottle at the festival site, but you know, every yen counts.
Bring a hat. It’s hot.
Sandals are nice to have, but if it rains the grounds get very soggy so prepare to have muddy feet.
Plan EARLY! Lodging options and event reservations fill up months before the festival, so plan ahead.
If you’re already convinced, in 2014, Earth Celebration will be held August 22 (Fri) through 24 (Sun). Start making plans! Many people who attend this festival go year after year, so go as soon as possible so that you can go again if you want!
Here are some photos that I took during Earth Celebration 2013. Enjoy! Hope you get a chance to attend the festival!
One of the stops on my trip to Tokyo with @GuideYu a few months ago was to a Tenugui shop in Harajuku called Kamawanu.
Tenugui are a traditional Japanese multipurpose cloth. To name just a few of the many uses for tenugui, back in the Edo period people would use tenugui as small towels, or wrap them around their heads to keep the sweat or hair out of their eyes. Tenugui are usually are decorated with traditional Japanese patterns and designs.
Tenugui that I bought at Kamawanu - Click for larger image
One of the tenugui I bought at Kamawanu depicts cats… I don’t like cats, but my wife does, and this was pretty cool artistically, so I grabbed it. It may seem a little weird to put a tenugui in a frame and hang it on the wall, but I swear I got this idea from the shop in Harajuku itself, and the art on this particular tenugui is a recreation of some traditional Japanese art from the 1800s, so I’m going to say that it’s wall worthy. To further justify my wall-hanging case I learned that one of my Japanese friends, @ukti2009, also has a tenugui framed and hanging on her wall. She has the 蚊取り線香 katori senkou pattern tenugui.
Kamawanu is a cool shop. If you are interested in Tenugui you should stop by. The shop name, Kamawanu, is a play on words. The first image is of a sickle, followed by a circle, and then the hiragana character nu. The following image explains everything, but basically in Japanese a sickle is “kama” 鎌, and a way to say a circle is “wa” 輪, and then you have the sound “nu.” In Japanese the phrase “KAMAWANU” means, “I don’t mind” and sort of expresses a feeling of indifference.
It seems that the original artwork for my “cat tenugui” was done around 1848 and is called 猫飼好五十三疋（みょうかいこうごじゅうさんびき）(Cats suggested as the fifty-three stations of the Tokaido). I didn’t realize this until I started writing this blog post, but it seems that the images of the cats are also a play on words.
The image on my Tenugui is a small slice of the original much larger image featuring more cats. You can see the entire image here in high resolution thanks to wikimedia commons.
(Click for larger image) 猫飼好五十三疋 Cats suggested as the fifty-three stations of the Tokaido
So, each cat and its pose are a play on words that describe one of the stations on the Tokaido train line.
The cat in the lower left of my tenugui is running away with a blue fish.
The blue fish he is running away with is called サバ SABA in Japanese.
The cat is a tabby cat. A tabby cat is called a ぶち猫 (BUCHI NEKO) in Japanese.
So, the train station the image is referring to is FUJISAWA train station! Because FUJI sounds like BUCHI and SAWA sounds like SABA.
So, in my tenugui there is a picture of a cat dragging away a huge red octopus.
A huge octopus in Japanese is 大ダコ (OODAKO).
Huge octopi are heavy. Really freakin heavy. “Really freakin’ heavy” in Japanese is おもいぞ OMOIZO.
So the station being referred to is 大磯（おおいそ）OOISO, because OMOIZO sounds like OOISO! And if you roll up OODAKO and stuff, I guess it’s even tighter?
One of my good friends told me to check out this poem by Kaneko Misuzu [wiki] quite some time ago, and I finally got around to it. The poem is short and sweet, and not too difficult, so you can use it as a study tool as well. I have provided a simple translation below.
According to an article I read on BoingBoing, an art group called rakudasan created this video for a band called Gaka. It’s really good. If you’re the impatient type, I think this video gets better as it goes. The ending scene is really cool! Watch it to the end!
If you liked that video, then you might also like these other clips from the Japanese TV show called 欽ちゃんの仮装大賞, where the contests are based on a similar (yet different) style of performance.
Search for 欽ちゃんの仮装大賞 on youtube and you can see many more videos.
I guess the main difference between the rakudasan bit and the 欽ちゃんの仮装大賞 contest is that in rakudasan all of the actors are fully visible and they use the camera and their ability to stay in sync with each other against the black background to make the effect. 欽ちゃんの仮装大賞 is all about hiding “kuroko” against a black background and having them lift people, move objects, and create a visually surreal environment for the viewers. A bit different, but both are cool!!!
Lot’s of people who study Japanese hope to get into translation some day. And when it comes to translation, many people hope to do manga or game translation, why? Cause the content is freaking fun! But how to break into the field? A friend recently introduced me to Digital Manga Guild, and it seems to be a legit way to get some experience, and to get paid as well.
If you’re serious about giving this a shot your first step will be to take one of their tests.
You can test in many aspects of the translation process, including translation, editing, and lettering. You can even form a group and plan to work together on projects.
The workflow, click to enlarge
I have never tried Digital Manga Guild myself, but it does look like a legit opportunity. They even have a profit sharing scheme going, so if you stick with it you should eventually make some change.
Translation is always great because it forces you to figure out language that you may not be familiar with, and it’s a real skill that can serve you well in the future. I encourage peeps out there to give it a shot! And if you do, let us know how it goes!
I had the opportunity to visit Tatsumura Koho’s workshop in Kyoto during my August trip to Japan in 2009. This workshop makes Nishiki style Orimono, which is a type of Japanese weaving.
Tatsumura Koho explaining the Genji Nishiki piece
Nishiki orimono is extremely high quality, extremely beautiful, and therefore extremely expensive. If you can get a chance to visit their workshop I would highly recommend it. They seem to be open to giving tours, and they have a gift shop inside, so I bet they would be receptive if you just gave them a call and said you were interested. My visit was arranged as part of a study tour.
Tatsumura-san told us that creating the Genji piece was quite a challenge. The biggest issue wasn’t weaving the piece or creating the art itself, but it was doing the research to gather enough information so that the scene from Genji Monogatari could be created as accurately as possible.
Scene from Genji Monogatari (Click to Enlarge)
Not only was general accuracy an issue, the scene needed to be vague enough as to not attract complaints from the literary academic community. For example, special care was taken so that the kimono you see in the picture used colors that could have been worn during any season. There were special rules about the different styles and colors of kimono that would have historically been in which season, but the exact time that this scene in Genji Monogatari took place is not clearly known and apparently still debated in academic circles. Therefore, they chose a kimono color and style scene that arguably could have been used in a variety of situations and at any time of the year.
Nishiki Neckties I can't afford
This is a picture from the gift shop I mentioned. Even the neckties were way out of my price range (about $150 USD). Pretty awesome though. Someday… someday…
This is a piece depicting a bonsai tree. If you didn’t already, click the Genji Piece above so you can get a close up look at how intricate the weaving is on the orimono, it’s really amazing.
The gold color in this piece is literally gold.
This piece is more abstract, but actually uses gold in the piece itself, if I remember correctly it cost more than 10,000 USD. Fancy stuff!
So as you may have heard from my twitter feed, @maryag came down from NYC and we spent some quality Japan-geek time together.
On Sunday we went down to a local university and watched an excellent shakuhachi and koto performance by Akikazu Nakamura and Toshiko Kuto. Here’s a clip that I recorded of the encore by shakuhachi master Mr. Nakamura.
As you can see, the show was great. We sat right in front so had a great view of the performance and I got to take some photos and video. They played a good mix of modern and traditional pieces. After the show there was a question and answer session. The koto they were using had 13 strings, but the pamphlet mentioned that Kuto-san also performs on 20 and 25-string kotos. I asked what the deal was with all the different koto types, and they answered that about 50 years ago the 17-string koto was introduced in Japan, and now that is considered to be the “standard” number of strings on a koto. Learn something new everyday!