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31
Oct

Reader Response 3: My Day

I keep writing this, send me questions! Luckily some of you actually listen to me, and here I am, poised to answer another email I received. As always, send me more mail or posts! Suggest something or ask a question, please!

Well, until now, I had avoided giving much about my day-to-day schedule here in Tokyo. I figured it wasn’t nearly as interesting as Kabuki theatre or sushi bars. Perhaps this was a miscalculation. Not only have I gotten a number of questions about the drudgery of studying abroad, but, it occurs to me now that it is just the everyday-like experiences I need to be passing on. Still, I’ll keep it short.

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27
Oct

My Bicycle’s Name: THE RESULTS!

The results on are in. With 99 percent of precincts reporting, my beautiful, streamlined, $85, three-geared bicycle, complete with bell, basket and light has a name.

Henceforth, my bicycle will be named ‘Newton.’ Both the name of the town where I was raised and a serviceable surname of some great men of past and present. Thanks for all those that helped out with the vote.

Check back for more exploits, particularly those involving Newton and me.

Be well,
Christopher

26
Oct

Kabuki

Standing in front of the famed Kabukiza Theater in Tokyo

Ever heard of Kabuki? Maybe so.

Early in the seventeenth century, a woman named Okuni devised a new form of dramatic dance and presented it to the people of Kyoto. Called Kabuki, the dance became and remains wildly popular. Even attempts to squash it have just enhanced its fame. Known for flamboyant costumes, Kabuki became associated with prostitution. When the Japanese government banned women, the resulting all-male casts produced “onnagata”, or men playing female roles.

Still today, the scratchy, high-pitched voices of onnagata are a favorite part of Kabuki, along with its tradition of gaudy dress, brilliant sets and excessive special effects. The idea that only men participate in Kabuki is no longer a reminder of a male-dominated society but rather a fundamental portion of the Japanese aesthetic, a people with respect for obedience that aren’t afraid to look past traditional promiscuity.

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25
Oct

Reader Response 2: Baseball

There is nothing more encouraging than finding emails or blog posts from readers and viewers. Better still is when questions and comments are hurled in my direction. So, I’d like to answer some questions that I think might interest many of you. As always, send me more mail or posts! Suggest something or ask a question, please!

I was recently asked about the influence of Major League Baseball in Japan. Having just watched, or to be more accurate, having followed pitch-by-pitch online accounts of my New York Mets losing in the seventh game of the National League Championship Series to the St. Louis Cardinals, this is a sore subject of sorts, but who could say no to cultural diplomacy?

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24
Oct

Reader Response 1: Suggestions

Well, as people like to say, I have loved to hear from all of those who have had the misfortune of stumbling upon my portion of JYA. My response to some of your comments, questions and suggestions are long overdue. I have gotten advice from a Philadelphian who had lived in Japan, notes from internet-surfing college students and plenty of posts from people finding JYA in their own way. Some call for more interaction. Shall I respond to some now?

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24
Oct

The Honorable Visitor: Episode Four

Well, as you might have noticed, my fourth episode has debuted. I have gotten some emails and blog posts about the episode, both kind-worded comments and some questions.

(Find the episode below)

So, I thought it might be fruitful to supplement the segment with a bit more about why Donald Richie was my focus and offer a venue for any questions about the man, his work or his philosophy. For me, it was a great pleasure to interview Richie, truly a legend of academia and cinema.

As was clearly displayed in the episode, Richie has authored more than 40 books on Japanese culture and thousands of articles and reviews through his weekly columns and inclusion in anthologies and other publications. He is a legend of academia and the man responsible for introducing Japanese film to the world. Moreover, he is an authority on cinema worldwide, with a short tenure as the Curator of Film at the New York Museum of Modern Art being the only interuption of his six decades living in Tokyo.

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23
Oct

Kyoto Part 6 of 6: Tuesday

I let myself sleep in, not rising until nearly 9am. I got all of my things together quickly and without any goodbyes to be said, I wasted no time checking out of the hostel that had housed me for two nights of my young life, turned my back on its door and walked away, probably never to see it again.

My bus headed home to Tokyo was leaving at 11:20am, so I thought I should use my time. I walked immediately west of the Kyoto Station for the first time and found a quiet, dreary, open-doored restaurant. I was surprisingly satisfied by the breakfast of rice, raw egg, seaweed, sausage and miso soup for 420 yen ($3.50 USD).

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19
Oct

Kyoto Part 5 of 6: Monday

I was awake before 8am. I snuck down the creaky bunk bed ladder and, after a shower, I decided I would devote my morning to visiting Nara, a small city thirty miles southeast of Kyoto.

While Kyoto is the basin of Japanese history, Nara is its quiet religious counterpart. After Kyoto was built in 794, in importance, Nara always lagged behind its northern big brother but remained a steadfast home to Japanese Buddhism.

While it isn’t nearly as large and hasn’t nearly as many tourist sights as Kyoto, Nara’s age is astonishing alone. Most consider the Nara region to have held the original Japanese civilization. Kofun burial grounds existing from well before the mid-sixth century are still on view within the city limits. Nara also holds two particular sights that I wanted to see. So, I bought a 1,200 yen ($10 USD) round trip ticket and returned once more to Kyoto Station.

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18
Oct

Kyoto Part 4 of 6: Sunday

It was still quite dark, the smell of fresh dough, seeming distinctly un-Japanese, wafted in the air, reminding me of an early morning or two I have met in Philadelphia over the years. I decided that a nice way to greet the sunrise would be along the reflective and apparently serene Tetsugaku-no-michi, or Path of Philosophy, so I turned my rudders towards its shores.

It took more than an hour of deliberate steps forward, uninterrupted but for a quick stop in a konbini, convenience store, to buy a breakfast of egg and apple juice, for me to arrive at the path’s simple, stone-worked entrance. (See Photos in Kyoto Photo Album)

The path was nothing to inspire awe. It was a tiny stone path buried by patches of small trees and untamed bushes diverted by a neighborhood shrine and some of the last remaining old style Japanese wooden homes in the country.

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17
Oct

Kyoto Part 3 of 6: The Night

The Kyoto Station is, in a word, enormous.

After Nagoya, Kyoto holds the country’s largest train station, along with a shopping mall, a department store, a hotel, a movie theater, and local government facilities all under its fifteen-story roof. With an overwhelming glass front, its modernism and futuristic style is impressive on its own, but is difficult to rectify with its role as being the portal through which the world finds Japan’s historical heart. It opened in 1997 after being built to commemorate Kyoto’s 1,200th anniversary. Nearly 250 feet high and more than 1,500 feet wide, the plans for the station were begun after hundreds of proposals were rejected, including several that included traditional Japanese architecture.

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