Tuesday, October 25, 2011

What I've been doing all month...

Sorry it's been awhile since the last post; I'm pretty sure that October is trying to kill me through sheer exhaustion. In addition to my usual busy work schedule, I've also been preparing for Halloween. At work this means planning and prepping two weeks' worth of craft projects for children of various ages and getting ready for my school's Halloween party which is happening next Saturday.

Outside of work, I've been busy costuming. I had to have two (and a half) costumes ready to wear by last weekend, which meant two weeks of late nights hunched over a sewing machine and iron. But they turned out great and I'm really happy with the now (mostly) finished projects. For myself, I made a Lady Gaga costume. It's a little out-of-character for me, but I wanted to do something fun and recognizable, and I do like her costumes. I made the dress she wears at the beginning of the Telephone video. It's set in a prison, thus the prison stripes.

Lady Gaga, Take 1
For my friend Sarah, I made a Corpse Bride costume (from the movie of the same name by Tim Burton). This costume was so much fun to make! All of the pieces were simple and went together quickly, and we got to do fun stuff like fabric dying and chopping up the edges of the veil and skirt. Not to mention the zombie make-up... 

The pictures are from last weekend's early Halloween/Birthday party, followed by a Halloween-themed concert that I went to. I've been working on a few accessories for Gaga so that she'll look even more awesome next weekend. I am really looking forward to the Halloween festivities, but I have to say a nice lazy Sunday following the party sounds pretty amazing right now too... :)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Warning: This Post Contains Girly Discussion of Feelings

I'm feeling a little nostalgic and homesick for my old friends now, after reading my friend Arika's latest post on her Mega Geeks Inc blog. Before I came to Japan, my life revolved around school and making costumes. Arika is a fellow cosplayer- we have traveled together, been on stage together, and costumed together. If you're not a cosplayer, it might be hard to grasp that kind of bond. Let me put it this way:

Making a costume for a competition can be a huge project. It takes months of time, lots of money, and leads to many sleepless nights. Then there's Con Week, the week before the convention when all the unfinished projects have to get finished, when the unorganized cosplayer finds herself hunched over a hot glue gun, adding those last painstaking details at 4 AM the night before the con. Needless to say, this experience doesn't bring out the best in anyone's personality; Con Week can be a time of stress, mental breakdowns and frustration. Then there's the travel, the con, the competition itself- the disappointment of losing or the joy of coming in Best in Show.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Very Otaku Weekend in Tokyo

Zieg Zion!
My friend from college and fellow Japanophile Kenna recently arrived in Japan to do a study abroad program at Waseda University. Waseda is a good school, located in central Tokyo, where I'm sure she's going to have an amazing year studying the Japanese language and culture.

I took advantage of the three day weekend and went down to see her and our mutual friend Megumi, aka Hio. On Friday we had tsukemen for lunch (ramen noodles which you dip in broth), then headed out to the neighborhood of Mitaka to see the Ghibli Museum. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Dancin in the streets! Johzenji Jazz Fest

The weekend before last (Sept. 10th and 11th) was Sendai's Johzenji Jazz Festival. It had the misfortune this year of falling on both the 10 year anniversary of the September 11th attacks and the 6 month anniversary of the Tohoku Earthquake. There was a somber but hopeful mood at some of the events, with performers speaking in remembrance of the tragedies and looking forward to the future. But for the most part, the festival felt very optimistic and fun and it was a good chance for us to get out and enjoy some good music.

My favorite thing about the Jazz Fest is the way it spreads itself all over downtown, so that no matter where you go you're bound to run into some free concerts. Also the variety is great, with everything from blues to jazz to classical. Here are some of the highlights:

Delighted Groovers, gettin' their groove on in the station.
The manager of my school is a member of a gospel group, so I went to see their performance inside Sendai Station. They performed up on the balcony overlooking the main ticket gate in front of a fairly big crowd of onlookers. Some of the songs they performed included Amazing Grace and Oh Happy Day. They were great! (And now I can never go to karaoke with my manager again, for shame of my not-so-lovely singing voice.)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Life As an Eikaiwa Sensei

I realized that in the past year and a half that I've been living in Japan, I still haven't done any posts about what I actually do here, which is teach English. I work for a very small private conversation school, called an eikaiwa (英会話) in Japanese. My school has a little under a hundred students and two locations. I work with one other full-time teacher and one part-time teacher who are both Japanese and speak English fluently. 

So a typical week for me is something like this: in the mornings I teach at youchien (幼稚園), or a Japanese kindergarten. Youchien are really different from the American concept of kindergarten. They're private or public schools with three grades, nensho, nenchuu and nenchou, and many of them also have day care services for younger children. The kids learn lots of pre-school subjects, including reading and writing, English, sports, etc. They also participate in special events during the year, like the sports festival in the fall and the happyoukai (発表会), school play, in the winter. I see most of my kindergarten students about once every one or two weeks.

Last year's Happyoukai included a Yoshi dance. Could these kids possibly be any more awesome?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Manga Recommendations!

I love Japanese manga. Admittedly I don't read it as much these days as I used to, but I still pick up a new series every so often when I have time. Living in Japan certainly makes that easier, with great stores like Book Off, where I can buy used copies for as little as 100 yen ($1). So here are some of my all-time favorite series, as well as a couple lesser-known titles for those of you who are already well-read manga fans.

Revolutionary Girl Utena - by Chiho Saito (少女革命ウテナ). This might actually be my favorite manga ever, although that's a pretty tough decision to make. Basically, it's about a girl named Utena who comes to a private school where the student council members duel each other to possess the Rose Bride, a mysterious girl named Anthy. Which sounds like a pretty weird story, and it is-- but there's a lot more to it than that. It's a really great fantasy take on adolescence and coming of age, with beautiful artwork and storytelling by Saito. There is also an anime series and movie, each of which have a story that's pretty different from the manga. The manga story-line is the best in my opinion, with the movie coming in second and the anime (which is kinda crazy) last.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Conquering Japan, one mountain at a time

Okama, the crater lake on Mt. Zao
Got another mountain under my belt this weekend, albeit a much smaller and less challenging climb than Fuji-san. Yesterday my friends and I climbed Mt. Zao (蔵王山) one of the most active volcanoes in Northern Honshuu. According to its Wiki page, Zao "consists of a cluster of stratovolcanoes" which lie on the border of the Miyagi and Yamagata prefectures. At the top there's a crater lake called "Okama" that changes color according to the weather.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

More Travel Photos!

I updated my Picasa albums with new photos from my recent adventures. Go here to see all of the albums, or go directly to some of the recent ones by following the links below. Enjoy! :)

Tokyo and Mt. Fuji
Toronagashi Festival in Matsushima
Hiking in Yamagata

Mt. Zao

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Matsushima's Toronagashi Festival

Candles on the ocean under the full moon, at Matsushima's Toronagashi Festival
Last week, right after I returned to Sendai from Tokyo, I went out to the scenic coastal town of Matsushima. I went to see the second Obon festival there; the first one was a Lantern Festival, which you can read more about here. In that post, I talked about how Obon is a Buddhist holiday similar to the Mexican Day of the Dead. The Toronagashi Festival I went to last week is about the second part of Obon, in which you send the spirits of your ancestors back to the other world. This is usually done by floating a candle in a little raft down a river or over the ocean.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Climbing Mt. Fuji

Photo from here.
The main purpose for my recent trip to Tokyo was to knock off one of the things on my Japan bucket list: climbing Mt. Fuji. Fuji is such an iconic part of Japanese culture, just as well-loved within Japan as it is famous outside the country. It was definitely one of the best experiences that I've had in Japan so far.

Mt. Fuji is not the most difficult mountain to climb, and probably any reasonably healthy person can make it to the summit provided they take their time and prepare well. It is still a serious climb though, and shouldn't be taken too lightly- hikers should be prepared for very cold winds at the peak, even during summer, as well as steep, rocky paths and the possibility of altitude sickness.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Natsu Yasumi 2011

My summer break (natsu yasumi) just ended yesterday, and it's back to school today. It was a pretty fantastic two weeks off- I got to spend a lot of time with my friends and really enjoyed my stay in Tokyo last week.

I visited Tokyo with a friend from Sendai, and it was our goal to do some of the touristy stuff there that we hadn't done yet. Also, and most importantly, we wanted to climb Mt. Fuji. This post will be about the first part of that trip: our time in Tokyo. It was incredibly hot and humid there, so we tried to avoid the heat by visiting some of Tokyo's many great museums. Most of them are located in Ueno Park, where you can also see one of Japan's oldest zoos. The park itself is a fun place to hang out, with a lake to walk around and lots of street performers and vendors. 

Ueno Park

Monday, August 8, 2011

Summer Festivals in Miyagi

Tanabata decorations in Sendai Station
 August is festival season in Japan, and especially here in Tohoku. Last weekend were two of Tohoku's biggest festivals: Tanabata in Sendai and Aomori's Nebuta. I attended Tanabata and also went out to the coastal town of Matsushima for their Obon Lantern Festival.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

My Favorite Japanese Movies

Time to do another recommendation post, this time covering my favorite Japanese movies. I don't really have a favorite genre of film, but there are some I like better than others. I almost never watch romance, but I do love comedy: so that may be slightly over-represented here, while the former is almost non-existent. Also, I am not a big movie buff, so I'm sure there are plenty of other great movies out there which I haven't seen. If you know of some, feel free to leave me a comment with some recommendations!


Kamikaze Girls - This is the story of a lolita who becomes friends with a "yankii" girl from a biker gang. I loved this movie, although the manga it was originally based on is probably not worth your time. It's hilarious, but it's not just a comedy- it's actually a pretty touching story about friendship and growing up. IMDB

Water Boys - Pretty much a silly, feel-good comedy about a group of high school boys who decide to start their own synchronized swimming club. It was a popular film in Japan when it came out, and I think it's a good introduction to mainstream Japanese comedy. IMDB

Tanpopo - In my opinion, this is one of the greatest Japanese films ever made. I've listed it as a comedy, but it's much, much more than that. It's a really beautiful, funny look at life and Japanese culture through food. I really cannot recommend this movie enough. IMDB

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Day Trip: Hiking in Yamagata

Recently I went hiking with a couple friends in the neighboring prefecture of Yamagata. It's just a 30 minute or so train ride out of Sendai to the the mountains that line the border between Miyagi and Yamagata, and the train ride itself is pretty scenic- it passes through the Japanese countryside and up into the mountains. We got off at a mountain called Omoshiroyama, and hiked through a small canyon beside a river that leads to the town of Yamadera. Yamadera which literally translates to "Mountain Temple" is a popular tourist attraction from Sendai. As the name would suggest, the town hosts a number of temples built into a mountain.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Sendai's Rokkonsai Festival

Tohoku, the northern region of Japan's main island, Honshuu, is made up of six prefectures. These are Miyagi (where Sendai is located), Yamagata, Iwate, Akita, Aomori and Fukushima. Each of the prefectures has its own unique summer festival, the most famous of which are Sendai's Tanabata and Aomori's Nebuta. Recently the Tohoku region decided to bring all six festivals together in Sendai as a morale-booster and way to bring in some money through tourism. It was called the "Rokkonsai Festival".

Origami decorations which line the streets of Sendai during the Tanabata Festival in August.
One of the lit-up floats from Aomori's Nebuta Festival in August. Photo from Wikipedia.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Review: Kindle, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways...

Even in the midst of a festival, I have a bad a habit of slipping off to read.
Hi, I'm Maura and I have a problem. I'm addicted to books. I never leave the house without at least one book in my bag, I sometimes like them better than I like real people and I spend probably 75% of my free time reading. On average I probably go through about 4 or 5 books a month depending on size, and given that books run about 1,000 Yen and up over here that's an expensive habit. Not to mention the fact that all those books are a hassle when you move countries every few years.

So when considering the order I was about to place at Amazon.com for the next month's reading materials, it occurred to me that it was really time to buy myself a Kindle. If you don't know, a Kindle is Amazon's E-reader for reading books electronically. Go here to see more. When I first heard of them the bibliophile in me shrunk back in distaste, but after having seen one up close I realized how nice they actually are. The screen is very easy to read and doesn't strain the eyes, and the ability to carry not just one book but an entire library around with me has finally fulfilled a life-long dream.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Back from hiatus...

Sorry for the long break recently- there's been a lot going on this past month, not to mention that June and July are basically the busiest months of the year at work. This is because the kindergartens I teach at (there are 5) try to cram in as many classes as possible before summer break/fall arrives. But my kindergarten classes are mostly finished for the summer, which means I just have a few weeks left before my vacation! 

So here are some highlights of what I've been up to the last month:

At the end of June, my friend from college, Ellen, came to visit me in Sendai. Ellen lived in Japan for about 12 years, went to grad school in Portland which is how we met, and then went off to the Netherlands to teach at an international school there. I always enjoy hanging out with Ellen, since we have so many common interests. She brought me some wonderful Dutch souvenirs, including stroopwaffel cookies and cheese! Good cheese is extremely expensive and hard to find in Japan, so I decided to throw a fondue party and share the goodness. 

Mm, cheese and stroopwaffel... and! Sprinkles for toast!!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Sendai's Suzume Odori

Float from last year's Aoba Matsuri in Sendai, carrying some Heian Period princesses and musicians.
Every spring there's a big festival in Sendai called the Aoba Matsuri. The streets downtown are blocked off for parades with floats and lots of costumed dancers. Sendai actually has its own dance, the Suzume Odori or Sparrow Dance. Despite the fact that sparrows are brown and gray, the performers wear very bright and festive costumes and dance with two equally flashy fans. Suzume Odori is really fun to watch, as it involves lots of jumps and spins.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Day Trip: Matsushima

One of the most popular day trips from Sendai is to the small, coastal town of Matsushima. It's about a 30 minute train ride out of Sendai and quite inexpensive to visit. The main reason for its popularity is because it's considered one of the "Nihon Sankei", or the "Three Most Scenic Places in Japan." Matsushima Bay is full of hundreds of tiny islands, whose trees and rocky bases have been twisted into interesting shapes by the wind and waves.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Asian Drama: Top 5 Recs

For those who aren't familiar with Asian entertainment, the word "drama" is used a little differently over here than it is in most Western countries. Drama isn't so much a genre as it is just any TV show with a storyline, usually fictional but sometimes based on a true story. It includes a variety of genres, such as comedy, romance, family and "drama".

Asian story-telling is quite different than Western, so watching drama can be a bit of a culture shock at first. But it is a great way to practice your listening skills and learn about Asian culture, history, etc. (But please remember to take everything with a grain of salt!!) Before coming to Japan, I tried my hardest to immerse myself in Japanese, and one of the more fun ways of doing that was watching a lot of drama.

Here are my top 5 dramas! Clicking on the link will take you to a site where you can watch it online with English subtitles. 

Friday, June 3, 2011

Day Trip: Miyagi coast and Shiroishi Castle

Back in February, some friends and I rented a car and spent the day driving around doing fun stuff. We visited the coastal town Watari, played on the beach, went to a strawberry farm and visited Shiroishi Castle. This was all before the earthquake happened and I never got around to posting about our trip after that. But better late than never, right? 

Our first stop was a hot spring hotel next to the beach, where we had amazing seafood for lunch. Mine was crab fried rice, with miso soup and pickles. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

Japanese Artists: Yoshitaka Amano

Yoshitaka Amano is one of my favorite Japanese artists. He's most famous for his fantasy illustrations and character designs, especially for Final Fantasy and Vampire Hunter D. His style is unique and instantly recognizable, with an interesting mix of Western and Asian influence. His characters have an androgynous, ethereal beauty, with shockingly pale skin that often stands in sharp contrast with a brightly colored or dark background. 

I think that Amano's style perfectly suits the fantasy genre. There is something so inherently "fantastic" about his use of color, contrast and landscape. Looking at his art really makes me feel like I've caught a glimpse of another world. 

Vampire Hunter D

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Top 10 Anime for Unbelievers

Like many other Japanophiles, I first got interested in Japan because of anime. Growing up I was exposed to Japanese culture off and on because I lived in the Pacific Northwest where there is a large Japanese-American community and Japanese culture abounds. But I didn't truly fall for Japan until I first started watching anime and took an interest in the language and the culture.

To be totally honest, I rarely watch anime these days. I've outgrown a lot of the stuff I watched when I was younger, but the beauty of the genre is that it really does have something for everyone. There are very serious, mature anime that are targeted to an adult audience and are well worth the attention of anyone interested in Japanese culture. The mainstream image of anime has become the brightly-colored, kid's shows with their crazy spikey hair and high-pitched voice acting. Not that those can't be fun, but I often wish the anime that make the genre worthwhile would get the attention they deserve.

So here follows my Top 10 list for those of you who feel anime is too silly to take seriously.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Taking a deeper look at the Portland Japanese Garden

The Portland Japanese Garden is considered one of the best outside of Japan. It may not have the age of the real thing, but the design really captures the spirit of Japanese aesthetics. For me, the appeal lies in the tiny, narrow paths that wander by Japanese maples, old stone lanterns and tiny creeks. I love the way the small trails make you feel as though you're the only one in the garden.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Japanese Artists: Miyavi

Now that I've finished my series on Japanese Theater (at least for the time being), I'd like to start doing some posts on other aspects of Japanese art that I love. This will be everything from my favorite Japanese painters to great movies to writers and musicians. To kick that off, I bring you my very favorite Japanese musician: Miyavi!

Miyavi is part of a uniquely Asian/Japanese genre called "Visual Kei". Kei in Japanese just means style, and that suffix is used in many situations to refer to a particular style of thing. In this case, it refers to bands who place a lot of emphasis on the visual element of performance in addition to their music. These bands are seen as "alternative", encompassing music genres like rock, punk, alternative pop, etc. The vast majority tend to have a gothic image, but even those that aren't goth usually still sport the crazy costumes, make-up and glam hair that Visual Kei bands are famous for.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Korean-Mexican Fusion food of AWESOME.

My hometown Portland, Oregon is famous for embracing and celebrating weirdness, and of course that extends to its cuisine. A recent development from Portland's food carts is Korean-Mexican fusion, which I heard about from my friend Arika (of Mega Geeks, Inc.). The minute I heard the phrase "Kimchi Quesadilla" I knew I had to try my hand at it.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Takarazuka- Japanese Theater Part V

Takarazuka, the shiniest drag kings you will ever see! Photo from here.

 Ah, Takarazuka, where do I start? It may be my favorite form of Japanese theater; I love the costumes, the music, the actors... Takarazuka may not have the history and the depth of more traditional types of Japanese theater, but in my opinion they're one of the most exciting and enjoyable to watch. 

So what is Takarazuka? They're an all-female acting troupe originating from the town of Takarazuka, near Osaka. They perform Broadway-style musicals based on Western and Asian influences. The takara part of Takarazuka (宝塚) means treasure or jewel, and they certainly live up to the flashiness of their name. They're famous for their over-the-top costumes, often covered head to toe in sequins, jewels and feathers reminiscent of Vegas showgirls. The stage itself also glitters with lights and bright backdrops.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sendai Hanami!

Hanami is hands down one of my favorite Japanese traditions. For those who don't know, hanami is a flower viewing party. Every spring when the Sakura (cherry) trees bloom, Japanese people gather in huge numbers at parks to have picnics and all-day parties underneath the flowers. Last year I went to three different hanami and had a blast despite the sometimes cold/rainy weather.

This year because of the Tohoku Earthquake, it seemed like there might not be any hanami. In fact, the Japanese government has even been encouraging people in Tokyo and other cities to refrain from having hanami, in order to be conservative and show support for Tohoku. I personally feel like hanami is something we all need right now; especially for the people in Tohoku for whom the past month and a half has been so difficult, something fun and relaxing like hanami would really help to cheer everyone up.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Kyogen- Japanese Theater IV

Kyogen mask, Edo Period
Kyogen are short plays and dances performed in between scenes during a Noh play. You can think of them like a "half-time" performance. Like Noh, some of the actors wear masks and the narration is done by a chorus of chanters. There are two types of Kyogen play: hon-kyogen, which is a story separate from the Noh it's performed alongside, and ai-kyogen, which is actually part of the Noh story being performed.

Many Kyogen plays are comedies, often mocking one of the main characters from the Noh play. They usually feature "trickster" characters, like foxes or tanuki (red raccoons). Foxes are generally shape-shifters, sometimes just playing silly tricks and other times outright malicious. Tanuki are best known for tricking people by paying for the tons of alcohol they drink with money that turns into leaves in the morning. They're also known for their ridiculous libidos, so clearly there's some satire going on here. (I'm guessing the butt of the joke here were young samurai or noblemen.)

Friday, April 1, 2011

Noh - Japanese Theater III

Yamanba, "mountain hag", costume. Photo from here.

 Noh is probably the most abstract form of traditional Japanese theater. It's very slow-paced and subtle, and to Western audiences would most likely seem the most foreign. It originated in the 14th century with performances of folk stories often featuring deities or supernatural creatures.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

New Blog!

I finally caved and decided it was worth a little extra work to start another blog, so I'd have somewhere to post my book reviews and literary criticism. The new blog, which I'm calling Lands Away will have my lit crit, recommendations and random bits of interesting trivia about writers. 

I've already posted my first lit crit on Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock", so if you're into poetry go check it out!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Update from Sendai

About a week ago, the situation with the power plant in Fukushima was looking pretty awful and I was faced with a very difficult decision. For those who don't know, a nuclear power plant in the Fukushima prefecture, located just to the south of mine, was damaged in the earthquake two weeks ago. There has been a great deal of concern since then about the possibility of a melt-down and the danger of radiation poisoning in the area around the plant.

One of the main problems was that the power at the plant was down, thus disabling the cooling systems for the reactors. Workers, assisted by the U.S. military, have been dumping sea water on it to cool it down. Last week however, it looked like there was a chance they may not be able to successfully cool the reactors. That news, in addition to many of my friends and family urging me to leave, led me to my decision to temporarily leave Sendai. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sendai Earthquake, Part II

Read Part I here.

We drove to Michiko's sister's house to check on her family that night. The roads were a nightmare. None of the signals were working, there were no street lights and everyone was in a panic. No one was respecting the one car at a time rule at intersections.

What amazed me, after learning the magnitude of the quake, was that all of the buildings and houses were intact. Even the very old ones. The worst damage I saw was to large glass windows and to the traditional tile roofs on some houses. Otherwise everything was impressively intact.

Shattered windows at a fishing supply store in Sendai.
Incredibly, tile roofs were the only real structural damage to houses in Sendai.

Sendai Earthquake, Part I

Unless you live beneath a rock, I'm sure that you've heard about the recent earthquake in Sendai. News programs in countries all over the world have been playing a non-stop stream of disaster footage which has understandably caused a lot of fear and worry for those of us living in Sendai. However, the damage outside of the tsunami areas was pretty minimal. I think a lot of people are interested in what's been happening here recently, so here's my story of the earthquake and the past 6 days.

A coastal town near Sendai, hit by a tsunami

Monday, February 28, 2011

Performing Kabuki at PSU- Kabuki Part 3

Every other summer at Portland State University, Professor Larry Kominz offers a class on Kabuki in which the students spend about a month preparing for and then actually perform a short Kabuki play. My class performed a play called "Uiro Uri" (The Medicine Peddler) about a famous hero named Soga Goro. Goro is best known from the Soga Monogatari (Soga Tale), which tells how Goro and his brother get revenge against their father's murderer. The play we performed is a short excerpt from that story, describing Goro's attempt to disguise himself as a medicine peddler and kill his father's murderer on his own.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Top 5 Reasons To See Kabuki- Kabuki Part 2

5. Japanese Culture

This should probably be the number one reason, but I think there are many, many ways to learn about Japanese culture while in Japan-- I have more specific reasons why I think Kabuki is worthy of attention which get a higher ranking. That said, learning about Japanese culture and history is the most valuable thing you can get out of going to see Kabuki. You will encounter many of Japan's most fundamental beliefs, discover how they see their heroes and villains and get a glimpse into Japan's past. The best thing I got out of studying Japanese theater was a deeper understanding of Japan itself.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Kabuki- Japanese Theater II

Kabuki, the flashiest and most popular type of Japanese theater

The best known and most popular form of traditional Japanese theater is Kabuki. The word Kabuki (歌舞伎) is made of three Chinese characters; the first means song, the second dance and the third skill. However, the actual root of the word is the verb "kabuku" which means "to lean", because of the weird "leaning" poses of Kabuki dancers. Only after it became popular were the kanji used to write it.

Izumo no Ibuki, the founder of Kabuki

Japanese Theater

Uirou Uri Kabuki performance by my class at Portland State University
Before majoring in Japanese, I knew absolutely nothing about Japanese theater and honestly wasn't particularly curious about it. For all that I love costumes, I've never been much of a theater geek. I enjoy going to see it occasionally and I love to read playwrights like Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde, but that's the extent of it. But my degree required a number of Japanese cultural studies electives, and in addition to studying things like history and literature I also took several classes on theater. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

Travel Photos!

Matsushima Bay, Miyagi Prefecture
One of my big projects that I finally got some major work done on, was backing up my photos on Picasa. I've made 22 albums so far of my best photos from various places I've been in Japan, America and Canada.

Locations include: Sendai, Tokyo, Osaka, Hiroshima, Kamakura and Yokohama in Japan, the Pacific Northwest, Chicago and Key West in the U.S., and Banff, Canada. Please enjoy the photos, there will be more to come as I continue my travels! My plans for this year include: Kyoto, many places in Tohoku, South Korea and Texas.

I've also added a slide-show up top of my Tokyo album. Check out the rest here!