Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Film Review: Mifune – The Last Samurai

October 16, 2016 Leave a comment

A celebration of the greatest actor from the Golden Age of Japanese Cinema!


Doing the rounds of this year’s film festivals and screened at this year’s British Film Institute’s London Film Festival is ‘Mifune: The Last Samurai’, a new documentary directed by the Oscar winning Director Steven Okazaki (‘Days of Waiting’, ‘Unfinished Business’), produced by Toshiaki Nakazawa (‘13 Samurai’, ‘Hara Kiri: Death of a Read more…

Book Review: Japanese Stone Gardens: Origins, Meaning, Form

September 13, 2016 1 comment

Written by Stephen Mansfield with a foreword by Donald Richie!

japanese-stone-gardens-book-coverWith a foreword by the formidable Donald Ritchie, in itself a recommendation, the Japanese Stone Gardens is divided into two parts. The first covers the pivotal points during the development of the Japanese dry landscape garden (kare-sansui), often referred to these days as a Zen garden. It explains how this developed from the pre-animistic use of stones as markers of space to their use as connections to the natural world and the landscape, their use as mystical vectors with which to communicate with the Gods, the influence of Korea and China, their eventual Read more…

Book Review: Samurai Revolution By Romulus Hillsborough

August 29, 2016 1 comment

The Dawn of Modern Japan as seen through the eyes of the Shōgun’s Last Samurai!

samurai revolution front coverThis book, based on twenty-five years of research by Romulus Hillsborough who spent sixteen years living in Japan, joins his growing portfolio of his other works on the pivotal characters and themes of the Bakumatsu Period and the Meiji Restoration bringing many of them together in a welcome work that covers the pivotal period that heralded the end of the Japanese feudal era and the beginning of the industrial and political modernisation of Japan.

Something of a tome ‘Samurai Revolution’ is written as two books. The first covers the conflicting interests of the Tokugawa Bakufu in Edo (modern day Tōkyō) and the Imperial Court in Kyōto and the inter clan alliances which had been forged nearly three hundred years before in the triumphs and Read more…

Yago no Kai (Yajūrō–Shingo Company) European Tour 2016

A great introduction to an art which is still able to reach an overseas audience!

KabukiIn Paris the Yago no Kai Kabuki Company’s performances took place in the Grande salle, the 300 seater theatre, at the Maison de la Culture du Japon à Paris (May 12-14).

Two other European countries are scheduled on their whistle-stop tour this May, in Switzerland at La salle Théodore Turrettini at the Bâtiment des Forces Motrices in Geneva (May 17 & 18), and in Spain Kabuki returns for the first time since 1987, after an Read more…

Book Review: Japanese Plays – Classic Noh, Kyogen And Kabuki Works

Nothing reflects the beauty of life as much as Japanese theatre!

Japanese PlaysThe original Introduction gives a fairly detailed explanation of Noh, Kyōgen and Kabuki though there isn’t much in the way of explanations of each of the plays’ individual origins, historical context, or development, either in the Introduction or in the rest of the book at the beginning of each play, the intention perhaps to preserve the book in its original form. It would however perhaps have been helpful to provide some sort of reference material in say a selective bibliography, even if only for the most important plays.

Although this isn’t provided in the book’s current form research on the Internet would make it relatively easy to cross reference the plays on line to find more information even if the Internet is something that wasn’t available when the book was originally published in 1934. For example Read more…

Music Review: No Cars – YOKO GOES TO BOLLYWOOD

The album gives people lots of smiles, and one can’t resist laughing, thinking ‘they are bonkers’!

No Cars Yoko Goes to BollywoodFollow NO CARS (read Diverse Japan’s interview with the band) as they travel down the Silk Road to India; their journey is not an easy one as hunger, thirst, and vast amounts of tip-ex await them but it is certainly enjoyable. Luckily for us these intrepid travellers have recorded their adventures as infectious pop-punk melodies in the album YOKO GOES TO BOLLYWOOD.

These three Japanese girls and their Raccoon drummer have created a rather fun story in their latest album. It gives you the chance to imagine the quartet as they walk all the way to Read more…

Book Review: Photography In Japan 1853 – 1912

A delight to the eye and a treasure trove of information!

Girl in Heavy StormPhotography in Japan 1853-1912 , originally published in 2006, provides a fascinating glimpse into the world of early photography in Japan often little known outside academic circles or those with a specific interest in the period when Japan was undergoing rapid modernisation.

Though most people are generally unaware of the larger scope of the world of early photography in Japan and the early photographs of both non-Japanese and Japanese photographers, some with little more than a passing interest may be aware of the photographs of Felice Beato, which have recently had a fair amount of publicity, some of which are included in this book. The book follows the beginnings of photography in Japan from its introduction by foreigners through its Read more…

Film Review: Obon Brothers – A Film By Akira Osaki

October 23, 2015 Leave a comment

A charming and heart-warming portrayal of a man down on his luck!

Obon Brothers

Akira Osaki (read interview here) has not had an easy time in the Japanese film industry. After the failure of his debut film Catchball-Ya, Osaki struggled to secure funding for a new film. Again and again his projects were dropped in the early stages, and this made him frustrated about the film industry he was working so hard to be accepted in. This anger has been translated into his latest film, Obon Brothers, a dark comedy penned by his close-friend, and Read more…

Film Review: Ryūzō And The Seven Henchmen (Ryūzō to Shichinin no Kobuntachi)

October 12, 2015 Leave a comment

A fast paced and quick witted comedy!

Ryuzo_7_Japanese_Theatrical_Release_Poster 2Produced by Office Kitano and released in Japan on 25th April 2015 the film stars the 74 year old Tatsuya Fuji as Ryūzō, whose performance is the mainstay of the film’s success, and is directed by the critically acclaimed Beat Takeshi (aka Takeshi Kitano). The film is a delightful and, in places, very funny romp into the twilight existence of a group of Yakuza headed up by the Read more…

DVD Review: Ben-To Complete Series Collection

October 7, 2015 Leave a comment

It’s not just dinner, it’s a matter of victory!

Ben-To DVD coverBen-to is originally a Japanese light novel series written by Asaura, with illustrations by Kaito Shibano. Shueisha published 15 novels from February 2008 to February 2014. Shibano also illustrates three manga adaptations, and a fourth manga is drawn by Sankaku Head. The name literally is to mirror the word Bento box but adding that ‘-‘ makes it a lot more easier to Google against all those tasty packed lunch photos online.

After the success from the light novel it was adapted into a 12-episode anime TV series  You follow protagonist Sato Yo who is a Read more…

Film Review: Uzumasa Limelight (Uzumasa Raimuraito)

A homage to Charlie Chaplin’s LIMELIGHT!

Uzumasa limelightWinner of the Cheval Noir Award and Best Actor Award at the 2014 Fantasia International Film Festival, the Audience Award at the 2014 New York Asian Film Festival and the 2014 Camera Japan Festival, and the official selection at both the 2014 Hawaii International Film Festival and the 2014 Shanghai International Film Festival.  Read more…

Theatre Review: Ninagawa Company – ‘Hamlet’ (Hamuretto) By William Shakespeare

Yukio Ninagawa directs his best-loved play!

Ninagawa Hamlet May 2015Ninagawa Company – ‘Hamlet’ (Hamuretto) by William Shakespeare 21-24 May 2015 at the Barbican, supported by Thelma Holt Ltd., Saitama Arts Foundation and HoriPro Inc.

Inspired as a celebration and appreciation of his involvement in International Relations, Ninagawa’s 80th birthday this year is being celebrated under the banner Read more…

DVD Review: Good Luck Girl Complete Series

Breasts, ghosts and growing a conscience!

Good Luck Girl DVD coverGood Luck girl also known as Binbogami ga! translated as “This Damn God of Poverty!” based on the comedy manga series by Yoshiaki Sukeno, originally published in Jump Square magazine between July 2008 and August 2013. The anime adaptation aired in Japan from September 26, 2012 showing its popularity before the manga ended.

The first five minutes sets the scene in a land of gods who watch earth and its inhabitants. An imbalance of luck has over flowed in an area where popular, pretty, wealthy girl Ichigo Sakura is sucking the luck from Read more…

DVD/Blu-ray Review: Professor Layton And The Eternal Diva

The Professor’s first movie and his toughest puzzle yet!

Professor Layton And The Eternal Diva‘First it started with a Game’ as the intro goes it was the vast popularity of the game series following the gentleman Professor Layton on his quests to solve puzzles with his apprentice Luke. What made the game stand out against competitor titles was the slick animation between puzzles. People were so charmed by the character designs it shortly after became a movie.

The movie begins with an introduction about the series for new watchers and I know quite few people who indeed picked up this title from conventions for the art alone, not surprising as it was produced by Read more…

Film Review: Ask This Of Rikyū (Rikyū ni Tazuneyo)

What was the secret Rikyu took to the grave?

Ask this of Rikyū

‘Ask This of Rikyu’, a film directed by Mitsutoshi Tanaka and distributed by Toei, had its first World Premiere at the 37th Montreal World Film Festival in September 2013 sharing the Best Artistic Contribution Award with ‘Landes’ by François-Xavier Vives. It was nominated for the Japan Academy Prize for Picture of the Year and won the Japan Academy Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction.

The film, based on the novel of the same name by Kenichi Yamamoto which won the Naoki Literary Prize in 2009, stars the renowned Read more…

Book Review: The Cherry Blossom Murder – A Josie Clark In Japan Mystery

September 29, 2014 Leave a comment

First in a series of books set in Tokyo!

cherry-blossom-murderIn popular manga and anime Tokyo Babylon, there is a character called Seishiro Sakurazuka who is a dangerous onmyoji posing as a friendly vet. He kills his enemies and buries their bodies under a huge cherry tree; in fact it is the only cherry tree that bears deep red blossom and even redder fruit. In The Cherry Blossom Murder, Londoner, Josie discovers a body under the cherry blossom and goes in search of the killer.

Josie enjoys all the pomp and circumstance of Tammy Izumo’s Tea Party, but doesn’t quite fit into Japanese society. She is a friendly sort, but Read more…

WIN NINGYO: The Art Of The Japanese Doll By Alan Scott Pate

September 21, 2014 8 comments

Hooray! It’s competition time again!

Ningyo - The Art of the Japanese DollFamed the world over for their intricate beauty, Japanese dolls (ningyo) have played an important role in Japanese art and culture. Ningyo: The Art of the Japanese Doll (read review here) is the first comprehensive book on antique Japanese dolls and figurines published in English. The book focuses on dolls in six categories:

  • GOSHO-NINGYO: Palace Dolls and Auspicious Wishes
  • HINA-NINGYO: Dolls for the Girl’s Day Festival
  • MUSHA-NINGYO: Warrior Dolls for the Boy’s Day Festival
  • ISHO-NINGYO: Fashion Dolls and Popular Culture
  • NINGYO IN THE THEATER: Entertaining the Gods and Man
  • NINGYO AND HEALTH: Dolls as Talisman and Tool

Read more…

Book Review: NINGYO: The Art Of The Japanese Doll

September 9, 2014 1 comment

The first comprehensive book on antique Japanese dolls published in English!

Ningyo - The Art of the Japanese DollNINGYO: The Art of The Japanese Doll, written by Alan Scott Pate, the leading expert on Japanese dolls in the US, is a stunning hardback coffee-table book published by Tuttle Publishing that focuses on an area of Japanese culture little explored by westerners.

More than a plaything, the Japanese doll is a decorative object that is the central focus of many festivals like the Hina Matsuri (the Girl’s Day Festival) which takes place in Japan every year in March. To the world outside Japan, Hina dolls with their elaborate well-detailed costumes are Read more…

Book Review: The Art Of The Japanese Sword: The Craft Of Swordmaking And Its Appreciation

August 28, 2014 1 comment

Like people and snowflakes, no two Japanese swords are the same!

The Art Of The Japanese Sword - The Craft Of Swordmaking And Its AppreciationWritten by Yoshindo Yoshihara (a third generation swordsmith) with Leon and Hiroko Kapp, The Art of the Japanese Sword is a beautiful large format book (effectively printed on glossy black paper with white text) that focuses on the production and understanding of the symbolic steel weapon once used by samurai and now admired by art collectors all round the world as an object of perfection, although many people use them to practice traditional Japanese martial arts like Iaido (the art of drawing the sword). Read more…