Posts Tagged ‘Japan’

Yoshida returns to dance with the BRB as it tours her homeland | The Japan Times Online

Yoshida returns to dance with the BRB as it tours her homeland | The Japan Times Online.

Miyako Yoshida in “The Dream”, and like a dream for me, to interview and write about such a talented and graceful star of the ballet world.


Soul of your sole: Japonista!

These shoes reflect why I love Japan: the blend of ancient and modern, traditional and hip, funky and unfailingly polite.

After they shipped them, the company sent me an email with pictures of my package (presuming I did not read Japanese, and thus helping me know what to look out for in the mail, a great thoughtfulness that belies their youthful image).  They also included in my package Japanese okashi or sweets AND tabi socks to wear with my new tabi shoes (of course, I live in Japan, so I already have loads, but still — thoughtful, thoughtful!) ; the packaging itself is wonderful, but anyone who knows Japan knows how obsessive they are about wrapping things nicely.

AND, finally — MY SHOES — BLISS!  I read about JAPONISTA  a long while back and luckily remembered the company name when my walking shoes walked themselves holey on Monday. Japonista Sole tabi shoes are a bit pricey (11,000 yen or 120 dollars, same as good walking shoes here)  but they are comfortable and easy to walk in —  plus, dig their motto: soul of your sole.  (Feeds my soul, anyway.)

Or, as Ichiro Suzuki says, If your feet are healthy, you are healthy.  I could substitute in happy as well.  I am happy today.  Off for a walk in the lovely spring sunshine now. With my new shoes, baby.  Buy Japan! Go JAPONISTA.  (I am already thinking I really need a black pair, too, you know, just for a bit of variation……)


Touched by teen suicide | The Japan Times Online

I review the wondrous book of a local writer and friend–


Touched by teen suicide | The Japan Times Online.

The Opera Critic Reviews :: New National Theatre Tokyo | Yuzuru

To me, watching YUZURU and writing this review was primarily about family — the family I have chosen, with choosing a Japanese husband, choosing to live here in a world unfamiliar.  There is such a subdued beauty in Japan that I appreciate, even as many things are tiresome or difficult to understand, both literally and metaphorically.  Thank you to Michael, of The Opera Critic, for publishing my view.  Thank you, to my husband, for watching with me, a sacrifice in its own.

The Opera Critic Reviews :: New National Theatre Tokyo | Yuzuru.

The Ballet Bag in Japan

Flyer for the upcoming production of "M".

The Ballet Bag, a wonderfully now and informative blog on ballet, graciously arranged for me to visit Tokyo Ballet recently, with the help of Maiko Uchida of NBS.   The photoblog of that day is here:  The Ballet Bag in Japan.

Check out the photoblog first, but my full text for the rehearsal is pasted below, in case there are any Mishima/ Bejart fans who need more details.

Thank you, Ballet Bag and Maiko san — and my ballet master, Yoshiaki Nagahata, who introduced me to Bejart and “M”, providing insight and wisdom I could (hopefully) pass along.

Full Text:

Clear and crisp, the blue sky freshly washed and gleaming, I clapped twice and bowed as I passed the Meguro river on my way to the Tokyo Ballet studios, to honor the shade of Yukio Mishima (1925-1970). Today, November 25, 2010, marks the 40th anniversary of Mishima’s seppuku, ritual suicide, at the age of 45, and to commemorate his death, Tokyo Ballet will stage Maurice Bejart’s “M” in mid December. Many of the original cast from 1993 will reprise their roles, including a return to ballet from a 7 years absence by Juichi Kobayashi, who was sidelined due to intervertebral disk degeneration. Kobayashi, who hails from a famous Japanese Rakugo (comedic storytelling) family, has kept busy in the last seven years, as a rehearsal advisor in 2005 for Tokyo Ballet’s last production of “M”, but also by spreading out into stage and television acting. Fans anticipate a new dramatic maturity as he reprises the enigmatic role of Shi (4). The other big news with this production: it marks the debut of Tokyo Ballet’s rising soloist, Naoyoshi Nagase, in the ingenuously erotic role of Saint Sebastian.

Rehearsal officially opened with a 30 minute speech by Administrative Director Norio Takahashi, in honor of the anniversary of Yukio Mishima’s death. Takahashi san spoke of Bejart’s desire to pay tribute to Mishima, as an avid fan, encouraged by the revered Japanese composer, Toshiro Mayuzumi, who had worked with Bejart earlier composing the music for “The Kabuki.” Mayuzumi himself spoke to Mishima’s widow during the collaboration, and Bejart choreographed the ballet in one month.

Rehearsals started with Bushido/ Kyoko’s House, the longest section, and a sequence that opens with a scene evocative of Mishima’s novel, Kyoko’s House. The novel presents four stages of man, and Bejart took this idea and expanded it in the ballet, with the characters, ichi (1), ni (2), san (3), shi (4). A homophone in Japanese, the number four also sounds like the word for death, and that double meaning is obvious with the character of shi in the ballet. Back to rehearsal: as the scene opens, a man and woman recline on a red couch, observing with ennui the pas de deux of ichi, Bejart’s first stage of Mishima, and woman. Naoki Takagishi and Mika Yoshioka, both reprising their roles from the original production, rehearsed first. Their ease together was evident, and with the advantage of such a close view, I gained new respect for the acting intrinsic to ballet. Seconds earlier the two were exchanging teasing smiles, but they transformed instantly into a young Mishima, struggling with his sexuality, and woman, both his tormentor and potential savior. Mizuka Ueno, who will perform the role of woman on the 19th, rehearsed next, and all three seasoned veterans, Takagishi, Yoshioka and artistic director Munetaka Iida, advised her through the difficult, contemporary steps.

This sequence moves from Mishima’s inner struggles and frustration to his discovery of the physical – he was an avid body builder and model, and later formed his own self-defense force, Tate no Kai. Revealed through the dance, the scene morphs to one of physical male, and the pas de deux segues into a powerful all-male sequence, led by Shi, (4). The sheer masculinity of the scene impresses, with traces of Noh and Kabuki in the steps. Bejart is known as a choreographer for the danseur, and this scene certainly showcases the beauty and power of masculinity. Kobayashi’s recovery is obviously complete, as he never marked during rehearsal, and danced with strength and power, although occasionally in some pain. Nagase san came by to graciously explain he is resting a slight injury, and will thus only mark his solo. Still, he somehow managed to exemplify beauty, youth, and grace in motion, and Japanese audiences are correct to anticipate his performance.

The next scene was Rokumeikan – an uplifting, joyful celebration of Western Culture that ends in disaster– another reference to Mishima, this time to his play of the same name. The play reveals Japan’s conflicted feelings towards the influx of Western Culture. Set in 1886, the title alludes to the historical Rokumeikan Hall in Tokyo, a controversial symbol of Japan’s Westernization. Balls and banquets were held there, with Japanese elite copying the latest styles and dances from Europe; foreign diplomats were housed nearby. In Bejart’s hands, the lively, classical scene, the refined energy of the dancers is interrupted by gunshots – another allusion to Mishima’s play – and the schoolboy returns onstage to disrupt the dance. In rehearsal, the dancers were elegant and genteel, the classical steps and Strauss’s waltz beautifully reflecting Western culture. Yuji Matsushita danced with particular energy, and the character “Moon on the Water” with her brief solo: in rehearsal, Reiko Koide and Rie Watanabe (debuting in the role) each revealed an ethereal and graceful luminescence.

Finally, the dancers practiced the ending, Tate no kai, the special self-defense force, formed and led by Mishima to “protect” the Emperor. Translated, it means shield, and the male dancers act as a barrier and then a background to the schoolboy’s reenactment of Mishima’s infamous seppuku, ritual suicide. The rehearsal required many stops and starts, as Artistic Director Iida san went through the timing and precision movements with the male corps several times. “Don’t run into each other!” he extolled good-naturedly, and reset the music again. Once the men were released, the woman went through the same treatment from Iida san, as the Tate no kai scene blends with the reentrance of the sea, another sequence requiring exact timing, this time from the female corps who mimic the oceans’ grace.

Rehearsal ended slightly later than scheduled, because of the speech by Takahashi san, but the dancers seemed still lively at the end. Juichi Kobayashi and Ryuta Takahashi practiced some hip hop in the corner, while other dancers moved to the side to go over steps or stretch. There did not seem to be any tension or frustrations, even at this early stage of rehearsal; perhaps with so many veterans reprising their roles, their confidence has permeated the company. I left the rehearsal hall with the sunshine dissipating and my stomach growling, so I found the nearest ramen stand and ate hot noodles with a beer, toasting Mishima san and the Tokyo Ballet, with a special thanks to Maiko Uchida of NBS and The Ballet Bag, for arranging this day, and Nagahata Yoshiaki of Nagahata Ballet, for sharing his insight of Bejart and “M”. Kampai to “M”.


Dream becomes reality for Scottish manga creator | The Japan Times Online

Meet Sean Michael Wilson, comic book creator.



Dream becomes reality for Scottish manga creator | The Japan Times Online.

15 minutes for Bessie


Please read about an exceptional young lady.


Ballplayer is in a league all her own | The Japan Times Online.

Autumnal Equinox in me

Autumn took the overnight express this year, slamming out summer with its arrival one unexpectedly chilly night across Japan, leaving the previous day’s sweltering temperatures a distant memory.  I love autumn, especially considering I never experienced one until I was 26 years old.  Autumn in Florida means a slight chill when you get out of the water, short sleeves instead of halter tops.  My first glimpse of a Japanese ginko tree remains etched across my mind’s eye, and I eagerly wait for the end of Autumn to view these majestical golden trees, preening in their Fall coats.

For some reason, this autumn that I will pass 40 years, I wonder when I will enter the true autumn of my days.  I still feel summertime most days, fresh skies and unlimited horizons, but I sometimes long for the dignified crown of gold and brown hued elegance.  A lot is happening lately in my every day that signifies dreams and hopes, cloudy aspirations and lofty fantasies more at home in youthful hearts.  While part of me yearns for the idealistically stately serenity of mid-life, I have begun to suspect life does not weather with the predictability of seasons.  Occasionally I even feel the Spring-like discovery of a child, mostly through the eyes of my own children, and I hope ultimately to keep every season inside me.

Here’s to a bit of summer in the soul, as my body inches towards the midway point of existence.

Flower Power

I appreciate the chance to meet interesting people with my interviews, and this one was unexpectedly down to earth — please meet Nicolai, and his wife, Amanda.

Flower designers success blossomed under rising sun | The Japan Times Online.

Japanese CUTE extends to food

Japan’s food culture infiltrates all aspects of society; a judgement on your attitudes in life, a personality barometer, a declaration of affection — and yet another example of Japan as the kingdom of cute.  Nothing special; just a bakery in Yokohama, running a cute campaign for the end of summer.  To read more about Japan’s food culture from yours truly, please see:

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