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After introducing sites about traditional Japanese architecture last week, hereby a list of sites about modern architecture in Japan. Although there are many excellent Japanese architects, it is surprisingly difficult to find good sites in English. For example, even though Tadao Ando is one of Japan’s best known architects at this point in history, his most obvious domains are all taken by cybersquatters.
The movie Rein Foru: Ame no Kiba (Rain Fall: Fangs of the Rain), based on the Rain mystery series by author Barry Eisler opens tomorrow. The movie is getting a lot of attention in Japan as the story is placed in this country. In September 2003, some six years ago when Eisler was barely known, I interviewed him about his books. At that time there were only two and he was working on the third, travelling to Macau, Rio de Janeiro, Hong Kong and Tokyo.
Cat Shit One is an animated movie hitting movie theaters some time in early 2010. It is based on a manga series, known in the US as Apocalypse Meow, written and illustrated by Motofumi Kobayashi. In both the manga and the anime, Americans are depicted as cute rabbits, a pun on the Japanese word for rabbit, usagi (USA + GI). Does it bother you to see cuddly animals shoot each other up?
In this 2005 gem, William M. Tsutsui (Univ. of Kansas) explores the role of the Godzilla film series in popular culture. Despite Godzilla’s remarkable public presence, it is surprising, Professor Tsutsui observed, “how little scholarly attention this giant radiation-breathing reptile has received, either in Japan or in the West.” Donald Ritche, whom Tsutsui described as “the dean of American film critics of Japan,” once damned Japanese cinema as “‘a plethora of nudity, teenage heroes, science-fiction monsters, animated cartoons, and pictures about cute animals.’” Only a handful of scholarly essays on Godzilla have appeared, and few “have attempted to contextualize the film historically.” In his talk, Tsutsui set out to correct that: “I would argue,” he declared, “. . . that the Godzilla films can provide us valuable insights into Japanese culture since World War II.”
From Dec. 2, The Japan Times is serializing one of Japan’s early detective novels, The Curious Casebook of Inspector Hanshichi: Detective Stories of Old Edo, in which author Kido Okamoto (1872-1939), offers entertaining and thrilling stories set in Edo Period Japan.
Consecutive installations from the book appear in The Japan Times every week, from Tuesday to Saturday. For context and background of the book’s setting, as well as the time in which Kido wrote his work, it offers the introduction of The Curious Casebook of Inspector Hanshichi, written by the book’s translator Ian McDonald.
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Just two decades ago, Japan’s image in the world was of an economic juggernaut, challenging America and other industrialized nations with its push for dominance in everything from microchips to supercomputers. Discussion of Japanese culture typically referenced the traditional and offbeat worlds of, say, Kabuki or sumo.
Today, Japan sets the trends in what’s cool. Sarah Palin’s famous glasses came from a Japanese designer. Tokyo has the most Michelin-starred restaurants in the world, with eight of them earning three stars. Even America’s favorite food show, “Iron Chef,” is a Japanese import. Japanese women are pushing the limits of literary pop culture with blogs and cellphone novels. Japanese comics occupy ever-greater shelf space in bookstores, and animé-influenced movies like the “The Dark Knight” and “Spider-Man 3” find huge audiences in the West.
What all these media share is a nuanced Japanese aesthetic that has infiltrated global sensibilities – a sort of new “soft power” for Japan. In the process, they’re challenging delineations of good and evil from the world’s main purveyor of pop culture, Hollywood, as well as American ideals of the lone action-hero.
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Animators traced a real performance by Susumu Nishikawa (guitar), Takeshi Taneda (bass guitar), and Yutaka Odawara (drums) to create this version of Suzumiya Haruhi no Tsumeawase (涼宮ハルヒの詰合). It was featured in the very popular anime Lucky Star, which focuses on the lives of four high-school girls. Cool clip.