Carrying the Sun

By Lucca Bey

Last week, we ended up visiting the Freer|Sackler museum to expand and apply the Japanese history we’ve been studying in class about the happenings of different historical periods. Seeing how the different events affected the style and content of art during that period is way more interesting than it sounds on paper. For example, most of the artwork in the Japan exhibit was from the Kamakura period, which depicted a lot of religious symbolism as well as primarily paintings, which matches up to the events during that period. I won’t go too much into that though, I plan to talk about an art piece that in particular, caught my eye:

[Pictured: Carrying the Sun by Kasuga Mandala, courtesy National Museum of Asian Art]

For context, deer are considered messengers of the divine in the Shinto religion, and the sun above the deer is meant to symbolize the kami Amaterasu as well as the Buddha Mahavairocana. I found this piece particularly eye catching due to the symbolism of two distinct religions depicted here, and what’s more, the museum’s explanation for this was the fact that during the Nanbokucho period, both the Kasuga Grand Shrine and the Kofukuji, a Buddhist monastery, maintained close ties to each other and were sponsored by the same clan. I’d personally like to imagine the piece as a symbol of solidarity between both groups, and the gold painted onto the sun as well as the border of the scroll makes this art even more beautiful.

Tale of the Crane

By Katie Nguyen

The Tale of The Crane is a story about how a man saves a crane that was about to be killed. Soon after, a beautiful young woman comes to the man’s house for a night’s lodging. She later marries him and reveals that she was the crane who the man had saved. So she then promises him a long and prosperous life and returns to being a crane and flies away. This story illustrates how doing good deeds will be later rewarded. This handscroll was made in the Edo period in the early 17th century and was created by ink, color, gold, and silver on paper.

The reason why I decided to choose this artwork from our visit to the Freer was because it reminded me of a vocaloid song, originally by Rin Kagamine & Len Kagamine, called “Seasonal Feathers” sung by Youtubers Lyrratic and SirHamnet. The song is based on The Tale of The Crane, however, the ending is different. In the song, after the man saves the crane and gives her a place to stay, the crane falls in love with the man and was scared that the man would not love her and abandon her because she was a crane. During the summer, the man grows ill while working in the fields, but does not have enough money to buy medicine and cannot earn any more because of his illness. The crane decides to weave cloth to sell, however, she uses her own feathers to make the cloth. The two eventually died later, the crane from overworking and the man from his illness, and it is revealed that the man knew that she was a crane all along, but had still loved her for who she was.

Check out the song here:

A Walk Around the Tidal Basin

By Alexx Thompson

Have you ever been to the Tidal Basin in Washington DC? It’s an amazing place with strong ties to Japan! How, you might ask? Well you’re about to find out!

This time, we all met up at the Freer Sackler Gallery of Asian Art, where we headed in to enjoy their Japan collection. In the collection we all stared in awe at gorgeous paintings and pottery alike, and took in the beauty of it all. After the museum, we left off towards the Tidal Basin.

At first, I thought we were only going to view the cherry blossoms, and the stone pagoda, and the stone lantern, however there was a little bit of a twist. Once we arrived, Sally and Eshita-sensei explained the rules of the game. For the entire time touring the Tidal Basin, we could only speak in Japanese. Soo… NO ENGLISH!!! Everyone instantly became nervous, none of us thought we’d be able to speak for that long. In my case, it was as if all my Japanese had flown right out of my head! A few of us even joked about doing sign language so that we could at least try and pass the challenge.

Then, it started, and we set off. The start was a little shaky but I found myself making good conversation. I joked about eating sakura tree ramen, as someone had asked me what I was eating, as I hadn’t the faintest idea what to even say/talk about! The time flew by honestly, and we were able to convey what we were trying to say, as well as sharing new vocabulary through miming! We arrived at the stone lantern and still, not allowed to speak English, we learned about the history, and snapped a pic with it! Then we kept going on, joking around in Japanese and also playing music for unknown reasons. But the music was all really good! Soon after, we arrived at the stone pagoda, and we learned about the different levels and what element each represented. Having to translate it all into Japanese was cool, as we found we already knew most of the words and their kanji!

By the time we’d circled back around and realized we were back where we started, we couldn’t believe it! It was almost as if it’d only been thirty minutes! We all looked at each other in amazement and were really proud of ourselves! We’d managed to have fluid conversations together for an entire two hours! All in Japanese! It was really encouraging to see how far we’d come and we were all super excited! We can’t wait to do it again!

Girls Playing Kickball

By Asa Marshall

The artwork I saw at the Freer Gallery was “Girls Playing Kickball,” which portrayed a scene from the Tale of Genji, which is a great work of literature written by Murasaki Shikibu in 1008. This piece visualized the scene when the courtier, Kashiwagi, is playing kickball and he sees the Third Princess behind bamboo blinds, but in this painting the gender roles are reversed with a man watching a group of girls playing the game.

This piece was made by Kawamata Tsuneyuki in the 18th century, which is considered the Edo period of Japan. The story behind this work interested me partly because I love the Tale of Genji. The fact that the gender roles were reversed in this revisited version of artwork was interesting because I wondered why the artist made this alteration. To me it gave an impactful presence, because oftentimes women are spotted by men, but seeing the women active and engaging in sport activities, while the man being more hidden and reserved, is very different to other artworks where women would be portrayed as the more subtle character. It was a great contrast to what ideals would be considered more traditional and I like the simplicity of the artwork.

My Summer Trip to Japan

By Cyrus Johnson

This summer, I got to go to Japan. It was my first time out of the country and I was pretty excited! My aunt paid for a plane ticket and the hotel, and my mom came with me.

After a 13-hour flight, we landed at Haneda Airport in Tokyo. We got lost in the airport pretty quickly, but once we found the bus that would take us to our hotel, it was pretty easy to navigate. When we got to our room on the 20th floor and got settled, the first thing I did was look out the window. We had a great view of the Rainbow Bridge and could see both the Tokyo Skytree and Tokyo Tower from there. The next day I checked out the nearby malls, Aqua City and Diver City. Diver City was cool because they had an entire shop dedicated to Gundam, and they also had an arcade there. The arcade games are a lot more fun than the ones in a Dave & Buster to me. They had a bunch of rhythm games, a lot of crane games, and this really fun mecha piloting game, among others I wasn’t really paying attention to. I ended up playing until closing multiple times while I was there.

After that, we went to Akihabara, an area with a lot of electronics shops. We got lost almost immediately, but we found our way to a bookstore and bought some manga before we got back on the subway to go to Sensō-ji, a large Buddhist Temple. We went and got fortunes, but they were both bad, so we tied them up on the bad fortune rack, I don’t know what it was called. The next day we went to Shibuya and saw the Shibuya crossing, a famous spot surrounded by malls known for letting pedestrians cross through the middle of the intersection at the same time.. We were going to go see if we could take pictures from the top of a building, but you had to pay per picture after you paid to get up there. After we were done checking out nearby shops, we went to the Tokyo Skytree. It was cool seeing so much of Japan from so high up, but since it was pretty cloudy that day we couldn’t see too far out.

The next day my mom wanted to check out the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo. They had an exhibit on Takahata Isao, who worked on Grave of the Fireflies, Heidi, Girl of the Alps, and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, which I enjoyed. Afterwards, we went to the Tokyo Imperial Palace grounds. The gardens there were pretty, but our feet got tired pretty quickly. We were only there for a week, and it was a pretty nice trip. The week went by fast, and I’d love to go back someday.

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By Asa Marshall

On Saturday, September 28th, 2019, I visited TOKIYA JAPAN. It is a little shop next door to Hana Market, which is a small Japanese market. TOKIYA JAPAN is a kimono shop located at 2002 17th St NW, Washington DC. I visited a couple times before, because it is a very quaint shop and it’s very cozy and welcoming. This shop actually is a place where you can buy pottery and jewelry made with traditional Japanese methods and designs, as well as trying on and buying kimono. I often visit this little shop every time I go to Hana Market, because it’s really interesting and everything is so beautiful. This time however, I noticed that all around the shop there are pieces of historic information about the pieces, and also how to properly wear yukata (kimono worn in summer).

I was really captivated by all the trinkets and art pieces in the shop and I think it would make a nice trip for the class, because we did recently discuss an article about the foreigners wearing a kimono incorrectly. I’m sure it would make a cool learning experience and it might be very fun because I’m sure many in the class would want to try on kimono!


Things to Do in Tokyo, Japan

By Katie Nguyen

In Tokyo, Japan, there are many things to do. Kim Dao, a youtuber who does makeup, fashion, and lifestyle videos, made a video about 100 things you should do/visit in Japan. In her video, she lists many places in Tokyo like Omoide Yokocho, or “Memory Lane,” an alleyway with small restaurants and bars to go back to what Tokyo used to be; Shin-Okubo, a Koreatown; Akihabara, electric town of Tokyo with lots of electronics and anime based stores; and many more.

All of the place she lists are very cute and interesting and I would really love to go to all the places she mentioned if I ever had the chance. A lot of places are purely based on your interests, whether it would be anime based or about culture, like many shrines, festivals, and Japanese food. It amazes me how Tokyo is really spaced out and open, even though it can be crowded at most times. I can’t even imagine what it would be like in Japan. In DC, it is mostly compact, while in Japan there is a lot of space and many stores featuring a lot of anime merchandise.

This video really got me thinking about where I should go since I never really thought about what I would do in Japan. Places where I would like to go/do is capsule hotels; Shibuya109, a Japanese fashion mall; Akihabara, electric town of Tokyo; Omikuji Fortune, a fortune teller in Asakusa; Gachapon, a store of capsule toy machines; the Ghibli Museum; Don Quijote, a discount chain store for Japanese goods; Sensoji Temple, Tokyo’s oldest temple; Sukiyaki, Cup Noodle Museum, exploring, even if I get lost, and many others. I highly recommend watching Kim Dao’s video if you want to know what to do in Tokyo, Japan, or if you are ever planning to go to Japan. Tokyo is it, and it is a great place for tourists to explore.

You can watch Kim Dao’s video for yourself here:

Photos are from the video.