Saturday, January 26, 2013

TJCS 2013 New Years Party with Ambassador Clugston


January 16, 2013 Tokai Japan Canada Society - Shinenkai Event Review

Wow, What a great evening!

For myself having lived in the Nagoya region for the past 11 years, it was my first Shinenkai event from the Tokai Japan Canada Society. The event, which was initiated by the members of the Business Committee, was an outstanding success. I could sense from the attendees that their was a real sense of optimism for the New Year. 
Mr. Bruce McCaughan, TJCS Shinenkai MC
The event began with Mr. Bruce McCaughan (WSI Consulting) acting as MC for the evening. McCaughan kept the evening light and humorous and everything seemed to go smoothly.

Quick Review
Inspiring and effectual speeches from the executives and VIPS. There were many local government and corporate leaders in attendance and the following are only a few.

From L to R, T. Nakamura, Matt Fraser, Mackenzie Clugston, Takashi Kamio, Hideaki Omura
Mr. Mackenzie Clugston; Ambassador to Japan; Government of Canada
Mr. Hideaki Omura, Governor of Aichi
Mr. Takashi Nakamura; Mayor of Nagoya
Mr. Takashi Kamio; Senior Advisor to Toyota Motor Corporation
Mr. Matt Fraser; Nagoya Canada Consular Office

Mr. Koji Yamaguchi and his troupe gave a great introduction to the traditional Japanese shamisen with a youthful energy which had the crowd fired up!

Overall a wonderful event that showed the TJCS continues to impress with wide variety of events that attract large numbers of attendees. Looking forward to seeing the organization grow this year.

Main Review

It was an event with two purposes, first it was a kick off to the TJCS 2013 year and secondly and I believe more importantly it was a welcome to the new Ambassador Mr. Mackenzie Clugston as his first official visit to the Nagoya region.
Mackenzie Clugston, Canadian Ambassador to Japan

Clugston gave a wonderful speech, spoken fluently in Japanese, highlighting the relationship between Japan and Canada and it was great to see the reactions of so many attendees at just how fluently and eloquently Mr. Clugston could express his ideas from the theme of cooperation between our two countries.

Mr. Takashi Yamamoto (TJCS President) gave the welcome speech from the TJCS.
Matt Fraser, Nagoya Consul

Mr. Matt Fraser (Nagoya Consular, Canadian Government) also gave a speech covering the local perspective of the Central region of Japan and the Canadian governments work in the region to promote each other’s initiatives.

After all the speeches were taken care of everyone was free to mix and the crowd buzzed with introductions and new friendships. Of course for myself there were many locals that I haven’t seen in a long while and we could catch up on how life is going and what are the plans for the upcoming year. It was great to see Mr. Julian Bashore (Bodycote), Greg Robinson (Bombardier), Jeff Genet (Power English), Andy Boone(, Sarah Mulvey, (Nanzan University) and many more. With so many people coming to Japan and staying only one or two years it is great to see people who have established themselves successfully here. All of these great photos were brought to us by the talented Andy Boone, link above.

The last event of the evening and for me the main attraction was the shamisen concert put on by Mr. Koji Yamaguchi and his troupe (one of which was my wife Mamiko). Koji always entertains the crowd as I have seen him a few times. However he was able to get a usually quiet and conservative Nagoya business executive crowd clapping along with great enthusiasm as he played traditional melodies while making the tempo rise and fall all with a youthful vigor that inspired us all. I am of course biased here, but I think Koji will continue to grow in popularity and hope he can grow his own brand of traditional Japanese music fused with his youthful energy and willingness to try new collaborations.
M. Fraser, T. Yamamoto, C. Walker, K. Yamaguchi, M. Walker, Ito san, M. Clugston, T. Kamio, Y. Fujiwara
For me personally it was a great personal kick off event, which has started my renewed ambition to put Canadian business together with business in the central region of Japan (chubu). This review is by myself and not the opinion of the TJCS Business Committee of which I am a member.

Twitter: rockyjapan

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Edo Period Part III - Japan - 1800s Rise of the Bourgeoisie

Edo Period Japan - 1800s Rise of the Bourgeoisie

Part III (Part III of III) Art/Entertainment

  • The risen middle class becomes the new patrons of the arts
The arts and entertainment of this period continued to flourish despite the perpetual 'lock-down' of the local citizen. Even though it was still very difficult to move about the country and impossible to enter the country the arts expanded on it’s predecessors work and blossomed in the local scene. The Kano school, the Emperors official courtesan painters,

Ukiyo-e Bird flowers

continues to be the choice of the royal court and the upper class.  Most paintings focused on images of traditional Japanese folklore, such as The Tales of Genji. Many art forms that we (Kakemono Arts) have been introduced to from this period (1800-1865) are Buddhism or Shintoism influenced. Especially the iconic emblems of the Boddhi Dharma or Daruma, the typical Asian icons of turtles, cranes, pine trees and countless birds and natural imagery which could arguably be known as the primary source of the ‘ukiyo-e’ which depicts that natural world. Especially interesting is the concepts of combined plants and birds or animals which hold a specific meaning. The author Merrily Baird (Symbols of Japan) explains many as well as the Three Friends of Winter, (shochikubai) which is an ensemble of plum, bamboo, and pine.  She goes on to explain that the three are
'shochukubai' Three Friends of Winter
all symbols of winter, long life, and the cultured gentleman. This convention of linking the three plants, which are consistently ranked in the same order, remains so popular among the Japanese that they use the Three Friends as both a design motif and an elegant system of designating such things such as banquet rooms or menu options in traditional restaurants.’
There are many different types of combinations which can be traced back to Chinese and Japanese origin and which have Buddhism or Shintoism concepts. As well the previously mentioned form, which is known as ukiyo-e, or ‘images of a floating world’ continued to grow in complexity and imagination. There was also writing and imagery depicting the underworld, ironically also called the ‘ukiyo-e’ which depicted the urban pleasures of the theater and brothel districts of Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto, this became popular art for the average urban citizen which was not unique to Japan, but the world of visual and literary arts during the high times of the bourgeoisie of the main cities was very uniquely Japanese; as Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto also grew to represent the modern urban native Japanese, the arts scene could be categorized as an artistic explosion.

Geisha Woodblock Print from Edo Period
Wherein many average urban dwellers craved the imagery of this underworld and as such many different types of painting and texts were created. These were down in the mass production techniques of the woodblock print to keep the price reasonable and attainable for the average city dweller. It could be argued that this similar mass production of ‘underworld/floating world art’ could be paralleled with the animation and comic book fantasy world that saturates urban and rural Japan today, not to mention fascinates so many visual art fans from around the globe. While different methods as just mentioned continued to feed the new urban art lover, woodblock prints became obsolete to the printing press at the close of the Edo period and a new found interest in western art also became more influential at the beginning of the Meiji period. But as we shall see as we dig into the next periods Japan, the struggle between outside influences and was thought of as ‘Japanese authentic’ continued to rage on.

Edo Period Tiger

Kenneth Henshall; A History of Japan
Merrily Baird; Symbols of Japan
Tsuneko Sadao/Stephanie Wada; Discovering the Arts of Japan

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Calligraphy Shodo Japan

Japanese shodou Calligraphy


As with most cultural traditions, the practice of writing or more appropriately painting or brushing the characters of the Japanese written language came from ancient China. Origins of the art form can be traced back to 28thcentury BC with introduction to Japan in 600AD. The tradition which became a flourishing art form, has several styles, but to name a few of the main forms:

Seal Script or tensho 添書
Clerical Script or reisho 隷書
Regular Script or kaisho 楷書
Cursive or sousho 草書
Semi-cursive or gyousho 行書

Why would I want a shodou Japanese calligraphy painting?

  • wish to learn more about the form and beauty of asian calligraphy
  • desire to use it as a way to find more peace through meditation
  • hope to use it as a centerpiece for studying the Japanese tea ceremony
  • a great piece of art that signifies the emphasis on spirit instead of the physical
  • an endless way to interpret the meaning both literally (if possible) and figuratively

Most of what we find at local auctions and is within a reasonable budget are large calligraphy from edo period to the modern era and are regular script, semi cursive and cursive. Often we find that our staff and most Japanese cannot read the characters and so owners need to have faith in what is represented and follow zen Buddhist practices to just ‘know’ or ‘feel’ the meaning from the visual representation. This means to admire the flow of the ink and imagery and not to be too concerned with the actual meaning as written. Occasionally we can read the script and in these cases it is obviously useful to ‘know’ the actual characters and the intended meaning. Trust in your own interpretation.

Artist: RYO;

Tea Ceremony

One of the most intriguing ideas of enjoying or admiring Japanese calligraphy comes from the idea that before starting the Japanese tea ceremony we should clear our minds by viewing the calligraphy. This means to sit silently and as those who meditate understand, we simply aim to clear our minds of extraneous thoughts. Sounds easy, if you have no practice at this we suggest you try to just sit and clear your mind and not think about anything, just ‘be’. You may be amused or even frustrated at why this is so difficult. I recommend you learn about traditional meditation by a local expert or using Dr. Wayne Dyer’s book  Get in the Gap, which can help you learn to be in this moment of calm. Often guests at a tea ceremony may ask the host about the scroll which was chosen specifically for the event.
DARUMA with Cursive Calligraphy

Mulberry washi Canvas

The script is usually painted using charcoal or sumi ink on mulberry or washi paper. The canvas is said to be the toughest to paint on, as what it reveals is immediate and truly shows the thoughts and level of calm of the artist/author. As mentioned in another post, the enso or the ‘circle of enlightenment’ is one way in which the artist/monk attempts to achieve this moment of ‘no thought’ mushin or the moment when we are truly connected to the universe.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Social Media - Democracy - Use Your Voice

Social Media - Don't be Afraid to get engaged. 

You are a part of a ‘real democracy’.

Never before in our human history have we had the possibility to achieve so much. With today's technology and the ability for people to share resources, knowledge and work cooperatively towards improving the way we live we are now experiencing incredible innovation.
This will become even more evident over the coming years with our energy resource utilization, our local, national and global governance, as well as the way we continue to be connected to each other and recreate the traditional channels of media and distribution. This is what a true democratic society was meant to be. That is, to be connected to each other, to have the ability to make change for the better, and be held to the true value proposition that you can achieve, whether it be in business, arts and culture or through social improvement.

It is scary; we can be criticized or anonymous fools can easily point out the errors in our thoughts, you also can see it in the eyes of people who built their ideology on the old power structure. But no one should be afraid. Just learn how to adapt to the new reality. Get involved in the discussion, whatever it may be, good people will back you. I would be interested to hear of bullying cases and thoughts and strategies to counter cyber bullying, people want to be connected but we have almost all had run ins with these assholes. Any thoughts?

Your voice can now be heard and the more you offer, the more you can affect change and gain the trust of those you are connected to. Learn to grow a thick skin and know that many will support you, while others may ridicule you. For the trolls and the cyber bullies learn to accept that many people will not like what you have to say and often they lack the intelligence or the patience to write thoughtfully, they may even be right but if they contradict your thoughts and can’t write how and why and what might be a better idea, then erase them and forget them. Accept that trolls and bullies exist, but don’t let the bastards bring you down. Use your voice. Call the bullies out. blog about it and point the people back at them.

I have seen so many great things come from this new interconnectedness yet the most intriguing thing for me is just how we as a society will be able to govern ourselves and create change with each other as it evolves as the group en masse wishes. Traditional channels of media, wealth distribution are now being completely rewritten and will lead to a redistribution of wealth not based on status or current power but will instead depend on the value proposition, that is whatever you add to the pot will be scrutinized and the group will decide its true value, the more people that review what you do the more correct the final valuation will be.

There are many cases where social media has gone awry and often it seems to correct itself, but we cannot run away from the most powerful tools, the ones that give us a voice where before all we had was a remote control to change the channel, now we write the channel. These are my thoughts.

Thoughtful ideas and even contradictory views are welcome, with ‘thoughtful’ being the operative word.