Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Midosuji Gourmet Festival: The Countdown Has Begun!「御堂筋ぐるめフェス」のカウントダウンがスタート!!

In less than 10 days, the inaugural Midosuji Gourmet Festival that JD CREATIONS is producing will have breathed its first breaths of life.  This is without a doubt the largest scale event that my company and I have undertaken in our short history.  In the limited time that we have had to put this event together (10 weeks), we have come a long way.  With an elite organizing committee and strong supporting cast, this event will be something special and hopefully something to build on for future years, ideally as an annual event in Osaka.

With Osaka's own Midosuji Kappo (formerly the Midosuji Parade) event being held adjacent to the Midosuji Gourmet Festival on Sunday, October 10, the epicenter of the city will come to life like it has never before.  Last year alone, over 400,000 people attended the Midosuji Kappo event, which lasts only four hours.  With the Midosuji Gourmet Festival held in conjunction with the Kappo event, who knows how many people will come for the festivities this year!  One thing for sure is that after the Kappo event finishes, the Midosuji Gourmet Festival will still be going on with delicious food, beverages, and stage performances galore until late in the night! 

If you will be in town during October 8th thru 10th, make an effort to get Nakanoshima Park located right next to city hall in Yodoyabashi.  It would be a pleasure to have you at this inaugural event! 



Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Experience Kyoto: Arashiyama, Townhouse, Manga & More!  京都を満喫:嵐山、町家、マンガミュージアムなどなど!

In all of my time spent in Kansai, covering more than 7 years, I had never been to Arashiyama in Kyoto until this past weekend.

To kickoff the weekend festivities, I started by renting a bicycle at the Arashiyama Station for 800 yen ($8) valid for one day's use.  After riding around the main street in Arashiyama, I stopped by the red snapper restaurant "Hanana" for lunch with my friends.  Once our hunger had been satisfied, we got back on our bicycles and visited the Nison-in Temple and the Tenryu-ji Temple before arriving back at the main street in Arashiyama to visit the kimono handicraft store, Kurisho.

After seeing all the major sites to see in Arashiyama, we moved on to the next phase of our weekend at the Sanbo Nishinotoin Townhouse, a machiya, which just so happens to be owned by my good friend and kimono atelier owner Shigeyuki Kobayashi.  My past blog about Shige-san, as I call him, can be found here.

As I had stayed at one of Iori's townhouses before (blog can be viewed here), I had an idea of what to expect, however my friend Shige-san's townhouse was spacious beyond belief!  With at least a 5 meter (15 ft.) ceiling and a huge wooden bathtub, the ambience is his townhouse was quite different from the one I experienced in March.  As I have already experienced two Iori townhouse properties (both excellent), I have eight more to visit before completing the entire list.  I am definitely up to the challenge!

The following morning, we got off to an early start by walking only 10 minutes from the townhouse to get to the entrance of Nijo Castle.  Very convenient.  Because of the intense heat even at mid-morning, we briskly walked through the castle and its adjacent grounds before returning to back to the townhouse to check out.

Conveniently located next to the townhouse was the Nishinotoin Tea Shop & Tea House Motoan featuring green tea from Marukyu-Koyamaen Co., Ltd. in Uji City, Kyoto, which has some of the finest green tea in all of Japan.  Not wanting to pass up this opportunity, my friends and I stopped in to have a very traditional Japanese breakfast with green tea before moving on to my friend Shige-san's kimono gallery a few doors down.  

Before calling it a day and heading back to Osaka, we stopped by the Kyoto International Manga Museum to experience Japan's subculture.  At the former site of the Tatsuike Elementary School, the museum opened in November 2006 and currently houses over 300,000 items related to manga with something for every manga enthusiast.  For those wanting to see a different side to Japan, I recommend paying a visit to the museum.

嵐山駅では、1日800円で自転車を借りることができますので、 週末の楽しみのとっかかりとして、 まずは自転車で嵐山を周ることにしました。嵐山のメインストリートを走り、鯛匠HANANAというお店でランチをしました。空腹を満たした後に向かった先は、二尊院天龍寺、そして嵐山のメインストリートへ戻り手描友禅工房久利匠へ行きました。
また、町家の隣にある西洞院店 茶房「元庵」では、品質本位のお茶づくりをすることで有名な宇治の丸久小山園のお茶を楽しむことができます。私と友達は、こんなチャンスを逃すなんてと思い、シゲさんの着物ギャラリーに行く前に立ち寄ることにし、お茶と一緒に伝統的な日本の朝ご飯をいただくことにしました。

Monday, September 6, 2010

Evening of Traditional Osaka Performing Arts    上方伝統芸能ナイト

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to attend the Yamamoto Noh Association's "Evening of Traditional Osaka Performing Arts", which is held with Japanese, English, Chinese and Korean subtitles, at the Yamamoto Noh Theater located close to Osaka Castle.  Some of you may remember that I had the Yamamoto Noh Theater perform off-site for the Hewlett-Packard group that visited Osaka last year in November.  That blog entry can be viewed here.

With Osaka home to many traditional performing arts, this particular event was a "sampler" consisting of 15 minute performances of the following: Silent Movie, Kodan (Storytelling), Rakugo (Comic Storytelling), and Noh Play.

For those of you unfamiliar with these arts, I will outline them below followed by an introduction to the Yamamoto Noh Theater.

Silent Movie: The first silent movie in Japan is said to have been shown on February 15, 1897, by way of the Lumiere brothers from France who started it all with their invention of the cinematograph.  To ensure a successful screening, the film interpreter, who accompanies the cinematographer, had to work in perfect harmony with the cinematographer as projectors in those days were operated by hand.

Kodan (Storytelling): Kodan is a vaudevillian performing art in which a professional storyteller tells a story in front of a desk.

Rakugo (Comic Storytelling): Rakugo was established as a performing art about 300 years ago.  Rakugo is characterized by comic monologues about the lives of townspeople or folk tales.

Noh Play: Reaching its perfection about 650 years ago, Noh is said to be the oldest existing theatrical performance, and is also Japan's first Intangible Cultural Heritage designated by UNESCO.

Yamamoto Noh Theater: Established in 1927, the original theater burned down during World War II, but was rebuilt as the present building in 1950.  The theater was recently designated as a national Tangible Cultural Property from the Japanese government in 2006.  

As the Yamamoto Noh Theater has its multi-lingual subtitle performing arts night on the first and third Saturday of every month, I highly recommend anyone wanting to experience another side to Japanese culture to make the trip to the theater.

週末は 大阪城近くの山本能楽堂で行われた「上方伝統芸能ナイト」に参加してきました。このイベントは日本語、英語、中国語、韓国語の字幕で楽しむことができます。覚えてくれている方もいらっしゃるかもしれませんが、去年の11月にヒューレッドパッカード社が大阪に来た際、山本能楽堂を迎え伝統芸能を披露していただきました。
この「上方伝統芸能ナイト」は、 活動写真、講談、落語、能の 4つの上方伝統芸能から構成され、それぞれを15分ずつ楽しむことができます。
活動写真:日本初の活動写真は、シネマトグラフを開発したフランスのリュミエール兄弟を通じ、 1897年2月15日に上映されたものだと言われています。サイレント映画ということで映画説明者(後の活動弁士)が上映には不可欠でした。また、映写機は手回し式だったので、映写技師と説明者が息を合わせることがとても重要でした。
山本能楽堂:1927年(昭和2年)に建設されたが、その後、戦災に遭い焼失してしまいました。そして1950年(昭和25年)に再建され、現在に至っています。 2006年(平成18年)には、市街地にある木造3階建てで、伝統的な能舞台を持つ能楽堂として貴重なことから、文化審議会により国の登録有形文化財として登録されました。

Thursday, September 2, 2010

End of Summer Beer Garden          夏のビアガーデンの終わり

Even with temperatures hovering at 37℃ (100°F) and expecting to continue a while longer, the annual summer beer garden season will be coming to a close nationwide in the next few days.

As it was a torrential downpour the last and only time I visited the Sky Beer Garden in Wakayama City almost two months ago (previous blog post details here), I had the opportunity to visit again a few days ago with the sun blazing and the temperatures soaring.

I know the one hour trek from the center of Osaka may turn people away; however with fantastic access from JR Wakayama Station, Wakayama's own Sky Beer Garden is quite a value coupled with exquisite views of the city.

I, for one, am planning on visiting this hot spot in Wakayama City when Summer 2011 rolls around and recommend you as well!