Japan in summer

thingsjapan

To sum it all, my summer Japan trip was great; I learned about the things that Japan has to offer in summer. Although my list is not comprehensive, below are the things that I came across:

Edogawa Hanabi Matsuri
One of the many firework festivals that I attended was Edogawa Hanabi Matsuri. This year the Edogawa Fireworks Festival turns 41 – making it one of the oldest fireworks festivals in Tokyo. The venue, Metropolitan Shinozaki Park point on the banks of the Edogawa River, is about half an hour walk from Shinozaki Station. It was a very long walk but nonetheless I enjoyed looking at people along the way. Most local people wore the traditional yukata, summer kimono or jinbei.

yukatagirlsGirls in traditional yukata.

The fireworks display can actually be viewed from either side of the river; Edogawa (the side that I was at), and Ichikawa (opposite side), that is known as the Ichikawa City Nohryo Fireworks Festival.

edogawahanabi01Edogawa side.

ichikawasideIchikawa side.

firework

Yukata
In summer, most people wear yukata; a casual kimono-like garment worn during the summer. It’s unlined and usually made of cotton to make the fabric more breathable. Yukata are popular for dressing up for summer events like firework festivals. Yukata wearing dates back over 1,000 years to when they were worn by the nobility to and from their baths in the days before bath towels were used in Japan. Because yukata are much cheaper than silk kimono, they became very popular during the Edo period when there were strict laws that prevented people from living extravagantly.

yukatasketches

Ayu, river fish
Grilled salted ayu, or sweetfish, is a staple at summer festival food stalls. Ayu, also known as Sweetfish, is abundant during summer time in Japan. When summer arrives, many Japanese go river fishing for Ayu, which has a sweet, distinctive flavour. Catching Ayu is prohibited from November to May, as a measure to protect the species, but becomes legal from June when the skin and bones are especially soft.

Edo furin, wind-chime
Furin (Wind-chime): Introduced from China by monks and used to know the direction of wind and a charm against evil. The soothing sound of Furin is a symbol of summer.  Japanese people enjoy that furin changes the wind into sound. Though most furins were made of bronze, glass furins appeared in the Edo period. Glassworks artisans in Nagasaki made furins and started selling them in Osaka, Kyoto and Edo (Tokyo).

Summer hand-fan
The summer hand-fan are available abundantly during the summer. I got some free ones during the Edogawa Hanabi Matsuri. There are two types of fan that I came across: Sensu and Uchiwa. Uchiwa are the popular and common flat and ridged hand held Japanese fans made primarily of paper on a bamboo frame. Often the traditional fans were beautifully decorated with a simple art work or design. Although traditional, hand made uchiwa fans remain popular, modern day uchiwa fans are often mass produced from paper on plastic frames with advertising for local businesses, products or festivals printed on them. Popular motifs for the uchiwa include designs portraying cooling streams or breezes, bamboo leaves, goldfish and fireworks. Sensu, on the other hand, a fan that is made from pleated paper, silk, or other cloth, allowing it to be spread into an arc or folded into a neat, rectangular shape.

Watermelon
One more thing that I could find easily in Japan during summer was watermelon! I even had a watermelon ice-cream that looked exactly like watermelon. Around the late June grocery stores and super markets start selling watermelons and it gives the feeling of beginning summer.

Summer cicada
In Japan, the cicada is associated with the summer season. On my recent trip, I heard it at the park, and on the trees along the roadside. I like to think that the sound of summer cicada is melancholy, and it has been featured in literature. Cicada is one of the summer kigos in haiku (Japanese poetry). Matsuo Basho wrote in “Oku no Hosomichi”—

At a quiet and empty temple in the deep mountain,
a cicada start to sing,
but its sound gets sucked into a rock.

And here’s my take on Japan in summer in the form of haiku poetry:

Yukata colours
add joy to the green and blue,
cheeks flush a pink blush.
-Emila 2016

Dazzling colour splash
lits up Edogawa sky;
Explosive summer.
-Emila 2016

 

 

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Inktober 2016

I hope I can draw as many as  I can, but at the meantime I have made 4 entries:

Ok. The previous one is actually from my travel sketchbook. This is made for #inktober2016. #inktobermalaysia #emilainktober

A photo posted by Oh-Em-Y – Illustrator, MY. (@emilayusof) on

#inktober2016 #inktobermalaysia #emilainktober

A photo posted by Oh-Em-Y – Illustrator, MY. (@emilayusof) on

#emilainktober #inktober2016 #inktobermalaysia #illustration #drawing #red

A photo posted by Oh-Em-Y – Illustrator, MY. (@emilayusof) on

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Beijing in poetry

Being alone in my room watching out the window, I came up with these short poems. Short poems that use 5-7-5 haiku syllable (not fit as Japanese haiku as there are no kigo in them). Some people call it modern haiku.

Photos were captured with my Nikon D5100.

BeijingSuset

Tiny dots in flight
against the vault of heaven,
finding way back home.
-Emila, Aug 27,2016

BeijingGCP

Alone together,
reflecting one another;
soulmates forever.
-Emila, Aug 27, 2016

BeijingNight

Streetlights lining up
busy Beijing boulevards;
relentless honking.
-Emila, Aug 28, 2017.

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Tea Ceremony Experience at Keio Plaza Hotel Tokyo

I was looking forward to attend the tea ceremony at Keio Plaza Hotel but due to a mild fatigue and swollen feet, I had to stay in my room and rest. Luckily, Mazni and Nadya attended the ceremony and they told me all about it.

Here’s the write-up by Mazni:

Tea ceremony in Japanese culture could be conducted either in formal (chaji) or informal (chakai) way. The ceremony is conducted by a tea master, normally using matcha – the powdered green tea, in a small tea room. A simple chakai is usually started with some sweet confectionery just to balance off the sweetness and the bitterness of the tea, followed by a thick tea, meal, and thin tea.

Matcha

During my recent stay at Keio Plaza Hotel, Tokyo, I was invited to experience the chakai. The hotel’s Japanese Tea Ceremony Room ‘Sho-fu-an’ is situated on the 10th floor of the main tower. We were served by a lady tea master, Miss Michiko Yano. She is the 3rd generation in her family who pursue the art of Japanese tea ceremony.

Tea-Ceremony-Room

MazniTeaCeremony

Michiko-san guided us throughout the ceremony by washing up our hand and mouth first. This act is said to purify the body and soul. During the yesteryear, a tea house was used as a social gathering place. The samurai, the businessmen, the ordinary people will enter the tea house by leaving their swords, ranks and social status outside. Inside the tea room, everyone becomes equal no matter what their hierarchy in the society. This reminds me of some similarity in my Muslim culture. We take ablutions before entering the mosque just to purify our body and soul too. Inside the mosque, everyone’s also treated equally as human being no matter who you are.

While preparing the matcha, Michiko-san told us some beautiful custom in the tea room. The room is usually decorated with the seasonal flowers and a quote written in Japanese calligraphy. I found out that the Japanese  really appreciate nature in every single way of their life.

The culture is also meant to respecting the others. For example, when the tea is offered to you first, you should acknowledge the person next to you by saying  ‘Osaki ni’ – which means, ‘Sorry to drink before you!’  Then if you were the last person offered, you should say, ‘ It’s nice to enjoy the drink with you!’

I was told by the tea master, the type of  ‘furo” or the portable brazier use in the tea room will depend on the seasons. If it is spring or summer, the braziers are placed at the corner as to distance the guests from the heat. In the autumn or winter, they are placed in the centre of the room so that the guests could heat up their body.

My daughter, Nadya shared her  Japanese tea ceremony experience with us. It is interesting to know that she drank from the same bowl with her friends. Her tea ceremony was conducted by her sensei during the graduation day. At Sho-fu-an, we were served in different bowls. The tea master chose the beautiful part or design on that bowl and place it towards the us. We took the bowl and turn it slightly, take a sip and turn the bowl so the beautiful part is positioned back to where it begins.

Thanks to Keio Plaza Hotel Tokyo, I had a  wonderful time experiencing this simple yet memorable tea ceremony with my daughter.” — Mazni.

That was a beautiful experience! Thank you Mazni for the write-up. I will try to experience the tea ceremony if I go to Tokyo next time.

Japanese Tea Ceremony
Day:
Everyday except for Thursday, Sunday, and days upon which the room has been chartered through advance booking.

Time:
session1 11:00a.m. – 11:30a.m.
session2 2:00p.m. – 2:30p.m.
session3 3:00p.m. – 3:30p.m.
session4 4:00p.m. – 4:30p.m.
*Each session’s capasity is 4people.

Price:
2,000yen (Japanese tea and sweets, tax and service charge)

Place:
Japanese Tea Ceremony Room “Sho-fu-an” on the 10th floor of the Main Tower, Keio Plaza Hotel.

Inquiries/Reservations:
Please contact the Guest Relations Desk through the following inquiry form. The hotel recommend you to make an advance reservation due to limited capacity.

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Learning Kamishibai from the IKAJA masters

I am thankful to Mazni for taking me along to learn about Kamishibai from the masters at The International Kamishibai Association of Japan (IKAJA) in Tokyo recently. Frankly, I am not up to the storytelling performing part but I am more to the part on how to write and illustrate Kamishibai.

So, what is Kamishibai? Kamishibai is a form of visual and participatory storytelling that originated in Japan that combines the use of hand drawn visuals with the engaging narration of a live presenter. ‘Kami’ means paper and ‘shibai’ means play/drama, but Kamishibai doesn’t mean just paper drama, it is a form of culture, spreading in the world!  Typical kamishibai consists of a presenter who stands to the right of a small wooden box or stage that holds the 8-16 cards featuring the visuals that accompany each story. This miniature stage is used to be attached to the storyteller’s bicycle. The presenter changes the card, varying the speed of the transition to match the flow of the story he is telling.

From the first look, I thought it was easy to create Kamishibai, but as I attended Kamishibai short classes conducted by Ms. Etsuko Nozaka and Madam Kyoko Sakai, it became more clearer that creating Kamishibai story is more difficult than creating picture book story because the former needs to be in a format which later be told by a storyteller in front of audience.

Mazni brought her Kamishibai story and illustrations (in Kamishibai card format) and performed in front of the masters. And the input by the masters were very valuable. They practically go through from one card after another, advising on how it should be done, what to do, and what not to do. And they also advised on how the story should be told. Being in the picture book scene for many years, Mazni and I found that it is quite difficult to change the tone and style of storytelling that we are both accustomed to.

From the classes, I learned that Kamishibai extended into the real space, the real world. It involves social interaction and it has to be conveyed to audience in a correct manner. Do you get what I mean? To write and illustrate the story, I have to position myself in a storyteller’s shoes, which I am not. I told Mazni that I can try to write and illustrate Kamishibai because I am good at storytelling when no one is looking, but she has to be the one to tell it to the real audience. She agrees. Haha. She knows me too well to not let me tell the story myself.

Since the class was conducted at Kamishibai Hall at the office of Doshinsha Publishing Co Ltd (the main publisher for Kamishibai story cards in Japan), I get to view many Kamishibai stories and illustrations. Mazni herself bought some 16 sets of Kamishibai stories to bring home for her future storytelling sessions. Mazni is really into Kamishibai because she loves telling stories to children. It is her passion, and frankly, I think she is one helluva of a storyteller because I attended some of her storytelling sessions.

I know for a fact that if I create a Kamishibai story for a start, I have to go back to Tokyo and seek advice from the masters. Anyway, I am just glad that Ms. Etsuko is also in the picture book business (besides being a translator); she has written some picture books herself. And that means, I get to meet her at book fairs and get advice, because I don’t think that I can nail it by communicating through e-mail. They need to at least have me perform the storytelling in front of them for them to feel the story that I am telling; to feel the kyokan. The word kyokan refers to people confirming the meaning of life together through sharing the same feeling about something. Creating kyokan is the most important and essential aspect of Kamishibai.

Maybe what I understand and wrote here might not be correct at all, but I have high interest in writing/illustrating Kamishibai and I know that the learning process is not easy. Mazni and I, we have high hopes in improvising Malaysian folk tales into Kamishibai format and to be able to tell the stories in such a beautiful way. To do that, we just have to keep on learning until we get it right. God willing.

If you want to find out more about Kamishibai, you can visit these links: IKAJA and Doshinsha Kamishibai.

Here are some pictures from the classes:

MaznikamishibaiMazni performing her own Kamishibai story.

EtsukoEtsuko performing a story.

kyokoandetsukoMadam Kyoko and Ms. Etsuko giving their inputs about Mazni’s story.

kamishibaiFrom left: Ms. Hina, Ms. Etsuko, Mazni, me and Madam Kyoko.

If you are interested in hiring Mazni for a storytelling session, be it at home, school or children event, please contact her at: mazny.m.r@gmail.com. She will reply back with her rates and storytelling activity.

 

 

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