by Daido Moriyama, translated from Japanese by Lena Fritsch, with an afterword by Simon Baker, Tate Publishing, 2012, 192 pages, ISBN 978-1-84976-094-2, £12.99

Review by Timothy Holm

Published to coincide with a joint Daido Moriyama + William Klein photo retrospective at the Tate Modern art gallery in London (although not directly related to that exhibition), this is the first time Tales of Tono has appeared in an English edition. It was originally released in Japan in the 1970s following a trip to the town of Tono by famed Japanese photographer Moriyama. For those readers unfamiliar with his work, it may be prudent to begin with a very brief biographical overview leading up to this photobook.

Born in 1938 in Osaka, Moriyama began working as an amateur photographer in the late 1950s. Moving to Tokyo in 1961 to pursue his new profession more seriously, he initially found work as an assistant to the legendary Eikoh Hosoe, whose dark, high-contrast black and white style undoubtedly had an influence on Moriyama’s subsequent output.

For most of his career, Moriyama has worked as a freelancer, and as his work became more and more appreciated over the years, many public exhibits of his photos have occurred around the world. But Moriyama himself claims that he prefers photobooks over prints of his photos. Yet he has also said in interviews that the structure and organization of each book is not important to him. The main thing is the physicality and collection of the photos into a single volume which may be owned by anyone with a certain amount of interest and funds.

This is certainly true of Tales of Tono, a small jacketed softcover book with dimensions measuring only 17 x 11.4 x 2.2 cm. The cost to the consumer is a mere 13 pounds in the UK, and may be found for less at online bookshops. Considering what many original and out-of-print works by Moriyama go for these days at auction sites, it is a significant bargain.

It is debatable whether or not the size of the book is the best way to show off Moriyama’s photography. Each picture is given its own page with black borders on the top and bottom of the image. It might have been better if the photos were presented sideways in a landscape format, but that could also disturb normal reading habits.

A word must also be said about the book’s actual contents. It consists of 12 pages of colour photography at the front of the book, followed by the main ‘text’ as it were: 137 duotone (B&W) photos, all taken in or near Tono, a small city located in Iwate prefecture in northeastern Japan (the same area that was most affected by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami).

At the back of the book can be found a lengthy, informative essay by Moriyama about his trip, as well as commentary by the translator and a short afterward by Simon Baker, curator of photography at the Tate. All together, it adds up to about 35 pages of writing, but this is where you are likely to spend the bulk of your time with the book.

As Moriyama mentions in the section of his essay called “Why Tono?” – the inspiration for the title and content of this particular series of photos came about in response to The Legends of Tono, a collection of 119 brief folktales from the region compiled by Kunio Yanagita in 1910. (It was later translated into English by Ronald A. Morse and published by The Japan Foundation in 1975). Many of the stories involve some kind of ghostly or supernatural presence which permeates the atmosphere, lending Tono a certain reputation in the minds of Japanese people. Because of this, Moriyama had long held a desire to visit Tono and take photographs there. He says, “it [is] a place that evokes a mysterious world, strangely combining narration and lyricism, reality and fantasy (page 160).”

The Tono that Moriyama depicts in this photobook also evokes a mysterious world where reality and fantasy commingle, as his pictures are never very clear and seem to have been taken in a forgotten time and place. However, it should be noted that Moriyama does not attempt to hide traces of the modern world (as it was in the 1970s) from his camera’s eye. Automobiles, utility poles, vending machines and so on can be found here, but there is a sense that these signs of modernity have not yet overwhelmed the more rural aspects of the landscape. Memories of a lost past are never far from view. No demons or spirits appear in a literal way, but spirits in other forms do seem to remain, as in the haunting photos of animals and pictures of old photographs and paintings. Shadows, graves, and folk traditions leave an indelible mark on the viewer’s mind as well.

Moriyama goes on to talk about his life-long search for the ‘original landscape’ of our memory, and what exactly that means to him, but it should be left to the readers themselves to discover whether or not he was successful in his quest to find that landscape in Tono.

This may not be the best place to start if you know little to nothing about Moriyama, but for established aficionados of his admittedly acquired taste, this is surely one of his most cohesive and fascinating books, and the photos still have the power to resonate even four decades after they were first produced.

 

Arthur Waley (1899 – 1966)

Of all the British scholars, writers and translators who have helped to shape our knowledge and our image of Japan over the last century, Arthur Waley is among the first to come to mind. His name is familiar to all students of Japanese culture and also to large numbers of educated readers with no special interest in the orient, who owe to him their knowledge of Japan’s greatest works of literature. From 1919, when he published his first translations from the Japanese, down to the present day, his work has provided a window on the Japanese sensibility and a genuine experience of the richness and the intrinsic value of Japanese culture.

What was the nature of Waley’s achievement? His contribution to understanding between Britain and Japan was expressed in many different endeavours. He made Japanese novels into English classics, his translation of the seminal Tale of Genji became a work indelibly imprinted on the British consciousness. Over the course of his life he introduced Japanese literature to a wider English-speaking audience than it had ever reached before. He was also an expert source of knowledge on Japanese culture and a humane and sympathetic influence on our understanding, as we may see from pieces he published that attempted to correct some popular misconceptions about Japanese civilization.

Equally important has been Waley’s influence on two generations of scholars and experts in Japan. For many who today pursue the study of Japan in many walks of life, he was the first inspiration and a model of humane, sensitive scholarship to which to aspire. He was above all a man of letters, a devotee of literature and, not least, a creative artist. For him, Japanese literature was but one part of that spectrum of writings that constitute the world’s literature and show both the variety and the universality of human experience. His wide knowledge of other languages and literatures informed and deepened his understanding of the Japanese. Without such breadth his insight and understanding would have been diminished. From his wide reading, as well as from his innate sympathy of mind, he surely derived his ability to form those apt analogies that made an alien custom seem at once familiar. He succeeded in translating a whole culture and society along with the words of its literature, and brought Japanese civilization and aesthetics as a truly felt experience into English intellectual and artistic life. His translations, as Virginia Woolf said of Genji, are ‘always filled with the rush and bubble and chuckle of life.’

 

 

 

Monday 24 March 2014                                      12.00 for 12.30pm

JETRO
MidCity Place
71 High Holborn
London WC1V 6AL

£12 for members of Japan Society & JCCI and those introduced by JETRO
£18 for non members (please send payment with booking)

Booking essential
Book online here

Booking deadline – Friday 21 March

Philip Lowe, former Director General, Energy at The European Commission, will give a talk on European Energy Policy. There can scarcely be a sector of interest which is more interrelated with others and on which coherence is more important.

Some question whether there is a coherent policy or whether member states are continuing to maintain their own individual policies. Fundamental questions remain as well for the Japanese who will be faced shortly with the alternatives of power shortages or a decision to restart at least some of their nuclear programmes. Both countries have choices to make: on the mix between nuclear, renewables or carbon-fuels, on relevant cost implications and on carbon capture and storage.  Philip Lowe will bring to bear his great expertise on these and related matters and offer some useful insights.

Philip Lowe read Politics, Philosophy and Economics at St John’s College, Oxford and has an M. Sc. from London Business School. Following a period in manufacturing industry, he joined the European Commission in 1973, and held a range of senior posts as Chef de Cabinet and Director in the fields of regional development, agriculture, transport and administration, before becoming Director-General for Development in 1997. From September 2002 he was Director-General for Competition until he took up his appointment as Director-General for Energy in February 2010, a position which he held until the end of 2013.

To reserve your place, please call the Japan Society office on 020 3075 1996 or email events@japansociety.org.uk or submit the online booking form.

We are grateful to JETRO for kindly hosting this event. Members of the JCCI are welcome to attend at Japan Society member rates.

In association with:

 

 

 

On a cold and sleety day in March, Japan Society members were given a special tour of the Fan Museum by founder Mrs Helene Alexander and Curator Jacob Moss.

Founded in 1991, the museum is a history of fans in many guises, from the glass above the front door and the brass door plates, to details throughout the building and, of course, the collection of over 4,000 individual fans. With our expert guides, we learned how fans were used and about the people who made them, from artisan fan-makers to 19th century artists who enjoyed the challenge of the restricted canvas.
As well as the permanent display, we visited the study where Mrs Alexander brought out a selection of the many Japanese fans in the collection. Highlights included a Tokugawa war fan, exquisite tortoiseshell fans with lacquered decoration and fans used in Court life.

Afternoon tea in the beautiful Orangery rounded off the afternoon before members returned to the museum to view the current exhibition ‘The Fan in Europe’ and the wonderfully fan-obsessed shop.

 

 

Saturday 23 March 2013                        2.00pm

The Fan Museum
12 Croom’s Hill
London
SE10 8ER

Nearest station: Greenwich or Cutty Sark (DLR)

£11.00 for Japan Society members and their guests
(Includes afternoon tea following the tour)

Booking deadline – Wednesday 20 March

The Japan Society is being offered a rare opportunity to visit behind the scenes and explore the Fan Museum’s archives, where the majority of the Museum’s collection of Japanese fans is stored. In the company of founder and curator Helene Alexander, guests will have the chance to examine fans from a range of periods and styles. Following the tour, afternoon tea will be served in the beautifully restored Georgian Orangery.

The Fan Museum’s Orangery

The Fan Museum is the only museum devoted entirely to every aspect of fans and fan making, home to a collection of more than 3,500 fans from around the world, dating from the 11th century to the present day. The Museum stages themed exhibitions throughout the year, including fans on loan from other collections. The curator-led tour will also include a chance to examine the current exhibition The Fan in Europe: 1800 – 1850, featuring an eclectic array of fans from this period.

Helene Alexander (née Adda) was born in Alexandria, Egypt in December 1932. She was educated at the Lycée Français d’ Alexandrie. Having studied drawing and painting with Vera Beck and Giovanni Sebasti, she specialised for a diploma in theatrical design at the Central School of Art and Design (then the Central School of Arts and Crafts) in London.  She also holds a degree in History of Art from London University and has been associated with the Victoria and Albert Museum where she worked for thirteen years as a volunteer in the textile department.

Over the years, she has assembled one of the most comprehensive collections of fans and fan leaves in the world; and it is this collection upon which The Fan Museum in London was founded.  She has mounted numerous exhibitions of fans in many parts of the country and has lent from her collection to France, Germany, Italy and the USA. She was the founding president of the Fan Circle International, is President of the Fan Museum Trust and currently serves as Director and Curator of the Fan Museum in Greenwich.

To reserve your place, please call the Japan Society office on 020 7828 6330 or email events@japansociety.org.uk or submit the online booking form.

 

Aesthetic Strategies of the Floating World, Mitate, Yatsushi and Fûryû in Early Modern Japanese Popular Culture, by Alfred Haft, Brill, Leiden and Boston, 2013, volume 9 in the series Japanese Visual Culture, 216 pages, including endnotes, list of characters, bibliography and index, ISBN 978-90-04-200987-9, £78

Review by Sir Hugh Cortazzi

Alfred Haft works at the British Museum as a project curator in the Japanese section of the department of Asia. He is also a research associate of the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures (SISJAC) at Norwich.  This book is based on his Ph.D thesis and inevitably is more likely to be of interest to the specialist art historian than the general reader, but the book, which is copiously illustrated with reproductions of relevant Japanese prints in full colour, nevertheless has much to offer to anyone interested in the art and culture of the Edo period.

It is not possible in a brief review to give an adequate summary of Haft’s scholarly analysis of the three terms in the title to his book. But readers will note that in his introduction he explains that his study is largely built round the concepts behind the term gazoku which may be translated as the refined and the mundane. In the concluding section he sums up the terms mitate as “analogical juxtaposition,” yatsushi as casual adaptation and fûryû as standards of style, although such simplified translations fail to convey the complexity and nuances of these terms.

In chapter 1 he brings out some of the implications of the term yatsushi in the Edo period. It was for instance used for a man of higher social status who had come down in the world. He “endured his reduced circumstances in an easy going manner and eventually met with a happy end [p.39].”

He notes that one version of mitate involved the bundling of “elements of the everyday world (household objects) into an organizational relationship modelled on a component of high culture (nature studies)” i.e the combination of high and low culture.

Fûryû was “the ideal of elegance,” which is such an important element in so much of Japanese culture, but as Haft points out the term came in the eighteenth century to be used as a euphemism for kõshoku or eroticism.  Prostitution was a major element of the floating world. It was,  he notes “running rampant near the entrance gates to Edo’s many shrines and temples, and even on properties allotted for use by the shogun’s own retainers [p.29].”

In discussing the use of these terms in the Edo period Haft looks at the Japanese pastime of writing linked verses and haikai. For the haikai poet mitate denotes “the juxtaposition of two objects viewed to have a similar shape [page 91].” This leads him into a discussion of humour in Japanese poetry and art.    He notes that the “culture of Edo Japan was alive with humor [sic], adaption, appropriation, innovation, unexpected juxtaposition, classicism, didacticism and continuity – a diversity of approaches spurring artistic growth in an ambitious range of directions [p.173].”

Haft’s book sheds much interesting light on life in the Edo period. The   samurai were the elite but the ‘floating world’ was as much their world as it was that of the merchants and commoners. Actors may have been in theory outcasts but they were depicted by artists such as Shunsho Katsukawa [勝川 春章] in refined actor portraits such as the following:

Haft’s chapter 4 entitled “Harunobu’s Textual Pictures” is a stimulating introduction to the colour prints of this outstanding artist. If I had to choose one Harunobu Suzuki [鈴木 春信] print from this book it would be the following print from the Honolulu Academy of Arts in which a young woman wears a robe with dangling sleeves, As Haft notes “Her slender form is characteristic of feminine beauty in ukiyo-e produced during the late 1750s-60s”:

 

 

Sozai Cooking’S Cool Open Day, 5 Middlesex Street, London E1 7AA, Tuesday 12th February 2013

Review by Michael Sullivan with photos by Ali Muskett

This month saw the opening of a Japanese cookery school based around two kitchens, one on Middlesex Road near Liverpool Street station and another in So Restaurant in Soho. The open day was well attended by many interested people as we were able to sample sushi and drinks while being entertained by traditional Japanese music. We were then given the opportunity to see Japanese cooking in action with some lucky volunteers being able to try for themselves, the success of this demonstration was shown by the sheer number of people crowded around the kitchen tables carefully watching everything that was shown to us. The event ended with free bags of treats being handed out to everyone as they left.

Yuki GomiYuki Gomi

The concept behind this school is to show everyone how easy it is to make Japanese food, which considering the sheer popularity of Japanese food in recent years is an essential skill to learn. Lessons include traditional dishes such as sushi and tempura, as well as recent favourites such as ramen. Classes are for 60 to 150 minutes and can be booked through an interactive website.

The website itself allows you to see the different kinds of lessons currently available, whether there are any places left and also all details such as dates, fees and the name of the chef. A separate section on the website gives a full explanation of each chef’s background and also details of celebrity guest chefs who will be also giving lessons. One other part that is in development will be the recipes themselves.

Tetsuro HamaTetsuro Hama of SO Restaurant

 

 

The East India Company, Japan and the Globalising World of the Seventeenth Century, lecture by  Professor Derek Massarella
Khalili Lecture Theatre, SOAS, Russell Square, London, WC1H 0HG, 15 March 2013

Review by Timon Screech

Professor Derek Massarella of Chuo University spoke to a large audience on the theme of globalising trade in the seventeenth century, using a wealth of period texts and citations. He detailed the relationship between the East India Company and Japan. Despite the rain and it being late of a Friday evening, the Khalili Lecture Theatre in SOAS was nearly full with an enthusiastic audience.

The event was made possible by the support of the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation.

Professor Derek Massarella is Professor of History in the Faculty of Economics, Chuo University, Tokyo, where he has taught since 1981. His research interests include early modern European-Asian relations, the history of globalization, and seventeenth-century English history. He is the author of A World Elsewhere: Europe’s Encounter with Japan in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (1990), co-editor of The Furthest Goal: Engelbert Kaempfer’s Encounter with Tokugawa Japan (1995), and has contributed to a number of other books and scholarly publications. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and the International Representative, Japan, for the Hakluyt Society. Last year, in 2012 his book Japanese Travellers in Sixteenth-Century Europe A Dialogue Concerning the Mission of the Japanese Ambassadors to the Roman Curia (1590) was published by the Hakluyt Society (ISBN: 978-1-908145-03-1)

 

Yoshida Ken’ichi (1912 – 77) called himself throughout his literary life bunshi, a man of letters. The term bunshi does not simply mean writer: it describes someone for whom writing is his vocation and who is willing to devote his entire life to literature. After his death, the word became obsolete as there were no bunshi left. In his literary career spanning over forty years Yoshida never stopped writing and left a phenomenal amount of work. When he died in 1977, at the age of sixty-five, his wife, Nobuko, asked Kawakami Tetsutaro, Yoshida’s mentor and life-long friend, who was present at the hospital death bed, ‘Why did he die?’ After a moment’s pause, Kawakami replied: ‘Maybe because he wrote too much.’ Soon after his death, his works were published in thirty-four volumes.

Yoshida’s literary career could be divided into three phases. Roughly between 1931 and 1945, which may be described as his apprentice period, he was mainly translating English and French literary works, writing articles whose main purpose was to introduce both new and old European literature and literary trends to the Japanese reader, and running and editing a literary magazine. After the war, his name came to be known more widely because his literary criticism and essays began to appear in various well-known magazines and newspapers and his books were published by large prestigious publishing houses. Nevertheless, his reputation was not entirely due to the merit of his literary work. Most of his readers and publishers were less interested in his writings than in his background as a ‘returnee’ from England, his reputation as an eccentric, and the fact that he was a son of the charismatic Prime Minister Yoshida Shigeru. Most of his best works were produced in his last ten years. He turned out one masterpiece after another: Yoroppa no Seikimatsu (European Fin-de-siecle) in 1969 is a full survey of the decadent literature of turn-of-the-century Europe; Jikan (Hours) in 1976 is a two-hundred page contemplation on time; Gareki no Naka (Among the Ruins) in 1970 is a semi-autobiographical novel on life in Tokyo immediately after the end of the war; and Kanazawa in 1973 is a novel about a man who loves this remarkable aesthetic city.

Yoshida was one of the very few Japanese writers of his time to be bilingual in English and Japanese. Donald Keene once praised his English by saying that no young British person could speak the language better. He made a great contribution to the Japanese literary world by introducing many works of English literature, particularly contemporary novels and poems, which had tended to be overshadowed since the 1920s by French literature. He was the translator of D.H. Lawrence, T.S. Eliot, Evelyn Waugh, E.M. Forster and Graham Greene, writers who now form the core of the canon of modern English literature, and through his translations he attracted to these writers a tremendous number of readers in Japan. Ken’ichi was also a professor of English literature in both the undergraduate and post-graduate schools at Chuo University and he left a large number of works on English literature. Eikoku no Kindai Bungaku (Modern Literature in Great Britain), which covers writers from Wilde and Symons to Waugh and Joyce, is considered one of the classic works on English literature in Japanese. He exerted a huge influence on the appreciation of English literature in Japan, but he could not possibly have done this without his education in English and his encounters and friendships with intellectuals at Cambridge such as Dickinson, Lucas and Rylands.

 

 

Monday 18 March 2013                                   6.45pm

The Swedenborg Society
20-21 Bloomsbury Way (Hall entrance on Barter St)
London WC1A 2TH

Free – booking recommended

Nearest underground station: Holborn
Light refreshments will be provided

This talk will cover the career of the landscape painter Alfred East, from shoe manufacturing in the 1860 and 1870s, to President of the Royal Society of British Artists, Royal Academician, Knighthood and the foundation of the Alfred East Art Gallery in Kettering, Northamptonshire.

Drawing on the diaries kept by East and his travelling companions A.L. Liberty (the founder of Liberty’s store) and C.H. Holme (who was to become the editor of The Studio magazine), the talk will focus on his journey to Japan in 1888-89 sponsored by the Fine Art Society of London. Arriving at Nagasaki, amongst the places he visited were Kobe, Kyoto, Hakone, Yokohama, Tokyo, and Nikko. The talk will cover the attitudes of East and his travelling companions to Japanese art of the period and Hideko Numata’s Japanese perspective on his work. It will be illustrated by reproductions of the artist’s oils, water colours and etchings portraying the country, its people, its temples, lakes and mountains, its blossom and changing weather.

Completing his journey round the world through North America, East repaid his debt to the Fine Art Society with a very successful exhibition of more than 100 of his pictures on his return in March 1890.

Through the Japan Society, East continued to have contact with Japanese culture, visiting diplomats and the artists whom he welcomed to his Westminster studio. East’s involvement  in the literary / artistic club the Sette of Odd Volumes and the Japan Society (of which he was a founder member) in the 1890s and early 1900s  will be presented from the records of both societies. An avid collector of Japanese prints, drawings, pottery, bronzes and netsuke by the time of his death, East had built up a collection of more than 400 items.

Paul Johnson is the co-author (with Professor Kennneth McConkey) of Alfred East Lyrical Landscape Painter (2009). His father was one of Alfred East’s executors in 1913. With a degree in modern history, Johnson qualified  as a solicitor and spent his working life in the spheres of public law and administration.

To reserve your place, please call the Japan Society office on 020 7828 6330 or email events@japansociety.org.uk or submit the online booking form.

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