“150 Years of Japanese Uniforms” illustrated encyclopedia

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RocketNews 24 (by Krista Rogers):

These gorgeous illustrations of workers’ uniforms over the past century and a half is sure to charm lovers of seifuku [uniforms] everywhere!

“Know its uniforms, know Japan.” That’s the tagline of the new illustrated encyclopedia 150 Years of Japanese Uniforms [日本の制服150年], which captures Japan from its modernization in the early 20th century up to the present through the garb of its working population.

With over 180 illustrations lovingly drawn by Naoki Watanabe, whose work includes uniform design proposals for uniform manufacturers, the book spans over 70 categories of uniforms from all walks of life, including flight attendants, JR train workers, postal workers, doctors, nurses, Shinto priests, miko [shrine maidens], carpenters, chefs, ama[female pearl divers], and convenience store workers, to name but a few. The softcover book was released on April 4 and is published by Seigensha Art Publishing, Inc., headquartered in Kyoto.

Let’s take a look at some samples from the 192-page guidebook:

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Interested readers can order 150 Years of Japanese Uniforms from Amazon Japan, who does offer international shipping for this item, for 2,484 yen (US$23).

Champion figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu to make on-screen acting debut as samurai lord

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RocketNews 24:

Olympic gold medalist, Yuzuru Hanyu will be making his screen debut as a samurai lord in the Edo period!

Figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu captured the nation’s collective heart when he won the gold medal at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. Now, Japan’s sweetheart is set to captivate audiences on the big screen as he makes his very first acting appearance in the movie Tono, Risoku de Gozaru (which roughly translates to “The Interest Please, My Lord”).

The movie is set approximately 250 years ago in the Edo period, during which the Tokugawa Shogunate ruled Japan. The film’s plot centers around nine ordinary inhabitants of a post station town and their efforts to save the townspeople from the burden of the heavy taxes imposed on them by the local government.

▼ Here’s the title of the movie, set against the picture of a Edo Period coin in the background.

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In the movie, Hanyu plays Date Shigemura, the lord of the Sendai Domain, who is apparently sympathetic to the plight of the people under his rule. According to the information that has been released, Hanyu’s role isn’t a huge one but is nonetheless a symbolically key figure in the story. Hanyu, who himself is from Sendai, the capital city of Miyagi Prefecture, reportedly was quite happy to play an actual historical figure from his birthplace, especially as the story is considered to be based loosely on true events.

 

Hanyu filmed his scenes last summer, and in commenting on his first acting experience said that it was a bit difficult to act with spoken lines and accompanying movements, which is  quite different from what he is used to in figure skating. He admits he was quite nervous while filming but enjoyed seeing the process of movie making first hand and meeting so many talented actors. He also said that he was pleasantly surprised to learn of this touching story involving Date, whom he tried his best to portray convincingly with both authority and kindness. Hanyu also added that he hopes the acting experience will add to his depth as a skating performer, not just in competitions but in exhibitions and shows as well.

 

Even fellow actors in the movie were apparently surprised by Hanyu’s appearance, as Sadao Abe, who plays the protagonist, was reported saying that he was stunned to learn that Hanyu would be cast in the film, adding that he was impressed with how the famous skater handled his acting duties.

The movie is scheduled for release in theaters across Japan on May 14. We have a feeling that the film just might attract a whole new audience of people desperately wanting to see the prince of ice on the big screen!

A fun animation covering the complete history of Japan in under 10 minutes

A fast and fun animation by Bill Wurtz covers the history of Japan in under 10 minutes. The animation covers the major events in the country’s history including its economic, governmental, and social developments.

Interactive online map of Kyoto lets you toggle between modern day and the 9th century

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RocketNews 24 (by Casey Baseel):

If you’re a history buff, or time traveler, this could come in handy.

With all apologies to Nara, nowhere in Japan can match Kyoto’s reverent connection to its history. The city served as the seat of imperial power for centuries, most gloriously during the Heian period of the 9th to 12th centuries.

Walking along the city’s streets can sometimes feel like taking a trip into the past, and if that’s where you’re going, you’ll want a period-accurate map, like the interactive one developed by Kyoto’s Ritsumeikan University.

Called the Heiankyo Overlay Map, the clever navigational tool (which can be found here) works with Google map’s data for the city.

Animated GIFs illustrate traditional Japanese woodblock prints with humor

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Beautiful Decay (by Tamar Akcay): 

Segawa 37 pays tribute to Japanese art by creating GIFs from the original work of traditional Japanese woodblock prints, “pictures of the floating world’.

Originally, Japanese woodblock paintings, also called Ukiyo-e, were depictions of everyday scenes in Japan. Affordable, they represented the possibility for the mass to access art. Segawa 37 gives a new life to these prints by altering their core. From hyper realistic to surreal, the artist offers to the modern world a new way of looking at a classic form of art. 

The most emblematic representation of Japan, a contemplation of movements; calm and serene, but always intense remains within those wooden prints. The artist’s reinterpretation of Katsushika Hokusai’s images is disturbing the stillness and tranquility of the scenes… What is meant to be admired in almost a meditative state is now entertaining.

Discover Segawa 37’ series of Gifs on the GifMagazine award page sponsored by Adobe.

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Tokujin Yoshioka’s Kou-an Glass Tea House reinterprets the traditional Japanese tea ceremony

Edo and Meiji era Japanese artwork now available for free download

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Attention all designers, artists, fashion enthusiasts and people who just appreciate some nice Japanese artwork: The Smithsonian Libraries should be your best friends.

Among their thousands of other free artwork and books, The Smithsonian Libraries and the Freer and Slacker Galleries, Smithsonian’s Museums of Asian Arts now offer free downloads of thousands of beautiful Japanese prints.

Haven’t you ever wanted the simple yet colorful and whimsical prints of Meiji era (1868-1912) artwork as a digital file on your computer? Yeah, we have too and we’re really excited about this cool find.

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The collection is in fact a series of monthly design magazines, entitled Shin-bijutsukai.They were released in 1902 to show various designs by famous artists of the day. Artists featured include the editor himself, Korin Furuya, and his predecessor, Kamisaka Sekka. Sekka is known for being one of the first to incorporate Western tastes, styles and methods into traditional Japanese-style works. Furuya carried on this new, modern Japanese style and helped spread it around the world.

▼ Can you see the Western influence?

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If you want digital access to the pictures above and hundreds more, head to The Smithsonian Libraries website. There are two volumes of Shin-bijutsukai and both can be downloaded in their entirety by clicking the links towards the bottom of the website here.

Be aware, the files are kind of big, so you might want to stick with computers, not smart phones for this one.

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If you’re more into traditional artwork, the Freer and Slacker Museums also offer countless free downloads of artwork from all over Asia here. In the Japan section, you can find Edo period woodblock prints from world-famous artists, such as Hokusai and Utagawa Hiroshige.

▼ “Wood-block Print of Two Fish with Floral Sprays and a Poetic Inscription” by Utagawa Hiroshige.

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▼ “Merry Makers at Cherry Blossom Festival” by Yeisen

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Sometimes staring at pictures in museums just isn’t enough; you want to get them from the wall and onto your computer. Now you can and what’s even better, is that they’re available for free. Thank you technology and thank you Smithsonian Library.