Happy New Year and Japanese New Year Cards

The Japanese do not celebrate Christmas traditionally although they have embraced the season with decorations and carols in all the shops! Typically it’s more for couples than family with couples having a romantic meal on Christmas Eve.

Christmas cards are not part of the celebration.

In Japan it is the changing of the years that is celebrated and families come together for the first 3 days of he year with the main celebrations on the first.

Cards are sent but these are postcards rather than Western style folded cards and they are labelled so that the post office does not deliver them until the 1st! This is in stark contrast to the UK where cards must be sent extra early and cards are delayed by the volume of Christmas post – in Japan they hold onto cards until the day itself (New Year in this case) and deliver all together!

So although not posted I’m delivering my New Year card to you all on the 1st of January. It’s based on my Christmas card that some may have received and on a painting I did of Japanese cranes.

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I wish you all a Happy, Healthy and Exciting New Year!

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Educational Manga

I read in the Time Out guide to Tokyo that some of the best Manga (Japanese comics) had been translated into English and were available in a bookshop in Shinjuku.

I thought I would try reading one as an experiment in Japanese culture. I have never been into comics or cartoons, perhaps because I had no access to a TV and therefore cartoons as a young child but I’m really enjoying learning about Japan through this medium!

So far I’ve read two books – one about food and one about Japanese pre-second world war history and thoroughly enjoyed both. I’m sure I’ll read many more – just the dilemma on electronic versions – the way I read most books these days – or paper versions – somehow nicer when art is involved.

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Hokusai Exhibition at Ueno Royal Museum Tokyo

Last weekend right at the end of the time when my parents were still visiting Japan a Typhoon hit Tokyo.  We took advantage of the rain to do an indoor activity and went to visit a fabulous exhibition of Hokusai art from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

http://ukiyoe.exhn.jp/en/index.html

It was incredibly busy – many people had the same idea as us but was brilliant.  It was great to see the works that we are all familiar with but also to see many many more.  I particularly enjoyed the images of people going about their business with many activities going on in a single print.

My Dad bought me the exhibition book as a present for hosting them in Japan, it’s a lovely book and I look forward to it being an influence on my own art.  I’ll remember this exhibition for a long time to come.

Hakone – visit in early June with Mark

Back at the start of June when Mark came to visit we went to Hakone near to Mount Fuji and quite close to Tokyo.  It was the start of the rainy season as you can see and rained more or less non-stop for our trip!

It was still great.  We stayed in a ryokan in Hakone-Yumoto which included yukata (the Japanese kimono like wear) and onsen (natural hot baths) both inside and outside, sleeping on futon on tatami mats.

On the first day there we walked along an ancient pathway that connected Kyoto with Tokyo stopping at a very old cafe for a welcome break and some interesting Japanese snacks.

On the second day we took the tourist trail around the crater which involves many types of transport; train, bus, ship ‘The Victory’, cable car.  We stopped to visit the geological museum and see some of the volcanic emissions and eating some eggs blackened by cooking in the hot waters.  We also visited the world class ‘Open Air Museum’ a fantastic sculpture park with many modern sculptures in a great setting.

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Mori Art Museum and Sketching and Painting

Today it rained heavily. I’ve been waiting for such a day to explore some art in Tokyo! I went to Roppongi Hills and visited the Mori Art Museum. There was an interesting exhibition called Go-betweens, photographs and videos of the world seen through children.

http://www.mori.art.museum/english/contents/go_betweens/

I haven’t done much art since being in Japan. I’ve done a bit of sketching mainly in the many Tokyo parks, here are some pages from my sketch book:

Inspired by my visit, this afternoon I did my first painting – of Fuji-san, of course!

I’m getting used to my new water soluble oil paints that I bought for my year in Japan so just a quick play but nice to be painting again.

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