Toto-Awase is a memory game in which the players have to match two cards to create a complete fish illustration and the kanji character that represents the name of the fish. Each card also has a brief description of the fish depicted. These fish are all familiar species in Japan and their illustrations have been beautifully done with colorful paper patterns. The game was created by Toto Koubou in Tango Uocchikan Aquarium, located in Miyazu City, Kyoto.
Since its début on the market in the Spring of 2003, Toto-Awase, with its beautiful illustrations, has gained popularity. The game has the added benefit for children of teaching them the various fish species and their respective kanji characters. The total sale of Toto-Awase games has now exceeded 100,000. The game received a Good Design Award in 2005 and a Good Toy Award in 2006. Currently there are eleven different sets of the memory game according to different regions. The illustrations are elaborate collages with colorful papers of traditional patterns and the box containing the cards is decorated in vermillion and ultramarine - the quintessential colors of Japan. An English version is also made under the name “Card Game Sushi Bar” and it is popular as a souvenir for people to bring abroad.
Ondrej Hybl was born in 1977 in Czech Republic. He studied Kyogen Ookura style, the traditional Japanese theater, under the influence of Shigeyama Sengorou. In 2000, he started studying at Charles University Graduate School of Philosophy. In 2002, he enrolled in Doshisha University Graduate School of Letters as an exchange student. He began studying Kyogen under Kyogen Master, Shime Shigeyama.
After graduating with a master’s degree from Doshisha University in 2005, he further moved his study and is currently studying for his doctorate at Oosaka University Graduate School of Letters. At EXPO 2005, Mr. Hybl was recognized by the Czech Republic government for his work and contribution as a representative of Czech Republic.
Mr. Hybl, who became fascinated with the Kyogen world which is a quintessential traditional Japanese performing art, became the first Czech Kyogen pupil.
He says that Kyogen requires technique to make people laugh, but that the laughter is not cheap. It is a humor that is kind to people.
Mr Hybyl adds “When people laugh, the boundary between countries disappears. Now that Kyogen is recognized as a world heritage art form, Kyogen has become a valuable asset for people all over the world. Kyogen, which has deep roots in the ancient Japanese world, has the potential to make people in the world rich inside.”
Akihisa Kominato is a Shakuhachi player and the third successor to the head of Japanese folk music Kominato Style. He was born in 1978 in Fukushima and is the eldest son of the head family of the Kominato Style. His father is Mitsuru Kominato, a folk singer, and his elder sister is Miwa Kominato, also a singer. He started learning to sing age 5 with his father and soon began playing regularly on stage. In his teens, he studied the traditional shakuhachi playing style called Kinko and, in 1995, began studying under the late National Living Treasure, Goro Yamaguchi. Age 20, he became the third Kominato preserving the Traditional Folk Kominato Style. After graduating from Tokyo University of Fine Arts and Music majoring in Shakuhachi, he began performing not only Japanese traditional music but also international music such as fusion and bossa nova.
In 2004, he formed a band called ZAN featuring Japanese traditional instruments and made his debut on the mainstream music scene. With the techniques he learned through his association with folk singing and shakuhachi performance, he is pursuing new avenues of expression for shakuhachi players. Also through his involvement with other bands such as AEKA, Priest and Hannya Teikoku he is further expanding his scope and activities. He also plays overseas regularly.
Hideaki Tokita, born in 1979, Tokyo, is a rising star in the world of “netsuke”. There are said to be less than a hundred netsuke artists left in Japan.
Netsuke, which became popular during Edo period, is a small accessory which serves as a toggle on a crafted box called “inrou”, or money pouch both of which hang from obi sash. Today, there are more netsuke collectors abroad than in Japan. Mr. Hideaki was exposed to netsuke for the first time while studying in New Zeeland which also led him to start learning jade sculpture
He met with Mr. Mick, a sculptor, who later became his teacher. Under Mr. Mick’s guidance, Mr. Tokita started carving and soon attracted attention and praise from world leading netsuke collectors. In 2007, he received a Newcomer Award from Japan Ivory Sculpture Association.
“Time spent observing is the same as time spent learning. Even for a piece of leaf, if you make an effort to learn something, you will be rewarded”.
His work, born from his ethos in which he pushes himself to the edge in order to sharpen and polish his artistic intuition, releases a powerful presence which is unique in the world.
This craft involves the carving of natural semiprecious stone for art objects, craft products and accessories. Its techniques in carving and polishing have developed throughout a long history and highly appreciated not only in Japan but also in many other countries.
This craft started in the Heian period (794-1192), when quartz was found in the deep mountain beyond Mitake Shosenkyo Gorge. When it was first discovered, it was used as an ornament, but by the Edo period (1603-1868), master craftsmen from Kyoto were invited to this area and they taught local craftsmen the techniques of making raw material into gems, which developed into the present Koshu crystal carving.
The production reached its peak with export growth in the postwar period, but today ornaments and items of jewelry for domestic customers are being produced. Many of these pieces have been created to make the most of the transparent colors and brilliance of the natural gem stone. They are not merely beautiful but have an uplifting feeling and sense of being alive.
Lake Jusan is a brackish lake on the Sea of Japan in Goshogawara City in Aomori Prefecture. It is also called Jusan-gata. With a circumference of 30 km, an area of 2,060 ha and a depth of 3 m, it is the 3rd largest lake in the prefecture. It is known for a collecting ground for common clams (Corbiculidae).
The excavation research carried out in the 1990s revealed that Tosaminato, a legendary port city, which existed from the late 12th to the 15th centuries, was located on the sand bar between this lake and the Sea of Japan. As the home ground of the Abe and Ando clans, the powerful warrior families in the Tsugaru region, the city was prosperous as a port city, where international trade was actively carried on. It declined in the late 15th century with the ruin of the Ando clan.
A lot of historic sites, which prove the prosperity enjoyed by the Ando clan, remain in the area around Lake Jusan. Those include Sannobo Hie Shrine with the double Torii gate in Kyoto-style and the thirteen attached temples and Fukushima Castle ruins, where the Ando clan had resided.
Morihei Ueshiba was the founder of the Japanese martial art of Aikido. He was born in Wakayama Prefecture in 1883. As a boy, he was good at mathematics and physics, and was interested in heroic legends and miraculous stories. Once he worked in a local tax office and later set up a small stationery business while practicing martial arts and swordsmanship.
When he served in Japanese-Russo War, his skill in bayonet was the best in the regiment. After the war, he returned to his hometown and was engaged in farming. Then in 1912, at the age of 29, he and his family moved to Hokkaido as a groundbreaker. He taught farming and learned Aiki Jujutsu there.
After Ueshiba left Hokkaido, he came under the influence of Onisaburo Deguchi, the spiritual leader of the Omoto-kyo religion in Kyoto, and mastered the method of Chinkon Kishin (to settle down and calm the spirit and to return to the divine). He himself moved to Kyoto and founded his own dojo of Ueshiba-juku, where he established a new way of martial art, Aiki Budo, in which mind, body and “ki (inner power)” should be united into one power.
Ueshiba became more and more famous and was extremely busy teaching at the major military and police academies. He also founded a dojo in Tokyo and Aiki-en in Ibaraki Prefecture, where a dojo and Aiki Shrine are located. During all this time he traveled all over Japan and Mannchuria, dedicating himself to instruct his Aiki-Budo, which was renamed to Aikido in 1948. Morihei Ueshiba died in 1969.
Osezaki in Nishiura Enashi in Numazu City in Shizuoka Prefecture is a 1-kilometer cape protruding into Suruga Bay on the west side of Izu Peninsula. It is traditionally called Biwashima (Biwa Island) because, according to the story handed down in this area, it was originally an island formed by the elevation of the sea bottom due to a big earthquake that occurred in 684. The island was named Biwashima but it was connected to the main land by the sand bar formed in the later times.
Located in the innermost part of Suruga Bay, Osezaki has been a famous scenic spot to view Mt. Fuji across the ocean and has been visited by a lot of tourists all through the year.
With stabilized sea conditions, Osezaki is a treasure trove of nature, providing habitats for abundant variety of wildlife. It is famous as the northernmost wild boundary of Chinese bottle trees. Over 1,000-year-old wild Chinese bottle trees form a colony along the promenade on the open sea side of the cape. It is designated as a National Natural Monument. Osezaki is also an internationally well-known dive site.