Souun Takeda, a calligrapher, was born in 1975 in Kumamoto. He started calligraphy when he was three years old, studying with his mother, Souyou Takeda, also a calligrapher.
After graduating from Tokyo University of Science majoring in Science and Technology, he worked at NTT for three years before he became a calligrapher. Since then, he has established himself through a series of unique and original pieces, often collaborating with other artists in various fields including Noh and Kyougen actors, sculptors and musicians, and unconventional one-man exhibitions. He also runs a calligraphy school where many of his students study. “Calligraphy is the same as a conversation. I just use calligraphy to communicate with people”, says the gentle but passionate Mr. Takeda, who is hailed as the new generation of calligraphy.
In 2003, Mr. Takeda received the Longhuacui Art Award from Shanghai Art Museum in China and the Constanza de Medici Award in Firenze, Italy. His work includes title letterings for many movies such as Spring Snow and Year One in the North. He also published three books; Tanoshika, Shoyudou and Sho o kaku tanoshimi.
Born 1959 in Yamagata City, Yamagata Pref., Japan. Mr Okuyama worked for auto manufacturers in various strategic roles including as chief designers for GM (USA) and Porsche (Germany), then as creative director at Pininfarina S.p.A.(Italia), later he became independent. He is well known worldwide as a designer for Maserati Quatrroporte, Enzo Ferrari and Ferrari Scaglietti. He also worked on industrial design projects in a wide range of fields including public transportation with trains and planes, furniture, product design, interior design, spatial design and urban planning. He created and marketed the “KEN OKUYAMA” brand for eyewear. In 2006, he established the “Yamagata Koubou” furniture brand. He is currently an honorary professor for the Industrial Design program at the Art Center College of Design (USA) and at the Kanazawa College of Art (Japan). He is also vice chair of the jury for the Good Design Award and runs the Yamagata Carrozzeria Project. He lives in Italy.
Masako Ban is an internationally successful accessory designer. After working at Ban Shigeru Architects she turned her skills to becoming a graphic designer. In 2001, while in London, self taught she started working with accessory design. Upon returning to Japan, she founded her own company, “acrylic”. In 2005, her first collection was selected for the MOMA Design Store in New York, and in November of the same year, she opened her own store also called acrylic in Tokyo. Her work is characterized by simplicity in design, with the materials and finish also playing a very important part in the final product. As can be seen from the cutting technique used with the acrylic and sponge, she shows appreciation and respect for Japanese craft techniques and prefers to manufacture in Japan. In the future she plans to focus on expanding various collaboration series with Japanese traditional craft artists.
Rocks and stones casually arranged on a garden of rippling white sand. How do people understand this conceptual space? Faraway atolls in the ocean, mountain ridges peaking through low clouds, or the universal principles that transcend space and time? Like Zen questions, the meaning of the rock garden is open to interpretation by each visitor. Sekitei has a perplexing effect which instantly sends the viewer’s perception into unfamiliar territory. The garden is designed to maximize perspective in a limited physical space and the simple curved lines in the sand create the impression of tranquil waves. A universal truth emerges triumphant when everything superfluous is chipped away. The artists who created Sekitei still remain unknown, even at Sekitei in Ryouannji, the most famous Sekitei. Sekitei has stayed unchanged for 500 years. Visitors are mesmerized by the absolute beauty of the space and are compelled to stay and absorb the vista.
Nebuta Festival is a kind of Tanabata festival (Star Festival) held at many places in the Tohoku Region, among which the one in Aomori is the most famous. Aomori Nebuta Festival takes place from August 2 to 7 in the city of Aomori. The Nebuta Festival features a parade of huge lanterns in the shape of samurai warriors. The lanterns are made with wooden, bamboo or wire frames and covered with brightly colored papier-mâché and placed on floats that are pulled by people. Around each float are the group of people called haneto accompanied by flute and drum players. It’s a magnificent festival of more than twenty floats parading along the same route in the city. The highlight of the festival is hanetos’ wild dancing. According to one theory concerning its origin, Aomori Nebuta is the modification of Toronagashi (floating lanterns), a part of Tanabata customs and that is why the best three floats are taken to the sea and placed on ships for a cruise. It was in the post-war period that Aomori Nebuta Festival began to be held on a large scale. Now it is managed as a part of the prefecture’s tourism business.
Powdered green tea was introduced from China in the Heian period (794 to 1192). It gradually became popular as a luxury item. In the meantime, as opposed to the enjoyment of tea at a lively banquet, Sado (way of tea) or Wabi-cha appeared. In Sado, unsophisticated ceramics are used and it puts emphasis on spirituality. Sen no Rikyu accomplished Sado, avoiding the play elements, putting an emphasis on the spiritual interaction between people and having a corresponding intensity. What Rikyu pursued was the mind that tries to obtain aesthetics and contentment. As is said that every aspect of Japan’s art craft is included in Sado, Sado is the integrated art that covers tea ceremony utensils, architecture of a tea house, Haikai (poems) and so on. Through its aesthetic concepts of motenashi (hospitality) and shiturai (manners concerning rooms), “kanjaku (a serene desolation)” and simple but refined state of mind, Sado has an incalculable influence on Japanese spiritual culture.
The original form of Noh can be trace back to the Nara period (710−794), however, the present Noh form was established during the Muromachi period (1336−1573) by Kan’ami and his son Zeami. Noh is a classical Japanese musical performance with the primary character called the Shite and the Jiutai (chorus) and the Hayashi. The Shite plays the hero or the heroine, chanting and dancing, while the Hayashi (instrumentalists) play the instruments. The main aspect of Noh is that the Shite wears a mask to hold the expressions of delight, anger, sorrow and pleasure to a minimum and express the nicety of the feelings only by the slow movements. The playacting in Noh is combined with dances and shosa (steps and movements of the actors) are abstract. All the linguistic expression is given in the form of utai (chanting). The Jiutai not only sing for the actors’ dancing but also explain the psycology of the characters and the background of the scene. Each performance is given according to a particular style and the artistic quality of Noh is maintained by upholding the conventional styles.