Names in this site follow the Japanese custom of family name first.

May 29, 2012

Kyoto Station (Kyoto Guide)

Kyoto is an important station on the JR Tokaido Main Line and Tokaido Shinkansen line; it is also the starting point of the Sanin Main Line and the Nara Line.


The first station was already built in Kyoto in 1876. The next year that station was moved to the present site and a red-brick station building was put up. Rebuiling followed in 1914 (a Renaissance-style building), 1950 (a rather utilitarian station building) and finally the fourth and last one in 1997, commemorating Kyoto's 1,200th anniversary. Built by Hara Hiroshi, it contains a hotel, a theater, a department store and countless specialist stores and restaurants. It is 15 floors high (70 meters) and has three underground floors. The underground floors connect to the Porta underground shopping center as well as to the Kyoto Subway. The north side of the station is called Karasumaguchi, the south side (where the Shinkansen lines are) Hachijoguchi. On the south side is also the Kintetsu Station with a line to Nara. The Haruka express for Kansai International Airport also leaves from Kyoto Station. In front of the station is Kyoto's main bus center.

Sky bridge

Kyoto Station is an ambitious structure, with many modernist features. Characteristic is the cubic facade of plate glass over a steel frame and the huge staircase inside. Inside its glass dome, it has a great open air feel. Kyoto Station is fun to explore. You can climb to the top using stairs and escalators, and enjoy the variety of things to see on each floor. On the top is a sitting area with panoramic vies of the city. There is also a skyway 10 floors up. The station building resembles one of the many white-washed walls that stand around Kyoto's temples - this is most evident from the south side (from the Shinkansen platform, for example). But those walls are not only meant to hide, they are also there to entice you inside - and the station building does the same with the playful gaps in its "wall" and the unexpected vistas of the city.

Rashomon Site (Kyoto Guide)

Thanks to the film by Kurosawa Akira, the Rashomon Gate has become a large cultural presence. This monumental gate was erected at the southern entrance to Kyoto, then called Heiankyo, when the city was founded in 794. From the gate a wide avenue, Suzaku-Oji, led straight north to the palace zone, which formed an elongated block at the northern end of the city. Suzaku was the main street of Heiankyo and split the city into two exact halves, the East and West City.

[Marker at Rashomon site. 
Photo Wikipedia]

The Rashomon Gate was 32 meters wide and 8 high. It had red pillars and double green roofs, a bit like the present Heian Shrine. On the top floor of the gate originally a stern statue of Tobatsu Bishamon was placed, looking like a soldier standing guard. Tobatsu Bishamon originated in Central Asia and acted as a protector of cities. I imagine him glaring at the lands beyond, to protect Heiankyo from evil…

The statue today continues to glare, but now in the museum of nearby Toji Temple. The great gate was damaged by a storm in 980 and was never restored. In disrepair, it became a weird place, a hideout for thieves. People whispered a demon was living there and sometimes corpses of the poor would be abandoned at the gate. The ruined gate is the setting for Akutagawa Ryunosuke’s short story “Rashomon” and also provides the narrative frame for Kurosawa Akira's above mentioned film.

[The original Rashomon - photo Wikipedia]

Akutagawa’s use of the gate was deliberately symbolic, with the gate’s ruined state representing the moral and physical decay of Japanese civilization and culture in the later Heian-period. Today, there is nothing left of the once mighty gate. A stone monument indicates its location in a tiny park just west of Toji Temple. The dusty park serves as a playground for children, with a glide, but it is usually deserted. Why do Japanese monuments stand in such ugly little parks full of dust? Why not in a tiled area with some nice flowers around it? Were those parks inspired by another famous film of Kurosawa, Ikiru, in which the protagonist, a worthless public servant, finally starts contributing to society by building a small park for the citizens after he hears he has only a few months to live?

Near the park runs Senbon Street, the successor of Suzaku Avenue. But it runs only as far north as the nearby JR railway, where the tracks and the Umenokoji Park form a dense barrier. This southern part also makes a rather forlorn impression. It is difficult to picture Suzaku Avenue when standing here: 84 meter broad, serving as a firebreak between the two parts of the city. The name, by the way, was taken from the Suzaku, or Crimson Bird, a sort of phoenix who protected the city from the South, where he lived in a now long-drained marsh. History also knows an Emperor called Suzaku and along Senbon Street several schools have opted for the mythical name.
Access: 10 min walk west from the south exit of Toji Temple (mainly along Kujodori Street); 10 min walk from Toji St on the Kintetsu line. Grounds free.

Shosei Garden (Kikokutei) (Kyoto Guide)

Shoseien (Shosei Garden) lies to the east of Higashi Honganji (its back wall faces Kawaramachi Street, but the entrance is on the opposite side), which administers the garden. Another name is Kikokutei, after the hedge of trifoliate oranges that once surrounded it.

Kikokutei (Shoseien
[Kikokutei. Photo Ad Blankestijn]

Shosei Garden is supposed to go all the way back to a garden laid out here by a 9th c. Minister, Minamoto no Toru. It was given to the temple in 1631 by the Shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu. It was at that time in part redesigned by Ishikawa Jozan (of Shisendo fame) and Kobori Enshu.

It has been landscaped in the go-round style, with various buildings arranged around a central pond, Ingetsu Pond.

The buildings in the garden - the villas of the Higashi Honganji abbots - are now all modern replica's as the originals were lost in a large fire in 1864. At that time, the garden was also severely damaged (also lost were the Jusankei or Thirteen Beautiful Landscapes that often are mentioned in poetry).

The picture above shows the central pond, Ingetsuchi, with Tonoshima, a nine-storied stone pagoda an a tiny island believed to be the tomb of Minamoto no Toru.
Access: 7 min walk east of Higashi Honganji. Kikokutei used to be graciously free, but now a 500 yen "donation" has been instituted.

Honganji Jinaicho (Kyoto Guide)

The area between Higashi Honganji and Nishi Honganji was a temple town administered by the Honganji authorities called Honganji Jinaicho. In the narrow streets between the two huge temple complexes one finds many shops selling Buddhist implements, such as home altars, statues, prayer beads, bells and cushions for bells, glittering ornaments, priestly vestments, etc. Near Higashi Honganji also is a specialist Buddhist bookshop. The main street keading from east to west through this area is called Shomendori. On Horikawa, at the entrance to Shomendori, stands an imposing gate.

[Buddhist shop on Shomendori. Photo Ad Blankestijn]

On Shomendori one also finds Dendoin, a red-brick building designed in 1912 by famous architect Ito Chuta. It belongs to Nishi Honganji and originally housed an insurance company related to the sect. Now it is a free exhibition space of the temple. Note the mosque-like roof and the mythical animals, as well as the unusual masonry, a true mixture of Western and various Eastern elements.

On Horikawa Avenue itself, you will also find several traditional shops, such as a large tsukemono (pickles) shop - a favorite item to take home from Kyoto or give as a present - and Kungyokudo, a traditional incense shop (now in a modern building). Besides various types of incense, it sells scented sachets, candles and kunko, fragrant incense pellets.
Access: The nicest approach is through the traditional gate on Shomendori, opposite Nishi Honganji. It is also possible to walk from Higashi Honganji - in that case go around the temple complex on either the north or south side and then take the first street at the back of the temple either up or down - this is Shinmachi-dori. About halfway Shinmachi-dori you will find the T-crossing with Shomendori.

Dew in the Hut - Emperor Tenji (Walking Waka Tracks)

The Hyakunin Isshu anthology of waka poetry, collected by Fujiwara Teika, opens with a poem by the Emperor Tenji (626-671), who ruled from Otsu (then briefly Japan's capital). Tenji had destroyed the power of the Soga clan in 645, taken part in the Taika Reform and published a new legal code. He is now honored in the Omi Jingu, his grave is in nearby Yamashina. The reason for the shift of the capital from Nara was fear of an invasion from the continent - Tenji's mother Empress Saimei had led a disastrous military campaign against one of the Korean states and retribution from Tang China was feared.

Although the poem resembles a simple folk song about thwarted love (and surely is one, the attribution to the emperor is contested), the traditional interpretation is that the poem expresses Tenji's compassion for the lot of the peasants. That is why it was considered suitable as the starting piece of the anthology. There may also have been a private reason for Teika: the surname "Fujiwara" was bestowed by Emperor Tenji on one of his ancestors, Nakatomi no Kamatari, who assisted the emperor in the overthrow of the Soga clan

Grave of Emperor Tenchi in Yamashina, Kyoto
[Grave of Emperor Tenji in Yamashina, Kyoto]


in the autumn field
my makeshift hut
is only roughly thatched,
and so my sleeves
are dampened by dew

aki no ta no | kariho no iho no | toma wo arami | waga koromode wa | tsuyu ni nuretsutsu

The makeshift hut was set up in the fields where the farmers were taking in the harvest. "Kariho" is also a pun on "reaped ears." Apparently, the inhabitant of the hut expected to be joined by the one he loved, but had to spend the long night alone, his sleeves getting wet not only from the dew that falls through the gaps in the thatch, but also from his tears.

A third, but rather unconvincing reading sees this poem as an expression of mourning for Empress Saimei, the mother of Emperor Tenji, who died while leading the above mentioned military campaign in Korea.

May 28, 2012

Autumn Brocade of Sugawara no Michizane (Walking Waka Tracks)

Sugawara no Michizane (845-903) was famous scholar and statesman. He served Emperor Uda who promoted him to the highest offices in the country in order to act as a foil to the Fujiwara clan, whose hegemony in affairs of state the emperor was contesting. The Fujiwara clan, however, proved too strong for them and Michizane was removed from central politics by being made Governor of Dazaifu in Kyushu - a virtual banishment. (Heian politics were relatively peaceful, in later times political enemies would be more cruelly dealt with). Michizane died in exile, and then another story begins. The imperial house and capital are beset by various disasters, which are all ascribed to the angry spirit of Michizane. Imperial princes die suddenly at young age, and lightning strikes the palace. Michizane is posthumously pardoned and promoted, and when that does not help, deified as Kitano Tenjin. As such, his angry nature is pacifed and he changes into the benevolent god of learning he has been to this day.

Waka by Michizane on the Odoi next to Kitano Tenmangu
[Poem stone on the Odoi next to Kitano Tenmangu]


this time on my journey
unable to bring sacred streamers
to Offering Hill
deities please accept instead
this brocade of crimson leaves

kono tabi wa | nusa mo toriaezu | Tamukeyama | momiji no nishiki | kami no manimani


The above poem was composed in 898 when the retired Emperor Uda went on an elaborate twelve day excursion to Nara and Sumiyoshi (Osaka). It was written at Mount Tamuke ("Offering Hill"), a pass on the road between Kyoto and Nara at which usually gifts were presented to the God of the Road.

The comparison of autumn leaves with brocade is a conventional metaphor. Michizane takes this one step further by suggesting that, as this was a public visit, he could take no private offerings (in the form of gohei) for the deities of Mt Tamuke, but that the natural beauty of the crimson leaves may make an excellent substitute. 

This poem has been included as no. 24 in the Hyakunin isshu anthology of Fujiwara Teika.

Kitano Tenmangu: City Bus (50) or (101) from JR Kyoto Station; or (203) form Demachiyanagi Station, to Kitano Tenmangu-mae. 5 min walk from Hakubaicho St. on the Keifuku line.
The poem stone stands in a small park on the Odoi next to the shrine (west exit in front of the Main Hall).

Nakoso Falls - Kinto (Walking Waka tracks)

Ozawa Pond in western Kyoto was laid out by the Emperor Saga and modeled on Lake Dongting in China. The 9th century emperor also built a retirement villa at the lakeside which was later transformed into Daikakuji Temple. Although the buildings are of later date, present-day Daikakuji retains the atmosphere of a shinden-style palace with large halls connected by covered corridors and with small courtyard gardens in between. The precious screens and Buddhist statues in its Treasure House are shown twice a year to visitors. The Nakoso Falls of the poem are a non-existing waterfall at Ozawa Pond.

Ozawa Pond, Sagano, Kyoto
[Ozawa Pond near Daikakuji Temple - Photo © Ad Blankestijn]

the waterfall's sound
ages ago
was stilled
but its very name flows on
and can still be heard 
taki no oto wa | taete hisashiku | narinuredo | na koso nagarete | nao kikoe kere
This waka (No. 55 in the Hyakunin Isshu collection) was written by the admired poet and critic Fujiwara Kinto (966-1041). It uses the conceit of a small waterfall at the side of Ozawa Pond that apparently had stopped flowing long before the poet's time - if it ever did - but which is still known by name. Also today only a few stones in the grass indicate where once its supposedly tumultuous waters rushed into the pond. Thanks to the poem, the dry waterfall was named "Nakoso" Falls, "na koso" meaning "its very name", a phrase from the poem.

The poem is probably a metaphor for the poet himself: long after he has died and become dry dust, thanks to his poems his name will still flow on (into this very post).

Daikakuji:Tel. 075-871-0071 
Hrs: 9:00-16:30 
Access: 15 min walk from Saga Arashiyama St on the Keifuku and Jr lines, 25 min from Hankyu Arashiyama St; there is also a direct bus from Kyoto St or Sanjo St 
Ozawa Pond and the Nakoso Waterfall are freely accessible (without paying the entrance fee to the temple) 
The poetry stone (kahi) stands near the waterfall.

The Ausaka Barrier - Semimaru (Walking Waka Tracks)

The Ausaka Barrier ("Meeting Slope", also pronounced "Osaka" but not connected with the city of that name) forms the border between Yamashiro and the old capital Heiankyo (now Kyoto) and the province of Omi (now Shiga Prefecture) where the road to eastern Japan starts. It formed the entrance to the capital (the Tokaido also passed through it) and was a crucial traffic artery.

Today it still is, as both Highway No. 1, the Shinkansen, and the JR and Keihan lines struggle for space in the narrow valley. The only difference is that people on foot are seldom now, you only see cars swishing by...

Semimaru, the purported poet, is a legendary figure who may have been based on a blind musician who lived in the second half of the 9th c. He was a skilled biwa player and rumor has it that he even was of royal birth... but such is indeed the stuff of legend. The recluse who lived in a hut near the Ausaka Barrier also figures in several Noh plays.

Semimaru Jinja (Shimosha), Otsu
[Semimaru Shrine, Otsu - Photo © Ad Blankestijn]

this is that place
of going away and coming back
of parting time and again
both friends and strangers:
the Osaka Barrier

kore ya kono | yuku mo kaeru mo | wakarete wa | shiru mo shiranu mo | Osaka no Seki
The poem aptly paints the hustle and bustle of the Barrier by use of contrast: people setting out on a journey and others who are coming back, the many farewells but also meetings (as indicated by the name Meeting Slope), the passing by of people who know each other and those who are complete stangers. One meets in order to part and says goodbye in order to meet again... the world is in a constant flux.
Seki-no-Semimaru Shrine: There are three shrines dedicated to Semimaru in the area. The Shimo-Sha Shrine is the largest and stands closest to Otsu. 
Access: 10 min walk from Otsu St. Grounds freely accessible. 
The poetry stone (kahi) stands to the right of the entrance to the shrine. 
The Ausaka Barrier was located somewhat closer to Kyoto, near Otani St on the Keihan line, where Highway 1 and the railway lines pass through a narrow valley.

May 26, 2012

Five Colors Tumulus - Goshiki Kofun, Kobe (Museums)

In the middle of Kobe, almost obscured by flats and residences, lies one of the largest ancient graves (kofun) in Japan, the Goshikizuka Tumulus.

Top of the tomb
[Goshikizuka Kofun. Photo Ad Blankestijn]

It sits in Tarumi on a hill overlooking Awaji island across the channel - affording a good view of the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge. The tumulus dates from the late 4th or early 5th century and is a 194-meter long keyhole-shaped tomb (an elongated square topped by a circle). It probably belongs to a local chieftain who dominated traffic through the sea channel. At the side is a smaller, circular tomb (called kotsubo, "small vase") and the whole used to be surrounded by a deep moat that was 10 meters wide.

The 18 meter high tumulus had three tiers and the slopes were covered with packed cobble stones. On the top of the mound and the flat planes at the bottom, upright finned cylindrical haniwa were lined up. In the moat, three island-like platforms were built, probably to allow bridges to connect with the mound proper.

Climbing the tomb
[Goshikizuka Kofun. Photo Ad Blankestijn]

The tumulus used to be much larger in the past - of the elongated square front part only one third is left, the rest was flattened when the Sanyo and JR lines were built.

The name Goshiki "Five colors" (in the sense of "many colors") was suggested by the small stones with which the upper part of the tumulus was covered. They are from Awaji island and have glittering parts that reflect the sunlight in many colors.

Down from the grave
[Goshikizuka Kofun - Akashi Kaikyo Bridge in the distance. Photo Ad Blankestijn]

In all 2,200 haniwa were found during the excavation. Although they included a few figures, most were simple cylinders about 50 cm high.

The tumulus is already mentioned in the Nihon Shoki. In Edo times it had famous visitors as etcher Shiba Kokan. Unfortunately, it suffered during and after WWII, but after extensive excavations starting in 1965, it was as much as possible restored to former splendor, even including some copies of the haniwa.
5 min walk east from Sanyo-Tarumi Station on the Sanyo Line. Entry is free. Upon registering at the small office next to the entrance, you will receive an English pamphlet. Opening times: 9:00-16:30. Closed on Monday.

Sword and Haniwa - Sakitama Historical Park, Gyoda (Museums)

The Sakitama Historical Park in Gyoda consists of nine large-scale tumuli graves (kofun) built between the end of the fifth and beginning of the seventh century. Here we find the Maruhaka Kofun, one of the highest round tumuli in Japan; the Inariyama Kofun, a keyhole shaped grave originally 120 meters in length, and the oldest in the park - it was excavated in 1968 a sword with inscription was found; the Shogunyama Kofun, unfortunately already excavated by local people in 1894, that has been restored to its original shape - near the stone burial chamber, an interior observation room has been built with a model arrangement of the grave and various artifacts; and the Wakazuka Kofun, where many interesting haniwa were found.

Sakitama Historical Park, Gyoda, Saitama
[Tumuli in Sakitama Historical Park, Gyoda. Photo Ad Blankestijn]

In the 30 ha park also stands the Sakitama Shiryokan, an archeology (and folklore) museum. Materials found in the nearby graves are on display: haniwa, such as a dancing man, a man playing a zither, a warriors' head with large helmet and various clay cylinders; Sue ware, a grayish pottery of somewhat later date (and not as beautiful as the red-flamed haniwa); horse trappings such as an iron horse mask for protection in battle, and various bells; and a great number of iron swords.

Among these is also a sword known as 'Shingai,' inscribed with a lengthy text in Chinese on both sides of the blade. Shingai is one of the dates in the Chinese 60-year calendar system and refers to 471 CE - this much can be ascertained because the name of the then reigning emperor, Yuryaku, is mentioned as well. When the sword was found, the inscription was overlooked due to the heavy rust on the blade. Only when it was sent to an institute for special treatment so that it could be better preserved, it became clear that the blade had been inscribed with 115 characters in gold inlay. Polishing has made these characters now clearly legible. The text gives the name of the owner, his family tree, and the fact that he served Emperor Yuryaku as a warrior.

The sword is exhibited in a special glass case in the middle of the exhibition room and, together with other artifacts from the tombs, was declared a national treasure in 1983.

The museum (standing at the end of a driveway, across the street from the parking lot) gives a good impression of the items found in the kofun tumuli; the park (especially the part at the side of the parking lot) is an excellent place for a pleasant stroll.
Address: 4834 Sakitama, Gyoda-shi, Saitama-ken. Tel. 0485-59-1111

Access: 15 min. by bus or taxi from JR Gyoda Station (1 hr. by train on the Takasaki Line from Ueno Station) to the archeological park (Fudoki no Oka).

Hours: 9:00-16:30. The same ticket is valid for the exhibition room in the Shogunyama Tumulus.

Textile Art - Serizawa Keisuke Museum, Shizuoka (Museum)

Serizawa Keisuke  (1895-1984) was a craft artist who worked with stencil dyeing techniques on textiles in bold colors and designs. He belonged to the folk-craft inspired group of Yanagi Soetsu, Hamada Shoji and Kawai Kanjiro (the so-called Mingei Movement). He was born in Shizuoka and the museum that opened in 1981 finds its origin in a donation he made of his works to his native city. The architect was Seiichi Shirai and the building of rough hewn, natural white stone and wood, interestingly centered around a courtyard that is completely filled by a pond, is itself also a masterpiece.

[Serizawa Keisuke Museum. Photo Ad Blankestijn]

The museum holds about 800 pieces of Serizawa's work and in addition possesses 4,500 items of the folk art the artist collected from all over the world (and that often became a source of inspiration for him, like it was for Shoji Hamada).

The dyeing technique Serizawa used is called kataezome and was inspired by Japanese traditional stencil dyeing crafts, such as Bingata from Okinawa. With this technique he produced a wide variety of works: noren (doorway curtains), byobu (folding screens), wall drapes, kimono and obi sashes.

Behind the museum stands the traditional Japanese house the artist lived in. It is open on the first and third Sunday of the month. Another large groups of works by Keisuke Serizawa can be found in the Ohara Museum of Art in Kurashiki.

This mingei museum happens to stand right next to the Toro site, a late-Yayoi period village of the third century, and you may want to take this opportunity for a stroll among the green remnants, where several dwellings have been reconstructed.
Shizuoka Municipal Keisuke Serizawa MuseumTel. 0542-82-5522; 9:00-16:30; CL Mon, day after NH, last day of the month, NY, BE; By bus from Shizuoka station to Toro-Iseki.

Ancient Rice Paddies - Toro Ruins and Museum, Shizuoka (Museums)

In recent years there have so many great archaeological discoveries in Japan - such as the Yoshinogari site of a Yayoi village in northern Kyushu and the Sannai-Maruyama ruins dating to the Jomon period in Aomori - that the Toro Site in Shizuoka, which was discovered almost 60 years ago, has been obliged to take a backseat. A visit to the site and its museum shows that this is not justified.

Toro Park, Shizuoka
[Model of a Yayoi hut in Toro Park.Photo © Ad Blankestijn]

The Toro Ruins are a late-Yayoi period village, that existed in the third century CE. 60 people were living here and the buildings consisted of twelve pit-dwellings and two grain storehouses. There were also eight hectares of paddy fields. The village was left suddenly, probably after a nearby river flooded the area and covered it with mud. The inhabitants apparently managed to flee, taking only part of their belongings with them. The value of the Toro site is that thanks to the mud slide the whole village was kept intact over the ages, including wooden implements and some wooden building materials.

This Yayoi time capsule can be seen in the museum (on the second floor; the first floor houses some reconstructions of village life). There are utensils made of wood and clay, stone and some of iron. In the early-Yayoi period (from about 300 BCE) rice cultivation and the use of iron and bronze implements had been brought to Japan from the Asian continent. In that respect, it is interesting to note that iron is still rare in this village: hoes, spades and rakes are all made of wood.

Another interesting wooden item are the small planks that were bound under the feet to walk in the paddies: the origin of the Japanese geta. Striking are also a small stool, and a big wooden spoon. It seems as if you have stepped right into Yayoi life.

That life has been reconstructed in the park surrounding the museum, where several Yayoi dwellings and storehouses have been set up. More telling, however, are the round impressions (one meter lower than the modern ground level) of the original Yayoi huts that dot the park.
Address: 5-10-5 Toro, Shizuoka-shi, Shizuoka-ken. Tel. 0542-85-0476

Access: By bus from Shizuoka station to Toro-Iseki.

Hours: 9:00-16:30. CL Monday, day after a national holiday, last day of the month, year-end and New Year season.

Votive Paintings - Naritasan Reikokan Museum, Chiba (Museums)

Long before it became known as the site of Tokyo’s international airport, Narita was famous as the temple town that grew up around the imposing Narita-san Shinshoji Temple. One of eastern Japan's most important temples, Shinshoji is approached along a street lined with shops, restaurants and inns. Although the main hall is modern concrete construction, there are also several traditional buildings, including a three-story pagoda. Behind the temple, visitors find a pleasant park, with a pond, luscious woodland, meandering footpaths, and two museums.

Shinshoji Temple, Narita - Tahoto pagoda
[The Daito Pagoda houses the Reikokan Museum. Photo © Ad Blankestijn]

The first of these two is the temple museum, the Naritasan Reikokan Museum (est. 1947), which stands behind the only temple building in the park, the Daito Pagoda, a modern construction in traditional style, where five fiery deities of esoteric Buddhism are honored. The museum is dedicated to the history of the temple and its ‘town before the gate,’ as well as the archeology and folk crafts of the area, and has armor, mirrors, lacquer utensils, screens and temple documents on view. As already from the Edo-period the temple counted actors and Sumo wrestlers among its fervent devotees, there are also prints of actors and wrestlers as well as material related to Kabuki actor Danjuro VII. One gallery is in use for this permanent collection, another one is reserved for the two special shows the museum hosts annually.

The same ticket is good for entry to the annex of the temple museum, which is housed on the first floor of the Daito Pagoda itself (and therefore called Daito Reikoden).In fact, it is here that one finds the pride of the temple: 600 large ema or votive paintings. Besides the usual pictures of horses, there are representations of Fudo Myo-o (the main deity of the temple), actors, figures from Chinese legend, and so on. One can spot several famous names among the painters, such as Utagawa Toyokuni, Utagawa Kuniyoshi, Tani Buncho and Kawanabe Kyosai.

Kyosai painted a dramatic votive plate called Omori Hikoshichi and the Devil Woman on behalf of the villagers of Oyata in 1880. While working on it, he lodged in the local sake store, so it is no wonder that it took him seven months to complete! The museum also displays works of calligraphy (mostly contemporary Chinese) and has an excellent collection of tea-ceremony objects. In fact, with its vivid ema this annex is artistically and historically more interesting than the main museum.
Tel: 0476-22-0234

Hrs. 9:30 – 16:00; Cl Mon.

Access: 25 min. on foot from both JR and Keisei Narita Stations. Walk through the temple grounds, keeping to the right of the Main Hall to enter the park. Head for the Daito Pagoda. The Daito Reikoden is in the basement of this pagoda, the other museum stands on the far side of the small road that runs behind the pagoda and is a traditional-style building.

Shinshoji Temple, Narita - Main hall and Three-storied Pagoda
[Pagoda and Main Hall of Shinshoji Temple. Photo © Ad Blankestijn]

Inside the park, beside the Sanno Pond, we find the other museum, the Naritasan Calligraphy Museum (est. 1992), which displays calligraphic art dating from the end of the Edo period up to modern times. On the first floor is a special exhibition room with a very high ceiling to accommodate works of unusual size. The second floor is a corridor style gallery. The calligraphy may be shown in combination with paintings and craft works.
Tel: 0476-24-0774

Hrs. 9:30 – 16:00; Cl Mon (next day if NH), NY (12/29-12/31 & 1/4, 1/5), between exhibitions.

Access: 20 min. on foot from both JR and Keisei Narita Stations.

Graves with a View - Boso Fudoki no Oka, Chiba (Museums)

Boso Fudoki-no-Oka is a scenic, historical park covering 32 hectares, laid out on a hill dotted with about 120 old tumulus graves. Although lying close to Narita, Tokyo's International Airport, the thunder of jets does not reach here and the park proves remarkably tranquil. There are small grave mounds, not more than tiny knolls, lying in the shade of large trees, but also imposing, grassy mounds. The park is situated on a low ridge, with the wide Kanto plain at one’s feet, as if the dead have been honored with VIP seats. The tombs belong to clan heads and nobility from the third to seventh century, the so-called Kofun period. Judging from their relatively small size, the mounds of Boso probably are from the end of that period, when tomb building was already in decline.

Tombs on a ridge
[Model of a grave with haniwa figures. Photo © Ad Blankestijn]

The park's museum, a redbrick building, displays items that have been unearthed from tumuli (kofun) in the area. The museum consists of one room downstairs and an upper gallery. There are hundreds of clay haniwa of grave figures, houses, horses and even small birds. On display are also stone grave-pillows, jewelry, stirrups, and mirrors. It is always interesting to see how the iron swords have crumbled due to the passage of time, while the haniwa clay figures are still as fresh as when new. There are also potsherds of Sue ware and some sutra containers. Nearby Ryukakuji Temple is represented by fragments of old tiles. Upstairs Jomon and Yayoi pottery is shown, as well as a selection of dogu figures, all items of a period long before the tumulus graves were built.

The Chiba prefectural government has relocated the wooden auditorium of a nineteenth century elementary school as well as two old farmhouses to the park. Although the smallish museum alone perhaps does not warrant the long trip here, in combination with the fascinating park it makes an excellent weekend destination, especially if you walk there from Shimosu-Manzaki Station on the Narita line.
Tel. 0476-95-3126

Hrs. 9:00 – 16:30; Cl Mon (next day if NH), NY.

Access: From Ajiki Station on the JR Narita Line take a bus bound for the west entrance of Fudoki no Oka, then walk 10 min; alternatively, it is a 30 min walk from Shimosa-Manzaki Station on the JR Narita Line to the park's east or main entrance. Shimosa-Manzaki is about 1.15 hrs. from Ueno Station in Tokyo (take a Joban line train from Ueno to Abiko and there transfer to a train going in the direction of Narita on the Narita line). In the same park one finds a sort of Edo-period Chiba village with reconstructions of old shops and houses where visitors can practice various crafts, the Chiba Prefectural Boso no Mura Museum (Boso Village).

Haniwa and Graves - Shibayama Ancient Tombs and Haniwa Museum, Chiba (Museums)

Shibayama, on the eastern side of Narita Airport, is another area rich in old tumulus graves. In contrast to Boso Fudoki-no-Oka, Shibayama has given us numerous large-sized and fascinating haniwa figures. Typical are curious figures with high hats, beards and long curly hair, a very unusual look as haniwa go. They are the trademarks of the whole area, including Narita and you will find copies of them at the entrance to the basement train station in the Narita Terminal no. 2.

The real things are on view in two local museums. One is the Shibayama Ancient Tombs and Haniwa Museum, located in Shibayama Park among the tombs itself. The biggest tombs are the Tonozuka and Himezuka, both in the keyhole shape, square in front and round at the back. In these tombs a complete procession of haniwa figures was found, inspiring the local citizens to start an annual ‘haniwa festival.’ The museum exhibits haniwa from the Kujikuri and Tonegawa areas and other archaeological artifacts such as a sword, metal bells and horse trappings. There are pottery heads of people and animals, as well as a small house and cylinders surmounted by quivers and fans. The ancient Kofun culture is brought to life in photo’s and the reconstruction of an old dwelling.

Shibayama Kannonkyoji, Chiba
[The gate of Kannonkyoji Temple, Shibayama. Photo © Ad Blankestijn]

From the Shibayama Park it is only a short walk to the Kannonkyoji Temple (also called more affectionately Nioson), where we find the other museum, the Shibayama Museum. This museum not only stands inside the temple grounds, but is even connected to the temple’s main hall. On the first floor is a display of more haniwa from the Tonozuka and Himezuka tumuli, while on the second floor one also finds a collection of Buddhist statues and paintings.

The display of the haniwa against a muted gray background is more imaginative than in the first museum, although the two facilities work together. There is a man with a triangular hat from the Himezuka; a 163 cm tall, late 6th c. warrior with a beard, long curly hair and a triangular, tall hat; a farmer with a straw hat; and a young woman wearing large earrings and a flat cap.

The Buddhist art consists of the statues the temple owns, such as a beautiful Dainichi Nyorai (Heian-period), a 13th c. Bishamon and a 12th c. Jizo. There are also Buddhist paintings (the temple owns a Fudo Myo-o and a Jizo). The modern paintings are mainly works illustrating the life of the Buddha. Don’t miss the two black Nioson (Deva Kings) statues inside the gate building, which gave the temple its nickname.
Tel: 0479-77-1828

Hours: 9:00 – 16:30; Cl Mon (next day if public holiday), day after NH, NY.

Tel: 0479-77-0004

Hours: 10:00-16:30; no holidays.

Access (to both): (infrequent) bus from Narita Station to Shibayama, then 5 min. on foot. Or from Higashi-Narita St. on the Keisei Line ‘Noriai Service Taxi’ to Shibayama (the same taxi runs in the opposite direction from Matsuo Station as well). This takes about 20 min, but inquire in advance with the museum as this service runs only on weekends, and then a few times a day. Higashi Narita is only 6 min on the Keisei Higashi Narita Line, but trains are infrequent (about 2 an hour). Matsuo Station can be reached by taking the Sotobo Line express from Tokyo to Naruto (about 1 hr) and then transfer to a local train on the Naruto-Choshi Line for the 5 min ride to next station Matsuo. These local trains are infrequent (one an hour) so plan in advance. You can also take a taxi from Naruto, but this is rather expensive (more than 5000 yen).

Author in Ome - Yoshikawa Eiji Museum, Tokyo (Museums)

Novelist Yoshikawa Eiji (1892-1962) was a self-made popular author. He wrote 70 voluminous novels, mostly about historical subjects, of which four have been (partly) translated into English: The Heike Story, Musashi, and Taiko.

Yoshikawa Eiji was born into an ex-samurai family in Kanagawa and spent his youth in Yokohama. He has written vividly about those days in Fragments of a Past: the environment of the foreign settlement, his father's wild business adventures and even wilder drinking, and the eventual ruin of the family which forced him to stop day school at the age of eleven and start working.

He continued his education in night school and started writing senryu poetry; in 1914 the first novel, a historical romance, followed. Although he worked for a short while for a newspaper, in the early twenties Yoshikawa decided to become a full-time writer. His early novels were mainly about handsome swordsmen, their love affairs and bitter feuds.

Ome, Tokyo
[Yoshikawa Eiji Museum. Photo © Ad Blankestijn]

Yoshikawa rose above the level of this romantic fiction with Miyamoto Musashi (1935-39), a novel about the 17th century swordsman, who while learning the Way of the Sword also learned to conquer his unruly self.

Much of the 1950s were dedicated to the production of the Shin Heike Monogatari, or New Tales of the Heike, a modern retelling of the feud between the Heike and the Genji in the 12th c.

Yoshikawa's novels do embody basic conservative moral values. He was enormously popular in the years after WWII and in 1960 he became the first writer of popular fiction to receive the Order of Culture. Even today, his major works (though extremely voluminous - his books were serialized in newspaper and as much Japanese literature still bear the traces of that custom) are readily available in bookstores around Japan.

Yoshikawa Eiji lived in the beautiful pastoral countryside of Ome for the last eight years of his life, and his house and study have been preserved exactly as they were during his lifetime as the Yoshikawa Eiji House & Museum. There is also a small museum, mainly exhibiting books, manuscripts and other materials relating to Yoshikawa Eiji. This museum was designed by Taniguchi Yoshiro and overlooks the garden with its huge chinquapin tree.

The traditional house (built by a silkworm farmer in 1847) is beautiful, but can not be entered. You can, however, cast a glimpse into the author's study. That leaves the garden as the domain of visitors and it is indeed well worth to stroll around.
Tel: 0428-76-1575.

Admission: 10:00-17:00 (Nov-Feb: 16:30); CL Mon, next day when NH, NY

Access: 15-min on foot from Futamatao Station on the JR Ome Line.

Variable Time - Daimyo Clock Museum, Tokyo (Museums)

Nezu lies adjacent to Yanaka, on the inside of the ring of the Yamanote line, and is an area where still some traces of an older Tokyo can be found. It is famous for the Nezu Shrine, which has beautiful azaleas in late April-early May.

Within easy walking distance from the Nezu subway station on the Chiyoda line, you will find the Daimyo Clock Museum. The small facility stands a short walk from Nezu station in a typical neighborhood which still retains the flavor of former days, with small homes in back alleys hidden behind stacks of potted plants.

What is more fitting for a clock museum than a neighborhood where time, if not standing still, at least seems to go more slowly? The museum sits in a walled garden where vegetation runs wild and quaint old statues peep out from between the weeds.

The museum is in fact not more than one room full with about 50 so-called daimyo clocks. Inspired by Western clocks brought into Japan from the late 16th c., daimyo clocks were attuned to the reality that time in the Edo-period was flexible.

The name was devised by the founder of the present museum, because the daimyo or feudal barons were the only ones allowed to own these clocks during the Edo-period. A more general name is wa-dokei, Japanese clocks.

Daimyo Clock Museum
[Entrance to the Daimyo Clock Museum. Photo © Ad Blankestijn]

Museum founder Kamiguchi Guro (1892-1970) originally had a clothing store in this neighborhood, but was consumed by the passion for daimyo clocks which he sought out in the whole country in order to preserve and study them. His interests were continued by his son, Kamiguchi Hitoshi, who established the present museum in 1972. For a small price the museum sells a typewritten pamphlet in English that gives an excellent explanation of these clocks. As the labels in the museum are only in Japanese it is a good idea to sit down on one of the benches provided and first read the brochure.

You will learn that daimyo clocks were made after European ‘lantern clocks’ with escapement, the first of which was given by the missionary Xavier to a Kyushu daimyo. The best daimyo clocks were produced in the first decades of the 19th c.

As they were only made for a small group of people, who used them as a symbol of wealth rather than as pieces to accurately measure time, they never developed into the practical instruments the European models were. Before Japan adopted the solar calendar in 1872, the hours of the day and night differed in length according to the season. These hours were named after the animals of the Chinese zodiac and you will find those characters on the clock face. For measuring non-standard time, various ingenious devices were used. One was to vary the speed of the clockwork movement by small weights on the escapement balance, the other to adjust the position of the numerals (the zodiacal characters) on the clock face. In this last type of clock, interestingly, the hand was stationary and the clock face rotated.

In short, these clocks needed a lot of attention, but the daimyo after all had their servants for such chores. And as they were status symbols, it often was the decoration of the clocks that was more important than accurate timekeeping.As you will see around you in the museum, Japanese clocks come in many forms. The classical form is the square clock with escapement on top, resembling the European lantern clock, mounted on top of a stand shaped like a tower and therefore called yagura-dokei or ‘turret clocks.’

The museum owns several imposing specimens of this type. There were also makura-dokei or ‘mantel clocks,’ put in the decorative niche of the living room and therefore smaller but very luxurious in design. ‘Ruler clocks’ (shaku-dokei) could be hung on pillars as they were oblong and narrow; and ‘seal-case clocks’ (Inro-dokei) were modeled after European pocket watches.
Tel. 03-3821-6913

Hours:10:00-16:00. Cl Mon, summer (7/1-9/30), NY (12/25-1/14)

Access:10 min on foot from Nezu St on the Chiyoda subway line or 15 min from JR Nippori St

Kanji Culture - Museum of Calligraphy, Tokyo (Museums)

The Museum of Calligraphy is not dedicated to beautiful writing, as the name might suggest, but to inscriptions in kanji, Chinese characters, on jade, bones, bronze, ceramics, and so on. It exhibits some of the oldest examples of the Chinese character script, a true culture of signs.

The collection was set up by Mr. Nakamura Fusetsu (1866-1943), who started out as a painter in the Western style but became interested in calligraphy and Chinese inscriptions when he was in China as reporter with the army during the Sino-Japanese War of 1895.

For half a year he toured China and Korea and found many rubbings and archeological materials about the early history of Chinese characters. This was the start of his collection, which grew to include 12 ‘important cultural properties.’

The museum was already opened in 1936 in the grounds of Nakamura’s residence, opposite the house where in the early 20th c. the haiku poet Shiki lived.

In 1995 the Nakamura family donated the museum to Taito Ward. It was completely refurbished to bring it up to modern standards and in the grounds also the beautiful Nakamura Fusetsu Memorial Hall was built, via which one now enters.

Museum of Calligraphy, Tokyo
[Museum of Calligraphy. Photo © Ad Blankestijn]

It is best to start with the (older) main building and come back later to the memorial hall where the reception desk is. The main building consists of five small galleries, of which four are open for showing the permanent exhibition.

Room One has stone steles and Buddhist statues, all from China and dating from the Han-dynasty to the Tang. There is a small gilt-bronze Buddha statue from the 5th c. and one of white marble from the 6th c. The statues have votive inscriptions on the base or the back informing us about the original use of the statue. One of the steles, a natural stone, dates from the early Han-dynasty (206 BCE – 9 CE) and is one of the earliest examples of such objects.

Room 3 to 5 are on the second floor. Room 3 (all Chinese items) has jades, used as ornaments by the nobility; clay grave figurines; flat tiles for the walls of houses and graves; roof tiles; a fragment from the stone steles on which in the period 172-178 CE the Chinese Classics were engraved; and stone slabs with grave inscriptions, carrying information about the deceased.

In room 4 we enter the world of Chinese bronzes from the Shang and Zhou periods, used for ritual purposes in the ancestor cult and here inscribed with the purpose why the implements were cast, such as official appointments; weapons from the Warring States to Han Dynasty; and finally also something Japanese: itabi, Buddhist steles from the middle ages that were erected by the faithful as prayers for their own bliss in the afterlife.

In room 5 we find another interesting item from China, the so-called oracle bones. These contain the oldest known Chinese characters and date from around 1300 BCE and later. Animal bones or tortoise shells were used to divine by applying heat and interpreting the resulting cracks. Afterwards, the questions (and sometimes also the answers from the oracle) were written on the bone or shell. There are also pottery jars with written inscriptions from the Han Dynasty; mirrors with inscriptions from the Warring States to Tang dynasty; seals; ink stones; writing brushes and water droppers to prepare the ink on the ink stone. From Japan we find in this section a wooden stupa and prayer sheets from Horyuji.

When we finally return to where we entered, the Nakamura Fusetsu Memorial Hall, we find rubbings (including some very large ones mounted on scrolls) and calligraphy books displayed on both the ground floor and second floor. Here are again many rare items, such as copy made in the Ming period of the Daikanjo from the Northern Song (1109).

At the back of the second floor is also a room with memorabilia about Mr. Nakamura, including photos, documents and some of his oil paintings.
Tel: 03-3872-2645

Hours: 9:30 - 16:30. CL Mon (next day of NH), between exhibitions, NY (12/29-1/3).

Access: 5 min on foot from Uguisudani St on the Yamanote Line. Leave via the N exit of the station, walk through the short street with restaurants and then turn left into the road with the elevated road after first crossing over to the opposite side. Take the first narrow road on the right, and turn left at the first crossing. The museum is visible on your right. The area is full of love hotels.

Life in Old Tokyo - Shitamachi Museum, Tokyo (Museums)

On the bank of Shinobazu Pond, below Ueno Park, we encounter the Shitamachi Museum, which is quite popular among foreign visitors. It is indeed a friendly place, providing an atmospheric evocation of ‘downtown’ Tokyo (called ‘shitamachi’ in Japanese) in the Ueno and Asakusa wards in the 1920s, before this bustling area was largely destroyed by the earthquake of 1923.

Shitamachi Museum
[Shitamachi Museum, Ueno, Tokyo. Photo © Ad Blankestijn]

On the first floor one finds reproductions of some shitamachi buildings from the Meiji and Taisho eras. To the right stands the shop of a manufacturer and wholesaler of cloth straps (hanao) for geta clogs, a commodity that has disappeared from daily life. Until the 1930s geta were the main footwear in Japan.

The craftsman lived and worked with his family and trainees in a modest shop like this, with no flashy signs but only a door curtain (noren) and simple signboard. Note the colorful straps for geta for women hanging on the wall. Under the ceiling hangs a yojin-kago, a bamboo basket with a shouldering pole that could be used to salvage valuables in case of a sudden fire.

To the left is a roji, a narrow passageway with a row of tenement houses (nagaya), of which two units have been reproduced. These are long, narrow dwellings with one roof over several units and only separated by thin wooden walls. Privacy was an unknown commodity. The first house is a shop selling colorful candy and toys (a dagashiya). Such shops, often run by widows, were popular with the children of the neighborhood.

The second house is the workshop of a copper smith (dokoya). Kettles and pots and pans were all made from copper plate. The narrow workspace is next to the living area. Note the nagahibachi, the long hibachi in the living room, where a copper kettle with water for tea could be kept hot.

The evening sake is waiting here for the smith to finish work.

The second floor of the museum has a small space for changing thematic exhibitions, as well as more displays about Shitamachi in the rest of the room. There is a copy of a cafe room, and the entrance to a public bathhouse. Displays with photos, ukiyo-e prints, picture postcards and other materials show the history of shitamachi and its pastimes, from late Edo through the modernization of Meiji, and finally the disasters of the 1923 earthquake and the wartime bombings which destroyed shitamachi culture. There are also many nostalgic items of daily use on display.
Tel: 03-3823-7451

Hours: 9:30-16:30 (enter by 16:00). CL Mon (next day if NH), NY, between exhibitions.

Access: 5-min walk from the Shinobazu exit from JR Ueno St and Ueno St on the Ginza and Hibiya lines; 3-min walk from Keisei Ueno St.

Shakespeare in Japan - Tsubouchi Memorial Theater Museum, Tokyo (Musems)

The Tsubouchi Memorial Theater Museum, Waseda University was established on the occasion of the 70th birthday of the critic and playwright Tsubouchi Shoyo (1859-1935), the first translator of Shakespeare’s complete works into Japanese and founder of the Department of Literature of Waseda University. The facade of the building is modeled on the Fortune Theater of Shakespeare. The museum’s holdings are very extensive: a rich collection of items related to the theater in Japan and in other countries, totaling hundreds of thousands of items. Foremost is a collection of 46,000 woodblock prints related to the theater, but there are also 200,000 pictures of stage performances and many materials connected with the stage such as costumes, puppets and models of stages. The library houses 150,000 books on the theater. Best of all, the museum and its facilities are free.

[Tsubouchi Memorial Theater Museum, Waseda University. Photo © Ad Blankestijn]

Inside the pleasantly antiquarian building are 7 exhibition rooms and a room dedicated to Tsubouchi. Visitors start on the third floor with the history of the theater in Japan. ‘The Ancient Age’ shows how theatrical arts developed under continental influences and has displays about bugaku dances. In ‘the Middle Ages’ we move to the quintessentially Japanese art forms of Noh and Kyogen. There are beautiful costumes and masks on display. The Early Modern Age is dedicated to the Kabuki and Ningyo-Joruri, the puppet play, with puppets and the lectern of a Bunraku narrator on view. ‘The Modern Age’ has information on the modern theater that developed under Western influence, and on musicals, Buto dances and even strip shows.

On the second floor are two special exhibition rooms, a room dedicated to folk performing arts such as Kagura and Dengaku, and the Shoyo Memorial Room. This room was designed by Mr. Tsubouchi for the reception of guests and he also used it himself when he visited the museum. Note the reliefs of sheep on the ceiling, as Shoyo was born in the Year of the Sheep. The book cases are filled with Shakespeare and the translations by Tsubouchi himself. On the first floor, finally, are a small room about Shakespeare and room in honor of the great modern Kabuki actor Nakamura Utaemon VI. Here is also a reading room, where the attendant doubles as receptionist for the museum.
Tel: 03-5286-1829

Hours: 10:00-17:00. CL NH, August, university holidays.

Access: 7 min walk from Waseda St on the Tozai subway line.

Dutch Learning - Tekijuku, Osaka (Museums)

It comes as a surprise to find an authentic, 19th century Japanese merchant’s house right in the central Osaka business center, just south of Yodoyabashi Station. The two-storied house sits in a small garden and is dwarfed by neighboring buildings, but it is a miracle that it has survived destruction. It now forms an oasis of rest in the city. The house belonged to Ogata Koan (1810-1863), a doctor and scholar of Rangaku (“Dutch Studies”) who since 1843 opened his school, the Tekijuku (“School of the Right Target”) in this building.

Tekijuku Museum, Osaka
[Tekijuku, Osaka. Photo © Ad Blankestijn]

Ogata Koan was born into a samurai family in Okayama Prefecture and came to Osaka when he was 17 years of age to study Rangaku. “Dutch Studies” refers to the study of Western medicine and science via text books imported by the Dutch, who were the only country from Europe allowed a presence in Japan. Ogata later also studied Rangaku in Edo and Nagasaki. He became known both as an expert educator and medical doctor and translated several medical works from Dutch into Japanese. In his school he taught the students the Dutch language as a tool to get access to Western science and culture. Many young people who would consequently play an important role in Japan’s modernization studied in the Tekijuku - Fukuzawa Yukichi is a good example.

In the two-story house some articles belonging to Ogata Koan are on display, ranging from medical instruments to books and documents. On the second floor, in a special room of its own, you will find the most important tool of the school, the hand-written, eight-volume Doeff Dutch-Japanese Dictionary. Students used to take turns to study it.

On this floor is also the room where the students – mostly of samurai stock – lodged. On the central wooden pillar one sees the cuts made by their swords to relieve themselves of the stress caused by the difficult political situation in which Japan then found itself. Next to the Tekijuku is a small park with a statue of Ogata Koan.
Tel. 06-6231-1970

Hours: 10:00-16:00; CL Mon (except if NH), day after NH (except if Sat or Sun), NY

Access: 5 min on foot from Yodoyabashi or Kitahama St on the Keihan line; 5 min on foot from Yodoyabashi St on the Midosuji subway line.

The Art of Copying - Senshu Bunko (Museums)

The Senshu Bunko, or "Library of a Thousand Autumns," comprises the collection of manuscripts, documents, paintings, and old maps of the Satake clan, the hereditary daimyo family that ruled what is now Akita prefecture. It gives a good impression of the tastes of a local ruling clan in the Edo period. Above all, it provides a glimpse of an interesting phenomenon from the Edo period, the culture of making copies of famous paintings.

Senshu Bunko Museum, Tokyo
[Senshu Bunko Museum, Tokyo. Photo Ad Blankestijn]

The Satake clan was established by Minamoto Yoshimitsu (1045-1127) in the village of Satake in Hitachi province (now Ibaraki). They were a major power in the northern Kanto, helping Minamoto no Yoritomo to establish his shogunate in Kamakura. Afterwards, they supported the Ashikaga and in the years of internal strife in the 15th and 16th centuries greatly expanded their territory to the whole of Ibaraki and Tochigi. Toyotomi Hideyoshi made them lords of Mito castle, but Tokugawa Ieyasu feared their power and moved them to a much smaller fief, safely out of the way in Akita. Here they ruled for 260 years.
The 34th head of the clan, Marquis Satake Yoshiharu, gave the whole clan library to his trusted steward, Kobayashi Shoji, who after 40 years of struggle, in 1971 finally managed to establish the present museum. Thanks to these efforts, the collection as such remained intact and was not sold off and dispersed as happened to many other daimyo archives and painting collections. Among the documents of the museum are letters by Ashikaga Naoyoshi (1351) and Date Masamune (1612); there are maps of Japan, of Akita castle, of the Satake estate, and of the Battle of Sekigahara; materials about the tea ceremony; and the seals of the various daimyo.

Paintings include copies of famous Sesshu works, such as Amanohashidate and other landscape paintings, or his Karako (Chinese boys). There is a copy of a Kannon with monkey and crane by Mu Xi, and of a dragon and tiger by the same artist. Why this copying frenzy? Simply because it was the only way to see (and eventually own) a famous painting. There were of course no museums; the Satakes could only see Sesshu's Amanohashidate when their fellow daimyo who owned it, was so kind to show it to them. As one could not go back every year to see the painting, it was logical to have it copied. Apparently, a whole copying culture existed, based on works that were circulated among the various daimyo. There were even copy specialists, such as Kano Shusui and Sugawara Dosai, two Edo-period painters who worked for the Satake family.

The installation is beautiful, in glass cases with tatami matting. The paintings are not always in prime state (apparently, they have been cut loose from old mountings), but mostly beautifully remounted. The Senshu Bunko exudes the proper antiquarian atmosphere, and although there are no national treasures (and no ceramics, lacquer or other utensils - it is basically a library), it is fascinating to see the 'everyday collection' of one daimyo family.
Address: 2-1-36 Kudan-minami, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo. Tel. 03-3261-0075

Access: 10-min. walk from Kagurazaka Station on the Tozai Subway Line or Iidabashi Station on the Yurakucho Subway Line.

Admission: 10:00-16:00; CL Mon, NH, March 25-27, Augt 1-10, Dec 25-Jan 5, occasional special days.

Modern Life - Shinjuku Historical Museum (Museums)

The Shinjuku Historical Museum is one of the best of the many city museums about local history in Tokyo. It highlights Shinjuku’s past as a post town.

The displays (all on the basement floor) start with a short section about archeological materials excavated in the ward and another one about Shinjuku in the Middle Ages with some itabi steles on display.

Shinjuku Historical Museum, Tokyo
[Shinjuku Historical Museum. Photo Ad Blankestijn]

The exhibition really gets underway with the Edo period and a scale model of the post town ‘Naito Shinjuku,’ named after the daimyo family which administrated it (Shinjuku Gyoen Park incorporates part of the garden of the Naito clan). There is also a full scale model of a shop in kura-style (for protection of the wares against fire) as used to stand in the post town.

Part Four of the exhibition is about literature (Shakespeare translator Tsubouchi Shoyo lived in Shinjuku, as did modern literature giant Natsume Soseki and Kwaidan author Lafcadio Hearn - these last two both happen to be buried in the Zoshigaya cemetery, also in Shinjuku.

Statue of Tsubouchi Shoyo, Waseda University, Tokyo
[Statue of Tsubouchi Shoyo in the Waseda University grounds. Photo Ad Blankestijn]

The fifth and last part is dedicated to the early Showa period. There is a model of a tram, a house built in the suburbs for the new commuters with partly Western interior, and a display about Shinjuku as pleasure district, with its bars, restaurants, theaters (one named Moulin Rouge) and cinemas.

Salaryman culture also gets attention with an interesting display about all the items the average Showa salaryman carried in his pockets and briefcase – note the omamori, or amulet, the only typically Japanese item. As usual in most history museums, there are no English labels, but the displays are easy to follow.
Tel. 03-3359-2131
Hrs: 9:00-17:00; CL Mon (next day if NH), NY.
Access: 8 min. on foot from Akebonobashi on the Toei Shinjuku subway line; 10 min. from Yotsuya Sanchome St. on the Marunouchi Line and 12 min. from JR Yotsuya St. (The easiest way to find the Shinjuku Historical Museum is to take the Marunouchi line from Shinjuku for a few stations to Yotsuya-Sanchome, from which it is a short walk.)

A Giant Bookcase - Shiba Ryotaro Museum, Osaka (Museums)

The Japanese author Shiba Ryotaro (1923-1996) loved books. That becomes quite clear when you stand in the museum built next to his former house in Osaka and look up at the book cases, towering several stories above your head and containing 20,000 tomes.

If the Big One comes, you will be buried in books. Of course, this is not how Shiba Ryotaro himself kept his library. He had the books in ordinary cases scattered throughout his house, lining every possible part of the walls, including the corridors. I have a lot of books, too, although not as many as Shiba Ryotaro (I have been downsizing for some time now), and in my house the corridor also function as a library.

Shiba Ryotaro
[Shiba Ryotaro Memorial Museum, Osaka]

Shiba Ryoraro started writing historical novels after World War II. In that respect, the pen name, Shiba, he selected is very suggestive: it is the name of the famous Chinese historian Sima Qian, who lived 2,000 years ago. Shiba won the prestigious Naoki Prize for his 1959 novel, "Fukuro no Shiro" ("Owl Castle").

Better known are his long novels "Ryoma ga Yuku" ("Ryoma Is Going"), about the life of Ryoma Sakamoto, and “ Sakanoue no Kumo” (“Clouds on the Slope”), another novel about the turbulent times around the end of the shogunate and beginning of modern Japan. In fact, Sakamoto Ryoma was not at all popular as a historical figure until Shiba Ryotaro wrote his novel about him (personally, I believe Ryoma is not the great historical figure he is now thought to have been, I think much of his present status is due to the fictionalizing by Shiba Ryotaro - and every country needs its heroes).

Another series that won him great fame were his travel essays, 1,146 installments in all, printed first in Shukan Asahi and then issued as a series of books “Kaido wo Yuku” (“Going along the Highways”). These were also made into a documentary series by NHK and I must say it is the part of Shiba's work that I like best. Most of his novels are extremely long and meandering, which put me off - I like writers who manage to be concise.

Many of Shiba's 500 books were filmed or made into TV dramas, especially the NHK historical “Taiga” dramas broadcast on Sunday evening.

Most of his books are so huge and full of historical detail that only few have made it into other languages. Two of his smaller novels, “The Last shogun,” and “Kukai the Universal” are available in English. Even in his novels, many parts are like essays, or musings of the historian, after which storytelling takes over again. The story leans on the historical sources and Shiba's interpretation of them.

In the green garden of the museum, you first pass the former house of the author and through the glass you can see his study with a comfortable reading chair and large desk.

A curving glass corridor leads to the new part. To accommodate the 11 meter high bookcase the museum has been sunk into the soil. Architect was Ando Tadao and it is one of his smaller, but finest creations.

Just sit down and look at this load of books. It makes you feel very small. I regret that it is not possible to browse, to take books out of the cases, and enjoy the smell of paper and ink. There are some small exhibitions of books, manuscripts, photo's and memorabilia as well, but the bookcase takes center stage. It contains the materials Shiba Ryotaro needed to write his fiction: histories, biographies, dictionaries, original materials etc.

I notice one thing: as far as I can see there is nothing in English or any other modern foreign language. But Shiba did travel abroad, there is a small exhibition about his trip to the U.S. when I visit. And in the “Kaido” series, he wrote a nice volume about Holland.

The quite residential neighborhood is well suited to creative work. It is a pity Shiba Ryotaro died at the relatively young age of 73 – had he lived longer he could well have added a few hundred more works to his oeuvre.
Shiba Ryotaro Memorial Museum
3-11-18, Shimo-kosaka, Higashi-Osaka
CL Mon, 1 September-10 September & 28 December-4 January
15 min walk from Kawachi-Kosaka St on the Kintetsu Nara Line

From Ainu to Colonist - The Historical Museum of Hokkaido (Museums)

Established in 1971 to celebrate the centenary of the opening of Hokkaido, the Historical Museum of Hokkaido is an imposing, square pile of red brick sitting in natural surroundings close to the Nopporo Forest Park. Not surprisingly, Hokkaido’s modern history is more dense than its ancient one. The elaborate permanent exhibition (which is unchanging) is divided into 8 themes, ranging chronologically from the formation of the island to a glimpse of the future of Hokkaido. In addition, the museum hosts several special exhibitions each year.

Theme One treats the formation of the island, the Neolithic age and Jomon culture (there is a fine clay mask with the features of an adult man, found near Chitose), which lasted especially long in Hokkaido as the Yayoi culture with its rice cultivation and bronze artifacts did not reach this far north (one speaks therefore of a continuation of the Jomon period (Epi-Jomon), which lasted until about 800 CE). Stone tools and Jomon vessels are supplemented by models and dioramas.

Theme Two follows Ainu Culture from its 7th c. roots to the 19th c. Those roots were the Satsumon and Okhotsk cultures. The interior of a typical dwelling has been reconstructed and Edo-period scrolls depicting Ainu festivals are also on view.

Theme Three, ‘the Age of Ezo’ (the old name for the island), depicts the life of the early Japanese settlers on Hokkaido. The first Japanese arrived in the 12th c. to trade with the Ainu. In exchange for animal hides and marine products, they sold such things as iron tools and rice. At the end of the 16th c. Lord Kakizaki organized the first Japanese community in Matsumae and he received the monopoly on the Ainu trade. An the end of the 18th c., when foreign ships started making frequent incursions into the waters around Hokkaido, the island was placed under direct control of the shogun. In 1854, finally, Hakodate became one of the ports opened to foreign trade following the Kanagawa Treaty.

Theme Four is called ‘The Early Modern Era’ and deals with Hokkaido’s history from 1869 to 1886, when the island was intensively and quickly colonized by the Japanese (partly out of fear for a Russian push south). To this purpose, the Kaitakushi or Colonization Office was set up in 1869; it functioned until 1882. Large investments were made in Hokkaido to develop it as a model ‘progressive’ area and many foreign advisers were attracted to help. Sapporo was transformed from a piece of forest into a modern capital, roads and railroads were built, and experimental farms were set up to handle Western style crops and equipment. As it was difficult to resettle ordinary farmers, former samurai were relocated to Hokkaido and also a system of farmer-soldiers (Tondenhei) was introduced. Coal mines were opened and factories built, some producing Western-style products as milk and beer. At the same time, the lands of the Ainu were taken away and their culture eroded. On display are such items as farming implements, the first bottles of beer and uniforms of the Tondenhei farmer-soldiers.

For Theme Five ‘Progression of Colonization’ (the period from 1886 to 1918) we move to the second floor. In 1886 the Hokkaido Prefectural Government was set up and a long-term development plan created. Land surveys were undertaken, and farming villages established to increase the number of immigrants from the rest of Japan. There is a diorama of herring fishing (important in the 1890s, but now non-existent due to over-fishing) and a model of a potato starch manufacturing plant.

Theme Six, the period 1918-1945, is called ‘From recession to World War’ and shows the boom and bust in the years between the two world wars. Theme Seven is dedicated to the Postwar Period, 1945-1960. Characteristic for the meager years after the war is an iron pot on display, which was recycled from a soldier’s helmet. Since 1952, with a new development plan from the central government, the development of Hokkaido’s resources and its integration into the national economy progressed swiftly. Theme Eight, finally, takes a peek at tomorrow’s Hokkaido on a large display screen

53-2, Konopporo, Atsubetsu-cho, Atsubetsu-ku, Sapporo, Hokkaido 004-0006

9:30-16:30; CL Mon, NY, NH (except 5/3-5/5, 9/15, 9/23, 11/3)

From JR Sapporo Station take the JR Chitose Line to Shin Sapporo Station or the Tozai Subway Line to Shin Sapporo terminal. Then take a JR Bus (Kaitaku-no-Mura Line) at platform 10 and get off at Kinenkan-iriguchi

Komatsu Hitoshi: Hermit Painter from Ohara (Museums)

Komatsu Hitoshi (1902-1989) is an interesting nihonga painter to whom a small gallery has been dedicated in Ohara, on the road leading to Jakkoin and Sanzenin, in the northern part of Kyoto. We visit on a cold day, when snow covers the fields.

Komatsu Hitoshi Museum, Kyoto
[Entrance of Komatsu Hitoshi Gallery. Photo © Ad Blankestijn]

Komatsu Hitoshi was born in Yamagata Prefecture. In 1920 he moved to Tokyo to become a painter, but after winning a prize at an exhibition in Kyoto, he settled down in the old capital. He studied under renowned renovator Tsuchida Bakusen and later exhibited at the Inten, the largest exhibition of Japanese-style paintings. Living a secluded life in Ohara from age 25 until his death almost 65 years later, and sporting a long, snow-white beard, people considered him as a typical hermit painter.

Komatsu Hitoshi made his most characteristic paintings in a sort of pointillist sumie (Indian ink) style. He is famous for his panoramic screens of the Mogami River or the scenery of Ohara, enormous canvasses which he painted in meticulous detail.

The Komatsu Hitoshi Gallery consists of a few simple structures (partly the painter’s refurbished residence) and the paintings have unfortunately been harmed a bit by dampness and perhaps the fact that they are exhibited for too long periods at a stretch (we are talking about Japanese-style paintings, made on paper with mineral paints), but this museum offers an interesting glimpse into the world of a delicate artist.

Besides the monochrome works, there is also a uniquely colorful painting of an Ohara-me, a young woman from Ohara carrying vegetables in a basket on her head.

When we leave the last of the four galleries, which is dedicated to the person of Komatsu Hitoshi and also has his portrait on an altar, and step through the small garden, it is as if we meet a sudden apparition: a hermit with a long white beard is chopping wood, looks up, smiles at us. As if the portrait has come alive...

Automatically, we greet back, flabbergasted we walk on, but decide it must be the son of the painter... or the grandson? ...without knowing whether he had a son.

Who else could it have been?
Tel: 075-744-2318
Hrs: 10:00-17:00; CL Mon, NY. The museum is now only open on appointment, so call in advance!
Fee: 800 yen.
Access: Take Kyoto bus 17 or 18 from Kyoto St to Ohara and get off at Todera; then a 15 min walk through the fields on the side of the bus stop). 

May 20, 2012

Atsumi Kiyoshi (Actor, "Tora-san")

Atsumi Kiyoshi (1928-1996; 渥美清; real name: Tadokoro Yasuo) was a Japanese film actor famous for his impersonation of "Tora-san." Atsumi was born in Tokyo and made his TV debut in 1956. A year later he also appeared on the big screen. His first success came in the comic film “Dear Mr. Emperor” (Haikei Tenno Heika-sama, 1963) in which he played a lovable, innocent character.

Although Atsumi played in various films (I was pleasantly surprised to see him in the period film Kutsukake Tokijiro), he only became a real star with his main role in the Tora-san films ("Otoko wa tsurai yo"), a super-long series, even for Japan (48 installments!), which ran from 1969 to 1995. In fact, Atsumi became synonymous with the Tora-san character, and he stopped playing in other films, concentrating on a role which increasingly seemed part of himself. After his death at age 68, the series was discontinued, Tora-san died with Atsumi Kiyoshi. The Tora-san character was jointly created by Atsumi Kiyoshi and the director / script writer of the series, Yamada Yoji. (Yamada Yoji directed all Tora-san films except the third and the fourth one).

As Tora-san, Atsumi Kiyoshi plays a tekiya, a yakuza-type who peddles junk at temple and shrine festivals. He travels around the country with his suitcase filled with cheap stuff, dressed in geta, a brown, checked jacket, a hat and a haramaki (a knitted stomach band). Although he is rather excitable (more so in the early films than in the later ones), he also has a big heart. He is yasashii (soft, friendly) and as the Japanese used to call it, "wet." He always wants to help others, but as he is a bad listener and too hasty, unfortunately he often makes the situation worse. In the course of the long series Tora-san became nothing less than a national hero.

All films follow the same pattern: Tora-san returns home to Shibamata, where he is warmly welcomed, especially by his half-sister Sakura (who functions as his surrogate mother), but inevitably he starts an argument or a quarrel. In a huff, he sets out for the Japanese countryside, where he meets a damsel in distress, helps her with whatever problem she has, and becomes infatuated with her. Tora-san in love is so shy that he is a sight to behold - he is unable to declare himself and only stutters. From the side of the "Madonna" usually there seems to be more sisterly affection than love, but Tora is blind to this. At this point usually follows another visit to Shibamata, with the girlfriend, so that the family can shake their heads at the lovelorn Tora-san. Bumbling along, he usually ends up uniting his girlfriend with another man (a husband from which she had run away, a boyfriend with whom she just had quarreled, etc). This is also partly out of kindness. And after that he sets out again on his travels to heal his broken heart.

From the 9th film, all films start with a dream sequence, in which Tora-san, while on his travels, dreams about his family in Shibamata. The dream is usually a fantasy (Tora-san as cowboy, gangster, pirate and so on), in which  a heroic Tora-san saves the life of his beloved sister Sakura.

Each film features a different actress as Tora-san's love interest (called a "Madonna") and also one or two different regions where this time his travels are centered. Usually, one film was released in the summer holidays, and one in the winter holidays, around New Year (although in the 1990s only one film a year was made).

Here is the basic dramatis personae:
  • Sakura, Tora-san's kind-hearted half-sister - always played by Baisho Chieko.
  • Suwa Hiroshi, Sakura's husband, played by Maeda Gin
  • Mitsuo, Sakura and Hiroshi's son, played by Yoshioka Hidetaka (27-48) and others
  • Tatsuzo, Tora-san's elderly uncle, and Tsune, Tora-san's elderly aunt. Tatsuzo and Tsune run a traditional sweets (dango) shop in the shopping street leading to the main gate of the well-known Taishakuten temple in Shibamata. Tatsuzo was played by Morikawa Shin (1-8), Matsumura Tatsuo (9-13) and Shimojo Masami (14-48); Tsune by Mizaki Chieko
  • Katsura Umetaro ("Tako Shacho"), the owner of the printing company next door, where Hiroshi works and who is treated as part of the family - played by Dazai Hisao.
  • Gozen-sama, the priest of Taishakuten, played by Ryu Chishu.
  • Genko, a helper in the temple, played by Sato Gajiro.
  • In a number of films between 1984 and 1987, Miho Jun plays Akemi, the grown-up daughter of Katsura Umetaro.
Here is a list of all films with their Madonnas and locations:
  1. Otoko wa tsurai yo / It's Tough Being a Man OR Tora-san, Our Lovable Tramp (1969)

    Synopsis: Torajiro, an itinerant peddler, returns home after many years' absence. He attends his sister's wedding, falls in love with the priest's daughter (who is engaged to another man), and causes overall embarrassment.

    Madonna: Mitsumoto Sachiko (Fuyuko, the daughter of the priest of Taishakuten).

    Guests: Shimura Takashi.

    Location: Shibamata, Nara, Amanohashidate

    Review: "A-class." One of the best of the series, fresh and lively. DVD Talk; Molodezhnaja (G); Official Torasan site (JP).

  2. Zoku Otoko wa tsurai yo / Tora-san's Cherished Mother (1969)

    Synopsis: Tora-san meets his real mother in Kyoto. Back in Tokyo, he visits his old English teacher, where he falls in love with the daughter.

    Madonna:  Sato Orie (Natsuko, daughter of  Tora's old teacher).

    Guests: Tono Eijiro, Yamazaki Tsutomu, Miyako Chocho

    Location: Kyoto, Tsuge in Mie

    Reviews:  "B-class." DVD TalkMolodezhnaja (G); Official Torasan Site (JP).

  3. Futen no Tora / Tora-san,  His Tender Love  (1970)

    Synopsis: Tora san discovers that his family is arranging a marriage for him. He leaves for the countryside where he falls in love with the owner of an inn - who without his knowing it is already in a secret romance. Helmed by Morisaki Azuma.

    Madonna: Aratama Michiyo (Oshizu, the Kami-san (owner) of a ryokan).

    Location: Yunoyama Onsen in Mie.

    Reviews:  "B-class." DVD TalkMolodezhnaja (G); Official Torasan Site(JP).

  4. Shin otoko wa tsurai yo / Tora-san's Grand Scheme (1970)

    Synopsis: Tora wins at the races and wants to arrange a trip to Hawaii for his aunt and uncle, but the travel agent absconds with the money. Tora falls in love with a teacher renting a room in his uncle's house.  Helmed by Kobayashi Shunichi.

    Madonna: Kurihara Komaki (Haruko, a kindergarten teacher).

    Location: Yufuin in Oita.

    Reviews:  "C-class." DVD TalkMolodezhnaja (G); Official Torasan site (JP). 

  5. Bokyohen / Tora-san's Runaway (1970)

    Synopsis: Tora-san tries to bring an old friend, who is lying on his deathbed in Sapporo, together with his son. When he works in a tofu shop, he falls in love with the daughter of the owner.

    Madonna: Nagayama Aiko (Setsuko, the daughter of the owner of a tofu-shop).

    Location: Urayasu, Sapporo & Otaru

    Reviews:  "C-class." Watch the steamlocs! Molodezhnaja (G); Official Torasan Site (JP). 

  6. Junjohen / Torasan's Shattered Romance (1971)

    Synopsis: When Tora-san returns to Shibamata, he finds a relative of Aunt Tsune at home, who has run away from her husband. Of course, he falls in love...

    Madonna: Wakao Ayako (Yuko, the wife of a writer).

    Guest: Morishige Hisaya.

    Location: Fukuejima in Nagasaki (Gotoretto), Hamanoko in Shizuoka

    Reviews:  "B-class." Molodezhnaja (G); Official Torasan site (JP).

  7. Funtohen / Tora-san, the Good Samaritan (1971)

    Synopsis: Tora-san again meets his mother and is told to marry as she wants to have grandchildren. He meets Hanako, a young woman who seems a bit slow like himself...

    Madonna:  Sakakibara Rumi (Hanako, former factory girl)

    Guests: Miyako Chocho, Tanaka Kunie

    Location:  Echigo Hirose in Niigata, Numazu in Shizuoka, Ajigasawa & Hirosaki in Aomori

    Reviews:  "B-class." Molodezhnaja (G); Official Torasan Site (JP).

  8. Torajiro Koi-uta / Tora-san's Love Call (1971)

    Synopsis: Tora-san falls in love with a beautiful widow, but sets out on a trip again without confessing his feelings towards her.

    Madonna:  Ikeuchi Junko (Takako, the owner of a coffee shop)

    Guest: Shimura Takashi

    Location: Takahashi in Okayama

    Reviews:  "B-class." Molodezhnaja (G); Official Torasan Site (JP).

  9. Shibamata Bojo / Tora-san's Dear Old Home (1972)

    Synopsis: When traveling in Fukui, Tora-san meets three women. One of them follows him to Shibamata, and he believes she has fallen in love with him, although she hopes to marry a potter in the countryside. The first Tora-san film to employ an opening dream-sequence, which became a standard feature. Also the first film in the series with Matsumura Tatsuo as Tora-san's uncle, after the death of Morikawa Shin.

    Madonna: Yoshinaga Sayuri (Utako, the daughter of a novelist)

    Location: Kanazawa, Fukui.

    Reviews:  "A-class." DVD TalkMolodezhnaja (G); Official Torasan Site (JP).

  10. Torajiro Yume-makura / Tora-san's Dream-Come-True (1972)

    Synopsis: Tora-san competes with an arrogant professor for the affection of Chiyo, but both loose...

    Madonna:  Yachigusa Kaoru (Chiyo, owner of a beauty salon).

    Guest: Tanaka Kinuyo.

    Location: Narai in Nagano

    Reviews:  "C-class." DVD TalkMolodezhnaja (G); Official Torasan Site (JP).

  11. Torajiro wasurenakusa / Tora-san's Forget Me Not

    Synopsis: Tora-san meets the singer Lily, a wanderer like himself. He gets ill when working on a farm and recuperates with his family in Shibamata. Then Lily appears and steals the hearts of the whole family...

    Madonna:  Asaoka Ruriko (Lily, a singer).

    Location: Abashiri in Hokkaido

    Reviews:   "B-class." Molodezhnaja (G); Official Torasan Site  (JP).

  12. Watashi no Torasan / Tora-san Loves an Artist (1973)

    Synopsis: Tora meets an old school friend, who takes him to his sister's house. Tora falls in love with her, but the sister is an artist who is married to her art.

    Madonna:  Kishi Keiko (Ritsuko, an artist)

    Guest: Tsugawa Masahiko

    Location: Amagusa and Aso in Kumamoto,  Beppu in Oita

    Reviews:   "B-class." DVD-TalkMolodezhnaja (G); Official Torasan Site (JP).

  13. Torajiro koi-yatsure / Tora-san's Lovesick (1974)

    Synopsis: Tora-san again meets Utako, whose husband has died. He persuades her to come to Tokyo, where she decides to devote her life to mentally handicapped children instead of marrying him.

    Madonna:  Yoshinaga Sayuri (Utako, the daughter of a novelist - 2nd appearance)

    Location: Tsuwano and Yunotsu Onsen in Shimane

    Reviews:  "B-class." DVD-Talk; Molodezhnaja (G); Official Torasan Site (JP).

  14. Torajiro Komamori uta / Tora-san's Lullaby (1974)

    Synopsis: A troubled father leaves his baby with Tora-san, who takes the child to his family. They think Tora-san is the father...

    Madonna:  Toake Yukiyo (Kyoko, a nurse)

    Location: Karatsu in Saga, Isonebe Onsen in Gunma

    Reviews:  "B-class." DVD-TalkMolodezhnaja (G);  Official Torasan Site  (JP).   

  15. Torajiro Aiaigasa / Tora-san's Rise and Fall (1975)

    Synopsis: Tora-san takes home Lily, an old girlfriend. His family tries to arrange a marriage between them, but of course there are the usual misunderstandings hampering success.

    Madonna:  Asaoka Ruriko (Lily, a singer - second appearance)

    Guest: Funakoshi Eiji

    Location: Aomori, Hakodate, Oshamanbe

    Reviews:  "C-class." Molodezhnaja (G);  Official Torasan Site  (JP).

  16. Katsushika Risshihen / Tora-san, the Intellectual (1975)

    Synopsis: Tora-san falls in love with a beautiful archaeology student staying with his family and takes up intellectual pursuits to impress her.

    Madonna:  Kashiyama Fumie (Reiko, a graduate student of archaeology)

    Location: Sagae in Yamagata

    Reviews:  "B-class." Molodezhnaja (G); Official Torasan Site  (JP).   

  17. Torajiro yuyake koyake / Tora-san's Sunrise and Sunset (1976)

    Synopsis: Tora-san meets a supposedly homeless old man and in recompense for the help he provides, he receives a drawing in recompense. It later appears that this man is a famous artist.

    Madonna:  Taichi Kiwako (Botan, a geisha)
    Guest: Uno Jukichi

    Location: Tatsuno in Hyogo

    Reviews: "B-class." DVD-Talk. Molodezhnaja (G);  Official Torasan Site  (JP).

  18. Torajiro junjoshishu / Tora-san's Pure Love (1976)

    Synopsis: Tora's infatuation with the teacher of Mitsuo causes trouble in the family. Later, he falls in love with the teacher's mother.

    Madonna:  Kyo Machiko (Yagyu Aya, the mother of Mitsuo's teacher)

    Guest: Dan Fumi

    Location: Bessho Onsen in Nagano, Muikamachi in Niigata

    Reviews:  "B-class." DVD-TalkMolodezhnaja (G);  Official Torasan Site  (JP).

  19. Torajiro  to tonosama / Tora-san Meets His Lordship (1977)

    Synopsis: In Shikoku, Tora-san meets the descendant of the local daimyo (feudal lord). "His lordship" asks Tora to find the widow of his son, who now lives in Tokyo and is alienated from him.  

    Madonna:  Maya Kyoko (the lordship's daughter in law)

    Guests: Arashi Kanjuro, Miki Norihei

    Location: Ozu in Ehime

    Reviews:   "B-class." DVD-Talk. Molodezhnaja (G);  Official Torasan Site  (JP).

  20. Torajiro  ganbare! / Tora-san Plays Cupid (1977)

    Synopsis: Tora-san plays matchmaker, with disastrous results. 

    Madonna:  Fukimura Shiho (Fujiko, the sister of an electrician)

    Location: Hirado

    Reviews:  "B-class." DVD-Talk. Molodezhnaja (G);  Official Torasan Site  (JP).

  21. Torajiro  wagamichi wo yuku / Stage-struck Tora-san (1978)

    Synopsis: Tora-san and his friend Tomekichi run up a large bill in a ryokan in Nagasaki. Back in Tokyo, Tora-san falls in love with Nanako, a review dancer, and old school friend of Sakura.

    Madonna: Kinomi Nana (Nanako, a review dancer)

    Guest: Takeda Tetsuya

    Location: Tanohara Onsen in Kumamoto

    Review:  "C-class." DVD-TalkMolodezhnaja (G);  Official Torasan Site  (JP).

  22. Uwasa no Torajiro  / Talk of the Town Tora-san (1978)

    Synopsis: Traveling, Tora meets the father of Hitoshi who pays for a hotel room with geisha service, but also imparts some wisdom. In Tokyo, Tora-san helps Sanae, a divorced woman working in the family shop.

    Madonna: Ohara Reiko (Sanae, divorced woman)

    Guest: Murota Hideo, Izumi Pinko, Shimura Takashi

    Location: Kiso in Nagano, the Oi River in Shizuoka

    Review:    "B-class." Molodezhnaja (G);  Official Torasan Site  (JP).

  23. Tondeiru Torajiro  / Tora-san the Matchmaker (1979)

    Synopsis: Tora quarrels with his family because Mitsuo, the son of Sakura, has written negatively about him in a school composition. On his travels, he saves Hitomi from an attacker. She follows him to Shibamata - in her bridal clothes as she has run away from her marriage ceremony. Her mother and intended husband soon follow her.

    Madonna: Momoi Kaori (Hitomi, a run-away bride)

    Guest: Yuhara Masayuki

    Location: Shikotsuko in Hokkaido

    Review:    "C-class." DVD-Talk; Molodezhnaja (G);  Official Torasan Site  (JP).

  24. Torajiro  haru no yume / Tora-san's Dream of Spring (1979)

    Synopsis: When Tora-san returns home, he finds an American living in his room. Various intercultural misunderstanding ensue, especially since neither speaks the language of the other. Keiko, Mitsuo's English teacher helps out...

    Madonna: Kagawa Kyoko (Keiko, Mitsuo's English teacher)

    Guest: Herb Edelman

    Location: Wakayama

    Review:   "B-class." DVD-TalkMolodezhnaja (G);  Official Torasan Site  (JP).

  25. Torajiro  haibisukasu no hana / Tora-san's Tropical fever (1980)

    Synopsis: Lily (the lounge singer from No. 11 and 15) sends Tora-san a letter that she is terminally ill. Tora-san rushes to Okinawa to nurse her to health. A problem is that he is afraid of flying...

    Madonna: Asaoka Ruriko (Lily, a singer - 3rd appearance)

    Guest: Eto Jun

    Location: Okinawa, Karuizawa

    Review:    "A-class." DVD-TalkMolodezhnaja (G);  Official Torasan Site  (JP).

  26. Torajiro  kamome uta / Foster daddy, Tora! (1980)

    Synopsis: Tora-san decides to take care of the teenage daughter of a friend who has died. She can't even read or write so he put her to school, but then her boyfriend arrives...

    Madonna: Ito Ran (Sumire, a dropout from school)

    Guest: Matsumura Tatsuo

    Location: Esashi and Okushiri in Hokkaido, Tokushima

    Review:   "B-class."   DVD-TalkMolodezhnaja (G);  Official Torasan Site  (JP).

  27. Naniwa no koi no Torajiro  / Tora-san's Love in Osaka (1981)

    Synopsis: "Tako" disappears and Tora-san worries he has committed suicide, When he returns drunk, Tora quarrels with him. Later, Tora-san falls in love with a geisha from Osaka.  and encourages her to seek out her estranged brother. 

    Madonna: Matsuzaka Keiko (Fumi, a geisha from Osaka)

    Guest: Ashiya Gannosuke

    Location: Osaka, Tsushima

    Review:   "B-class."   DVD-TalkMolodezhnaja (G);  Official Torasan Site  (JP).

  28. Torajiro  kamifusen / Tora-san's Promise (1981)

    Synopsis: Tora-san gets drunk at an elementary class reunion. In Kyushu he meets an outspoken girl who follows him around, but an old friend and colleague tekiya makes him promise to marry his widow, Mitsue.

    Madonna: Otonashi Mikiko (Mitsue, the widow of another tekiya)

    Guest: Kishimoto Kayoko

    Location: Yoake in Oita, Akitsuki in Fukuoka, Yaizu in Shizuoka

    Review:   "B-class."   DVD-TalkMolodezhnaja (G);  Official Torasan Site  (JP).

  29. Torajiro ajisai no koi / Hearts and Flowers for Tora-san (1982)

    Synopsis: In Kyoto Tora-san gets drunk in the company of an elderly gentleman, who later is revealed as being a famous ceramist, a Living National Treasure. The maid of the artist, Agari, apparently falls in love with Tora-san.

    Madonna: Ishida Ayumi (Agari, a maid)

    Guest: Kataoka Nisaemon

    Location: Nagano, Kyoto, Tango, Hikone

    Review:   "B-class."   DVD-TalkOfficial Torasan Site  (JP).

  30. Hana mo arashi mo Torajiro / Tora-san, the Expert (1982)

    Synopsis: Tora-san quarrels with his family at dinner about the matsutake mushrooms Gozensame has kindly given them. Kicked out of the house by his uncle, he goes to Kyushu where he meets a young couple, Keiko and Saburo. Hs matchmaking efforts initially misfire...

    Madonna: Tanaka Yuko (Keiko)

    Guest: Sawada Kenji, Asaoka Yukiji

    Location: Yunohira Onsen and Beppu in Oita.

    Review:   "B-class."   DVD-TalkMolodezhnaja (G);  Official Torasan Site  (JP).

  31. Tabi to onna to Torajiro / Tora's Song of Love (1983)

    Synopsis: Tora-san appearance at Mitsuo's school party becomes a disaster, as expected. On the way to Sado island in Niigata Tora next meets a mysterious woman, who is a famous enka-singer who has run away from her manager.

    Madonna: Miyako Harumi (Kyo Harumi, an enka singer)

    Guest: Fujioka Takuya

    Location: Niigata, Sado, Hokkaido

    Review:   "B-class."   DVD-TalkMolodezhnaja (G); Official Torasan Site  (JP).

  32. Kuchibue wo fuku Torajiro / Tora Goes religious? (1983)

    Synopsis: Tora visits the temple in Okayama where the grave of his father-in-law is. The next day he has to impersonate the priest who is too drunk to perform his duties. He also falls in love with the daughter of the priest, but then his family arrives for a memorial service and quarrels about the inheritance.

    Madonna: Takeshita Keiko (Keiko, an employee in a travel agency)

    Guest: Matsumura Tatsuo, Nakai Kiichi, Sugata Kaoru

    Location: Takahashi and Innoshima in Okayama

    Review:    "A-class."  DVD-TalkMolodezhnaja (G);  Official Torasan Site  (JP).

  33. Yogiri ni musebu Torajiro  / Marriage Counselor Tora-san (1984)

    Synopsis: In Shibamata, preparations are made for the marriage of Tako's daugther. Tora, in Iwate, meets a lady barber who wants to join him as tekiya, but who next gets into an abusive relationship with a biker. Darker film, in which the stability of home life is contrasted with Tora-san's wandering and insecure existence.

    Madonna: Nakahara Rie (Fuko, a hairdresser)

    Guest: Watase Tsunehiko, Sato Bisaku, Akino Taisaku

    Location: Kitakami and Morioka in Iwate, Nemuro, Kushiro, Sapporo and Hakodate on Hokkaido

    Review:    "B-class."  DVD-TalkMolodezhnaja (G);  Official Torasan Site  (JP).

  34. Torajiro shinjitsu hitosuji / Tora-san's Forbidden Love (1984)

    Synopsis: Tora-san happens to come across a section-chief of a company and has hard drinking session with him. When the man disappears due to the pressure of his busy job, the beautiful wife asks Tora to help her look for him. Of course Tora has already fallen in love with her...

    Madonna:  Ohara Reiko (Fujiko, the wife of a missing salaryman - 2nd appearance) 

    Guest: Yonekura Masakane, Kazami Akiko, Tsushima Keiko, Tatsumi Ryutaro

    Location:  Ushiku in Ibaraki, Kagoshima 

    Review:    "B-class."  Molodezhnaja (G); Torasan (JP).

  35. Torajiro renaijuku / Tora-san, the Go-Between (1985)

    Synopsis: In Nagasaki, Tora-san helps an old woman who is wounded in a fall. When she dies, he meets her granddaughter and falls in love, but in the end has to act as go-between for her with a law student.

    Madonna: Higuchi Kanako (Egami Wakana, the granddaughter of a lady from Nagasaki)

    Guest: Hirata Mitsuru, Hatsui Kotoe

    Location: Amakusa in Kumamoto, Gotoretto in Nagasaki and Kazuno in Akita

    Review:    "B-class."  DVD-TalkMolodezhnaja (G);  Official Torasan Site  (JP).

  36. Shibamata yori ai wo komete / Tora-san's Island Encounter (1985)

    Synopsis: Akemi, the married daughter of Tako-Shacho, has run away because her husband neglects her. Tora-san follows her to Shikinejima Island, where he falls in love with a junior high school teacher leading a school excursion.

    Madonna: Kurihara Komaki (Machiko, a junior high school teacher - 2nd appearence)

    Guest: Kawatano Takuzo

    Location: Aizu in Fukushima, Shimoda, Shikinejima and Hamanako in Shizuoka, 

    Review:    "A-class."  DVD-TalkMolodezhnaja (G); Official Torasan Site  (JP).

  37. Kofuku no aoi tori / Tora-san's Bluebird Fantasy (1986)

    Synopsis: In Kyushu, in an area where the coal mines have been closed, Tora-san helps the daughter of an old friend who has just died. She follows him to Shibamata but falls in love with an apiring artist. 

    Madonna: Shihomi Etsuko (Miho, the daughter of a Kabuki actor)

    Guest: Nagabuchi Tsuyoshi, Sakurai Zenri

    Location: Hagi and Shimonoseki in Yamaguchi, Iizuka in Fukuoka and Lake Ashinoko

    Review:    "B-class."   DVD-TalkMolodezhnaja (G); Official Torasan Site  (JP).

  38. Shiretoko Bojo / Tora-san Goes North (1987)

    Synopsis: Tora-san helps in the family shop in Shibamata, but gets everything wrong. In Hokkaido he meets a veterinarian who is estranged from his daughter since she married in Tokyo. Again a beautiful task for Tora-san.

    Madonna: Takeshita Keiko (Rinko, the daughter of a veterinarian - 2nd appearance)

    Guest: Mifune Toshiro, Awaji Keiko

    Location:  Sapporo, Kawayu Onsen and Shiretoko in Hokkaido; Nagara in Gifu.

    Review:   "B-class."  DVD-Talk. Molodezhnaja (G);  Official Torasan Site  (JP).

  39. Torajiro monogatari / Tora-san Plays Daddy (1987)

    Synopsis: A boy whose dead father was Tora's friend arrives in Shibamata. Tora-san decides to take him along and look for his mother. When the boy gets ill in southern Nara prefecture, a young woman helps out.

    Madonna: Akiyoshi Kumiko (Takai Takako)

    Guest: Satsuki Midori, Kochi Momoko

    Location: Osaka, Wakayama, Yoshino, Iseshima, Futamigaura

    Review:    "B-class."  Molodezhnaja (G);  Official Torasan Site  (JP).

  40. Torajiro sarada kinenbi / Tora-san's Salad-Day Memorial (1988)

    Synopsis: In Komoro, Tora-san helps an elderly woman and through her, meets a female doctor. They develop tender feelings and soon the doctor arrives with her daughter in Shibamata.

    Madonna: Mita Yoshiko (Machiko, a doctor)

    Guest: Mita Yuki, Omi Toshinori, Suzuki Mitsue

    Location: Komoro and Matsumoto in Nagano, Shimabara in Nagasaki

    Review:   "A-class."   Molodezhnaja (G);  Official Torasan Site  (JP).

  41. Torajiro kokoro no tabiji / Tora-san Goes to Vienna (1989)

    Synopsis: On his travels, Tora-san helps a man who wanted to commit suicide and gives him new energy to live. Out of gratitude, the man invites Tora to come with him on a trip to Vienna, but Tora-san soon feels homesick.

    Madonna: Takeshita Keiko (Kumiko, a tour guide - 3rd appearance)

    Guest: Awaji Keiko, Emoto Akira

    Location: Matsuhima and Kurihara in Miyagi, Vienna

    Review:    "B-class."  Molodezhnaja (G); Official Torasan Site  (JP).

  42. Boku no ojisan / Tora-san, My Uncle (1989)

    Synopsis: Tora's nephew Mitsuo is troublesome, so Tora takes him out for a drink and both come home drunk. Mitsuo is in love with Izumi and travels to Kyushu to find her. There he unexpectedly also meets Tora-san again.

    Madonna: Goto Kumiko (Oikawa Izumi, Mitsuo's girlfriend)

    Guest: Dan Fumi, Natsuki Mari, Bito isao

    Location: Fukuroda in Ibaraki, Saga 

    Review:    "B-class."  Molodezhnaja (G);  Official Torasan Site  (JP).

  43. Torajiro no kyujitsu / Tora-san Takes a Vacation (1990)

    Synopsis: Continues the story of Mitsuo and Izumi. Izumi's father has disappeared and Tora-san teams up with Izumi's mother to travel to Kyushu to find him.

    Madonna:  Goto Kumiko (Oikawa Izumi, Mitsuo's girlfriend) 

    Guest: Natsuki Mari, Terao Akira, Miyazaki Yoshiko

    Location: Hita in Oita, Nagoya

    Review:   "C-class."   Molodezhnaja (G);  Official Torasan Site  (JP).

  44. Torajiro no kokuhaku / Tora-san Confesses (1991)

    Synopsis: Again continues the story of Mitsuo and Izumi. Izumi is living in the countryside and Mitsuo is lonely, but Tora-san manages to bring them together.

    Madonna:  Goto Kumiko (Oikawa Izumi, Mitsuo's girlfriend) 

    Guest: Yoshida Hideko, Natsuki Mari

    Location: Tottori, Hirukawamura in Gifu, Oku-Ena

    Review:    "C-class."  Molodezhnaja (G);  Official Torasan Site  (JP).

  45. Torajiro no seishun / Tora-san makes Excuses (1992)

    Synopsis: In Miyazaki Tora tries to win the heart of Choko, a hairdresser. Mitsuo's girlfriend Izumi helps him with advice. When Tora hurts his foot, also Mitsuo travels to Miyazaki.

    Madonna: Fubuki Jun (Choko, a hairdresser)

    Guest: Goto Kumiko

    Location: Hinan in Miyazaki, Gero Onsen in Gifu

    Review:    "B-class."  Molodezhnaja (G);  Official Torasan Site  (JP).

  46. Torajiro no endan / Tora-san's Matchmaker (1993)

    Synopsis: Mitsuo has trouble finding a job and works as fisherman on Kotojima, an island in the Inland Sea. The family asks Tora to bring him back home.

    Madonna: Matsuzaka Keiko (Sakaide Yoko)

    Location: Kotohira in Kagawa; Shiwaku islands in the Inland Sea

    Review:    "B-class."  Molodezhnaja (G);  Official Torasan Site  (JP).

  47. Haikei Torajiro-sama / Tora-san's Easy Advice (1994)

    Synopsis: Mitsuo has landed his first job as salesman for a shoe factory. Tora travels along Lake Biwa and helps a beautiful tourist.

    Madonna: Katase Rino (Miya Noriko, a photographer)

    Guest: Makise Rigo, Kobayashi sachiko

    Location: Joetsu in Niigata, Nagahama at Lake Biwa in Shiga, Unzen in Nagasaki

    Review:    "C-class."  Molodezhnaja (G);  Official Torasan Site  (JP).

  48. Torajiro beni no hana / Tora-san to the Rescue (1995)

    Synopsis: Mitsuo has problems with his girlfriend Izumi and ends up in a bar in Amami Oshima, which happens to be run by Tora's girlfriend Lily. Tora-san has been helping in Kobe after the earthquake, but then also turns up in Lily's bar. 

    Madonna: Asaoka Ruriko (Lily, the singer - 4th appearance)

    Guest: Goto Kumiko, Tanaka Kunie

    Location: Amami Oshima, Kobe, Tsuyama in Okayama

    Review:    "B-class."  Molodezhnaja (G); Official Torasan Site  (JP).