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

December 31, 2015

Activities in 2015 on Japan Navigator, Splendid Labyrinths and Japanese Food Dictionary

Here is an overview of some major posts on my three blogs, Japan Navigator (about Japanese culture), Japanese Food Dictionary (about Japanese cuisine) and Splendid Labyrinths (about some non-Japan related cultural interests).

Looking back over the past year on my three blogs, I have in the first place been active on Japan Navigator, my blog about Japanese culture, where from March to September I have written a historical overview of Japanese film, from 1895 to 2014, in 17 installments. This was a lot of work (happily, I had already seen many of the films, having been a fan of Japanese films for the past 30 years), but it was interesting to follow the ups and downs in the film industry in detail through the years. Of course, the best years by far were the fifties through the early seventies, from classical films (Ozu, Kurosawa, Naruse, Kinoshita, etc.) to the New Wave and avant-garde (Oshima, Yoshida, Imamura, Shinoda, Masumura, etc.); a second New Wave, of the nineties (Kitano, Koreeda, Miike, Tsukamoto, etc.) unfortunately peaked before its time, and although today the quantity of Japanese films is staggering, quality is only so-so. Here is the list of all my posts from this year about the history of Japanese film:
1896-1909 - First Stirrings
1910-1919 - Development
1920-1929 - Art Films and Nihilistic Heroes
1930-1939 - Social Realism and Shoshimin-Eiga
1940-1949 - Censorship during War and Occupation
1950-1954 - Golden Age of the Classical Studio System
1955-1959 - Taiyozoku and other Youth Films
1960-1964 - The New Wave
1965-1969 - Independent Productions
1970-1974 - Sex and Violence
1975-1979 - Decline and Stagnation
1980-1989 - Disintegration of the Studio System
1990-1994 - The Rise of Indies
1995-1999 - Revival
2000-2004 - Postmodern Peak
2005-2009 - Cinematic Bubble
2010-2014 - Risk Avoidance
I have also picked up an old project, to give an overview of Japanese sake by prefecture. I have started by considerably updating my previous posts (some of them dating back to 2009), and recently added Yamanashi, Nagano and Niigata. This series will be continued in the coming year. So far, the following sake-drenched posts have appeared:

Hokkaido/Tohoku: Hokkaido - Aomori - Akita - Iwate - Miyagi - Yamagata - Fukushima
Kanto area: Ibaraki - Tochigi - Gunma - Saitama - Chiba - Tokyo - Kanagawa
Hokushinetsu: Yamanashi - Nagano - Niigata

On Splendid Labyrinths, my blog about non-Japanese culture - literature, art, classical music and film - my major activity has been to write a series about chamber music for stringed instruments, either with or without piano. In the field of classical music, I am primarily interested in chamber music, symphonic music and 18th century music, all abstract music without words which I regard as the highest achievement of Western art music. My chamber music posts have been as follows:
Precisely because of my lifelong focus on symphonic music and neglect of music with words (oratorio, cantata, mass, opera), I decided in early 2012 as a sort of "counterweight" to study the complete series of cantatas by Bach. At the same time, I decided to follow the Lutheran church year from New Year's Day on so that I could place the works in their ideological context. This was no different than my study of Confucianism, Daoism, Buddhism or Shinto in the past, and I must say that looking from the outside in, Lutheran culture seemed sometimes stranger to me than Chinese or Japanese culture! I was planning to finish this project in one year, but it took four, also because I didn't want to spam my blog with only posts about Bach cantatas. Via a final spurt in the last few weeks, I have now finished the cantatas for the cycle of the whole church year (I have only left out some cantatas for special occasions). Here is the total cycle of cantatas of that four-year project, from New Year's Day to the Sunday after Christmas:

(1) New Year's Day (2) New Year I (3) Epiphany (4) Epiphany I (5) Epiphany II (6) Epiphany III (7) Epiphany IV (8) Feast of Purification of Mary (9) Septuagesima (10) Sexagesima (11) Quinquagesima (Estomihi) (12) The Consecration of a New Organ (13) The Inauguration of the Town Council (14) Oculi (15) Wedding Cantatas (16) Feast of Annunciation (17) Palm Sunday (18) Easter Sunday (19) Easter Monday (20) Easter Tuesday (21) Easter I (Quasimodogeniti) (22) Easter II (23) Easter III (24) Easter IV (25) Easter V (26) Ascension Day (27) Ascension I (28) Pentecost Sunday (29) Pentecost Monday (30) Pentecost Tuesday (31) Trinity Sunday (32) Trinity I (33) Trinity II (34) Trinity III (35) St. John's Day (36) Trinity IV (37) Visitation (38) Trinity V (39) Trinity VI (40) Trinity VII (41) Trinity VIII (42) Trinity IX (43) Trinity X (44) Trinity XI (45) Trinity XII (46) Trinity XIII (47) Trinity XIV (48) Trinity XV (49) Trinity XVI (50) Trinity XVII (51) Trinity XVIII (52) Trinity XIX (53) Trinity XX (54) Trinity XXI (55) Trinity XXII (56) Trinity XXIII (57) Trinity XXIV (58) Trinity XXV-XXVII (59) Advent I-IV (60) Christmas Day (61) Second Day of Christmas (62) Third Day of Christmas (63) Sunday after Christmas.

And finally, on Japanese Food Dictionary my posts have been fewer, but at the end of the year I have written a small series about the major flavorings of the Japanese cuisine:

The concept of umami which is central to the Japanese kitchen;
based on that idea, dashi, the basic stock which gives Japanese cuisine its "Japanese character;"
konbu (kelp) and katsuobushi (dried, smoked and fermented bonito flakes), the two main ingredients of dashi;
and miso and soy sauce, the other basic flavorings of the Japanese kitchen which are also based on umami.