Archive for July, 2011

July 29, 2011

Botan Doro (The Peony Lantern): Otsuyu bewitches Ogiwara in famous ghost story

Botan Doro (The Peony Lantern): Otsuyu bewitches Ogiwara in famous ghost story

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The time is hundreds of years ago in old Japan when the forces of Buddhism and Shintoism were strong.  Therefore, the supernatural and the real world were often connected and in the dead of night, where shadows went unseen but the feeling of coldness could be felt, people would tell ghost stories and while some were pure myths, others held grains of truth or deep mystery.

The setting for my story, which is based on Japanese ghost stories, begins in Koyasan where the local Buddhist priest was telling the story of Botan Doro (The Peony Lantern).   People had been waiting ages because they knew that he could tell ghost stories with passion and the setting was very mysterious.

Fog was descending on Mount Koya and the sound of a rumbling storm led to enormous anticipation and inner-fear because the darkness of night meant that the walk home would be nervous.

Twelve people had gathered and the Buddhist priest welcomed them one by one before he began.  The backdrop was also dramatic because the local graveyard was visible to the gathering place despite the closing fog. 

Koyasan – Modern Tokyo Times image

Then he began to tell the story of Botan Doro by beckoning them even closer and this added to the suspense and feel of the occasion. He then spoke in a softly voice and told them about Ogiwara Shinnojo.

Ogiwara Shinnojo was a samurai warrior but his heart was full of woe because he was a widow.  At night he felt so alone and memories of the past came back to haunt him and it appeared that he would never feel the fluttering heart of love again.

His place of abode was surrounded by the countryside and in each room you could feel emptiness and no longer could the sound of happiness be heard by locals who would visit from time to time.

Each night Ogiwara would sit on his porch and he would enter the dream world of his past on a good night. However, he mainly felt little because of daily silence all around him apart from the noises of nature, which was the only sign of real life in his world. Therefore, in time even this became like a hollow reality because the more he looked and waited for something to happen the more it seemed that nothing would happen.

Then one night, when his heart felt so low, he saw a stunning young lady with lovely long black hair and features which melted his heart.  She was not alone because her loyal maid was carrying a lantern which was significant by the feature of a pony crest.

Ogiwara, despite being a samurai, was caught off guard because he did not think to ask where she came from or what she was doing in the dead of night.  Instead her deep brown eyes and long hair silenced all caution and soon he was smitten by Otsuyu and she in turn could feel the passion of Ogiwara.

The Buddhist priest stated “Ogiwara was vulnerable and all logic left his soul and instead he was tempted by the flesh and firm breasts of Otsuyu.” He continued “that with each night Ogiwara was being drawn into the world of the unknown but he could only see the mirror that he desired and yearned.”

After a short time Ogiwara and Otsuyu became lovers after he invited her in and seduced Otsuyu.  The maid was always patient and carrying the peony lantern during the nighttime. Therefore, she would just wait while Ogiwara and Otsuyu embraced in passion which went on throughout the night.

The day time now became a time of rest and sleeping for Ogiwara but he felt at peace with the world and lusted for the body and lips of Otsuyu.

Each time Ogiwara entered her when they made love he would feel more alive and his passion and love blinded him to all reality.  Therefore, the heated passion and looking at her naked body drew Ogiwara into a new world which he could not see or understand.

The priest then told the listening crowd that one day “A passing neighbor was concerned about Ogiwara and when he did not respond he looked through the small whole in the wall.  Immediately the old man felt sick because all he could see was Ogiwara fondling rotting flesh and this sent a shudder down his spine.”

The neighbor was elderly and the sight was revolting but Ogiwara had been bewitched by the beauty of Otsuyu and because of his own broken heart he was easily fooled.  The tender body and firm breasts were real to Ogiwara but little did he know that this had empowered Otsuyu and enabled her to appear like she once had been.

After this, the elderly neighbor got help from the local Buddhist priest and they both went together and chastised Ogiwara.  The priest warned that his soul was in mortal danger because he was being taken to the other world and the living world must not enter this environment because untold misery would happen and he would be damned and become like her.

At first Ogiwara was in shock because all logic had left him because he was besotted by Otsuyu.  However, he respected the Buddhist priest and knew that something didn’t make sense but his lonely heart was weak and crying out for the feel of passion, and the warmth of a beautiful lady.

After some time all agreed and Buddhist sutras called ofuda were placed around his home because no ghost could breakthrough these sutras. The ofuda sutras were special because they had magical powers.

For a short time Ogiwara could resist but the sobbing tears of Otsuyu and the maid was breaking his heart.  Ogiwara understood now that both belonged to the world of the dead but he felt that his life was like the living dead.

Despite all the warnings, and the sutras which would protect him, he could not resist their pleas because they were driving him mad with anguish and confusion.  After all, since being a widow he felt nothing in his heart until Otsuyu

The Buddhist priest who was telling the story stated that “Otsuyu and the maid would cry……please meet us, please Ogiwara, we miss you and you know Otsuyu loves you… not listen to others for it us who care for you.”

This created great pain inside the heart of Ogiwara and one night he could no longer resist their temptation and of course he yearned to touch Otsuyu all over because his mind was confused and trapped between two worlds. Therefore, he followed them and rejoined with Otsuyu and the maid.

The following day neighbors who had been distant decided to make a rare visit to see if Ogiwara was in good condition. However, it soon became apparent that he was not at home.  This set off alarm bells and the Buddhist priest feared the worse and after searching endlessly, but without any luck, it dawned on the old man to search the place where the dead were buried.

After searching the graveyard they found a crypt with the name Otsuyu on it and the same crypt held a maid inside because they had both been laid to rest together.  On opening the crypt they could see the peony crest and the worse was feared.

The Buddhist priest telling the story then said that “Their eyes gazed on Ogiwara because his corpse was entangled with Otsuyu for the last time but it appeared that the final minutes were full of fear judging by the face of Ogiwara.”  The priest continued by commenting that “After Ogiwara entered the crypt it shut by itself once he embraced Otsuyu to make love but this time she would never let him go and the last few minutes of his life were ended in a perverse and panic stricken nature.”

The fog had got stronger and an owl could be heard in the graveyard close to where the Buddhist was telling the story.  Then the priest told everyone to blow out the candles and that it was time to go home alone. However, he told everyone to be vigilant and to seek guidance when unsure.

With this, everybody set off home and while the Buddhist priest did not fear the dead of night and the closing fog.  The others walked home nervously and were looking around often when a slight noise could be heard.

They all slept that night but it was a restless night sleep.  However, in the morning they all met and thanked the Buddhist priest for telling the story.

Before they parted the priest commented that “Some ghost stories are based on myths but others have elements of truth. Therefore, never be off guard like Ogiwara because some in the spirit world can’t rest because they are trapped and others are lonely and desire the weak in order to finally rest.”



July 29, 2011

Oda Nobunaga: a visionary who was open to Christianity in the 16th century

Oda Nobunaga: a visionary who was open to Christianity in the 16th century

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times


In all societies remarkable leaders emerge despite the constraints of culture, customs, religion and other factors.  In Japan this certainly applies to Oda Nobunaga who was born in 1534 and died in 1582. 

Oda Nobunaga had a real spark of energy and while people tend to focus on the violent aspect of this great leader of Japan, it is clear that this is a huge mistake.  After all, Oda Nobunaga utilized modernity in many ways and he introduced new thinking which gave greater freedom to the peasantry in the economic sphere.

The legacy of Oda Nobunaga is very strong and under him the Christian faith began to spread in Japan.  He clearly did not follow the “fortress Buddhism” of the Edo period which would ultimately kill every single Christian in this brutal period for Christians in Japan.

On the contrary, he understood how Buddhist elites abused power and preserved the status quo.  Sadly, Oda Nobunaga’s thinking would not be shared by the majority of the leaders who would follow him and all individuals would have to register at Buddhist temples in the Edo period.

Therefore, Oda Nobunaga does create problems for Japanese individuals who revere the Edo period or who may have nationalistic tendencies.  After all, Oda Nobunaga would learn from the outside world and he would listen to what Christian missionaries had to say.

In many ways, the spirit of Oda Nobunaga is often underestimated or undervalued because he challenged many conventions and he neither supported rigid stratification and nor did he bow down to the feudal mentality of Buddhism at this time.

Therefore, Oda Nobunaga might be stuck in Japanese history but he truly belongs to world history because of his ambition, thinking, and modern concepts of adopting change in order to transform society.

Also, the violent aspect of Oda Nobunaga is over-played because it was clear that the power structures were based on self-interests and maintaining the firm stratification of society in order to further increase their respective power bases. This meant that peasants had little room in the field of trade and they were tied to poverty because of the rigid system.

At the same time the Buddhist hierarchy was powerful in Japan in this period or what could be deemed Japan in this period.  After all, the competing power structures meant that this country was disjointed and lacked any real centralization which could enforce and maintain a strong unitary state.   

Therefore, Oda Nobunaga would be the key in the centralization of Japan but the visionary aspect of Oda Nobunaga would not be shared and this applies to opening up Japan.  However, the legacy of Oda Nobunaga enabled the Edo period to begin because of his policies and unifying tendencies which were followed by the next two leaders of Japan.

In this period of history it is difficult to find the concept of Italy, Japan, Germany, and virtually all future nation states because structures were lose and the center was weak.  Also, the sense of national identity did not exist throughout the unitary nation state and these concepts only became a reality in the future.

The unitary nation state of Japan in the period of Oda Nobunaga and throughout the Edo Period was very different and modern Japan would not fully materialize until the Meiji Restoration of 1868 which would centralize and expand the power of the center.

Therefore, Oda Nobunaga’s centralization was based on the main power bases in Japan that existed in the 16th century. However, the Ainu, the people of Ryukyu (Okinawa), the nature of the fudai system, ronin, and the power of certain daimyo groups, meant that all these factors prevented a truly unified Japan.

Modern day Hokkaido did not belong to Japan until the Meiji Restoration of 1868 changed everything because Meiji leaders would centralize fully and expand the entity of Japan. 

Despite this, Oda Nobunaga was a vital link in the chain which led to this event because it was he who enabled the Edo period to take place by his thinking and the Meiji Restoration was the ultimate objective of Oda Nobunaga.  It is also ironic that the first modernizer who favored religious freedom but was usurped by the thinking of Edo leaders and the Buddhist hierarchy; was ultimately successful when the Meiji Restoration took place because religious freedom would be restored and Meiji leaders would utilize modernity in order to protect Japan from outside powers.

During the period of Oda Nobunaga in Japan it was clear that Buddhist monks who were warlike had desired to control power, or to be at the center of power, had to be crushed in Mt. Hiei because of historical factors. From the Heike war and until the rise of Oda Nobunaga the Buddhist monastery of Mt. Hiei was instrumental in Japanese history.

This Buddhist monastery was instrumental in all major power processes and this especially applied to the military and political objectives of all major leaders. Therefore, Oda Nobunaga had to destroy this power concentration in order to fulfill his ambition and he truly did this because the conflict was bloody and brutal.

The warlike Tendai Buddhists of Mt. Hiei were neither meek nor mild and they had to be challenged by Oda Nobunaga in order for him to set the stage for centralization. The conflict was bloody on both sides and mercy and compassion would not be shown by both forces who fully understood the situation and what was at stake.

This conflict culminated with every single Hiei monk being slaughtered and the Buddhist monastery was destroyed.  Again, Oda Nobunaga was revolutionary because just like Islamic power structures in modern day Afghanistan which are preventing modernization and desire to preserve their power base; Oda Nobunaga would crush an established power base which was hindering Japan and which had no intent on making life easier for the peasantry in this period.

Oda Nobunaga would show no compassion but simply move on to his next objective because he knew that this victory would free him to concentrate on greater goals.  This applies to centralization, modernity, economic policies, strengthening the military base, and utilizing firearms in order to create a future dynamic state based on commerce and self-preservation in a hostile world.

Once more the commercial and economic aspect of Oda Nobunaga’s thinking would be hindered by Edo leaders but this factor can’t be pinned on Oda Nobunaga.  Therefore, the Meiji Restoration would also resemble the modernization of his thinking but of course because of the huge gap in time then on a grander scale.

It is factual that Oda Nobunaga was a leader who would use violence in order to challenge the old order but he clearly had no option.  Either his policies of centralization would challenge the status quo and enable a new power base to emerge or the countless divisions would hinder the country.

Sadly, despite Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu being a link with Oda Nobunaga this only applied to their shared interest of a centralized power base.  Therefore, the following leaders after him did not share either his visionary ideas or his openness to the Christian faith and the same applies to economic policies.

The Tokugawa period (Edo period) in time would resemble modern day Somalia where every Christian convert is searched for and then killed.  The only difference is that this was a Buddhist inquisition of Christianity and in time the followers of Shinto would resent the Buddhist ruling clique because of economic factors.

Simon August Thalmann comments that “Buddhism wasn’t devalued as much for a perceived foreignness, however, as much as for its association to the former feudal government of the Tokugawa period. Furthermore, the leaders of the Buddhist temples of the Tokugawa period had used their position to amass wealth for themselves at a time when many people were suffering (thereby) not helping their appeal to reformers in the Meiji era.”

“During the Tokugawa period, Shinto had suffered under Buddhist domination and influence, to the point where high-ranking Buddhist priest many times came to control Shinto shrines. During the Meiji period, reformers sought to “purify” Shinto from Buddhist influence by replacing Buddhism altogether. Opposition made this impossible, however, and finally the necessary arrangements were made for the coexistence of the two traditions.”

Therefore, while people mention the natural trinity which began with Oda Nobunaga and was followed by Toyotomi Hideyoshi and then Tokugawa Ieyasu.  It is part true because both Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu continued the thinking of Oda Nobunaga when it came to centralization but this is where it ends.

In other vital areas the visionary Oda Nobunaga was very different and ironically it would be the Meiji leaders which ended the Edo period who would be the real link with aspects of his thinking.

In another article that I wrote called Oda Nobunaga: free thinker and modernizer in 16th century Japan I comment that the modernizer Oda Nobunaga “…was very open minded and he supported modernity and this applies to allowing Christian missions, adopting modern firearms, greater fortifications of major castles, freeing people from the constraints on trade, opening up trade for peasants, rewarding people on merit and not just family lines, and other policies which were political and based on developing the economy.”

“Oda Nobunaga would do all this in such a short period of time and during all this radical change he would wage war against his enemies, attack a major center of Buddhism, form complex alliances, and set in motions the unitary state of Japan.”

“This unitary state of Japan, like mentioned before, was based on the power bases in Japan at this time and it must be remembered that modern day Hokkaido did not belong to Japan even during the start of the Meiji Restoration in 1868.”

“While many feudal leaders in the Western world, Hindu world, and Islamic world during this period supported stratification; Oda Nobunaga did not and instead he introduced major economic policies and rewarded people on merit within his system of thinking.”

“Oda Nobunaga, like the Hindu world, and unlike the Christian world or Islamic world in this period; supported religious freedom and he was open to new ideas in the realms of theology and thinking.” 

“He was revolutionary but sadly the Edo period would mainly isolate Japan, not fully because important daimyo’s like the Satsuma daimyo, would trade with Ryukyu (Okinawa), China, Korea, and other countries which would carry trade.” 

“However, stratification would once more be adopted during the Edo period, modernization would be curtailed, and the Christian faith would be eradicated because of major anti-Christian pogroms and massacres.”

“However, the spark that Oda Nobunaga unleashed was truly remarkable given this period of history and this applies to his views on modern warfare, economics, religious pluralism, tackling stratification, rewarding individuals on merit, freeing the peasants from untold misery, and other important areas.”

Oda Nobunaga was a free thinker but a man of his time when it came to military fighting.  Also, he was a very complex character and while he is sometimes viewed through the prism of violence this is misleading. After all, his enemies were equally violent but unlike his enemies, Oda Nobunaga had a long-term objective and he implemented policies in order to modernize.

Therefore, some Japanese and international historians may underestimate Oda Nobunaga because of his power concentration but he had hoped to revolutionize Japan. His legacy which was maintained by Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu was a distortion because it only applied to centralization but Oda Nobunaga challenged the status quo and implemented social and economic reforms alongside religious openness.

Oda Nobunaga clearly desired a more pluralistic society based on new economic theories, political modernization, and military concepts which would safeguard the centralized state and people of Japan who came under this political system.

If anything, Oda Nobunaga was before his time and the Meiji Restoration would resemble aspects of his thinking much more than the static nature of the Edo period.

July 27, 2011

Akihabara: escapism, modernity, maid cafe ladies and raw energy

Akihabara: escapism, modernity, maid cafe ladies and raw energy

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Tokyo is a very dynamic city and each district is special for various factors and the natural ambience changes quickly.  In Akihabara the distinctive nature of this place is because of the latest high tech gadgets on sale and if you want to buy the latest electronic models then you have come to the right place.  However, Akihabara is not just about electronic goods it is also famous for maid café bars, anime and a place where otaku can buy countless goods which are in demand.

Akihabara is a place which either suits you greatly or it isn’t your cup of tea and this is because of the nature of this part of Tokyo.  In Harajuku you have the vibrancy of youth and changing fashion styles. If you walk along the main street which connects you with Omotesando, then it is clear that you are in fashion paradise.  Not only this, you have the stunning Meiji shrine in the same environment near Harajuku train station and the ambient buzz of Omotesando Hills. Therefore, this area is a fantastic fusion of fashion, culture, and history.

However, in Akihabara this place really connects with people who suit what this place provides.  Therefore, Akihabara may not have the sophistication of Harajuku but if you want to visit an area which is buzzing because of commerce and escapism then Akihabara caters for you.

Maid café bars have spread from Akihabara to countless other nations and this is an increasing pulling power alongside anime and otaku goods.  This in itself means that surrealism and realism blends together like the fusion of life and this all adds to the uniqueness of Akihabara.   

It matters not if Akihabara is not your classical part of Tokyo because this place is internationally famous in its own right and with the booming nature of maid café bars then you feel like you have entered into another world. 

All major cities in the world have places of high fashion and independent fashion but in most major European cities you don’t have anything like Akihabara.  Therefore, this place is a magnet for tourists based on the latest electronic gadgets, anime, otaku culture, maid café bars and in the back streets you can also find old gadgets and computer games. This means that if you love searching around for hidden old computer games then Akihabara is a gem of a place to visit because it caters for old school individuals.

In another article I wrote about Akihabara I stated that “…the electronic beauty of Akihabara is that it is not only famous for newly developed electronic goods which have just entered the market but it is also a place where the old world of electronic goods can be found.  If you are nostalgic and see the world in pixels or you dream about the first videogame which got you fascinated by this new world. Then Akihabara also provides ample opportunities to search around and find your hidden childhood.”

“The Tokyo Anime Center is another added attraction which is located in Akihabara.  Although the building is not huge it is certainly welcoming and you can obtain information in Chinese, English, and Korean, and of course in the native language.”

“In the past Akihabara was staunchly known for being famous for electrical goods but the growth of anime and maid café is changing all this and now all are part and parcel of Akihabara and this fusion makes the visit even more intriguing and distinctive.”

“Therefore, the world of Dragon Ball, Evangelion, Mazinger Z, Ultra Man, and for me, Ghost in the Shell, opens up and the rich culture of Nara seems like a different planet. In truth, this is the beauty of Japan because it offers many worlds and environments within the same nation and clearly Tokyo is a city where you can find ample diversity and the same can be said about Osaka.”

This means that Akihabara is a gaming and anime heaven and for people who are fascinated by both then locals and tourists alike will certainly love the environment of Akihabara.

Maid café bars also attract many people and this image for tourists is now very potent and it should not be underestimated irrespective of your thinking.  After all, many nations have borrowed from Akihabara and this helps to keep the place fresh and open to new changes.

It is true that in Osaka you will find maid café bars and you have a few in Shinjuku but it appears much more natural in Akihabara because of the environment.  However, you also have a distinctive feel in Osaka because the culture in this city is very different from Tokyo and this applies to the energy level and places like Namba and Umeda are very dynamic.

Ladies involved in working in the maid café bar sector do dress sexily in a cute way and they look very appealing and with a special charm.  However, just like the world of anime it is an illusion and you don’t have sexual overtones in proper maid café bars.

It could be said that maid café ladies are the modern version of the old geisha in Japan but based on different concepts and with much more innocence. Therefore, while traditional geisha was based on a more subtle, placid and gentle role this can’t be said completely for maid café ladies. After all, while the piety part will apply via language it is clear that maid café ladies are more commercial and the bond between client and staff will also be different and clearly environmental factors and time are a million miles away.

Overall, it is easy to understand the appeal of Akihabara and this part of Tokyo ticks to a different beat but the beat continues to pulsate and attract vast numbers of people.  

July 23, 2011

Nuclear policy in Japan: PM Kan, Masayoshi Son and Yoshito Hori. Who do you trust?

Nuclear & Energy policy in Japan: PM Kan, Masayoshi Son and Yoshito Hori. Who do you trust?

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The March 11 earthquake which unleashed the potent tsunami continues to cause problems for parts of Japan.  However, these problems are multiple and this applies to housing, restructuring, helping orphans, and a host of other important areas.  Therefore, the knee-jerk reaction to either dismantle nuclear power or to fundamentally change Japan’s energy policy needs to be considered much more deeply.

Softbank President Masayoshi Son clearly supports the “alternative energy” theory but given the reality that earthquakes are nothing new to Japan; then what were the policy statements of Masayoshi Son in the last twenty years about this issue? 

This is a very important question because the Kobe earthquake killed thousands of people and clearly it was the tsunami which killed the overwhelming majority of people on March 11, 2011, and the following days.  The death count from radiation at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant is zero but the death total from the tsunami and earthquake totals around 25,000 people.

Dr. Vojin Joksimovich who is a PhD holder in nuclear engineering and is a retired nuclear safety specialist is rightly skeptical. Dr. Vojin Joksimovich in his article titled EU, US, & Japan: Dysfunctional Leaderships are Gambling with leading Capitalist Economies, comments in the area based on Japan that “In mid-July Kan stated: “Our nation should aim to become a society that can manage fine without nuclear power.” A leading contender to replace Kan, Seiji Maehara one of the most popular figures in the ruling Democratic Party, said that Japan should phase out nuclear power over the next two decades and that construction should “basically be stopped.” This policy would have far reaching implications for the energy sector providing one third of the nation’s electricity. Nuclear technology companies: Toshiba, Hitachi and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries would be severely hurt while the existing prospects for international orders would all but disappear. Like Chancellor Merkel in Germany, PM Kan sees adoption of anti-nuclear policy as a way to rebuild his image as well as that of his party. It is understandable that triple reactor meltdowns after the reactor cooling systems were wiped out by tsunami had shaken the Japanese faith in nuclear safety. The Japanese nuclear establishment has overlooked the need to provide a need for adequate tsunami protection. San Onofre nuclear power plant in my neighborhood is protected by a 30 foot high tsunami wall. The Tohoku earthquake originated in a subduction zone and the tsunamis generated in a subduction zone are much larger than those resulting from earthquakes in a strike slip geologic fault systems such as faults near San Onofre.”

Dr. Vojin Joksimovich raises many important points and how is it that San Onofre is better protected than the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant?  After all, the greater danger applies to the Fukushima coastal region but despite this the tsunami wall and other important areas were much more modern and prepared for the ravages of nature?

Therefore, the nuclear crisis was based on the failure of past Japanese governments, TEPCO and nuclear related agencies which allowed such folly in the first place.

The anti-nuclear lobby or business individuals who may see a fresh killing to be made by government subsidies are clearly lining up.  However, while the anti-nuclear lobby will have been consistent, irrespective if rhetoric or not.  Can the same be said about politicians and business individuals who see opportunism?

The founder and president of Globis Management School, Yoshito Hori, appears to be skeptical by the motives of elements within the government of Japan and he certainly does not follow the logic of Masayoshi Son. 

Masayoshi Son is a very powerful business leader and all of a sudden it appears that he is a great follower of “alternative energy.”  Others may point out that this issue is nothing new and why is he plugging for this now in such a bold way?  

Also, given the reality of huge government subsidies behind the thinking of Masayoshi Son with regards to his projections and the power he holds within Japan; then is this based on sincerity, opportunism, half-baked thinking, manipulating de-regulation, easy source of government subsidies or does he truly believe in alternative energy?

It is also factual that government subsidies aided the nuclear sector in Japan.  However, with the failure of one monolith then is it justified to create another subsidized monolith and all under the name of “a new way?”

Yoshito Hori comments that Masayoshi Son“is using his political connections to lead us in a direction that’s good for him but bad for Japan.” Yoshito Hori refers to a too-hasty policy in the energy sector and implies that change for the sake of change will further hinder the economy of Japan.

It must be stated that Yoshito Hori is not against alternative energy but he is concerned about the possible direction that it may take under the short-term Prime Minister Kan and the business savvy Masayoshi Son. 

In the Sankei Shimbum it is clear that Yoshito Hori is alarmed by ongoing events and the possible “annihilating blow” towards the nuclear sector.  On July 16 in the Sankei Shimbum and which was republished on Japan Today under the title Softbank’s Son, Globis’ Hori trade blows via Twitter; it states that “Hori stresses that he favors increasing reliance on alternative energy – “on two conditions,” he tells Sankei Shimbun. One: No subsidies. Two: If power companies are to be obliged to purchase surplus power generated by homes and businesses via renewable energy, as would be the case under a proposed law backed by Kan and Son, the price should be in accord with market standards and not imposed as what, in effect, would be a subsidy in disguise.”

Turning back to Dr. Vojin Joksimovich then he states that “Japan’s short-lived PMs, five in five years, compare with pre-Berlusconi Italy. Existing PM Naoto Kan has survived a Diet no-confidence vote at the price of a vague promise to resign. It is irresponsible that even after the largest disaster after the WWII, the Japanese political elite is more interested in squabbling over how long Kan should stay in the office as opposed to addressing the burning issues of reconstruction. The Diet has failed to approve new bond issues needed to fund government spending beyond a few months. Ryu Matsumoto, Kan’s long-awaited choice for the cabinet post leading to tsunami reconstruction resigned nine days into the job. With millions of tones of debris yet to be cleared and tens of thousands of residents still confined to the evacuation centers, the north-east coast residents deserve better treatment by their government. There is vast disconnect between the magnitude of the problems facing the third largest world economy and the political response.”

In the same article published on July 16 it states that “(Masayoshi) Son in May announced an 80 billion yen project to build 10 large-scale solar power plants, and in July enlisted the participation of 36 prefectural governors in a new council to promote alternative energy. Almost simultaneously, Prime Minister Naoto Kan made his dramatic declaration that “We should aim to be a society that does not depend on nuclear power.”

However, like Dr. Vojin Joksimovich comments it is clear that political infighting and petty point scoring remains part and parcel of Japanese politics.  This reality, to an astute businessman, and the fact of so much disinformation by the mass media with regards to the nuclear issue, means that it is an opportunistic time for anyone with grand plans and who happens to have political and business muscle.

Yet, is the dismantling of the nuclear sector in the interest of Japan?  Also, was the nuclear crisis because of nuclear power or because of past mistakes by political leaders in Japan, TEPCO, the designers who built the nuclear reactor and nuclear bodies in Japan?

If the current crisis in Fukushima can be completely blamed on nuclear power then Masayoshi Son will become vindicated. However, if the answer is negative, and with the past role of nuclear power helping the modernization of Japan; then Yoshito Hori will be vindicated because the dismantling of the nuclear sector in Japan will be based on falsehood and short-sighted policies which will eradicate a potent source of energy.

Dr. Vojin Joksimovich comments that “Nuclear power plays an important role in the world’s energy mix. It is clean, as the world seeks to reduce carbon emissions. It is steadier than renewables, such as solar and wind, which require a more expensive and sophisticated power grid. In addition, the solar and wind energy storage facilities still need to be developed. The nuclear power, like coal, provides inexpensive source of base power, while solar and wind are useful as supplementary energy sources. The third largest world economy cannot afford to abandon nuclear power. Japan in future could focus on building inherently safe high-temperature gas cooled reactors.”

Dr. Vojin Joksimovich also comments about the crisis in Fukushima and where the real blame belongs. In his article called Fukushima Nuclear Accident: Tsunami Induced but Man-Made Disaster many powerful comments are made.  Dr. Vojin Joksimovich states that “Initially, severity of the accidents was not grasped and no adequate staff was provided to handle probably the most complex accident in the commercial history of nuclear power. TEPCO and NISA seem to have believed that such an accident scenario was not credible and thus no adequate precautions were in place. There was obviously a lack of emergency drills as several missteps took place. The response boiled down to hesitation, delays, and indecision. The coordination between TEPCO and NISA were inadequate. The Japanese law must be amended to address clearly a division of responsibility between the utility and the government agencies. The PM was mad at both of them and hired his own advisers. Some of these inadequacies were of course recognized as the public apologies were offered. The media in Japan has zoomed in on cozy regulator to utility culture, the culture of complicity or an amakudari system. An example was given that 68 former government bureaucrats assumed executive posts in utilities. In addition, the author wishes to point out a lack of safety culture as well as stifling Japanese top-down culture, which doesn’t empower lower levels to make decisions in these types of situations when timing of decision making is crucial. Management training courses including in particular responses to severe accidents, beyond the design basis should also be on the agenda. Once the damaged plants have been stabilized and brought to the safe shutdown level, an independent team of international and national experts should be assembled to provide a thorough accident assessment and propose applicable lessons learned. This should then be shared with operators of the remaining 442 power reactors operating in over 30 countries worldwide as well as 109 forthcoming. A due attention should be paid to multi-unit site in excess of, say, four units.”

In The Daily Mainichi News in the article called Softbank, 35 prefectures launch council to promote renewable energy it states that “With the backing from the 35 prefectures, Son wants to help Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) push for the enactment of a bill obliging utilities to buy power from green sources at fixed prices. In the longer term, Son also envisages building a smart grid next-generation electricity transmission and distribution system.”

I had never thought of going into electricity business before the quake-triggered disasters,” Son said. But he said when he visited Fukushima in late March; he had the impression that local residents were not complaining because they were caught in the grips of government subsidies and jobs. Therefore, he said he came to think more strongly about the need to reduce dependence on nuclear energy.”

The same article also states that “…some people are concerned about the way Son has positioned the business. Son has sought changes to systems hampering the expansion of his business, involving politicians and public opinion in debates on such issues as the opening NTT Corp.’s fiber optic networks to third parties. “If a major company seeks special treatment on farmland regulations or start a new business with the help of local governments, it may disable fair competition with other companies,” said Toshinori Ito, a senior analyst at UBS Securities.

Therefore, it is apparent that Masayoshi Son “…had never thought of going into electricity business before the quake-triggered disasters” and this business applies to “the enactment of a bill obliging utilities to buy power from green sources at fixed prices.”

In a nutshell Masayoshi Son never really concerned himself about this business sector before and this implies that he was not overtly against nuclear energy.  Also, getting involved in this new business is based on “obliging utilities to buy power from green sources at fixed prices” and issues related to “fair competition” and “seeking special treatment on farmland regulations” leads to a sour taste.

Therefore, Yoshito Hori is right to be skeptical and Dr. Vojin Joksimovich also raises serious doubt about the sincerity of PM Kan.  Added to this is the fair comment made by Toshinori Ito.

It would appear that one monolith and a comfortable relationship with central and local government, to be replaced by a new comfortable relationship with central government and local government, happens to be dynamic to Masayoshi Son and others who follow the same logic.

However, is the dismantling of the nuclear sector in the interest of Japan and if so, then is the Masayoshi Son idea the right way or should more time be taken seriously in order to consider important questions related to the future of Japan?

Alternative energy can enhance the energy demands of Japan alongside a well maintained nuclear sector but the phasing out of nuclear energy appears to be over dramatic and ill-considered in such a short space of time.  


Dr. Vojin Joksimovich :  PhD in nuclear engineering and is a retired nuclear safety specialist.  Also, an author of several highly acclaimed books and a specialist in many fields.  

July 21, 2011

Lindsay Ann Hawker: verdict states life in prison but eligible for parole after 10 years

Lindsay Ann Hawker: verdict states  life in prison but eligible for parole after 10 years

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The verdict in the Lindsay Ann Hawker case was announced today (July, 21) and the judgment was life imprisonment for Tatsuya Ichihashi but in Japan this means that he may be able to get parole after 10 years depending on various factors.  It had been stated that the father of Lindsay Ann Hawker had wanted the death penalty but this was never likely to happen.  Therefore, the judgment of life imprisonment was always the most likely outcome and when the sentence was announced Tatsuya Ichihashi remained unattached and showed no emotion.

Currently it remains unclear if the Hawker family understands the reality of a life sentence in Japan because it is possible that Tatsuya Ichihashi may be released after ten years because he would be entitled for parole providing he met certain conditions. However, it is likely that he will serve at least twenty years.

Irrespective if the verdict meets the wishes of the Hawker family they simply have to draw a line under the legal issue and continue to re-build.  Obviously, Lindsay Ann Hawker will always be in their hearts until the day they die and the pain and suffering must be unbearable. 

Sadly, evil things like this happen to unfortunate families all over the world and questions of “why” or “if only” can never change anything.  The radiant love of Lindsay Ann Hawker “stays within the heart” and clearly she would not want her family to suffer more pain, depression, anguish, and heartbreak.

The feelings of the Hawker family can only be understood by other families who have suffered at the hands of an individual who not only took away “a precious life” but did so in such a brutal way. 

Lindsay Ann Hawker came to Japan with good intentions and Tatsuya Ichihashi abused both her naivety and innocence. Little did she know that Tatsuya Ichihashi had such brutality within his heart and mind therefore her final hours on this earth were pure hell.

The Hawker family will leave Japan and see little of the real beauty of this nation and the gentle nature of the overwhelming majority of individuals in this country. 

In truth, the murder is not about ethnicity, nation, legal system and other factors; it is about the sad reality that people are killed all over the world by evil individuals who care little about the life of others.  These individuals often fear the death penalty or being locked away but they don’t mind destroying entire families and killing in such a brutal way.

Obviously the Hawker family has suffered greatly and part of them will be “ghosts of their former selves.” They will continue to suffer but the only hope is that in time all mention of the name Tatsuya Ichihashi will be forgotten and instead only “the smiling loving Lindsay Ann Hawker will remain.”

The Joji Obara (Kim Sung Jong) case did not bring justice to the family of Lucie Blackman.  On the contrary, it rubbed the most painful salt into the wound.

In my article called Lindsay Ann Hawker: does the Joji Obara/ Kim Sung Jong case provide pointers? I state the following:

“It must be stated that all nations have cases of miscarriages of justice and no legal system is perfect.  However, the Joji Obara case does worry many individuals because how did this individual escape the countless number of rapes that he did and the killing of Carita Ridgway in 1992?”

“Joji Obara (Kim Sung Jong) had been raping women for over a decade and he had hundreds of personal videos of raping women.  Indeed, the police stated that he may have raped up to 400 women but the figure could even be higher. “

“However, are we to believe that every female who was raped by Joji Obara did not seek justice for what this serial rapist did?  Not only this, the death of Carita Ridgway took place in 1992.”

“Yet, despite everything Joji Obara was acquitted of the crime of Lucie Blackman’s rape and death. Judge Tsutomu Tochigi commented that “There is nothing to prove that [Obara] was involved in the rape and her death. The court cannot prove he was single-handedly involved in her death.

“Indeed, the fact that this brutal serial rapist had video tapes to confirm the twisted nature of Joji Obara; and the fact the body of Lucie Blackman was so close to the home of Joji Obara; all this counted for nothing.”

“Therefore, for many people it appears that a huge miscarriage of justice took place in the Lucie Blackman and Carita Ridgway case (not forgetting all the women who were raped).”

The verdict today in the Lindsay Ann Hawker case may or may not have been what the Hawker family had expected. However, I hope that this is the final chapter in the court case because if it isn’t then the pain and suffering will continue to hurt even more because of no solace and escape.

Lindsay Ann Hawker was taken from this world in such a violent manor and no words can express the sympathies of so many people.  (Written shortly before the final verdict – July 14)

July 20, 2011

Hokusai and Hakone: Ukiyo-e and stunning scenery

Hokusai and Hakone: Ukiyo-e and stunning scenery

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Katsushika Hokusai was a sublime Japanese artist, ukiyo-e painter and printmaker and his art had many faces and styles.  However, when you think about the stunning nature of Hakone then the refined art of Hokusai springs to mind.

Alternatively, if you close your eyes and think about Hokusai’s shunga then you can enter seedy areas of Tokyo and images of Kabukicho come to mind.  Obviously both images may be an illusion but Hokusai’s art does have many sides and similar ukiyo-e artists went down the same path.

Hokusai clearly loved the view of Mount Fuji and visiting stunning places of natural beauty and both factors certainly apply to Hakone.  After all, Hakone rests within the Fuji Hakone Izu National Park and in certain parts of Hakone you can witness sublime views of Mount Fuji.  Therefore, the entire region would inspire any exquisite artist to create picturesque scenes and clearly Hokusai fits the bill perfectly because he loved to express his passion for stunning views of nature.

The Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji and The Great Wave off Kanagawa are pure masterpieces in different ways.  Therefore, it is clear that Kanagawa is a potent region for spectacular scenery and a magnet for any artist who loves majestic views. Also, the size of the area means that views change quickly but remain to be a wonder to behold because of the natural beauty of the Fuji Hakone Izu National Park.   

International tourists and Japanese tourists head to Hakone because of the richness of the area which provides unbelievable backdrops amidst the mountain range and abundance of nature.  Not only this, Hakone is blessed with a plethora of places to visit and you can appreciate the richness of Japanese culture by visiting one of the many museums which are dotted around the main tourist areas.

It is easy to imagine Hokusai, Ando Hiroshige and a host of other famous ukiyo-e artists wandering around the Hakone region during their brief time on this earth.  However, despite the briefness of life Hokusai, Hiroshige, and other artists, have clearly left a strong and powerful legacy. 

In this sense, these famous artists have fused aspects of their life within the beautiful mountain ranges and landscapes of Kanagawa.  Therefore, the immortality of Mount Fuji is enjoined by the “immortality of art” by artists like Hokusai and Hiroshige who have inspired so many people and provided glimpses into the real Japan.

On a windless night you can imagine artists in the sweltering heat of summer and in the stillness of winter you can feel the changing temperature and how their feelings will have infringed on their art. 

The spirit world exists to some people but for others you have nothing but the ending of all life and only memories of others and the legacy of a rare few last more than one single lifetime.  Either way, you can feel that Hokusai and Hiroshige, and other sublime ukiyo-e artists, are still alive because of the powerful images they left behind and while the first love often fades into dust the beauty of art remains.

Hakone is not just a tourist destination it is about “your Hakone” and this applies to escaping the mundaneness of life or stresses of life which often eats away at people.  Obviously, for some tourists they may prefer to follow the usual routes taken by many and this applies to the main tourist attractions and plethora of places to visit.

However, for others a walk or hiking is their preference and for others they will want to find solitude.  Alternatively, the hot springs attract many individuals and some people desire to refresh themselves by enjoying the soothing reality of hot springs and if lucky enough you can find a special hot spring surrounded by stunning nature.

Hokusai had desired more time on this earth in order to express the stunning reality of nature and his art was like the most delicious wine because he continued to mature throughout his entire life. 

The Great Wave off Kanagawa shows the potent power of nature and just like the frailty of life the chaotic reality of life infringed on Hokusai.  This applies to the devastating fire which destroyed Hokusai’s studio and much of his lifelong work was destroyed in a single moment of chaos.

Luckily for humanity not all was destroyed and obviously many art pieces will have been bought before this tragic fire but much was lost.  Therefore, the frailty and chaotic nature of life which had taken away people who were dear to Hokusai now ravaged is “very being” and this must have impacted on his thinking.

At the ripe old age of 87 Hokusai had completed the Ducks in a Stream and he yearned for more time on this earth. Yet only God is mortal or the imagination which believes in God or gods creates this mortality irrespective if it is a reality or an illusion. 

However, the symbolism of Mount Fuji and its impact on Japan means that a special spirit or energy exists within this mountain.  In a sense, Mount Fuji is immortal and Hokusai, Hiroshige, and others, entered the immortality of the mind of others by their stunning art work.

Therefore, while each generation will turn to dust certain factors will remain because all cultures hand something down and preserve the best of humanity.  This certainly applies to Hokusai who not only left a rich legacy for the Japanese people but he left a rich legacy for the best of international humanity.

Hokusai showed glimpses of the beauty of this world through aspects of his work while shunga focused on the lustiness of humanity or the reality of sexuality, depending on your thinking.

On his deathbed Hokusai uttered “If only Heaven will give me just another ten years…Just another five more years, then I could become a real painter.”

In reality it would matter not, another five years or ten years because Hokusai had already left a rich legacy and the chaotic nature of life could not guarantee a fruitful extra five or ten years.  Therefore, the last moments of Hokusai’s life was tinged with the hope of more time but sooner or later God is going to knock on your door and what was, is no longer.

In 1849 Hokusai died but Nichiren Buddhism, Mount Fuji and the stunning and mystical mountains of Japan had served him well.  All these factors, and others, made him what he became and after death his candle did not burn out because the brightness he left still flickers strongly and will continue to do so.

This life is not mortal but images like The Great Wave off Kanagawa and other work by Hokusai means that his art is immortal. 

Language restricts humanity because of the plethora of languages but art at its best can defeat this because images can be viewed irrespective of the constraints of language. 

Therefore, a visit to Hakone is a real treat for people who reside in Tokyo or for tourists visiting Tokyo.  After all, Hakone only takes 90 minutes from Shinjuku by the Odakyu Limited Express “Romancecar.” 

In a different article about Hakone I state that “The “Romancecar” is a great way to travel because you can relax in comfort and you have a drinks and food service which caters for your needs.  Also, the Hakone Free-pass is a must because it provides great value and you can use it for 7 types of different transport.” 

“This applies to the Hakone Ropeway, Hakone Tozan Line, and other forms of transport.  Therefore, you can hop on and off different forms of transport and the scenic views from the Hakone Ropeway and Hakone Tozan Line is stunning; the different forms-of-transport also adds to your holiday because the quaint train journey is pleasurable by itself.”

“Hakone is home to famous spas and is located in a large historical zone and when you include this to the stunning nature of the Fuji Hakone Izu National Park and cultural attractions on offer; then it is clear to see why Hakone is so popular.”

The art legacy of people like Hokusai is another major attraction and while Hokusai’s time on this earth was between 1760 and 1849; you can feel close to him in places like Hakone because of the connection of his artwork with the stunning reality of Hakone.

If you want to fuse a sublime holiday based on art, history, and stunning scenery then Hakone is the place to visit. The main museums apply to the Narukawa Art Museum for modern Japanese paintings; the Hakone Open Air Museum; the Pola Museum of Art; Venetian Glass Museum; Suzuhiro Corp. Kamaboko Museum; Local History Museum; Museum of Saint Exupery and the Little Pince in Hakone; Hakone Old Takaido Road Museum; Hakone Mononofu-no-Sato Art Museum; Hakone Art Museum; Honma Yosegi Museum; and Kanagawa Prefectural Museum of Natural History.

Other places to visit include the volcanically active Owakudani geysers, Hakone Botanical Garden of Wetlands, Hakone-jinja shrine and Treasure Museum, Odawara Castle Donjon, and many stunning parks and gardens can be found throughout Hakone.

The Fuji Hakone Izu National Park and surrounding area is a tourist paradise and given the comfort provided by the Odakyu train company which offers a fantastic service via the special Hakone pass; then you can enjoy quality time and make the most of what Hakone provides and at the same time you can travel easily because of services provided by the Odakyu train company.

Overall, Hakone is a magical place and Hokusai, Hiroshige, and other famous ukiyo-e artists, may have turned to dust a long time ago but their energy and passion is alive by the legacy of their respective artwork. 

In Hakone and the surrounding region you can get close to their world because of the connection with the images that they left behind.   (Hokusai)  please visit

July 20, 2011

Tokyo fashion: pulling power of fashion in this dynamic city of creativity

Tokyo fashion: pulling power of fashion in this dynamic city of creativity

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times


Tokyo is one of the most powerful cities in the world and the fashion scene continues to flourish and grow.  Also, the international appeal of Tokyo is making major waves because more and more international musicians desire to be linked to this ultra-modern city.

At the same time animation, kawaii culture, cosplay, and a host of other vibrant areas, are rebranding the image of Tokyo because many young people from all over the world are connecting with the “soft power” of Japan.  Therefore, Tokyo and other major cities like Osaka are helping to create “a hip Japan” which appeals to the younger generation.

However, despite the ultra-modern reality of Tokyo and other powerful cities the “old Japan” still survives. Therefore, places like Hakone, Koyasan, Kyoto, Nikko, and a host of other famous places, means that Japan provides something special because of multiple factors and the appeal applies to all generations.

When it comes to fashion then Tokyo is second to none when it applies to choice, exquisite quality, individualism, mainstream fashion and creativity.  Therefore, all major international fashion houses want a slice of the Tokyo “apple pie” and this applies to other powerful cities like Osaka.

Clearly Milan, Paris, New York and London are internationally famous but the same also applies to Tokyo.  However, the beauty of fashion in Tokyo is that indigenous fashion companies and international companies are based throughout the city. 

Therefore, you are spoilt for choice and this applies to major fashion districts like Aoyama, Harajuku, Omotesando, Ginza, Shibuya Shinjuku, Roppongi Hills and other fashion districts like Ikebukuro and Ebisu. Alternatively, you have an abundance of fashion in smaller districts of Tokyo and Daikanyama, Kichijoji, Jiyugaoka, Nakano, Shimo Kitazawa, Naka Meguro and other places provide a more distinctive vibe and each area appeals for different factors.  This, therefore, makes Tokyo unique because you have countless areas to visit and other parts of Tokyo like Ueno have their own distinctive feel and energy.

This reality is attracting major musicians to Tokyo and further afield in Japan. Michael Graham, in his article called Japan and the international music industry highlights this reality. 

Michael Graham states that “From Lady Gaga to Kanye West, there are not many modern pop artists that haven’t done “the Japan thing”. This says a lot about how Japan is perceived to the rest of the world. It’s modern, it’s cool, and it’s fun. If you are trying to show your fans that you are the newest biggest thing then you cannot go wrong with including Japanese style in your video’s and why not?”

“Japan not only brings us some of the latest fashion, technology and art but its music industry is one of the most sophisticated and cutting edge in the world.”

Michael Graham continues by stating that “This trend in music and Japan continues to be ever more present in modern music and does not show any signs of going away. You can look back at earlier artists such as Gwen Stefani because her music videos were covered in Japanese art and style. Gwen Stefani even brought out a clothing range inspired by Japanese clothing and her backing dancers were the Harajuku Girls. Therefore she could not have been anymore Japanese if she had tried.”

“The list seems to be endless of videos or artists that use Japan for style and image and it looks set to continue. I for one cannot get enough of it!”

Therefore, the fashion scene in Tokyo is very potent and the same applies to modern Japanese culture which is making headway internationally and other famous musicians like Courtney Love simply adore Tokyo fashion. 

Aoyama and Omotesando provide sophisticated fashion and both places are full of chic and style because you have endless exquisite boutiques to visit.  At the same time, it is clear that architecture is important and this provides the icing on top of the cake because you can feel the passion, creativity and the buildings match the crème de la crème fashion which is provided by both international and Japanese fashion companies in these two districts of Tokyo.

In Aoyama alone you will find many panache and exquisite fashion companies and this applies to Comme des Garcons, 10 Corso Como, L’eclaireur, Prada, Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto, Artisan, Loveless, Stella McCartney, Mark Jacobs, Bathing Ape, Tsumori Chisato, Diane Von Furstenberg, Undercover, Design Works, Frapbois, and many others like Deuxieme Classe.

The energy of exquisite fashion and individualistic fashion designers can be felt through the entire area which links Aoyama, Omotesando, Harajuku and Shibuya.  In many ways Omotesando represents all the beauty of this area because it links high quality fashion companies with independent and stylish boutiques and in the backstreets you can find “street fashion.” 

Harajuku and Shibuya are global names for the younger international generation and like Michael Graham commented Gwen Stefani was inspired by Japan and her backing dancers were called the Harajuku Girls. Harajuku, therefore, is a major pulling power and the name sells itself.

The independent nature and creative spirit of companies like 6%DOKIDOKI means that the culture of Tokyo is influencing the younger generation in cities like London, Paris, New York and a host of other major cities. Therefore, kawaii culture, cosplay, Dolly-kei, fantasy fashion, Visual kei, Lolita and other trends are changing the image of Japan and independent companies like 6%DOKIDOKI, Grimoire, Macaronic, Candy and others are spreading a unique and distinctive fashion scene.

Internationally famous designers like Issey Miyake, Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto provided a strong image for Japanese fashion and their energy was noticeable in the 1980s and onwards.  Yet younger designers and famous individuals are changing the evolving fashion scene and Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto, Sebastian Masuda, Rei Kawakubo, Nobu Kitamura, Junya Watanabe, Takashi Aoki, Tsumori Chisato, Yoshie Itabashi, Kuniko Kato, Chiharu Kikuchi, and others, are all maintaining the freshness of fashion in Japan alongside companies like Grimoire and Candy.

Fashion is not about famous individuals it is about new vibes, new trends, keeping a fresh outlook and not remaining static.  Therefore, Issey Miyake, Sebastian Masuda, Yohji Yamamoto, Takashi Aoki, and other fantastic designers add their own individual spark and energy. This spark in turn reaches far and wide and continues to draw in new designers who constantly maintain the freshness of fashion in Japan. Also, every so often unique designers emerge like Sebastian Masuda and they come along and bring a new angle and edge and each individual designer compliments the entire fashion industry.

Sebastian Masuda

6%DOKIDOKI, Candy, Grimoire, Macaronic, Metamorphose temps de fille, Alice and the Pirates, and other unique fashion companies are maintaining a bright spark. This energy can be felt internationally because the energetic vibe that they are creating is enabling Tokyo fashion to reach out to the international community.

Nobu Kitamura and Gwen Stefani sum up the nature of fashion because while Nobu Kitamura and Hysteric Glamour was influenced heavily by American culture.  The singer Gwen Stefani is fascinated by Japanese culture and in her song she sang “My boyfriend bought me a Hysteric Glamour shirt. They’re hard to find in the States, got me feeling couture.”

The influence of cross cultural fashion and unique fashion companies can be found throughout Tokyo.  Therefore, irrespective if you are an avid fan of Tracy Reese, Hysteric Glamour, Prada, SmackyGlam, Grimoire, Metamorphose temps de fille, 6%Dokidoki, Comme des Garcons, Macaronic, Alice and the Pirates, 10 Corso Como, L’eclaireur, Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto, Candy, Artisan, Loveless, Stella McCartney, Mark Jacobs, Bathing Ape and many other amazing fashion companies, the simple fact is that you have choice in abundance in Tokyo.

In another article I wrote about fashion I stated that “Kawaii culture in Tokyo goes back several decades but this unique style which belongs to Japan continues to develop and modify.  6%DOKIDOKI is part and parcel of kawaii culture and the ongoing vibrancy of this unique style. However, Sebastian Masuda does not pertain to any single style because he is a creator and styles come from 6%DOKIDOKI.  Therefore, Sebastian Masuda is not a follower of fashion but he is a rare creator of fashion and styles.”

Therefore, it matters not what the fashion label is because fashion for some companies can never be fully pinned down because they are always evolving.

Tokyo is set to continue and prosper in the fashion sector and the international image will also grow because of the vibrant nature of modern Japan. Therefore, the magnet of Tokyo will continue to attract younger generations from all over the world who love fashion and this dynamic and creative city will continue to lead and inspire.  (6%DOKIDOKI website)  (Sebastian Masuda – also, please read about the Mighty Harajuku Project)  (Many images of 6%DOKIDOKI)  – Sanyo i Store (Sanyo Shokai Ltd)  

July 14, 2011

Heirinji Zen Temple in Saitama: quiet contemplation amidst nature

Heirinji Zen Temple in Saitama: quiet contemplation amidst nature

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Modern Tokyo Times image

Heirinji Zen Temple is located in Niiza and while this part of Saitama prefecture may not appear to be out of the ordinary, the same can’t be said about this temple which is blessed with large grounds. Therefore, given the closeness to Tokyo this temple is accessible to tourists who visit this huge metropolis and a visit to such a beautiful place is rewarding.

The original temple was based in Iwatsuki in the same prefecture but the original area was destroyed by the centralizing forces of Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1590.  This in itself also reminds us of the violent aspect of Buddhism in Japan because this faith, which was not indigenous to Japan, was certainly a major power base. Therefore, Oda Nobunaga who began the centralization of Japan also attacked fanatical Buddhist sects who were violent and intent on preserving their power base.   

Modern Tokyo Times image

Josh Baran states “Japanese Zen, especially the Rinzai lineage, had long been linked to the samurai culture and bushido, the way of the sword. For hundreds of years, Zen Masters trained samurai warriors in meditation, teaching them enhanced concentration and will power. Zen helped them face adversity and death with no hesitation, to be totally loyal and act without thinking. To put it bluntly, bushido was a spiritual way of killing infused with Zen philosophy. The sword had always been a Buddhist symbol for cutting through delusion, but under bushido it was taken literally, evolving from metaphor into concrete reality. The sword became an object of veneration and obsession, idealized and worshipped.”

Modern Tokyo Times image

Therefore, when I visit the beautiful Heirinji Zen Temple and the surrounding grounds I am under no illusions because the tranquil nature of this beautiful place does not distort my reality.  However, time does not wait for nobody and while “Buddhism is in a shell” in most parts of Japan it can still be felt in places like Heirinji Zen Temple.

The ethics of simplicity, open space, serene backdrops, the noise of birds singing and the other world does play on the senses when you visit Heirinji.  After all, the architecture, serene grounds and singing birds amidst “the daily stress of life” and the passing of time, does strike a chord within the inner-soul. 

Heirinji is certainly worth a visit and for myself, I have been many times and I will continue to re-visit.  Not because I am Buddhist, this is not important, but the contemplation aspect of Heirinji is vital because it is all too easy to forget about what really matters in this life. 

Often, people only see “the bigger picture” when something dramatic happens in their life but when you visit Heirinji you understand “the bigger picture” of life irrespective of your current situation.  This is the beauty of Heirinji and Buddhist monks on a whole are in the backdrop and hidden and you have no commercial aspects of this stunning and well preserved area apart from a basic fee to enter.

Modern Tokyo Times image

Today the temple still trains Buddhist monks but unless you knew this fact then just like the history of Buddhism in Japan; it may pass you by and this is why Heirinji is so special.  It is not about gimmicks or showing anything because Heirinji is spiritual by being itself and not bending to the modern world of commercialism.

If you are lucky enough to either reside in Tokyo or Saitama then Heirinji is accessible because from Ikebukuro in Tokyo it only takes around 30 minutes in total train and bus time to arrive.  Therefore, Heirinji is well worth a visit and this applies to visiting several times because the changing nature of the seasons is very striking in Japan.

Modern Tokyo Times image

Heirinji is surrounded by the usual aspects of a build-up area but once you are close to this stunning place then you can feel the pace of life changing.  The none-missionary feel of Heirinji is also welcomed because zealous religious people from all faiths try to convert people through language and only seeing one world view.

However, the monks of Heirinji don’t need words because the architecture, lovely grounds, quaintness of the graveyard and other aspects of the grounds do all the talking. 

All religions and ideologies distort reality within literature and architecture. Therefore, just like nationalism the dream of shortsightedness is just that, it is a dream and an illusion. 

Irrespective of the past of Buddhism in Japan and the same applies to other faiths which have abandoned inner-truths in order to gain from privilege.  The simple fact is that other religions could learn from Heirinji because “the talking is done by saying nothing.”

Modern Tokyo Times image

This applies to allowing individuals to enjoy their own quality time within the tranquil grounds of this beautiful Buddhist area. Therefore, if you want to experience the finer qualities of Japanese culture and witness the passive nature of Buddhism in modern Japan then Heirinji provides this.

I myself revere this majestic place and time, history, stresses of life, economic reality, and so forth; is simply forgotten.  Heirinji is a place of tranquility and who needs to read books about philosophy and religion when you have a place of sublime beauty amidst simplicity and the reality of your own reality.

If you are a visitor to Tokyo or you reside in either Tokyo or Saitama, then a visit to the stunning grounds of Heirinji should be on your list because the simplicity of this place is a real treasure.

July 14, 2011

Lindsay Ann Hawker: does the Joji Obara/ Kim Sung Jong case provide pointers?

Lindsay Ann Hawker: does the Joji Obara/ Kim Sung Jong case provide pointers?

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The Lindsay Ann Hawker case will soon reach a conclusion and given the nature of Japanese law then clearly the outcome remains in doubt. If you focus on the reality of what happened to the Korean naturalized Japanese citizen, Kim Sung Jong who changed his name to Joji Obara, then the Hawker family must expect the worse.

The international media is rightly following the Lindsay Ann Hawker case and irrespective of why she invited Tatsuya Ichihashi into her home so quickly and then re-met him again and entered his home.  The brutal reality, even if Tatsuya Ichihashi disputes the factors that led to her death, is that a young lady was raped and killed in a brutal way.

Lindsay Ann Hawker and Lucie Blackman were very different because while Lindsay Ann Hawker came to Japan in order to teach before returning to her studies; Lucie Blackman took a different route and desired to make money by using her sexuality.  This does not imply anything negative but clearly one British lady had entered a dark and murky world whereas Lindsay Ann Hawker appears to be naïve and too kind-hearted for her own good.

Nobody deserves to die in such callous and brutal ways and for left behind family members and close friends; then they will be “shells” of their former selves.  However, Lucie Blackman’s father does leave a sour-taste because he took blood-money from Joji Obara but obviously he loves all his children dearly.

Lindsay Ann Hawker and Lucie Blackman may have taken different routes but both were innocent victims of cold-bloodied individuals.  Murder is murder, even if not deemed murder in Japan, but the sheer evil nature of Joji Obara is clearly part and parcel of this evil and brutal individual.

Tatsuya Ichibashi is not Joji Obara and according to him he claims that he never intended to kill Lindsay Ann Hawker.  He does not deny raping Lindsay Ann Hawker and he made it clear that she died because of his actions.  However, Tatsuya Ichibashi claims that events got out of control and he unintentionally killed Lindsay Ann Hawker.

Until the final verdict is given then he is entitled to a fair trial even if Lindsay Ann Hawker was not showed any compassion and died in such a brutal way. The rule of law must abide to a higher standard otherwise bloodletting and an “eye for an eye” will render many innocents to brutal punishments.

It must be stated that all nations have cases of miscarriages of justice and no legal system is perfect.  However, the Joji Obara case does worry many individuals because how did this individual escape the countless number of rapes that he did and the killing of Carita Ridgway in 1992?

Joji Obara (Kim Sung Jong) had been raping women for over a decade and he had hundreds of personal videos of raping women.  Indeed, the police stated that he may have raped up to 400 women but the figure could even be higher.

However, are we to believe that every female who was raped by Joji Obara did not seek justice for what this serial rapist did?  Not only this, the death of Carita Ridgway took place in 1992.

Yet, despite everything Joji Obara was acquitted of the crime of Lucie Blackman’s rape and death.Judge Tsutomu Tochigi commented that “There is nothing to prove that [Obara] was involved in the rape and her death. The court cannot prove he was single-handedly involved in her death.”

Indeed, the fact that this brutal serial rapist had video tapes to confirm the twisted nature of Joji Obara; and the fact the body of Lucie Blackman was so close to the home of Joji Obara; all this counted for nothing.

Therefore, for many people it appears that a huge miscarriage of justice took place in the Lucie Blackman and Carita Ridgway case (not forgetting all the women who were raped).

Joji Obara was given a life sentence on April 24 because of multiple rape charges and one case of manslaughter.  Therefore, if the Hawker family is expecting the death penalty for Tatsuya Ichibashi; then give the reality of what happened in the Joji Obara case it would seem most unlikely.

Tatsuya Ichibashi stated that I didn’t mean to kill her, and I never thought it was OK for her to die. What I did cannot be forgiven, but I wanted the court to know these two things.”

“I’m the one who made her go through a horrifying, terrifying and painful experience and took her life, and I’m the one who ruined Lindsay and her family’s life and happiness. And I am not to be forgiven.”

It would appear that Tatsuya Ichibashi is remorseful and some may argue that it is in his interest to be.  Given his comments about remorse and that her death was because of what he did – even if he claims that he killed her unintentionally – then the death penalty would appear severe given the nature of justice in Japan.   

July 5, 2011

Utagawa Toyokuni: My pictures – they are merely something that I draw!

Utagawa Toyokuni: My pictures – they are merely something that I draw!

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Utagawa Toyokuni was born in 1769 and died in 1825 and he gave a rather negative comment about his artistic merits.  Indeed, many individuals have wide opinions about Toyokuni and he himself reportedly commented that “My pictures – they are merely something that I draw, and nothing more than that!”

However, modesty is part of Japanese culture and while not all Japanese individuals share the same trait it could just be that Toyokuni was too modest.  After all, some of his work is very striking and facial features are wonderfully mastered.

Toyokuni was one of the heads of the important Utagawa School and he certainly helped in the popularity of woodblock artists in the nineteenth century. 

Utamaro greatly influenced Toyokuni who was an ardent student and maybe this led to his negative comment about himself?  He may not share the same individual abilities of Hokusai, Hiroshige, and other more famous artists; however, he perfected art by focusing on past artists.  After this, he then created a distinctive style based on initial methodology and then manipulating his art form in order to create something new.

The main area of focus for Toyokuni after initially focusing on bijin-ga was Kabuki theatre and given his childhood then this made complete sense because he could connect with what he visually saw.  Toyokuni did produce bijin-ga but he will always be known for images of Kabuki but in his early period it is clear that Toyokuni was influenced by Kiyonaga and Shigemasa.

Sharaku was much more expressive and he would exaggerate his artwork based on creating a more intensive image that was outside of what the eye could see.  Therefore, Sharaku could take hold of your imagination and recreate the performance in order to put it onto a higher and mystical plain.

Toyokuni, however, focused on what the eye could see and while this may not be viewed to be so creative or imaginative; it was still very effective and expressed reality. However, some would argue that methodology and the reality side of many of his images meant that the intense nature of art was missing but this may be overstating the point because Toyokuni’s art was still expressive. 

Sharaku in the history of Japanese art is deemed to be a greater artist than Toyokuni despite the fact that fans of theatre on the whole favored to buy prints made by Toyokuni. 

It could be stated from an elitist point of view that the vast majority of theatre fans were not avid fans of art.  Therefore, this enabled Toyokuni to connect because he appealed more than Sharaku when it came to simplistic images.  This meant that he hit the nail on the head for the average fan of Kabuki.

Irrespective if this is an elitist comment or not; it is clear that you have merits behind this thinking because visually Sharaku was a completely different type of artist and internationally he is in a different league.

Yet, Toyokuni played an important role and he connected with everyday theatre fans and other individuals.  Also, his images were perfectly produced and showed the actor in the world of reality.  Therefore, while this may be deemed to be rather staid it does have its own beauty and facial features were very expressive.

Toyokuni was also a little harsh about himself but images by him do share aspects of Japanese culture and for this he should be remembered for simplification, great detail and a realistic approach to the world he belonged to.

Therefore, while Toyokuni may be viewed negatively in some quarters the fact is that he never desired to be something that he wasn’t and instead he focused on his own style.  This in itself is admirable and the fact that he helped this art form also means that he should not be undervalued even if the creativity side was not his strong point.