Archive for December, 2011

December 31, 2011

Japanese culture & Chikanobu: ukiyo-e and East, West or a Japanese identity?

Japanese culture & Chikanobu: ukiyo-e and East, West or a Japanese identity?

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Yoshu Chikanobu (Chikanobu Toyohara) was a Meiji artist who highlighted many aspects of this revolutionary period in Japan. Chikanobu, like other Meiji artists, was often overlooked in the past but today the art world is changing. Therefore, artists who belonged to this period are now being recognized for the talents they had in abundance.

Chikanobu provides images which show the many faces of Japan and just like the modern period in Japan in the twenty-first century, it is obvious that this nation is still caught between many worlds. The old world of Shintoism and Buddhism survives powerfully during major festivals and when important events occur in the lifetime of individuals. Of course, the degree of influence will depend on the importance of these faiths within the family but even if distant, they still exist and temples and shrines dot the landscape throughout Japan.

Therefore, irrespective if individuals have rejected religion or adopted a new faith, for example converted to Christianity, the power of the old world can be felt within the culture of Japan. Chikanobu, therefore, would probably feel the same forces pulling away at the soul of Japan in the modern period. This applies to Western influence and the role of Chinese culture and where Japan truly belongs – if, indeed, Japan belongs to any single camp. 

This is not unique to Japan because nations like the Russian Federation and Kazakhstan also have complex histories. Therefore, do these nations belong to Asia, Europe or Eurasia? Or, like Japan, does much depend on each individual because no clear answer can be given – it would appear so!

Chikanobu, therefore, lived in a period of real revolution in Japan because he was born in 1838 and died in 1912. Therefore, he witnessed the ending of Edo and the start of the Meiji period in 1868. This period in Japanese history laid the foundation stone for much of the upheavals of the 1930s and the remarkable recovery which was in full swing in the 1960s.

In an earlier article about Chikanobu it was stated that “Chikanobu not only witnessed the new revolutionary period and how elites looked to the West – but by the late 1880s and early 1890s nostalgia also returned.  Obviously for the masses they were outside both themes and the only important thing was survival and adapting.”

“Chikanobu’s famous print series called “Chiyoda no Ooku” (Court Ladies of the Chiyoda Palace) and “Shin Bijin” (True Beauties) highlight stunning colors and show the complexity of this period. This applies to images which show Japanese ladies dressed in exquisite traditional clothes like the kimono and Chikanobu also depicts women in Western clothes.” 

Therefore, by focusing on aspects of his artwork then you can feel the power of “ideas” colliding, sometimes working collectively or a fusion is starting to happen. This means that the Meiji period is also the start of a new complex cultural norm in the body politic of Japan. After all, in the past the role of China is clear for all too see when it applies to kanji, Buddhism, Confucianism, architecture, literature, and so forth. Also, Korea must not be overlooked because important interaction took place and it also must be stated that great thinkers from Japan also spread their ideas in China.

Given this, the rise of Western power would create a new dimension in the Meiji period and even today you can still feel the power of this collision. After all, in modern day Japan the influence of all these factors can be felt. Also, while the power of China appeared to be on the wane the same can’t be said in the modern period because China’s economy is now ticking loudly and Korean culture is spreading once more because of K-pop and the film industry.

Of course, these competing forces don’t have to be negative and often all these complex factors have helped to create new ideas and styles. Therefore, the world of Chikanobu was very complex and he highlights aspects of the changing nature of Japan which was based on modernization. However, true to the nature of Japan, the old world still remained potent and this applied to the role of the Tenno (heavenly
sovereign) in this period.

In a sense, Japanese modernization in the Meiji period was based on the foundation of strong cultural norms which would enable conservatism to remain powerful. This means that modernization was based on traditionalism in order to implement rapid changes.

Chikanobu provides a glimpse into this changing world and his art is highly valued because of many factors. Of course, the main single factor is his fabulous artwork but from an historical point of view and analyzing sociology, it is clear that Chikanobu helps in these important fields to a certain degree.

However, the answer of Japan being based firmly in the Western camp or Eastern camp, or being a bridge between both worlds or belonging to just Japanese culture, remains unanswered.  After all, much will depend on how people see the world and clearly you don’t have one answer or one vision which is binding. Therefore, if Chikanobu was alive in modern Japan he could also highlight the many dimensions of this unique nation.

December 29, 2011

Tokyo Fashion: buzzing Shimokitazawa and a desirable place to reside

Tokyo Fashion: buzzing Shimokitazawa and a desirable place to reside

Michel Lebon and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Tokyo is famous for fashion and in smaller districts like Shimokitazawa, Nakameguro, and Jiyugaoka, the blend of fashion and place to reside is perfect. The emphasis in this article is trendy Shimokitazawa (locals often say Shimokita) because this lovely suburb is extremely charming. Therefore, many Tokyoites and people who move to Tokyo, find this area a highly desirable place to reside.

The mix in Shimokitazawa is what makes the place come alive because you have families, single people, students, business people, and people of all age groups, who mingle freely and the ambience is most appealing. Also, this part of Tokyo is very near to Harajuku, Shibuya, Shinjuku, and other high octane areas of this mega-city.

However, the beauty of Shimokitazawa is that you have trendy boutiques, many bars, live house, lovely restaurants, and a nice blend of shops. Yet, unlike the high octane nature of Shinjuku and Shibuya, you have a natural refined area to reside whereby you can escape the ongoing crowds. Therefore, the more sedate pace of life can be found but within a lovely fashion district.

Students and the younger generation also adore Shimokitazawa because the fashion scene is independent and you have many boutiques in the backstreets and main fashion area to browse around.  Live house music is also very popular and you have many music outlets to check out the latest vibes hitting Tokyo and internationally. Also, theatrical performances take place in this suburb and café bars, restaurants, drinking places, and so forth, means that people can relax and enjoy the finer things in life.

In an earlier article by Modern Tokyo Times it was stated that “In the backstreets of Shimokitazawa you will find many fashion outlets and also a nice mix of quality secondhand shops selling fashion, music, antiques and a host of other products. At the same time you can feel a nice atmosphere because of cafe bars and at night the ambience is very vibrant. However, despite the energetic feel of the place you don’t have the continuing rush of Harajuku and Shinjuku and this is an added bonus.”

“It is also nice to wander around this part of trendy Tokyo because you have many narrow alleyways which are inaccessible to cars and this makes your visit even more pleasurable. Also, the narrow alleyways are a treasure because you have so many different stores selling various products and often you will find a new fashion outlet that you bypassed before because of limited knowledge of the area.”

The backstreets are full of different types of shops and because many areas are inaccessible by car this makes the environment feel so much better. At the same time, you can often uncover a new gem in the backstreets and this applies to a new shopping store or place to relax. This fact about Shimokitazawa is most rewarding for people who are relatively new to this suburb because it will take a while before you come accustomed to the area.

The fashion resale company UTA is popular and the same applies to Haight and Ashbury, Mocha (12 minute walk from the train station), Banana Fish, Milla Biflora, Little Trip To Heaven, Lotty, and Mori girls also like Carolina Glaser which also sells natural fashion. Some of the above mentioned fashion companies sell vintage clothing and this notably applies to Lotty and Milla Biflora.  

Other popular stores to visit include Blonde on Blonde, Cosmic Lounge, Bruce-Pee, WEGO, Lanp, Fig London, and many other companies which are located in this part of Tokyo. The mix of independent fashion, natural fashion, vintage clothing, punkish styles, Mori fashion, secondhand clothing shops, and other styles, highlights the richness of this lovely suburb.

Shimokitazawa will continue to bloom because the unique ambience of this place can be felt and the changing nature of fashion, new generation of students, and other important factors, means that this place will remain fresh. Therefore, if you want to enjoy a fashionable suburb to visit or are thinking about a new place to reside in Tokyo – then Shimokitazawa fits the bill perfectly.

December 29, 2011

Japanese art and Ogata Korin (1658-1716)

Japanese art and Ogata Korin (1658-1716)

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The art of Ogata Korin remains potent because of clarity and his own unique ways. However, at one point it appeared that the winds of time would threaten his legacy and if this had happened, then Japanese art would have been the loser. Thankfully, Sakai Hoitsu would change this because this individual understood the powerful art of Korin and he restored his reputation and opened up his art to new artists.

Korin had been born into a wealthy household because his father was a thriving merchant. More important, his father had a keen eye for art therefore he nurtured his son and gave him a firm foundation. This proved to be a rich blessing because Korin was blessed with amazing skills and he also had something new to offer the art world.

It is certainly true that Korin admired Hon’ami Koetsu and Tawaraya Sotatsu because both individuals influenced him. Therefore, aspects of this influence can be felt within the “heart” of Korin but this gifted artist also had his own distinctive style.

For example Korin focused on bold designs and he utilized contrasting colors and the power of this can be felt deeply within his artwork. Also, Korin would manipulate space and sometimes he would disregard the conventions of his day. This applies to rejecting pure realism within his art and manipulating nature in order to expose the beauty he saw within his world. Therefore, while Korin respected Koetsu and Sotatsu to the full, he also had his own unique style and clearly this attracted Hoitsu.

In a past article I commented that “in the history of art the “shadow of time” nearly bypassed him after his death because Korin was becoming a forgotten artist or at least on the periphery. Sakai Hoitsu would change this because he brought Korin back “from the cold” and “into the light” once more.”

“Therefore, with Sakai Hoitsu (1761-1828) reviving the interest of Korin he once more became remembered and interest grew because of this factor.  Hoitsu also reproduced some of the best work of Korin and this was a timely reminder to all lovers of art in Japan that Korin played his role when it came to creativity and expressing serenity.”

If you look at the White and Red Plum Blossoms by Korin it is clear that the angle of the viewer and that of the artist is fascinating. At first, it isn’t noticeable to lay people because everything appears normal but the more you look then clearly the angle is intriguing from a Western art point of view.

On the following website ( it is commentated that “Ogata Korin used none of these Western perspective conventions. He showed the two plum trees as seen from a position on the ground, while viewers look down on the stream between them from above. Less concerned with locating the trees and stream in space than with composing shapes on a surface, the painter played the water’s gently swelling curves against the jagged contours of the branches and trunks. Neither the French nor the Japanese painting can be said to project “correctly” what viewers “in fact” see. One painting is not a “better” picture of the world than the other. The European and Asian artists simply approached the problem of picture-making differently.”

It is factual that Korin is not internationally famous unlike a few Japanese artists who are widely known. However, fame and stunning art doesn’t always go hand in hand and of course the art world is extremely broad and some styles have hit the imagination more and received greater international attention.

Despite this, the legacy of Korin is powerful in modern Japan and he is rightly known for being distinctive and enhancing the richness of Japanese art. Also, the more you focus on his art then the more clear it becomes that his unique style appeals today just like it appealed greatly to Hoitsu. Therefore, Korin left a lasting legacy and when you view the more refined artwork of Korin you can visualize high society in the golden periods of Kyoto and Nara.

December 26, 2011

Japanese tourism: Jigokudani Monkey Park in winter time in beautiful Nagano

Japanese tourism: Jigokudani Monkey Park in winter time in beautiful Nagano

Michel Lebon and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

In Nagano prefecture you have the Jigokudani Monkey Park whereby visitors can watch Snow Monkeys (Japanese Macaques) bathing in a natural onsen (hot spring). The best season to watch from a photographic point of view is the winter season and between December and March you usually have a good covering of snow. Also, the scenery is most enjoyable and of course you have many onsens for humans doted all around Yamanouchi. This applies to many stylish onsens in Shibu, Yudanaka, and Kanbayashi.

The monkeys are very confident on the whole therefore you can take really good photos. However, people are forbidden to touch and feed the monkeys because of safety reasons and this applies to both ways. Therefore, Jigokudani Monkey Park is a great place to see wild monkeys whereby you are in touching distance. Also, the sight of seeing monkeys bathing in the hot spring will return adults back to their childhood.

If you visit in the winter season then it is essential that you have proper winter clothes on because the temperature is very cold. Also, it is vital to make sure that your footwear is adequate and warm socks are a must. However, if people are well prepared and visit this part of Nagano for the day or stay for a proper holiday, then it is well worth the preparation.

Snow monkeys are clearly visible before entering the main area and the walk takes a little time depending on individual speed. In fact, while it is called a park it is in reality a forest and the walk is extremely pleasurable and makes the occasion special.

If you want to experience aspects of Japanese culture and you plan to stay at least one night, it is highly recommended that you stay in a ryokan in Shibu, Yudanaka, Kanbayashi, and other areas near to Jigokudani Monkey Park. Ryokans like all places where people stay cater for different budgets but these traditional Japanese style inns will expand your cultural knowledge of Japan. Also, many ryokans have been in the same family for generations and if you stay at a ryokan with a good reputation, then the atmosphere and cultural traits will impress all tourists.

Maids who work at the ryokans will be dressed in a traditional Japanese kimono and the tatami mats in the guest rooms will make you feel nice and relaxed. At night you will sleep on a futon which is a traditional kind of mattress and the sliding shoji doors adds to the quaintness. In the room you will also have a small area called tokonoma where you will see ikebana flowers and a scroll picture. This creates a nice ambience and will enable you to embrace the occasion to a higher degree.

Of course each ryokan will have different facilities but if individuals do some basic backgrounds checks then your stay will be most rewarding. After all, Western style hotels can be found all over the world therefore it is a great opportunity to feel the uniqueness of Japan.

However, if individuals prefer modern hotels then you have many fantastic places to stay and the hospitality and views of many are extremely pleasing on the eye. Not only this, each hotel will provide a unique atmosphere and individuals are spoilt for choice because you have many splendid ryokans and hotels in this part of Nagano.

Nagano prefecture is also very beautiful and for individuals who have many days to relax and enjoy the stunning nature of this part of Japan, then your decision will be rewarded. Jigokudani Monkey Park is a great place to explore Nagano and the winter period is so scenic. The monkeys also bring a nice dimension because the sight of seeing these beautiful creatures really warms the heart.


December 26, 2011

Astral Boutique in California and Vintage Style in trendy Tokyo

Astral Boutique in California and Vintage Style in trendy Tokyo

Sarah Deschamps and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Sasha Soukup is a very creative lady and if you visit Astral Boutique then you can feel her deep passion and artistic nature within the styles on show and the presentation given. Astral Boutique provides lovely vintage style clothes and accessories. Also, the impact of nature and aesthetics is clear for all to see within this fashion company. Therefore, while the Sierra foothills in California may appear to be distant from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, in the world of fashion it is just a step away.

In recent years vintage fashion is impacting on the younger generation in trendy Tokyo and even in the Mecca of youth culture in Shibuya you will find vintage fashion. Also, in the smaller fashion districts like Nakameguro you will find the vintage style flourishing. This would certainly please individuals like Sasha Soukup because her company Astral Boutique caters for individuals who adore this type of fashion.

Sasha Soukup ( comments that “I have taken a winding road to end up at my happy home selling vintage clothing on Etsy. I always knew I was an artist, but for a long time it seemed impossible to blend my love of literature, film, dress-up, and magic into one “coherent” form. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I studied Cinema in college, worked in every strange job I could find in my 20s, studied Herbal Medicine, and developed my artistic life in musical performance. Eventually I could not resist the call of the Wild, and I moved to the forest in the Sierra foothills, in a very hippie-friendly community that is full of unique artists. I love my working life because I get to make magic and stories for a living, and sell clothes to happy people all over the world!”

Therefore, Sasha Soukup fuses nature, thought patterns, individualism, art, the environment, and other creative angles, in order to enhance Astral Boutique. In Tokyo you have companies like Grimoire, Hypnotique, Kinji, Panama Boy, Tarock, Cult Party, Qosmos, Kinsella, Monde Garage, Berberjin, Bubbles, and many others, which fuse aspects of vintage styles within the image of Baroque (Grimoire) or remain firmly within vintage fashion (Monde Garage). This creativity is in increasing demand and Grimoire which is based in the Shibuya area (near to Harajuku) is extremely passionate about their fashion designs.

Of course the trendy nature of Grimoire, which focuses on Baroque styles but creates individual designs, is clearly a million miles away from the vintage fashion of Astral Boutique. However, the connection is that past fashions have influenced their modern thinking and you can feel a connection with historical European fashion. Despite this, the beauty of companies like Grimoire is that their fashion is not only distinctive, but it is trendy in a special way and clearly this company is thriving.

The style of Sasha Soukup and her company Astral Boutique may be very different from some of the above mentioned companies in Tokyo. However, they all share an inner passion which is searching for something new but within the fusion of past fashion trends and designs. This in turn generates an individual style and creates fresh ideas which fit easily within “the many worlds of fashion.” Therefore, many young Tokyoites are connecting with vintage styles and other types of products which belong to a different era but which continue to bless the modern world.

Sasha Soukup further comments that “I choose my vintage very carefully, based on timeless design, quality fabrics, and flattering color schemes. I follow current vintage trends, because they are fun, but also stock a lot of classic pieces that will never go out of style. I am a one person operation, and I do all of my photography, modeling, styling, customer service, and promotion myself! It is really fun doing outdoor photo shoots- I love the rural background for my clothes, especially because I carry so many pieces from the 1960s and 1970s “hippie” or “boho” days in California. The natural setting really complements the feeling of these special pieces. I love nothing more than hearing that someone has opened their package and fallen in love with the clothing inside- I think of myself as a channel for beautiful and unique vintage. It sounds funny to say that it is almost a spiritual thing for me, but clothing has a lot of energy! I like to keep it flowing, so I keep my prices very low.”

It is extremely refreshing that you have fashion individuals like Sasha Soukup because just like the fashion company Grimoire in Tokyo, it is individuals and unique companies which are keeping the “heart of fashion alive” and this is essential. After all, behind all the commercialism are individuals who want to express aspects about themselves. This means that individual buyers who adore fashion can connect strongly with fashion companies like Astral Boutique because each individual item is based on passion and utmost care.

In Koenji which is an unusual fashion district in Tokyo you will see many aspects of ordinary life and people going about their daily life. However, amidst the mundane buildings you also have a flourishing fashion district whereby new designers are creating their own styles. Also, retro fashion is in huge demand and companies like Spank!s is showing another angle of Tokyo fashion.

The fashion district of Nakameguro is also blessed with companies which highlight vintage fashion, for example Monde Garage. Also, J’Antiques sells all sorts of different vintage products and if you shop around the old world will open up a new dimension.

Nakameguro, Daikanyama, Jiyugaoka, Kichijoji, Nakano, and Shimo-Kitazawa, are smaller fashion districts in Tokyo but they are enabling the uniqueness of fashion in this mega-city to shine. In truth, the beauty of Tokyo is that while Aoyama, Harajuku, Ikebukuro, Ginza, Omotesando, Shibuya, and Shinjuku, hog the limelight; it is the lesser lights which have enhanced the quality of life in Tokyo.

Takako Hotta, who is a stunning model and actress in Tokyo, simply adores shopping in districts like Nakameguro. One of her favorite boutiques is Monde Garage in this part of Tokyo. In her video Takako Hotta comments that “all the clothes are handmade” and this appeals greatly to this elegant and sophisticated lady.

This spirit is powerful and so is the importance of hand made products, individualism, and searching for something special. Of course, the trendy districts of Aoyama, Harajuku, Ikebukuro, Ginza, Omotesando, Shibuya, and Shinjuku, are all very special and you have amazing boutiques. However, for individuals who adore vintage fashion then companies like Astral Boutiques in California and Qosmos in Shibuya provide their own unique vibe and spark of creativity.

Returning back to the charming and sophisticated Sasha Soukup she comments that “I am lucky to have built a fan base of loyal customers from all over the world. The Etsy community is so friendly, and many fellow sellers and customers have become my “real life” friends! There is also an appreciation for artistic presentation on Etsy, and some people have even used my shop photos as templates for their paintings. It is a real artistic community, with inspiration shared all around.”

Therefore, if you adore vintage fashion then please check the website of Astral Boutique because within each fashion item is an inner spirit of care and passion. Individuals like Sasha Soukup bless the fashion industry because  buyers of vintage fashion, designers, people searching for old vintage styles, lovers of fashion, and so forth, all have their own part to play in order to maintain a diverse fashion scene. Also, the artistic images on her adorable website, highlights the vibrant spirit within Astral Boutique and this is most noticeable.

ASTRAL BOUTIQUE Twitter account of Sasha Soukup Astral Boutique (PLEASE VISIT)



December 23, 2011

South Korean fashion: Kpopsicle, international fashion and Tokyo

South Korean fashion: Kpopsicle, international fashion and Tokyo

Michel Lebon and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Kpopsicle is a stunning South Korean company which sells stylish clothes and accessories online. The international community is fully aware about the “K-pop music wave” hitting the international community. Therefore, with fashion companies like Kpopsicle, the South Korean “fashion wave” should follow because of the ongoing creativity in this nation.
If you check it becomes apparent immediately that this online fashion company is clearly trendy and they are selling quality clothes and accessories. Also, the models highlight the products from many different angles and this is extremely helpful and the website is user-friendly and creates a warm feel. This applies to stylish photography which highlights the style and elegance of Kpopsicle products.

Not only this, but because Kpopsicle is focused on modern and trendy fashion they desire to make the clothes and accessories come alive. Therefore, exquisite models highlight the products which are for sale and images show each item in a stylish and practical way. At all times you can feel the care of this company and the pride they have in their fashion.

Kpopsicle fashion suits modern and elegant ladies irrespective of nation because you have many lovely styles to pick from. This means that Kpopsicle fashion suits the streets of Jakarta, London, New York, Osaka, Paris, Seoul, Tokyo, and in any nation where fashion is adored throughout the world.

Modern Tokyo Times clearly puts an emphasis on Tokyo and other major cities like Kobe, Nagoya, Osaka, Yokohama, and throughout Japan, when it comes to fashion. However, this does make sense because the fashion market in Tokyo alone is one of the largest in the world. Therefore, in major cities like Tokyo and Osaka you will have crème de la crème fashion in many districts.

The streets of Harajuku, Ikebukuro, Omotesando, Shibuya, Shinjuku, and other areas, are buzzing in Tokyo. Obviously other major cities like Osaka and Kobe are amazing places for fashion. In Osaka this notably applies to Namba and the Umeda area which are awash with fantastic boutiques and internet fashion also continues to grow.

This means that Kpopsicle and other South Korean fashion companies have huge potential to spread the creativity of this country which is blessed with a rich history. Also, the K-pop music wave and television series which are spreading to other nations is really creating enormous interest in Korean culture. This means that fashionable ladies in many cities throughout the world are watching the South Korean fashion scene more closely.
Therefore, the elegance and trendy nature of Kpopsicle is showing the buzz and vibrancy of South Korean fashion. This company knows the latest trends and the reputation continues to grow and flourish. Therefore, when you view it is abundantly clear that the “hype” is factual and this stylish fashion company continues to stay one step ahead by focusing on elegant and stunning products.
In another article which highlighted this buzzing fashion company it was commented that If you check then you will see a South Korean fashion company which sells vibrant female fashion clothes online. The fashion available clearly matches all the latest styles and trends in the K-pop music scene. Given this, you can see style, elegance, street wise fashion, sophisticated looks and a plethora of styles which suits the modern and trendy lady.”
Kpopsicle takes great care before choosing their products and this applies to material, color schemes, texture, and photo angles to highlight each individual product. Also, Kpopsicle studies the latest fashion vibes in order to make their client base happy and to attract new customers to this stunning online fashion company.

If you adore female fashion then a visit to Kpopsicle is a must! Kpopsicle – STUNNING FASHION AT THE CLICK OF A BUTTON!/kpopsicle_com/followers  Kpopsicle twitter account


December 23, 2011

Murasaki Shikibu and The Tale of Genji: a female writer who broke the chains

Murasaki Shikibu and The Tale of Genji: a female writer who broke the chains

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Murasaki Shikibu (Lady Murasaki) is the most famous Japanese lady in history and many artists have depicted her because of her wisdom and knowledge. Not surprisingly, her prominence remains so strong because very few ladies in Japanese history have come to the fore because of conservative aspects of culture. Obviously, this conservatism doesn’t solely apply to Japan because in history it appears that female emancipation wasn’t on the radar in the majority of cultures. Therefore, ukiyo-e artists in Japan had little option but to focus on Murasaki Shikibu when it came to depicting a powerful lady in Japanese history.

It is known that she was born in 973 but her death is disputed because some people claim that she died in 1014 and others state 1025. However, given the discrepancy then obviously much is down to guess work and is open to many interpretations. The same applies to her final years on this earth because information is patchy but given this period of history then this isn’t so surprising.

What is known is that Murasaki Shikibu was blessed with many talents and she obtained great knowledge of Chinese classics. Yet, how she obtained this knowledge is also open to interpretation. This applies to historians claiming different things because some state that her father allowed her to study with her brother. However, others dispute this and claim that she was forbidden to study with her brother but because of her inquisitive nature and natural ability, she was able to learn by listening tentatively by the door.

Whatever the truth, it is clear that gender norms in this period meant that she faced an uphill struggle to overcome the obstacles in her way. Also, given the fact that somehow she overcame these obstacles then clearly her output would have been even greater if she had been given freedom to write.  Sadly, even in the modern period it is clear that females in many nations suffer because of gender discrimination throughout the world.

Therefore, it is abundantly clear that many female writers, artists, historians, politicians, and so forth, have suffered “a cultural female genocide” because of male dominance and elitism which deprived women of equality. This reality adds to the power of Murasaki Shikibu because so many others went silently to their grave despite having so much to give throughout the world.

Turning back to Murasaki Shikibu then even her real name is disputed because in a diary which was written in 1007 the name Fujiwara Takako was mentioned. This, according to some individuals, is the real name of Murasaki Shikibu but again nothing is conclusive. Therefore, the most famous lady in Japanese history is based on the legacy that she left and other areas will always remain in doubt unless a hidden manuscript is found – and this appears most unlikely.

What isn’t in doubt is that The Tale of Genji was written by a lady in this period and either her real name survives or a nom de plume was chosen because of cultural factors. However, because of no real clarity then it is best to stay loyal to the name Murasaki Shikibu.

The Tale of Genji is internationally famous and a rich treasure in Japan. Also, this classic highlights the importance of Chinese culture in this period of Japan and this theme remains constant before the events of the late nineteenth century. This classic was written in the Heian period and the richness of style left a lasting impression. Without a shred of doubt Murasaki Shikibu was an extremely gifted individual despite all the negative realities that she faced.

In an earlier article I stated that “Murasaki Shikibu was no normal lady because she desired to express many things and given her stature in society then clearly she had the opportunity to do so.  This lady of letters was a poet, novelist and being in the Imperial court she had certain obligations, therefore, she was a lady-in-waiting.” 

“Her novel called The Tale of Genji left a lasting legacy based on the quality of her writing and the passion that it oozes. Platitudes abound in Japan and throughout the international community and it is a major source of pride for women in Japan and for Japanese culture which is enriched by The Tale of Genji.”

“Ukiyo-e artists have depicted Murasaki Shikibu during the height of this art form in Japan and the art highlights a noble and refined lady.  The art work is based on wisdom, serenity, sophistication, and a lady who had a special aura. Therefore, ukiyo-e artists have transcended Murasaki Shikibu and entered her into a new dimensional world where certainty and an aura of inner-beauty and knowledge are rolled into this remarkable individual.”

The Tale of Genji itself leaves many questions regarding the role of women in Japan. This applies to why did this classic survive and remain unhindered? After all, if females were not allowed to write and study Chinese classics openly, then why wasn’t the book banned? Or does it signify the importance of her background and that she escaped censorship based on her status and knowing high officials? If so, then why didn’t other female writers in high positions leave a lasting legacy in Japan and the same applies to women who knew powerful individuals – therefore, why Murasaki Shikibu and not scores of other female writers?

Murasaki Shikibu entered the imperial court after her husband passed away and during this time she observed and learnt many things. The Tale of Genji became respected in a very short time and again this would indicate that you had few constraints against Japanese female writers. However, history would point in the other direction because you don’t find many famous female writers in Japan in this period.

The earliest manuscript was lost but scrolls in the 12th century were found and clearly The Tale of Genji enriches Japanese culture and highlights many aspects of high society in this period. Therefore, while many aspects of the life of Murasaki Shikibu remain unknown the same doesn’t apply to her legacy because this classic is deemed to be a national treasure.

The last years of her life are also shrouded in mystery because her work appears to cease but again the reasons remain in doubt. Could it be that she was censored after writing this classic?  Or did Murasaki Shikibu retire after achieving what she had always dreamt about?

Again, this is open to many interpretations and for this reason it is unsure about when she died. However, it would appear that her remaining years were relatively tranquil and irrespective of all the uncertainties about her life, it is abundantly clear that The Tale of Genji left a deep impression. Therefore, the legacy of Murasaki Shikibu is very powerful.

In another article I comment that “Murasaki Shikibu also wrote a volume of poetry called The Diary of Lady Murasaki and Japanese artists illuminated this lady of letters to wider society. The art work of ukiyo-e artists in the Edo period and throughout the Meiji period maintained the rich aura of Murasaki Shikibu and her novel The Tale of Genji is a classic within Japanese literature and international literature.”

However, given the lack of female writers, artists, and people in power in Japanese history, then how did Murasaki Shikibu break the chains? Also, if she was allowed to break the chains then why didn’t others follow?

IMAGE ONE: Tosa Mitsuoki

IMAGE TWO: Hiroshige (ukiyo-e)

IMAGE THREE: Kunisada (ukiyo-e)

IMAGE FOUR: Edo period illustration

IMAGE FIVE: Harunobu (ukiyo-e)   The Tale of Genji  The Tale of Genji 

December 22, 2011

Pakistan Fashion and female designers with stunning styles: the Tokyo angle (Part Two)

Pakistan Fashion and female designers with stunning styles: the Tokyo angle (Part Two)

Umair Ahmed Siddiqui and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Urooj-ul-Qamar and brand name Urouge Qamar

Japanese and Pakistan fashion is very different and of course you will have various styles within both nations. However, the impact of modernization, international trends, global brands, and the role of mass communication and international networking, is impacting on the majority of nations throughout the world. Therefore, while cultural and religious differences may be very different on the whole between Japan and Pakistan, you do have similarities which cut across these differences.

Tokyo fashion

The role of “soft-power” is very important to Japan and this applies to anime, cosplay, J-pop, computer games, kawaii culture, fashion, and many other areas. On the other hand, the international community needs to focus on the dynamics of Pakistan and not just negative factors related to religious extremism. After all, Pakistan is very diverse and you have many fashion designers, musicians, writers, and other vital areas where the younger generation is reaching out internally and internationally.

In the article called Pakistan Fashion: women entrepreneurs, amazing styles and the Tokyo angle (part 1) the focus was on Sabeen Waqar, Maheen Waqar, and Kulsoom Rizvi. The two sisters have a brand company called “Jalebi” and clearly both Sabeen Waqar and Maheen Waqar have been blessed with many talents. Likewise, Kulsoom Rizvi who created the brand called “Kaaf” is equally blessed with amazing skills and her creativity is attracting people to her own unique style.

These three elegant ladies from Pakistan are highlighting the power of a new generation which is confident, international minded, and in the world of business they are showing their own individual styles. In this article the focus will be on Urooj-ul-Qamar and her brand Urouge Qamar because she is yet another lady from this nation who adores fashion and being creative.


Before focusing more on Urooj-ul-Qamar the attention will be briefly on Japan and the buzzing districts of Tokyo and Osaka. Like mentioned in the previous article it is hoped one day that fashion designers from Pakistan will also be visible in the huge fashion market of Japan. After all, fashion on the streets of Aoyama (Tokyo), Harajuku (Tokyo),Ikebukuro (Tokyo), Namba (Osaka), Omotesando (Tokyo), Shibuya (Tokyo), Umeda (Osaka), and throughout both cities, is a mixture of Japanese, European, and North America fashion. However, given the youthful nature of Kulsoom Rizvi, Sabeen Waqar, Maheen Waqar, and Urooj-ul-Qamar, it is hoped that these young fashion designers from Pakistan will impact internationally in the future because they have so much to offer the world of international fashion.


Also, the uniqueness of Kulsoom Rizvi, Sabeen Waqar, Maheen Waqar, and Urooj-ul-Qamar, and other modern designers from Pakistan, should be watched closely internationally because new ideas, fusions, different thinking, and creativity, is what makes the fashion industry fresh. Therefore, by focusing on the designs of all the above mentioned it is clear that their color schemes, styles, creativity, and individualism, shines through.


Urooj-ul-Qamar is a final year student of Textile Design in Karachi and studies in the Department of Visual Studies. Her focus is on art work and designing and both these talents can be seen in the brand company called Urouge Qamar. Also, like the fashion brand Jalebi, Urooj-ul-Qamar is another lady who focuses on recycling and this will go down well in Japan and throughout the world.

Urouge Qamar

Urooj-ul-Qamar commented that “I was very good with aesthetics from a very young age and my interests are in field of “Jewelry Making” with real stones.” This elegant and stylish lady continues by stating that “I was thinking about bringing some change to the typical jewelry women wear these days therefore I ended up making jewelry from wicker.” This style is complex and difficult to produce but the end result is amazing and shows the spirit and creativity of her fashion brand Urouge Qamar.

Urouge Qamar

Accessories are adored by ladies in Tokyo, Kobe, Osaka, and throughout Japan. Therefore, Japanese ladies who shop in fashionable areas like Aoyama, Harajuku, and Umeda, and so many other fashion districts, would clearly adore the elegant and sophisticated designs of the fashion brand Urouge Qamar. This applies to clutch purses with fabulous color schemes and stunning jewelry which fits many different styles. It is therefore hoped that just like European and North American designers have impacted on fashion in Japan, that ideas emanating from stylish designers in Pakistan will also make a major impact in the future.

Japanese fashion

The handmade and innovative fashion accessories by the brand Urouge Qamar are extremely elegant and full of panache, just like the designer. Therefore, all the elegant designers mentioned in this article are showing a different side to Pakistan. This applies to being blessed with amazing young female fashion designers who are confident and ultra-modern in their thinking and styles.

Urouge Qamar

Urooj-ul-Qamar can be contacted at urooj.qamar@live.comand it is hoped that one day her designs will be seen on the streets of Osaka, Tokyo, London, New York, and other major cities throughout the world.

Fashion in Omotesando in Tokyo

Overall, each individual designer highlighted in this article is clearly articulate, sophisticated, and stylish. Therefore, because of their stunning designs and creativity, they are showing the vibrant nature of Pakistan. These young business ladies and designers augur well for the future of this nation because they all have something fresh to offer the international fashion community.

The ladies mentioned in this article can be contacted below:

Kulsoom Rizvi can be contacted at

Sabeen Waqar can be contacted at

Urooj-ul-Qamar can be contacted at   Part 1 – Read more about the other fashion designers mentioned in this article

Thanks to Ms. Zara for photography

Umair Ahmed Siddiqui runs his own design studio called “CARTEL Design Studio” and provides valued consultancy information to important domestic and international companies. Also, in publication & writing he is the Foreign Correspondent for the Korean Textile Newspaper ( where you can find his publication on every Thursday. Also, he is writing for a Korean Fashion Magazine called Fashion Clue.  Recently, he joined Modern Tokyo Times and his knowledge is in high demand because of his unique vision.

Umair Ahmed Siddiqui

He can be contacted at and please check his website at

December 20, 2011

Sendai Pageant of Starlight from Ari TV: images since the Tsunami of March 11

Sendai Pageant of Starlight from Ari TV: images since the Tsunami of March 11

Michel Le Bon and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Ari TV is at the heart of Sendai and the “Sendai Pageant of Starlight” which is currently on show, is creating a lovely atmosphere and the event finishes late on December 31. Therefore, you have multitudes of stunning lights which re-awakens the “child” within and for children the scenery is magical and is a place where dreams are made.

If you click onto ( this video by Ari TV then you can see that Sendai is glowing in the spirit of hope and joy. This image is especially powerful this year because of the potent tsunami which killed tens of thousands of people and destroyed so much of the infrastructure. However, the “Sendai Pageant of Starlight” is like Ari TV in many ways because it is based on joy, hope, and provides a fitting place to visit before the start of a new year.

This year is especially difficult for people throughout areas of Japan which were hit by the potent tsunami. Therefore, the lights in Sendai are bringing an extra glow this year and they are a clear reminder that this city, and other places which were badly hit, is fighting back and bracing itself for a new year.

If we step back, and turn back to the fateful day of March 11, 2011, then Ari TV continued to show “the real picture” of Sendai. The image below shows the shocking reality of March 11 which swept away so many people. Also, this image is a reminder of the deadly power of nature and how events can change quickly.

The following image below ( which was entered on March 23 by Ari TV is an amazing image. This applies to the smiling faces of four young boys who are enjoying the simple pleasures of life despite the devastation that their eyes witnessed. This image by Ari TV is a million times more powerful than the daily news of famous international media outlets which dwelled on sadness and utter devastation.

In many ways, this is the philosophy of Ari TV because while everybody at this media outlet understands the utter devastation that took place and the grief and sadness which entailed – this company also understood the need for regeneration and fighting back against the adversity of nature which killed so many people.

This image was ( uploaded on March 18 and again Ari TV is highlighting the spirit of humanity. After all, all you can see is utter devastation but despite everything this gentleman is carrying a cat with complete care.

The following image ( uploaded on June 24 is a clear reminder that many people are still without proper homes and that Sendai and many other areas need massive financial support.

On September 10 ( you have a stunning image of two young girls playing in the sea. In the background you have a lovely skyline and unlike the chaos of March 11, the sea is once more a place of pleasure. Therefore, this image is showing you the serene nature of the sea where children play and enjoy.

The next image ( uploaded on October 30 shows local people playing music. Also, they are dressed in costumes which show that continuity is in full flow. This once more signifies the power of the local community and that normality is essential despite all the problems that the region faces.

The next image ( is tinged with great sadness because local people and the Buddhist priest are praying for children who have died. Dolls and other toys have been hanged up and this image takes you back to the terrible suffering of March 11. This image was uploaded on November 12 and the power of this photo is clear for all to see because it is a grim reminder that so many children died.

Finally the last highlighted area of this article ( of Sendai is a video taken on December 9. In this video you see a Sendai at peace and lovely lights which highlight the positive nature of this city. However, Ari TV and local people know that many challenges are still to be faced but the spirit remains strong and growing.

It is essential that Ari TV is supported because Takayuki Sato (Tak) and everybody at Ari TV desire to help the local community. Therefore, Ari TV is a lifeline to many people in Sendai and Miyagi prefecture and advertisement, sponsorship, viewing, and helping this company grow in many other ways, is needed because Sendai suffered greatly and this city is very powerful in the region of Tohoku.

Turning back to the “Sendai Pageant of Starlight” then this is a great way for people in Japan to support the region by visiting this fantastic display. However, in the long-term, it is essential that local businesses are supported. The same applies to the local media which is very powerful within the community.

Therefore, stay tune to local events by clicking onto the website below and enjoy Ari TV which is reaching out to local people and showing a positive image to the international community. Ari TV

[Tohoku Revival Calendar]-Japanese version   – Please contact for more information.!/re_tohoku_en – Please contact for more information

December 19, 2011

Pakistan Fashion: women entrepreneurs, amazing styles and the Tokyo angle (part 1)

Pakistan Fashion: women entrepreneurs, amazing styles and the Tokyo angle (part 1)

Umair Ahmed Siddiqui and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Kulsoom Rizvi – Kaaf

Pakistan is blessed with a rich culture and this country provides wide opportunities for the people of this nation to have a variety of styles in the field of fashion. Therefore, when you look all around Pakistan you will see many stunning colors and styles. This applies to bangles, mehendi (traditional type of tattoo work), jewelry, bags, and an abundance of different types of traditional dresses. Therefore, this enables fashion designers to fuse aspects of this richness when creating something new to suit the modern lady throughout the world.

In recent times we can say that today’s fashion in Pakistan belongs to the upcoming youth designers who are more bold and daring. Given this, you have many young entrepreneur designers who are reaching out internally and externally. Also, it is great that female designers are showing a positive image of Pakistan and highlighting a side which is being ignored in the mass media.

Sabeen Waqar – Jalebi

Therefore, in this article the focus is on Sabeen Waqar of the brand called “Jalebi,” her sister Maheen Waqar who focuses on the jewelry angle, and Kulsoom Rizvi who is the owner of the brand called “Kaaf.” Each individual lady is sophisticated, stylish, and elegant, and they are highlighting the vibrant spirit of fashion in Pakistan. Also, these entrepreneurs are showing the world that behind all the negative headlines you have a different Pakistan which is confident, international, and independent in spirit.

Clothes in Pakistan are being highly stylized by modern and upcoming designers and trend setters. This is the reason for the growing popularity of designers in Pakistan and the unique vibes coming from within the culture is being fused within the fashion industry. Not surprisingly, fashion companies in the western world and designers can see this “fresh Pakistan wave” and increasing attention is being focused on the fashion industry in this nation.

If we look at the “Korean wave” in K-pop and notice the pulling power of the Japanese market then it is feasible that “a Pakistan fashion wave” could also reach the streets of Tokyo, Kobe, Osaka, and other leading cities.  Also, the rich traditions of Japan and Pakistan could fuse a different style and commercial aspects of both nations need to understand that both countries have much to offer.

Crème de la crème fashion companies target the Japanese market and walking around the trendy areas of Aoyama, Omotesando, Harajuku, and throughout the Tokyo fashion scene, you will see a plethora of European boutiques. The same applies to all major cities in Japan and the buzzing districts of Osaka in places like Umeda is a fine example. This applies to many crème de la crème boutiques from Europe and North America which blend naturally with boutiques from Japan.


Returning to the fashion designers in this article then the first focus will be on Kulsoom Rizvi and her brand Kaaf. Kulsoom Rizvi is an extremely beautiful lady and richly talented and clearly this can be seen by her stunning designs. Her company Kaaf became established in August 2011 and currently this sophisticated lady is in her third year at the Asian Institute of Fashion Design, whereby Kulsoom Rizvi is studying Textile Designing.

The background of Kulsoom Rizvi is very fascinating because despite her young years her experience is extremely powerful This applies to working with leading designers in Pakistan and this includes Nomi Ansari, Sonya Battla, Vaneeza Ahmed and textile giant Gul-Ahmed who recognized her creativity and abundant talents – therefore he printed her stylish designs in 2009 with regards to the winter collection.


Her main source of inspiration has been her sister in law Amna Asghar Nawab who is the Regional Manager of Khaadi in the United Arab Emirates. Her brand Kaaf includes apparel, upholstery and accessories, therefore, Kaaf caters for a broad spectrum and at all times you can feel and see the vibes of this talented lady. Kulsoom Rizvi is most recognized for her vibrant choice of colors, rhythmic designs, and enchanting styles. Also, one consistent element in her designs has been the peacock, which is the symbol of pride and beauty and clearly her designs and “self” applies to “pride and beauty” because of her creativity and elegance.

Kaaf is a company which is in its infancy but this charming lady is showing the vibrant spirit of the younger generation in Pakistan. Therefore, Kulsoom Rizvi is clearly a young lady of substance and her confidence and elegance is based on the new spirit emerging in this nation. Recently her collection was exhibited in Karachi and clearly fashion lovers were amazed by the talents of this 21 year old lady.

Kaaf is in growing demand because Kulsoom Rizvi understands the market and the need to find new angles in this competitive field. The first objective for Kaaf is to expand within Pakistan and then to reach out globally and clearly the potential of this lady is enormous. Also, from the point of view of fashion in Tokyo, Osaka, and throughout Japan, it is essential that new fashion hubs emerge in other nations because this will lead to new fusions, ideas, and expand cultural ties.

Sabeen Waqar of the brand called Jalebi is another lady who is passionate about fashion and clearly her motivation is extremely high and this is matched by her creativity and sophistication. Her sister Maheen Waqar is also extremely talented and focuses on the jewelry angle of Jalebi. Therefore, these two sisters are highlighting the growing strength of female designers and business individuals in Pakistan who are challenging the status quo and this angle needs to be shown to the international community.


The basic concept behind Jalebi and the main purpose of launching this brand is their passion for fashion alongside their love for recycling, making hand-made jewelry which is arty, and designing affordable fashion. These intriguing aspects have all been met with style, elegance, and “a spirit of freshness” which is extremely attractive.

Currently Jalebi is being stocked at several places but in time both sisters desire to expand and to show people their unique ideas and creativity. Jalebi focuses on vivacious colors, chewy textures, flirty feminine cuts and other important aspects of their charming fashion designs.


Jalebi commented that “Our main message to the world is to re-use what they call garbage and convert it into astonishing arty products, or just come and buy our products and contribute in saving the planet.” This angle will certainly go down well on the streets of Tokyo, Osaka, and Kobe, and throughout the world.

In time Jalebi will further the recycling angle into new areas of the company but for now both sisters have high hopes for the future. These ambitions deserve to be rewarded because both sisters are sophisticated and they are part of a new international generation which is fusing business alongside strong ethics related to the environment. More important, from a fashion point of view, these ladies from Pakistan have so much to offer the fashion world because of their creativity, vibes, and their passion for focusing on new styles and relating this to the environment.


It is hoped that in the future that the fashion scene in Pakistan will reach the streets of Ginza (Tokyo), Harajuku (Tokyo), Namba (Osaka), Omotesando (Tokyo), Umeda (Osaka), and throughout Japan. After all, the European and North American fashion scene is thriving in Japan and of course the same applies to stunning Japanese boutiques. Therefore, one day in the future it is hoped that the younger generation in Pakistan will make their mark in Japan and throughout the world.

Kulsoom Rizvi can be contacted at

Sabeen Waqar can be contacted at

Thanks to Ms. Zara  for photography

Umair Ahmed Siddiqui runs his own design studio called “CARTEL Design Studio” and provides valued consultancy information to important domestic and international companies. Also, in publication & writing he is the Foreign Correspondent for the Korean Textile Newspaper ( where you can find his publication on every Thursday. Also, he is writing for a Korean Fashion Magazine called Fashion Clue.  Recently, he joined Modern Tokyo Times and his knowledge is in high demand because of his unique vision.

Umair Ahmed Siddiqui

He can be contacted at