Hazy-night moon (Oboroyo no tsuki)

A masked Noh actor performs the role of the robber Kumasaka no Chohan – a scarf tied round his head and carrying a long pike – who was killed in 1174 when his band  unwisely attacked the young Minamoto no Yoshitsune at Akasaka. There is no moon visible in the print, and the title reminds…

Amaterasu 天照

Amaterasu (天照), Amaterasu-ōmikami (天照大神/天照大御神/天照皇大神) or Ōhirume-no-muchi-no-kami (大日孁貴神?) is a part of the Japanese myth cycle and also a major deity of the Shinto religion. She is seen as the goddess of the sun, but also of the universe. The name Amaterasu derived from Amateru means “shining in heaven.” The meaning of her whole name, Amaterasu-ōmikami,…

Izanagi and Izanami

Izanagi (いざなぎ, recorded in the Kojiki as 伊邪那岐 and in the Nihon Shoki as 伊弉諾) is a deity born of the seven divine generations in Japanese mythology and Shinto, and his name in the Kojiki is roughly translated to as “he-who-invites” or Izanagi-no-mikoto. He is also known as Izanagi-no-Okami. In Japanese mythology, Izanami-no-Mikoto (Japanese: 伊弉冉尊…

Kojiki 古事記

Kojiki (古事記 “Records of Ancient Matters” or “An Account of Ancient Matters”), also known as Furukotofumi, is the oldest extant chronicle in Japan, dating from the early 8th century (711–712) and composed by Ō no Yasumaro at the request of Empress Genmei. The Kojiki is a collection of myths concerning the origin of the four…

紋 Mon

Mon (紋), also monshō (紋章), mondokoro (紋所), and kamon (家紋), are Japanese emblems used to decorate and identify an individual or family. While mon is an encompassing term that may refer to any such device, kamon and mondokoro refer specifically to emblems used to identify a family. An authoritative mon reference compiles Japan’s 241 general…

Kagura dance

Kagura (神楽, かぐら, “god-entertainment”) is a Japanese word referring to a specific type of Shinto theatrical dance—with roots arguably predating those of Noh. Once strictly a ceremonial art derived from kami’gakari (神懸, かみがかり, “oracular divination”) and chinkon (鎮魂, ちんこん, “spirit pacification”), Kagura has evolved in many directions over the span of more than a millennium….

Wagasa

The Japanese umbrella is made with Japanese paper (Washi) or silk cloth with bamboo bones. It has been uniquely refined as living necessities in the ancient capital of Kyoto where varieties of local specialties are gathered from around the country. It was widely used from the Heian and Kamakura Period (794 – 1333) until the…

Festivals

Japanese festivals are traditional festive occasions. Some festivals have their roots in Chinese festivals centuries ago, but have undergone great changes as they mixed with local customs. Some are so different that they do not even remotely resemble the original festival despite sharing the same name and date. There are also various local festivals (e.g….

Ainu Mukkuri

Mukkuri is a traditional Japanese plucked idiophone indigenous to the Ainu. The Mukkuri is made from bamboo and is 10 cm long and 1.5 cm wide. Similar to a jaw harp, sound is made by pulling the string and vibrating the reed as it is placed in the performer’s mouth.

Tsukuyomi-no-Mikoto 月読尊

Tsukuyomi-no-Mikoto or Tsukiyomi (月読 also known as Tsukiyomi-no-mikoto, 月読尊), is the moon god in Shinto and Japanese mythology. The -no-mikoto ending is a common honorific suffix for the names of gods, of similar meaning to “the grand, the great, the exalted”. The name “Tsukuyomi” is a compound of the Old Japanese words tsuku (月, “moon,…

Masks

Begin Japanology and Peter Barakan is presenting the amazing and mysterious world of Masks. Another documentary dedicated to the excellent Japanese artisans.

Koto Vortex I : Hiroshi Yoshimura

The koto (Japanese: 箏) is a traditional Japanese stringed musical instrument derived from the Chinese zheng, and similar to the Mongolian yatga, the Korean gayageum, and the Vietnamese đàn tranh. The koto is the national instrument of Japan. Koto are about 180 centimetres (71 in) length, and made from kiri wood (Paulownia tomentosa). They have 13…