May 31, 2015

VID: The Best of Japanology 101

NHK Japanology - (21 Videos)
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    Japan 101 for foreigners, everything you ever wanted to know about Japan is right here.
   With all the charm of a corporate video, host Peter Barakan from the NHK thoroughly documents a distinct aspect of Japanese culture. These 30 min documentaries are extremely well researched & feature the foremost authorities in their respective fields.

   1. Ninja (忍者) -  Under cover of darkness, moving by stealth, ninja used superb physical skill a& special equipment to infiltrate & disrupt their enemies. Ninja appeared during Japan's age of regional conflict, & their origins seem to lie in small communities that were clustered in the mountainous regions of Iga & Koka. Our expert guest this time is Hiroshi Ikeda, who has spent the last 25 years tracking down information about ninja.

   2. Ukiyo-e (浮世絵) - Traditional Japanese woodblock prints have depicted everything from beautiful women & kabuki actors to famous landscapes, motifs close to the heart of the Japanese in centuries past. In Japan, ukiyo-e prints were a part of popular culture, but abroad they became admired as fine art, & influenced famous artists such as Van Gogh and Monet.

   3. Sword (カタナ) - The history, craftsmanship & practice of the Japanese katana.

   4. Geisha (芸者) - A private banquet in the company of geisha is considered the ultimate in elegant hospitality. A common misconception is that geisha are courtesans - in reality, they are skilled practitioners of traditional performing arts. At one time, there were 80,000 of them working in Japan, but only about 1,000 remain today.

   5. Kimonos (和服) - The kimono is the traditional costume of Japan. Yet even the most sumptuous kimono is constructed quite simply: just a few strips of fabric sewn together. With their wide variety of seasonal designs, kimonos reflect Japan's rich natural beauty.

   6. Geiko & Maiko (芸妓や舞妓) - A more in depth examination of the traditions, practices & games surrounding geisha entertainment.

   7.  Armor (鎧) - Japanese armor was developed to offer protection from spears, arrows, & swords, while allowing agile movement on rough terrain & steep slopes. After the introduction of firearms, the future shogun adopted aspects of Western-style armor, leading to a major turning point in Japanese history. The best armor is a complex work of art.

   8. Kendo (剣道) - The Japanese martial art of fencing with bamboo swords.

   9. Sumo (相撲) - Sumo is often called Japan's national sport. Wrestlers, naked except for a special loincloth, face off, smash into each other & battle for victory. Sumo is both a martial art & a highly stylized slice of traditional Japanese culture, with its own codes of appearance & conduct.

   10. Sushi (寿司) - Sushi can be prepared with either brown or white rice. Sushi is often prepared with raw seafood, but some common varieties of sushi use cooked ingredients or are vegetarian. Raw fish (or occasionally other meat) sliced & served without rice is called "sashimi".

   11. Yokai (妖怪) - The collective name for all sorts of bizarre creatures & supernatural phenomena in Japanese folklore. They have a very long history in Japan, & these days they often feature in video games, anime, manga & many other contexts. Yokai culture, with its huge variety of uncanny creatures, offers a window on the Japanese mind.

   12. Okinawan Karate (沖縄の空手) - 'Tee' is what the original form of karate was once called in its birthplace, Okinawa, in southern Japan. The traditional form still practiced to this day in Okinawa, is not about trying to defeat an opponent or becoming a winner, but instead to fight oneself. More than 5,000 visitors from around the world visit Okinawa each year to learn this form of karate.

   13.  Kabuki (歌舞伎) - Dazzling costumes, striking makeup, & graceful movement. Kabuki acting is highly stylized, & the audience appreciates the many conventions. But Kabuki isn’t stuffy. There are thrilling fight scenes & elaborate set designs. Audience members call out the names of the various houses of Kabuki actors.

   14.  Ramen (ラーメン) - Ramen is one of Japan's favorite foods. Broth, noodles & toppings are the 3 elements, but within that basic framework there is almost endless variation. An annual gathering in Tokyo of the best ramen shops from around Japan draws hundreds of thousands, & now the popularity of ramen is going global.

   15. Plastic Food Samples (食品サンプル) - Skilled artisans constantly strive to make plastic food look realistic & delicious. Recently, the striking visual impact of plastic food has made the models popular souvenirs with foreign tourists.

   16. Karaoke (カラオケ) - Karaoke was invented about 40 years ago as a way to let people indulge their singing fantasies. One creator was a talented bandsman. Together with an engineer friend, he made one of the world’s first karaoke machines. Since its invention, karaoke has evolved greatly along with the latest technology.

   17. Hiragana (平仮名) - One of the Japanese systems of syllabic writing based on Chinese cursive ideograms. The more widely used of the two current systems, it is employed in newspapers & general literature.

   18. Vending Machines (自動販売機) - Japan is a nation of vending machines, 5.2 million of them! You find them everywhere, selling all sorts of products & many vending machines do much more than simply sell things.

19. Karakami Art (唐紙) - Karakami is a decorative Japanese paper used to ornament interior sliding doors during the Edo period. This program examines the history of karakami through the work of a family in Kyoto that has preserved this traditional art form for nearly 400 years.

   20. Public Bathhouses (銭湯) - Japanese public bathhouses, also called sento. From the outside, some of them look like Shinto shrines or Buddhist temples. Inside, they have many features that help to create a space for retreat & relaxation. More than just a place to wash the body, bathhouses have long served as a social forum for the local community.

21. Toilets (便所) - Toilets technology in Japan is light years ahead of toilets in other developed nations.