One day I went to Kamakura, one of the most popular cities among both Japanese and foreign tourists last autumn. Kamakura is home to many old and famous Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, and other historical sites for it was the seat of the Kamakura Shogunate of the Genji family during the Kamakura Period (assumed to be from 1192 to 1333).
In every New Year’s Holiday period, that area is visited by so many visitors from all over Japan and even outside of the country for Japanese customary “Hatsumoude”(初詣, the first visit to a Shinto shrine or a Buddist temple of a year). For example, more than Two million people visit The Tsurugaoka Hachimangu, the biggest and most popular shrine in Kamakura on average every year, most of whom go there for hatsumoude.
Like other shrines and temples, The Tsurugaoka Hachimangu hosts special festivals and ceremonies in the New Year’s term, such as ” Saitansai”(/歳旦祭, a grand prayer ceremony for peace and prosperity at the beginning of a year)on Jan. 1st, “Gohan gyouji”(御判行事, stamping a seal of the shrine on a forehead of a visitor to protect the visitor from evil ) from Jan.1st through 7th, “Chouna hajime shiki”(/手斧始式, carrying a big holy timber to tribute it to the shrine)on Jan.4th, “Jyoma shinji”(/除魔神事, an archery ceremony to dispel evil)on Jan.5th, and so forth.
This time I showed two visitors around Kamakura as a pro tour guide. Both of them are pro caricaturists, one of whom is Dave-san, an American artist and the other of whom is Tomoko-san, a Japanese artist who often appears in TV shows to teach how to draw caricature works or portraits to TV personalities. http://www.hoshinoko.co.jp/tomoko/profile_e.html
I met both Dave-san and Tomoko-san two years ago at an international caricature event held in Asakusa which is also an area of one of popular tourists’ destinations in Tokyo. I worked as a volunteer interpreter at that event and met many caricaturists from various countries. “Caricature” is usually translated to Japanese as “Nigaoe” , and caricature is not unique to Japan but worldwide cultural art. Yet according to the explanation of Tomoko-san, Nigaoe and caricature are different cultural arts just like that Japanese “Manga” and western “comic” or ” cartoon” are different.
“Nigaoe” literally means ” likeness”,”composite sketch”, or “cartoonish portrait”. So it doesn’t necessarily imply ” satirical cartoon or comic” like general “caricature” does. And approaches of nigaoe art are unique, Tomoko-san says she would like to familiarize the Japanese expression “nigaoe” to the world. As she is a great artist and one of the leading figures of the nigaoe world, I believe this Japanese word will rapidly prevail in all over the world as a concept of one new Japanese cultural art genre.
Personally I really respect Tomoko-san partly because she taught the Nigaoe drawing to some members of AKB48, a very popular girls idol group in Japan at the moment which I wrote about on my previous page here, in a TV show called “Suiensaa”(/すイエんサー, a kind of anagram of “science” )http://www.nhk.or.jp/suiensaa/. That show is hosted by a popular comedian group Shinagawashouji(/品川庄司) ,Mai Ooshima(/大島麻衣), a graduate member of AKB48, and other current AKB48 members. The show is concerning science for children , introducing interesting scientific phenomena and experiments every time .
AKB48 performed at “Kouhaku Uta gassen” , the nationally popular singing event at the new year’s eve every year for the second time on Dec.31st 2009 as I wrote on a previous page here. http://www.tenkai-japan.com/2009/11/24/kouhaku-performers-names-revealed/ Both Suiensaa (on NHK Educational TV)and Kouhaku(on NHK General TV and NHK BS2) are aired at the same tv station of NHK though the channels are different. This may be a good sign that this idol group is becoming more and more well-known and popular nationwide regardless of the generations, the living areas, and other stuff of people in the society, for NHK ,which seems to welcome AKB48, is a kind of national broadcasting association.
Tomoko-san kindly drew and gave me a nigaoe likeness of me when we first met at the international caricature event in Asakusa two years ago.I really cherish her great work for me with a deep gratitude.
Dave-san also is a great figure in the caricature and nigaoe world. He sometimes visits Japan and speaks good Japanese, knowing so much about Japanese concepts and culture to my surprise. He is contributing vigorously as a bridge between Japanese and western artists of the fields.
On the day which we three visited Kamakura , first we met at the Kamakura station at about 11:00AM. I saw them for the first time in two years and we three were all so happy at this reunion.
Then we went to Komachi-dori Street, the most famous and popular shopping street in Kamakura near the station. That street is home to many restaurants, souvenir shops,and other stores. “Iwata”(/イワタ), one of the cafes along the street is very famous as it has a huge and thick pancake on its menu and John Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono visited and liked this cafe. John Lennon, needless to say , who had been a member of The Beatles was shot at the age of 40 in 198o by his fanatic fan. Lennon and his family often visited Japan which was Ono’s home and really liked Japanese atmosphere. Recently I learned that Ono is my distant relative though we have never met, and I took interest in this fact not just as her relative but as a genealogist.
Anyway, the two friends of mine and myself enjoyed shopping and window-shopping at these stores along the street. One of the specialties of Kamakura which I like is “Murasaki Imo soft cream”(/紫いもソフトクリーム、soft serve ice cream of the flavor of purple sweet potato) ,which is available at sweets shops and souvenir shops in the area. The two friends and I ate it at a shop and they both liked it. Besides the purple sweet potato flavor, there is another flavor also unique to Kamakura which is known as “Ajisai”(/紫陽花、hydrangea) , a mixed-flavors soft serve ice cream of purple sweet potato and green tea, having actually striped two colors of purple and green, which I also really like.
Then we dropped in on a small art gallery along the street,which had several art works of famous painters, such as Shikou Munakata with whom Tomoko-san had a personal connection, and Ikuo Hirayama who had lived in Kamakura and recently passed away as I wrote about on my previous page here. Both Tomoko-san and Dave-san, as professional artists of picture, seemed to be interested in the works there.
After we had enjoyed the gallery and come back to the street, suddenly about 10 children came up and surrounded Dave-san. Every child wore a yellow cap and holding a same notebook. They were school pupils on a excursion and led by two teachers. They were told to talk to foreigners in English as a part of their live lesson program in the street in the excursion. So, they asked Dave-san some questions, such as “Where are you from?”, “How do you find Japan?”, and ” Where are you visiting ?” ,and so forth. Dave-san, who teaches how to draw pictures to children in his home country US, really likes children and was so happy to have such a surprising opportunity to communicate with Japanese children in a casual and natural situation. He demonstrated a drawing and taught them a bit of ABC of how to draw,which made all the children and teachers surprised and very happy.
After having taken a group picture with the school children and said good-by to them, we went to Kaburagi Kiyokata Memorial Art Museum(/鏑木清方記念美術館）http://www.kamakura-arts.or.jp/kaburaki/english/index.html as planned. The museum is for the works of Kiyokata Kaburagi(1878-1972), a famous modern painter of Japanese-style painting and illustrator from the late Meiji Period through the early Showa Period about 100 ~ 40 years ago. This place itself was his residence. I put the idea of visiting this facility in our itinerary in advance because of the profession and interest of Dave-san and Tomoko-san.
We got there near the the other end of Komachi-dori Street at about 1:00PM and found the place very quiet and be a typical old and beautiful Japanese house with a fancy gate and a garden.
The museum exhibits many of Kiyokata’s works some of which had been drawn when he had lived in Tokyo before he moved to Kamakura having described ordinary people’s lives and the scenery there, and so forth, and some of which were painted in Kamakura. There was a special corner which was his recreated atelier with his tools for painting and some photos of him and his life,which gave us a quite vivid image about his life and works’ backgrounds. There was a beautiful calligraphy of Chinese characters but none of us was able to read it accurately for that work’s characters were all drawn too sophisticatedly and complicatedly to decipher…
Both the two friends of mine appreciated all his works and seemed to take interest in them. Especially Dave-san said Kiyokata’s refined sense and skill of using tricky objects, such as half visible birds or change of the number of tiny objects depending on works in the background sky description of landscape pictures were very interesting. I also think such a sense and technique of paying attention and affection for finer details of portrayal may be necessary for artists.
We bought some picture-postcards of Kiyokata’s works in token at the souvenir shop in the museum and left there at about 2:30PM.
(To be continued to Part 2)