Next Episode of Begin Japanology is
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Begin Japanology invites you into the world of Japanese culture, both traditional and modern, explaining how traditions evolved and the part they still play today in people's everyday lives.
Since ancient times, people in Japan have devoted themselves to the traditional art of calligraphy, shodo. Writing characters with ink on paper, they create works that express the inherent beauty of the Japanese written language. In shodo, brushes are used for applying the ink to the paper. The expressiveness of the characters derives from variations in the speed and force that the calligrapher uses to move the brush. The brushes themselves are simple objects, made from bundles of animal hair or other materials bundled together and fixed to a shaft. The actual materials used will depend on the style of calligraphy that is desired. Around 80 percent of Japanese ink brushes are produced in Kumano, Hiroshima Prefecture. There are numerous workshops in this town where skilled craftsmen still make the brushes by hand in the traditional way. On this edition of BEGIN Japanology, we examine the history, development and contemporary applications of ink brushes, introducing these simple implements that have been so essential to the development of Japanese writing and painting.
In Japan, festivals are known as matsuri. Many matsuri are colorful and boisterous occasions. Matsuri are typically associated with a Shinto shrine. Local people gather to pray and give thanks to the enshrined deity for agricultural bounty, health, safety and security. Over the years, these gatherings have evolved into elaborate events that frequently feature dancing, masks and magnificent floats. Entire local communities may be drawn into the preparations for festivals, which have nurtured some of the most refined arts and crafts in Japan. Even the sophisticated Noh theatre has festival origins, and, in some communities, apprentices will spend years learning a craft such as woodcarving specifically for its application in an annual matsuri. Some festivals involve breathtaking demonstrations of courage and skill, and all contribute to stronger family and community bonds. On this edition of BEGIN Japanology, we present some of the most famous festivals in Japan and consider the links to community and culture.
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