Next Episode of Japanology Plus is
Going a step further from our previous series BEGIN Japanology, host Peter Barakan visits experts in various fields to show Japanese culture from a new perspective.
This time, our theme is moss. In some countries, it is regarded almost as a weed, but in Japan, it's cherished. Moss can be found in the gardens of temples and shrines, in forests and mountains and even in large cities. Our main guest is Oishi Yoshitaka, an associate professor at Fukui Prefectural University. He introduces us to different species of moss, and explains the role it plays in both the natural world, and in Japanese gardening. And in Plus One, Kanoa makes a beautiful moss terrarium.
Japan's libraries are cornerstones of their communities. Besides loaning out books, they promote local culture, support young people and offer a place to relax. This time, our theme is libraries. Our main guest, Professor Tamura Shigeru of the University of Nagano, talks about how they have evolved in recent years, in response to demographic and legal changes. And in Plus One, we take a look at some unusual regional libraries.
The kimono, Japan's national garment, is generally seen as traditional clothing -- something to wear on special occasions. But these days, modern and stylish kimono are making an impact in the fashion world. In a Japanophiles interview, Peter Barakan meets Sheila Cliffe, from the UK, who fell in love with kimono during a trip to Japan, and went on to become an authority on the subject. She talks about her life journey, and presents some contemporary styles.
Ukiyo-e is a Japanese artform that emerged in the 17th century. Using woodblock prints, people and landscapes are brought to life with bold compositions and vivid colors. The images influenced European artists such as van Gogh, and they remain part of the visual landscape in modern Japan. Our main guest, art historian Fujisawa Murasaki, introduces several examples of ukiyo-e, and talks about its legacy. And in Plus One, Matt Alt searches Tokyo for locations featured in famous ukiyo-e pictures.
On March 11, 2011, a magnitude 9 earthquake off the coast of northeast Japan caused a devastating tsunami that left around 18,000 people dead or unaccounted for. Ishinomaki, in Miyagi Prefecture, was one of the worst-affected areas. In a Japanophiles interview, Peter Barakan meets a long-term resident of the city: Richard Halberstadt, from the UK. Halberstadt talks about the disaster and its aftermath, and explains why he decided to stay and help Ishinomaki recover.
Japanese use a wide range of cleaning implements, from old-fashioned brooms to modern carpet rollers. There's always a dedicated tool for the job. Sometimes, those tools have a deeper meaning. Our main guest, museum researcher Watanabe Yumiko, explains their special significance, and talks about the evolution of Japanese cleaning tools over time. We also meet broom-maker Kanbara Ryosuke, who shows us how traditional handmade brooms are put together.
Lacquerware is made by coating objects with the sap of the lacquer tree. It's a traditional craft that dates back thousands of years. Lacquer offers incredible durability, as well as a distinctive luster that develops over time. Our main guest, Professor Hidaka Kaori, explains how production techniques are evolving to meet the needs of the modern world. We also see David Morrison Pike, an American potter, demonstrating Kintsugi, a technique that uses lacquer to repair broken ceramics.
Japanese started wearing Western clothing around 150 years ago, and today, suits are standard business attire. Our main guest, fashion journalist Yamamoto Teruhiro, describes the history of men's suits, and talks about the unique culture that has evolved around them. We hear how modern suit makers are making improvements in cost and comfort. We also meet expert tailor Ueki Noriyuki, who talks about the functionality of his suits, and the meticulous techniques involved in making them.
The Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami left around 19,000 people dead or unaccounted for. It renewed Japan's sensitivity to the threat of natural disasters, and in the 10 years since then, a multitude of innovative emergency products and foods have been developed. This time, our theme is Emergency Goods. Our main guest, disaster mitigation advisor Kunizaki Nobue, introduces various useful items, and explains how Japan prepares for future catastrophes.
In a Japanophiles interview, Peter Barakan meets Chad Mullane, a comedian from Perth, Australia. Chad talks about Japanese comedy, and explains how he fell in love with it. We see some of his routines, and learn just how much hard work it took to become a professional in the industry. We also meet Tea Kato, Chad's long-term comedy partner, and Bonchi Osamu, a veteran performer who took Chad under his wing.
Furoshiki are traditional Japanese wrapping cloths. For hundreds of years, these square pieces of fabric have been used to protect, store and carry various objects. They often feature beautiful, colorful designs, and are works of art in their own right. Our main guest, Yamada Etsuko, is the art director for a Furoshiki-making company. She teaches Peter Barakan some common wrapping technique, and introduces both traditional and modern designs.
Over the centuries, Japan has suffered from repeated outbreaks of diseases like smallpox, measles and cholera. Part 1 of "Japan vs. Epidemics" covered the history of epidemics up to the mid-19th century. In Part 2, we look at modern history, including outbreaks of cholera and Spanish flu. Our guest is historian Utsumi Takashi. He explains how Japan dealt with epidemics, and talks about several people who made important contributions to the evolution of the country's medical knowledge.
Tiny houses are homes that occupy around 50 square meters of land. They're appearing more and more in recent years, especially in crowded cities. Many of them feature unusual layouts and creative design. Our guest, architect Sugiura Denso, introduces clever techniques that are used to make the most of limited space. We follow the construction process from start to finish. And we take a look at low-cost prefabricated tiny houses, measuring as little as 12 square meters.
Japanese watches and clocks are respected around the world for their accuracy and durability. Many of them incorporate the latest technology. Our guest, Oda Ichiro, spent 26 years at a watchmaking company, and is now a university lecturer. He tells us the story of Japanese clockmaking, and introduces us to some clever and innovative timepieces. We also look at the incredible leaps in accuracy being made by cutting edge atomic clocks, and learn about the potential benefits of this technology.
Plastic food samples are astonishingly accurate replicas of real dishes. They can be found at the entrance to restaurants across Japan, helping potential customers to choose where to eat. They're made by expert artisans, who make molds of real food. Our guest is journalist Nose Yasunobu. He explains why three-dimensional models are so much more powerful than text or photographs. He also tells us why they became so popular in Japan, and discusses their presence in other countries.
In a Japanophiles interview, Peter Barakan meets Asa Ekstrom, a manga artist from Sweden. Her work takes a humorous look at her life in Japan, and the surprising discoveries she makes every day. Ekstrom talks about falling in love with manga and anime as a teenager, and explains how she ended up as one of the most popular foreign manga creators working in Japan. We look at the collaborative process involved in developing each comic strip, and hear about her ambitions for the future.
Cats have recently become the most-owned pets in Japan, and their popularity continues to grow. This has led to feline celebrities, unusual products and apartments designed specifically with cat owners in mind. Our guest is zoologist Imaizumi Tadaaki. He talks about the history of cats in Japan, and the supernatural powers they were once thought to possess. He also talks about the number of feral cats in cities, and the problems that can arise when humans and animals live in close proximity.
It's common to find robots in factories, assembling products. But recently, Japan has been embracing personal robots: devices designed to aid conversation, provide companionship and offer emotional support. Innovative new examples are constantly hitting the market. Our guest is robotics researcher Niiyama Ryuma. He introduces us to the latest personal robots, and talks about his own research. He explains his vision of a future where robots are a part of people's families.
After scissors arrived in Japan, they evolved in unique ways. Japanese artisans applied traditional sword-making techniques to the creation of a broad variety of highly specialized and customized tools. Our guest is Kawasumi Masakuni, a third-generation maker of bonsai scissors. He demonstrates several different types and talks about the latest innovations. He also comments on changing perceptions of bladed tools in Japan, and his hopes for the future.
In Japan, a great number of places, objects and customs are considered to be auspicious. Examples include beckoning cats called "maneki neko," and a special meal eaten on New Year's Day. Our guest is Shintani Takanori, who has been studying folk customs for many years. He explains the rituals and beliefs associated with visiting a shrine. He describes the complex meaning behind well-known customs. And he talks about a Japanese tendency to keep seeking out new sources of good fortune.
Tatami mats are a quintessentially Japanese flooring material. They're made of rice straw, covered in woven soft rush. This gives them just the right amount of give, and a fresh natural fragrance. Tatami rooms are used for eating, sleeping and relaxing. They're also important for the tea ceremony and martial arts. Our guest is Koshima Yusuke, one of Japan's leading young architects. He talks about the positive qualities of tatami, and discusses potential new uses in the modern era.
Traditionally, wooden chests and cabinets are built and maintained by master artisans, using time-honored techniques and materials. Items are often passed down through multiple generations of a family, as heirlooms. Our main guest, antique shop owner Yamamoto Akihiro, introduces several unusual examples, and talks about how traditional furniture fits into the lives of young, modern Japanese.
In a Japanophiles interview, Peter Barakan meets Nicholas Rennick, an Australian doctor working at a Tokyo hospital. He started in April 2020, at the very beginning of the pandemic, and was immediately treating patients with COVID-19. Now, he performs various roles. Besides seeing patients, Rennick offers advice on improving service for foreigners, and gives English lessons to hospital staff. He talks about his inspiration for coming to Japan, and the challenges he has faced so far.
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