Posts Tagged With: Arts and Entertainment

Things to do: Fashion Week Tokyo October 10-October 23rd

Check out Tokyo's fashion week from October 10-23

Check out Tokyo’s fashion week from October 10-23

This year’s autumn Fashion Week kicks off at Shibuya‘s Hikarie building with the Zakka Runway (themed ‘British Check’), Sweets Runway, and Designers’ Cocktail Runway events. Sample the latest accessories, snack on some glamour sweets, sip on fashion-inspired drinks, or just take in the atmosphere of a world-class event. The runway shows start from October 14.

Details

Open Oct 10-23

Time See official website for event details

Venue Shibuya Hikarie

Address 2-21 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

Transport Shibuya Station (Yamanote, Shonan-Shinjuku, Ginza, Hanzomon, Fukutoshin lines, etc.)

 

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Things to do: Jazz Art Sengawa 2013

Fri Jul 19 – Sun Jul 21, 2013 Sengawa Theater

The alternative to Tokyo Jazz Festival is both far less commercially minded and rather more predictable in its booking choices. The same musicians tend to pop up at every installment of Jazz Art Sengawa, most of them plucked from the orbits of the event’s three main organisers: Hikashu leader Koichi Makigami, cellist Hiromichi Sakamoto and bassist Kiyoshi Fujiwara. Highlights this year include outlandish free-jazz-vaudeville outfit Hihokan, a duo between bassist Kiyoto Fujiwara and volatile psych musician Keiji Haino, and – of course – the climactic performance of John Zorn‘s ‘Cobra’, conducted by Makigami himself. You can even take part yourself, by joining the free improv session on Saturday afternoon (register by June 26 via the official website). The main concerts are supplemented by gigs at the nearby Jenny’s Kitchen and Kick Back Cafe, though note that these must be paid for separately.

Details

Open July 19-21

Time Performance times vary

Admission One day ¥3,000 adv (July 19)/¥5,000 adv (July 20, 21); single concert tickets ¥2,500 on the door

Telephone 03 3300 0611

Venue Sengawa Theater

Address 1-21-5 Sengawacho, Chofu, Tokyo

Transport Sengawa Station (Keio line)

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Shamisen: the sound of a nation

Sounds of the shamisen.

The Japanese shamisen (in Japanese: 荳牙袖邱・ meaning literally ‘three flavors of strings’ is, on the international stage perhaps the most famous musical instrument in Japan.

Like so much else in the culture of these islands, the shamisen has its origins on the Chinese mainland, came in through the southern Okinawa Islands, and although similar in appearance to the guitar and various stringed instruments popular in the west, is a world apart in terms of its role in the culture of the nation, the way it is played, and perhaps above all, the way it is studied.

Many folk who learn the shamisen do so having been influenced by older family members also interested in the instrument, and along the way are themselves often subject to the same disciplined hours of care for their shamisen, and to eventually master the instrument, long periods sat bolt upright in the traditional and often painful ‘seiza’ position plucking away at notes learnt by repetition; the markers so often seen (or felt) on the strings of a guitar missing entirely from the silk strings of a shamisen.

A traditional musical score for shamisen.

The bachi is the most obvious difference with musical tools beyond Japanese shores; a form of oversized plectrum many times heavier than anything similar used for any other form of musical instrument, and is made of ivory – traditionally – or more often in recent years, of plastic and is not unlike a large flat plastic, spatula in shape.

The body of the shamisen is almost square in appearance and is produced using the hides of cats, sometimes dogs – still today. Look closely and you may even see the nipples of the animals on the main body of the instrument. Traditionalists prefer these materials although some people are now using various forms of paper.

Even the music, as it appears on paper is in unusual form given that it uses numbers that correlate to the position of the hands on the neck of the shamisen rather than traditional musical notes. The string to be plucked with the bachi is shown by the position of the numbers on the three lines of the shamisen score.

Want to learn how to play the shamisen?
To study the instrument in modern Tokyo, as traditional, and potentially expensive as it may appear is not that difficult a goal to achieve, with several schools out there offering low cost classes for groups. Some classes are even conducted in English, with the make-up of the room geared more towards comfort than tradition – chairs replacing seiza sitting styles the most obvious difference.

One particularly recommended teacher, fluent in English and a licensed performer with several years of experience in teaching non-Japanese is to be found in the downtown Ueno area of Tokyo, not far from the main JR and subway lines station. Known as the Shamisen Sensei, Kumiya Fujimoto, still in her late 20s, teaches in one-to-one and group format and has helped many students through their initial fear of tacking a foreign art form so different yet, as becomes apparent after a little time in Fujimoto’s presence, so approachable, so interesting, and so welcoming of effort that even beginners are able to acquire a sense of achievement after a relatively short time.

www.shamisen-sensei.com


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