Noh is a form of Japanese theatre (some people call it Japanese opera) that has been practiced since the 14th century in more or less the same form. Despite being very archaic and often hard to understand it is still quite popular and many shrines put on special noh performances on the night leading up to the shrine festival or during the festival itself. Usually there are two or three actors on stage and a handful of musicians, some groups also sing or chant, whilst most of them seem to be silent these day, maybe in response to the often tumultuous and noisy festival going on around or near the noh stage. I think many westerners associate the expression “Japanese traditional art” with this particular form of theatre, but it is worthwhile to try and see it like the Japanese do: outside, on a hot summers evening surrounded by friends and neighbors. I saw this particular performance at the Hanazono Jinja (花園神社) on the night before their main festival day earlier this year.
The Hanazono shrine is one of the bigger in Shinjuku (an area many would say is the capital City of Tokyo), and it is often considered the patron shrine of entertainers, performers, musicians actors and even strippers hence it is popular with celebrities and people who want to become famous. It can be a little tricky to find as it is hidden among tall buildings but can find it easily by heading out of the east exit of Shinjuku station, walking straight north (yes the east exit actually leads you north) until you hit a very large four lane street. Cross it and turn right. Walk straight until you come to a big crossing, turn left and walk straight for just a little bit until you find the main entrance to the shrine to your left, and the large red torii gate. The shrine itself or the grounds it occupy is absolutely not the most attractive in Tokyo, but it’s is worth a visit if you are in the area and need to do something else than shopping. It’s also very close to the much more attractive Golden Gai, which you can access from the stairs at the back of the shrine.
I think one of the keywords of this summer will be squall. I have lost count of the numer of sudden (and often rather violent) rain storms we have had hit us here in Tokyo over the summer so far. Usually these squalls are not very welcome but they do manage to drop the temperatures quite a bit and after they have passed (usually after no more than 30 minutes) the air is almost bearable again. One Sunday afternoon in Shinjuku I took these photos as I had to take shelter in the opening of the huge Isetan department store. A lot of people were caught in the rain and even if you did have an umbrella you would have been soaked within seconds as the rain bounced up from the street underneath you. If things continue like this we will see a lot of thunder, lightning and interesting weather coming up! And to think we still have the typhoon season to look forward to!
Isetan is the name of a large department store chain here in Japan, who happens to have an excellent sense in illustrators. A few times a year the store runs a major shop window decoration campaign relying heavily on the art of a relatively young illustrator. The other day as I was passing by I saw these windows using artwork of the fantastic Kyotaro, an illustrator with an impressive and varied resume (make sure to visit the gallery on this site). It’s not easy to take decent photos of shop windows, but it was a swelteringly hot overcast day so I think I did a reasonable amount trying to keep the glare out of the photos. If you pass Shinjuku make sure to walk past Isetan!
Although we had unseasonably bad weather in Tokyo over the spring, cold and often rainy, I did my best to capture the spirit of the annual hanami, the flower viewing parties where people go out en masse to enjoy food and drink under the canopies of the many colorful cherry trees all over Japan. Here are a few photos that I took for the French Special.T, as part of their marketing campaign for the new tea flavor, in Europe. I took these photos as the Shinjuku Gyoen, the gorgeous park in Shinjuku, and also in Yotsuya and Ichigaya, where in the last photo you can even see the Sobu line train making a guest appearance! A little late now that the rainy season is almost over, but better late than never!