Don't Say Noh to Spring!
 There seems to have been a nostalgia boom in Japan recently. We can observe this trend in younger women wearing brightly colored vintage kimonos, and with the creation of the Ichome-Shotengai (District One) shopping area (1) which recently opened in Tokyo. Ichome-Shotengai is located on an island called Odaiba, an area created with landfill in Tokyo harbor that is dedicated to shopping malls. What distinguishes this mall from others is that it focuses on the past, a simpler time in Japan. Crowds of young and old alike enjoy vintage toys and windup cardboard creations as they walk through the area.
 With the current interest in the Japan's past, now would be the perfect time to see a traditional Japanese noh performance such as the magnificent spring play, "Do jo ji". Noh is the oldest continuously performed theater in the world. Noh literally means "talent" or "exhibition of talent". During the Edo Period (1615-1868), Noh was designated as the official ceremonial performance at government functions. Noh has continued to this day using the same theatrical elements: dance, music, poetry, setting, costume, mask, an all male cast and the emphasis on interaction with the audience. Plays vary by the season, with light-hearted plays performed in spring, and darker, more thoughtful ones in fall.
 Most noh plays center around a single main character known as the shite. This role undergoes transformation over the course of the play. This character is defined by the actor alone, as there is no director or costume designer. The actor selects a costume to best evoke the distinct character of the play. The color of the costume reflects the age and social standing of the character. "Do jo ji" has more prescribed design patterns than other noh plays but each noh school can still adjust their presentation of the play. The mood emerges from the flow of the text and the style, as the music, movement and costume reflect the season.
 Noh has been compared to Greek dramas because both use masks, a chorus song, stately dances and poetry of an elevated nature. However, there are many different aspects as well. Firstly, there are important differences in the size of the Greek amphitheaters, which could seat tens of thousands, and the size of the Japanese court theatre, which had more intimate seating, from as few as twelve up to a few hundred. Other disparities between the two types of performance include matters of structure and intent. Aristotle said, "a play must have a beginning, middle, and an end", but noh plays are all end, because we usually know the outcome of the story and they tend to be more ghostlike. The Greeks built plays around larger than life characters whereas Noh characters are usually shadow-like embodiments of great emotions. Noh plays unfold through transformations realized in changes of costume accompanied by shifts in music and dance style. In "Do jo ji" a dancer turns into a vengeful serpent by changing masks and shedding a robe.
 I recommend "Do jo ji" to first time viewers because it is one of the most technically impressive of all noh plays. Some actors perform this role only once in a lifetime to prove that they are truly adept at noh. The performance of this role can be seen as a rite of passage to full professional status as an actor.
 "Do jo ji" was originally performed on the North Stage at Nishihonganji (constructed around 1595), the oldest stage in Kyoto. This stage was equipped with a built-in hook for a bell, which is used during the most difficult technical part of the play. The play addresses the madness derived from jealousy and reiterates a familiar theme: "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned."(2)
 The piece begins with the dedication of a new temple bell. The Abbot of the temple explains to the servants that this is a restored bell and warns that no women should be allowed onto the grounds because a woman once turned into a serpent and burned a monk alive in the bell. In spite of this warning, when a woman dancer appears, the servants see no harm in letting her perform. She dons a tall dancer's hat (eboshi) and dances furiously. The hypnotic dance is called rambyoshi, and is now limited exclusively to this particular noh play. It is accompanied by weird animal-like cries uttered by the drummer as the dancer leaps and sways.
 The servants fall asleep, and the dancer jumps into the bell. The Abbot returns and he and the priests begin praying, knowing that the woman in the bell is the ghost of the woman/serpent who killed the monk long ago. The bell sways and the woman emerges transformed into a horned, long-haired demon holding a wand. In the end, she is subdued by the priests and leaves the stage.
 As you can see, this is a highly dramatic tale of a woman's jealousy and creates a unique expression in performance. Many people view "Do jo ji" just to observe the performers' skill with the dance. Each movement of the dance is decided by the beat of a shoulder drum: one beat-one movement at a time, then long intervals. During these intervals the dancer stands in dead silence. The audience can almost hear the breathing of the dancer and drummer measuring out time. The pattern of the dancer is a common triangular pattern representing the scales of fish and serpents, and harmonizing with the serpentine triangles on the costume. The dancer bends at the waist, lifts and turns her toe, raises her leg and stamps to the drumbeat as she climbs symbolically toward the belfry. There is an increase in tension as the two perform in tandem, creating a hypnotic trance in the servants and audience. This trance is broken by the kyu no mai, the quickest dance in noh, and the chorus singing. The woman looks at the servants to make sure they are asleep, takes off her hat, lifts the edge of the bell, and jumps in as the bell comes down and covers her. The costume change is amazing: the actor must change mask and garments in total darkness. All the articles are stored on shelves within the bell, and must remain secure even as the bell is raised and lowered.
 As mentioned before the costume and mask set-up in "Do jo ji" is more elaborate than in other Noh plays but tends to vary with the various schools of Noh. The karaori costume worn by the actor (shite) in the first half of the play has different motifs depending on the school . All schools, however, use an interlocking triangle pattern for the serpent robe that lies beneath the karaori in Act One.
 The mask worn by the shite in the beginning of the play is the mask of a young or middle-aged woman. The demon mask is the horned, leering hannya(般若)mask. This mask has two long horns, large glaring eyes, and a gaping mouth. The hannya (般若) mask combines human pathos with animalistic traits. The hair and the faint eyebrows appear somewhat human while the horns, large gold fanged teeth, round metallic eyes and gaping mouth suggest animalistic fever.
 Each school has its own fan to use for the performance of "Do ji ji" The Kanze school fan, recently exhibited at the Los Angeles Art Museum, features a large peony against a red background. Peonies are traditionally associated with female beauty in China but in the case of "Do ji ji" is a symbol of the woman's lust.(3)
 The earliest surviving source of the "Do jo ji" story is a legend included in a play found in the "Honcho Hokke Reigenki" a collection of Buddhist miracle stories compiled around 1040. "Do jo ji"'s success depends less on its poetry than the dramatic situation and spectacle performed. There is also a kabuki version of of the play which is very exciting.
 What could be more fun on a spring day than to see a traditional noh play with magnificent dances, costumes, and masks? This is a great way to keep past Japanese traditions alive.
  Works Cited 1. French, Howard, "Hot New Marketing Concept: Mall as Memory Lane," New York Times, January 7, 2003 p. A4. 2. Brazell, Karen (ed) (1998) Traditional Japanese Theater, New York: Columbia University Press. p.193 3. Takeda Sharon Sadako, (2002) Miracles and Mischief, Noh and KyogenTheater in Japan, Los Angeles, Los Angeles county Museum of Art. p. 208 Article by Frances Broderick Associate Professor, College of Mount Saint Vincent, New York

 Tatami is one of the most famous features of Japanese homes. The word "Tatami" can even be found in English and French dictionaries! This article will introduce the history of tatami.

 The word tatami originally meant "folded and piled". In ancient times, people sat on thin mats folded and piled on the floor. This was the origin of tatami.
 During the Heian Era (平安時代794-1192) aristocrats would pile thin rugs on top of very thick mats (about 7cm thick), upon which they would sit or lie. These thick mats were so expensive that ordinary people could not afford them, therefore they became a status symbol. These mats were bordered with a thin piece of cloth, like modern tatami. The pattern of cloth depended on the owner's rank. For example, the ugenberi pattern was used for the emperor, koraiberi for princes and ministers, etc. If you visit the Kyoto Imperial Palace, you can view the emperor's mat with the ugenberi border.
 During the Kamakura era (1192-1333) and Muromachi era (1336-1573), the samurai came into power. They began building a new style of house called shoinzukuri (書院造り). Ginkakuji temple is perhaps the best example of shoinzukuri existing today. Previously, tatami had been arranged around the edges of a room, but in these new houses tatami was spread across the entire floor. Tatami was gradually popularizing and finally reached the homes of commoners towards the end of the 17th century.
 Tatami consists of three parts, called tatamiomote(畳表), toko(床) and heri(緑). Tatamiomote, the top layer of tatami, is a thin mat woven from igusa (rushes). Today, 30-40% of tatamiomote is imported from China, while the rest is produced in western Japan. Ten percent of the Japanese portion is produced in Okayama and Hiroshima prefectures, and is of very high quality. This expensive tatamiomote is woven using twice as many warp strings as the regular type. This type of warp is made of hemp, while the cheaper kind is made from cotton. Recently, artificial tatamiomote made from wood pulp and plastic has been introduced as well. A special type of tatamiomote called ryukyuomote (琉球面), made from a different kind of igusa is used in Judo gyms because of its strength.
 Toko forms the base for the tatamiomote. It is made from straw bound with hemp thread for high-class tatami and synthetic fiber for lesser quality ones. After World War II, a new style of toko appeared, made from two or three beds of foam polystyrene, insulation board or particle board layered in tiers. Recently there is special type of steel toko used for heating floors.
 Heri is a thin strip of cloth made from hemp, cotton or chemical fiber that is sewn to the edges of the tatami as a decorative border. Eighty percent of heri are decorated with a pattern.
 The average straw toko tatami costs about \13,000, becoming more expensive as quality increases. The most expensive type used in tea houses, which can cost as much as \100,000. The new style artificial toko tatami is around \9,000. Straw toko tatami has a lifespan of about 30years, with the tatamiomote needing to be replaced every 7-8 years. The modern artificial tatami lasts only half as long.
 Every region uses a different size of tatami as indicated below: Kyoma(京間, Kyoto tatami) and Kansaima(関西間, Kansai tatami) 191cm x 95.5cm Edoma(江戸間, Tokyo tatami) and Kantoma (関東間, Kanto tatami) 176cm x 88cm Otsuma(大津間, Otsu tatami) 185cm x 92.5cm Nagoyama(名古屋間, Nagoya tatami) and Chukyoma(中京間 Chukyo tatami) 182cm x 91cm Kyoma is about 1.18 times larger than Edoma. Nonetheless, tatami mats are used as a standard measurement for room size, whether or not that room has a tatami floor. For example, a room big enough for six mats is called rokujo (六畳, six tatami).
 The smallest kind of tatami is called danchima(団地間) and measure 170cm x 85cm. Danchi was a type of apartment house built by Housing Corporation, who were first to adopt this small type of tatami. Tatami is generally about 6cm thick. Layout of Tatami Floors.
 There are several methods of setting tatami into a floor. The most common arrangements are shugijiki(祝儀敷き), or T-shaped formation and bushugijiki (不祝儀敷き) , cross-shaped. The former style is used for private houses. The edges of the tatami are placed at right angles to each other, intersecting in a T-shape. The latter style is used in larger spaces, such as temples and in the halls of Japanese-style hotels known as ryokan (旅館). With the cross-shaped style, the tatami are laid out parallel to each other.
 Up until several decades ago, Japanese homes were comprised entirely of Japanese-style rooms (和室,washitsu) with tatami floors. Gradually westernized, many houses no longer have washitsu. Tatami is well-suited to the local climate and comfortable, which is all the more reason to have it in one's house. Please enjoy the cozy feeling of tatami with your own bare feet.
-M. Amanuma
  Proverbs Using Tatami
 1.畳の上の水練 (tatami no ue no suiren)
 "Swimming practice on tatami"
 2.畳の上の陣立て(tatami no ue no jindate)
 "Strategy planning on tatami"
 Both proverbs mean "Armchair theory" i.e. all talk and no action.
 3.起きて半畳、寝て一畳(okite hanjo, nete ichijo)
 "A person needs a half tatami while awake and a full tatami while asleep."
 4.千畳敷に寝ても一畳(senjojiki ni netemo ichijo)
 "Even if a room has a thousand tatami a person only needs one sleep on." Both mean don't be greedy, the same meaning as "Your eyes are bigger than your stomach"

 Kyo Wagashi-Japanese Sweets in Kyoto
 "It looks just like a real flower! How pretty! It seems too precious to eat. But I can't resist." This might be the typical reaction when one is faced with delectable Japanese sweets known as wagashi. Japanese sweets, especially those found in Kyoto, are not only delicious, but have beautiful names and appearances as well.

 Wagashi have been raised to an art form over the years, blessed with pure water, high quality ingredients, and a high level of culture in Kyoto. Beginning this April, we'd like to introduce the wagashi available in Kyoto from season to season.
  Sakura Mochi (桜餅)
 From the end of March to April, the entire Kyoto area is enveloped in the pink color of cherry blossoms. Not being satisfied to only view sakura (桜), we eat them as well. Sakura mochi is a type of wagashi that modeled after a cherry blossom. It is made of pink mochi made from steamed sticky rice called domyoji(道明寺). The mochi is filled with sweet bean jam, then wrapped in a real cherry leaf pickled in salt. You will surely love this once you give it a try.
  Hanami Dango (花見団子)
 You must not miss these sweet dumplings, an april specialty. There is a saying: "Hana yori dango." (花より団子)= "Dumplings before Flowers".These bite size dumplings are made from boiled flour and sugar and colored with red, white and green food dyes. The tri-colored dumplings are then skewered onto a thin bamboo stick. Japanese believe that the colors red and white bring luck, and green drives evils away.
-Yachiyo Matsuda

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