Japanese Taiko Drums

Japanese Taiko

Traditional Japanese Taiko drums

Japanese music is getting an international boost at this time. Artists featured on the soundtracks in Japanese Manga and anime films  are being discovered by a wider audience.  So the J-Pop genre is having a renaissance recently in Asia, Europe and in the United States. But of course there’s more to Japanese music than modern J-Pop.

There is older, historical Japanese music too.  From the Shakuhachi (尺八 – traditional bamboo flute) to the Wa Daiko (和太鼓 – traditional drums ) which are commonly played during festivals, court events and religious ceremonies.

I had the opportunity to watch an amazing performance of traditional Japanese instruments by some very young drummers on my trip to Kumamoto, and luckily I got the video camera running just as they began to play the last song in their set. True to their age and generation – ( The youngest looks about 6 years old and oldest maybe 16 ! ) they took the genre of Taiko drumming a step forward – I was moved by the way it was progressive as well as traditional . They used formal Kata ( 形 – forms) with their body positions and drumming style but also added some surprisingly funky rhythm layering.

Please take a look at the video.

For more Japanese blogs and lessons see http://www.japonin.com/

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Niten Ichi Ryu

A Japanese friend who has mastered several martial arts mentioned that he had just started learning Niten Ichi Ryu (also known as Ni Tou Ichi Ryu) and my eyes almost popped out of their sockets !

Ni Tou Ichi (二刀一 literally meaning “two swords as one”) or Niten Ichi (二天一 literally meaning “two heavens as one”) , is a style of Kenjutsu (剣術 – sword technique) which was famously practised and taught by Miyamoto Musashi – arguably the greatest swordsman in Japanese history.

ni hon buyo

Traditional dance performance in front of Musashi statue

My friend mentioned that his school (or流) was holding a demonstration in Kumamoto city, so I found myself making the 90 minute journey from Fukuoka early one Sunday morning, not knowing what to expect. He might well have told me that there were going to be ninjas and dragons there – because as far I had known, this form of Japanese martial arts was merely the stuff of legend and didn’t really exist !

Japanese taiko drummers


 Video of Niten Ichi Ryu display

But on our arrival at the Musashizuka Koen Park , an elaborate yet compact Japanese garden, a surprisingly small number of people had gathered to enjoy a morning of varying forms of traditional displays.

From Wa Daiko (和太鼓 – Japanese drum performance) to Nihon Buyo(日本舞踊 – traditional dance) and tea ceremony and of course some martial arts displays.  The clocks had spun back !

Please see http://www.japonin.com/ for more blogs and Japanese lessons.

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How to Study for the JLPT and learn to speak Japanese – Making of the video

To advertise the new JLPT classes and the normal Japanese language classes at JOI , I decided to make a video using simple animation.

Little did I know how tough this idea was and how long it was going to take me…but having found a homepage with free illustrations , I knew I had to give it a go !

After struggling with the story board – which I laid out using Open Office’s Presenter , I tried to do the voices on my own computer, but soon realised that it wouldn’t work. So I had to down load a voice recorder – I found SoundTap Recorder which more than did the trick !

Then I took screen shots of the slides in Open Office using the ubiquitous Capture-a-Screenshot and finally pieced them all together in Window’s Movie Maker.

The final result ? Well, please see for yourself !

See the video “How to study for the JLPT and Learn to speak Japanese” on YouTube .

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Fukuoka Softbank Hawks at Yahoo Dome

The Fukuoka Softbank Hawks are officially the Best Team on Japan !

Being a Limey, I admittedly don’t know much about baseball – but what a season to learn ! I’m still not too sure of the protocol or all the rules, but I had a great time following the Hawks through this incredible season.

The Fukuoka Yahoo Dome  is the home of the baseball team, SoftBank Hawks and is a Must-See when in the city of Hakata…

Although the Dome offers Japan ‘s only adjustable roof (it can open and close) – it does have a problem of high walls around the field which move fans a little far from the action.

Fukuoka Softbank Hawks Stadium Yahoo Dome

A view of the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks Stadium Yahoo Dome from the B seats

The Dome itself is a major entertainment hub by the beach, that has a resort hotel, shopping centre and live concert venue – you can spend the whole day there without getting bored !!

But the biggest entertainment value at the Dome is the fans . The Fukuoka fans are among the most energetic and passionate and being among them is a blast – especially when the SoftBank Hawks win. Check out this video

Every time the Hawks win they blow up and let off white balloons and there is a fireworks display at the end of every winning game !  And during the game, the energy is fantastic !!

7th inning balloon time at Yahoo Dome with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks

Yahoo Dome in the 7th Inning becomes a sea of yellow balloons !!

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Yoshinogari : a Japanese ancient, historical city restored

Saga prefecture, a flat plain surrounded by mountains - could this be the site of Yamatai ?

On the edge of Saga prefecture lies a site of great historical importance – The Yoshinogari ruins. Some argue that this is the site of Yamatai Koku – the original city and capital of ancient Japan during the Yayoi era ( 3rd Century BC).

A quick drive from Fukuoka so I thought it might be worth a quick look but was surprised to find the scale and intricacy of the reconstruction work that has been done there.

a Yayoi style housing unit for farm labourers and family

The main enclosure was really quite amazing – you could really slip back in time in there ! Especially with all the mannequins placed inside the buildings, going about daily chores and duties.

The Yayoi style ceremonial hall - spot the real person !

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Hakata Ramen

Rainy day weekends are no fun, but while wondering through Hakata looking for something to do I found a great but cheap ramen shop.

Hakata Ramen Noodles Shop on a rainy day


Tonkotsu Ramen is the pride of Hakata people and you’ll find an extraordinary number of stores dotted around the city with a cultural Mecca of the cuisine located in the Nagahama port area.   Hakata Ramen is a rich , tasty noodle dish with a pork broth base (豚骨 Tonkotsu soup) .

Hakata Tonkotsu Ramen Noodles

     You can add your own toppings to suit your taste. The extra garlic (大蒜 ninniku), that I just had to add, meant I couldn’t have a conversation with any one else for the rest of the day ! But well worth the experience…

Choice of toppings ; Sesame seeds, Red ginger ( 紅しょうが ), Salt , Pepper and you can crush your own Garlic (just couldn't resist !)

And prices have been coming down recently! All this for only 280 yen.

Great price - only 280 yen

Have a quick look at a video of the experience .

For more blogs, videos and Japanese lessons see http://www.japonin.com/

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