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The word for koto in Chinese is guzheng. Here is an impressive video of a very young Chinese girl playing the koto/guzheng. This video is not about Japan, but I think you will enjoy it. (The girl has more videos on YouTube.)

(She plays REALLY well) Out of curiosity, koto instrument is original from Japan or China? And how.is i written, would be 事 too or different?
 

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I thought I would include a couple of videos about a Japanese flute called shou (笙) because it is so unusual. It is actually a bundle a flutes, and chords can be played by playing a particular goup of flutes within the bundle. It is said to have a ‘heavenly’ or ethereal sound, and I think it was important in the court music of the Heian Period.



In this video, a Japanese musical authority explains fascinating information about the shou, as well as information about other gagaku (wind instruments).

 

Buntaro

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Paolo From Tokyo has posted another Day in the Life video, this time a day in the life of a small 'tonkatsu' restaurant called Bulldog in Oimachi, Tokyo. The restaurant owner likes to give marriage advice and other 'wisdom' learned from 'life lessons'. (Paolo admits the owner is a bit of a character.)


 

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ANA Airlines has an engine blow-out during takeoff. (It is the first video clip in this collection of video clips.)


 

Kaw-Zay

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Here's an admirable attempt to teach kanji to foreigners with an interest in learning Japanese. Even though the main idea is to teach kanji, it's actually full of good stuff. Not exactly for beginners, but then that's just the way kanji is. However it could be charming for anyone with an interest in Japan or learning Japanese.

 

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I thought it would be good to look at some of the classic Japanese performing arts. The best known is Kabuki. (Take a look at Ichikawa Ebizo’s amazing costume at 3:03.)


 

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Perhaps the best-known Kabuki play is The 47 Ronin (also known as Chushingura).

From Wikipedia: “The story tells of a group of samurai who were left leaderless after their daimyō (feudal lord) Asano Naganori was compelled to perform seppuku (ritual suicide) for assaulting a powerful court official named Kira Yoshinaka. After waiting and planning for a year, the rōnin avenged their master's honor by killing Kira. They were then obliged to commit seppuku for the crime of murder.” (Forty-seven rōnin - Wikipedia)

Here is a video on the story of the events.





Here is the story of Chushingura as it is presented on a Kabuki stage.

Kabuki theatre - 47 RONIN [english subs] 1/2


Kabuki theatre - 47 RONIN [english subs] 2/2
 

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My favorite type of traditional Japanese performing art is Bunraku (puppet theater). The ability to manipulate these puppets and tell a story is amazing.


Bunraku in Japan Japanology (文楽),

 

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Another type of traditional Japanese performing art is Noh Theater. Noh Theater is very different from Kabuki Theater. It might even be said the two art forms have nothing in common (my personal opinion).

Kabuki grew out of one woman’s desire to be theatrical. This was revolutionary, in that Japanese people are usually reserved and are not known for being theatrical. It might even be said Kabuki was a radical and counter-culture art form in its day.

Noh Theater has none of these attributes. The movements and music in Noh Theater are quite slow and reserved. The narrator of the second video below says he even fell asleep once during a Noh play. (I once had a Japanese friend tell me, “When I think of Noh, I think, ‘Oh, no!.’”)

Noh Theater partly originated as a performing art for Shinto religious rituals that were eventually enjoyed by top military generals. Kabuki, on the other hand, developed into an art form mainly popular with ordinary people.

Noh Theater is recognized as the oldest performing art in the world.

A big part of Noh is the masks that some actors wear.

Noh Masks (面, Men): The Spirit of Noh Theatre



Watch this Noh video and notice how slow and reserved the movements of the actors are.

Noh Theater in Japan Japanology 能 Nō
 

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Differences between Noh and Kabuki

Kabuki developed during the Edo Period (1603-1867). Noh developed during the Muromachi Period (1336-1573). At the bottom of this post I have included a timeline showing both.

The following is a video on the differences between Noh and Kabuki.


What are the 3 main differences between Noh theatre & Kabuki play? The 600 years of history!
 

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Buntaro

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Noh Theater developed during the Muromachi Period (1336-1573).

Kabuki Theater developed during the Edo Period (1603-1867).

History of Japan explained in eight minutes (all periods of Japanese history documentary)


The Muromachi Period begins at 5:02 in the video.
The Edo Period begins at 6:07 in the video.
 

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Another type of traditional Japanese performing art is Rakugo. It consists of a single person sitting on a stage and telling a story. (It could be described as single-performer stand-up comedy.)

Props are very few, often limited to only using a folding paper fan and a folded handkerchief.

Oftentimes part of a performance consist of the performer reciting both parts of a comical dialogue, looking to the left to speak one person’s part and looking the right to speak other person’s part. A big part of this is also using a quiet voice for one character and a loud voice for the other person’s part. (Note how te performer, Bunchin Katsura, does a good job of telling the story and acting out both sides of a comic dialogue.


Rakugo Bunchin Katsura Three Written Vows
 

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Japanese Board games — Shogi

By far the most popular board game in Japan is Shogi (将棋) (しょうぎ). Shogi is very similar to western Chess. Capture the King and you win. As a matter of fact, Shogi and Chess are ‘close cousins.’ Chess originated in India many centuries ago. Over the centuries, the game slowly moved west and became today’s Chess. But the same game also slowly moved east from India and became today’s Shogi. So Shogi and Chess were the same game centuries ago.

One of the cool things about Shogi is, once you capture a player’s piece, you can then put it back on the board as your own piece!

It is easy to find someone in Japan who can play Shogi. Have them teach you how to play. It will be good Japanese practice for you.

Here is a video on Shogi.




Here is a video of a professional Shogi player.





Here is a video of a Shogi tournament.


 

Buntaro

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Board games — Go

Another board game in Japan is Go (囲碁) (いご) but it is not nearly as poplar as Shogi.

There was a large Go popularity ‘boom’ in America in the 1960’s, which is also when the name Go was chosen as the English name for the game. (The English name Go derives from Igo, the Japanese name for the game.) Go is called Igo in Japanese, Baduk in Korean and Weiqi (weichi) (围棋) in Chinese.

Go is very different from Shogi. In Shogi you moves your pieces and capture the opponent’s King. In Go, there is no King, Queen, etc, only pieces called stones, and all stones are equal in ‘power.’ Once a stone is placed on the board, it does not move. Stones are placed on the board to create walls and encircle territory. The player who surrounds the most territory wins.

Go is a difficult game to play, has a lot of rules, and games take a long time, so it is not that popular in Japan. (Modern video games have also greatly contributed to Go’s lack of popularity.) As a matter of fact, I have had the honor to teach Go to Japanese people!

Go is popular in Japan, Korea, and China, and it is big business. There are professional tournaments and professional Go players, and they make pretty good money.

Here is a video on Go.




Here is a video of a professional Go game.

 

Buntaro

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I should add that there are places to play Go against human opponents on the Internet. One of the best websites is Panda Net. Just sign up, get your ‘client’ set up and you can play immediately. There is always someone online who is waiting to for you to challenge them to a game.

Ability is indicated by a number system called kyu (pronounced like the letter Q). First kyu is the highest rank and 20-kyu is the lowest. If you are a beginner, find someone who is around the 20-kyu level and have a go (pun intended).

There are ranks higher than first-kyu (the dan-ranks), but beginners should not even think of challenging them.

Games like Shogi also the use the kyu and dan ranking systems. (I think there are also places to play Shogi online, although I have never looked for them.)

Here is a link to the Panda Net webpage.

 

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Japanese Board games — Gomoku

Go is very difficult to play and not many people can play it. But there is a game that uses the same Go pieces and Go board, and the game is called Gomoku, Gomoku Narabe, or Five in a Row. The name Gomoku Narabe (五目並べ) (ごもくならべ) means, “line up five stones in a row.” The first person to line up five stones in a row wins, so the concept and rules are very simple. Strategy includes blocking the opponent from lining up five stones in a row.

Here is a video on Gomoku Narabe.

How to Play Gomoku Game


Here is a tournament game.

Gomoku battle between the world champion and the meijin of Hungary
 
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