Japanese artist Hokusai exhibition in London

This video from Britain says about itself:

Hokusai: Beyond the Great Wave

18 May 2017

As a new exhibition dedicated to Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai opens at the British Museum in London, this film explores the legacy and impact of his most iconic image, the Great Wave, and asks why it has such appeal.

By Christine Lindey in England:

Navigator of a floating world

Saturday 10th June 2017

CHRISTINE LINDEY pays tribute to the artistic journey of Japanese printmaker Katsushika Hokusai, a seminal figure in the development of modernism

AT THE age of 75, Katsushika Hokusai wrote that he’d drawn since the age of six and had long been successful but, until the age of 70, “nothing I drew was worthy of notice. At 73 years I was somewhat able to fathom the growth of trees and plants and the structure of birds, animals, insects and fish.”

And he hoped to go on to see further into “the underlying principle of things.”

The thoughtfully curated exhibition Beyond the Great Wave, now on at the British Museum, wisely focuses on his last three decades, in which Hokusai (1760-1849) did indeed produce his best works.

He had inauspicious beginnings. Born into a working-class district of Edo in Japan, he was adopted in childhood by a mirror maker and put to work as a bookshop’s delivery boy when six years old.

But in his mid-teens he was apprenticed to a woodcut printer and he was carving entire wood blocks by the age of 16. Two years later Katsukawa Shunsho, a leading Ukiyo-e (Floating World) artist, took him as his pupil. Hokusai worked as a commercial artist for the rest of his life.

In his mid-thirties, after years of hardship, success came his way with many commissions from prestigious patrons. Over his lengthy life, amazingly prolific, he produced 3,000 colour prints, illustrations to over 200 books, hundreds of surviving drawings and nearly 1,000 paintings.

Although technically highly accomplished, Hokusai’s earlier works, such as Boy’s Festival of 1826, are emotionally and spiritually reticent and lack the spontaneity of his late ones.

Yet their superb draughtsmanship, based on acute observation, and their delicate sensibility foretell the mastery of later works such as The Great Wave of Kanagawa of 1831.

Known as The Great Wave, it is now famous worldwide, yet few may know it as one of his print series, Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji. Published in 1834 and 1835, confusingly it actually numbers 46.

In Hokusai’s lifetime this sacred mountain was a popular object of spiritual veneration. It was one of his personal talismans and, as a Nichiren Buddhist, he believed that humans commune through such images.

For the Mount Fuji series, Hokusai travelled around many diverse districts overlooked by the mountain. Sometimes barely visible, sometimes dominant, he depicted it as a sage witnessing all manner of human and animal life and natural phenomena below.

Whether overlooking human hardship or joy, or nature’s benign or ferocious moods, the mountain remains impassive, permanent, enduring and serene, be it covered in snow, rising above sudden torrential rain or bathed in balmy sunlight.

Most Mount Fuji prints include empathic scenes of everyday life. We see farm workers, pilgrims, fisherfolk, samurai, ferrymen or travellers. Not forgetting his humble roots, Hokusai often depicted peasants and workers carrying heavy loads or battling with the elements.

In The Great Wave, the stalwart oarsmen in flimsy boats, delivering fish, battle courageously with the ferocious sea.

Thousands of these prints were produced in Hokusai’s day. At about the price of two helpings of noodles, almost everyone could own one. Other series tackled the themes of waterfalls, bridges, flowers, birds, fish and imaginary mythical beings and creatures.

Going beyond sensitive descriptions of his subjects, Hokusai’s mature works convey his belief in the interconnectedness of all things and in the balance of opposite forces — the ephemerality of sea spray and the immutability of the mountain, or a limpid cloudspeckled sky above terrifying flashes of lightning.

Hokusai delighted in the challenge of creating static images of the drama and transience of water, that most changeable of elements, in all its forms — from slow snowflakes to churning whirlpools or from sparkling sea spray to driving rain.

Rather than attempting to mimic these, as in European art, he invented marks which equate them — hence the liveliness and seemingly “abstract” squiggles and splatters evoking the edges of waves and the parallel curves and lines depicting rushing waterfalls.

Seeing their decorative potential, he used these in the stunning painted ceiling panels of a festival cart titled Waves and in his Picture Book, a cheaply available manual to advise the young, both of 1848.

Hokusai retained the traditional Japanese purity of line and asymmetrical compositions — often balancing busy patterned areas with “empty” ones — and respect for the flatness of the pictorial surface. Yet he also incorporated European techniques, including perspective, to suggest spatial recession and shading to suggest solidity.

It now seems incredible that dominant European taste long considered such truly great art to be childishly “primitive.” But from the 1860s onwards the avant-garde, from Claude Monet to Vincent Van Gogh, understood that less is more.

Their admiration for the subtlety and economy of means in Japanese prints, including Hokusai’s, laid down the fundamentals of 20th-century modernist art.

This chance to see his original work is not to be missed.

Hokusai: Beyond the Great Wave runs at the British Museum in London until August 13, box office: britishmuseum.org.

Japan’s biggest ever dinosaur discovery

The bones of the dinosaur Mukawaryu which have been cleaned so far. These likely represent more than half of the bones the dinosaur had

From Hokkaido University in Japan:

Japan’s largest complete dinosaur skeleton discovered

June 6, 2017

Summary: The complete skeleton of an eight-meter-long dinosaur has been unearthed from marine deposits dating back 72 million years at Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido, making it the largest dinosaur skeleton ever found in Japan.

Excavations to uncover a fossilized duck-billed dinosaur (Hadrosauridae) in the Hobetsu district of Mukawa Town have been underway since 2013. It is the third time a complete skeleton of a Hadrosaurid from a marine stratum has ever been discovered, according to the research team from Hokkaido University and Hobetsu Museum in Mukawa.

Hadrosaurids, or duck-billed dinosaurs, were common herbivores during the Late Cretaceous Period (about 100 million to 66 million years ago) and thrived on the Eurasian, North and South American continents as well as at Antarctica. Complete hadrosaur skeletons have been unearthed on these continents, but it is extremely rare for a complete skeleton of a land dinosaur to be discovered in a marine stratum.

In 1936, a complete hadrosaur skeleton was unearthed from a marine stratum in Sakhalin and named Nipponosaurus by Professor Takumi Nagao of Hokkaido Imperial University (predecessor of Hokkaido University). It had been the only such fossilized dinosaur from a marine stratum that was assigned a name. The latest discovery of the fossilized skeleton, nicknamed “Mukawaryu” (Mukawa dragon), represents the third such discovery in the world, including a complete skeleton of an undescribed specimen.

If a complete skeleton is defined as a skeleton containing more than 50 percent of the bones, Mukawaryu represents the second complete dinosaur skeleton unearthed in Japan after Fukuivenator, a 2.5-meter carnivore from the Early Cretaceous Period (about 145 million to 100 million years ago) discovered in Katsuyama City, Fukui Prefecture. Mukawaryu is the first complete skeleton of a herbivore from the Late Cretaceous Period and from a marine stratum in Japan.

Dr. Yoshitsugu Kobayashi of the research team said “We first discovered a part of the fossilized Mukawaryu skeleton in 2013, and after a series of excavations, we believe we have cleaned more than half of the bones the dinosaur had, making it clear that it is a complete skeleton.”

There are more than 50 kinds of dinosaurs in the hadrosaurid dinosaurs, which is grouped into two groups: uncrested (Hadrosaurinae) and crested members (Lambeosaurinae). “Although Mukawaryu has some characteristics of both groups, our preliminary analysis indicated it might belong to the Hadrosaurinae. Further cleaning of the fossils and detailed research should make it clearer which group the Mukawaryu skeleton belongs to,” says Kobayashi.

Fukushima, Japan nuclear disaster news

This video from Japan says about itself:

3 February 2017

Radiation inside the containment vessel of the No. 2 reactor at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant measures as high as a deadly 530 sieverts per hour, the highest since the 2011 disaster, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) announced on Feb. 2.

TEPCO calculated the radiation dose from video noise on footage it took inside the containment vessel in late January, when a camera was inserted to examine conditions inside and scout a route for a scorpion-like observation robot scheduled to go into the vessel later this month.

Deployment of the robot is also being reconsidered after two gaping holes were found along the robot’s planned path over a 5-meter-wide circular walkway inside the containment vessel, close to where the 530-sievert radiation dose was detected.

The holes in the metal grate walkway — one of unknown size and the other measuring about 1 meter square — make both routes considered for the robot impassable.

Six years after Fukushima, much of Japan has lost faith in nuclear power … Six years have passed since the Fukushima nuclear disaster on March 11, 2011, but Japan is still dealing with its impacts. Decommissioning the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant poses unprecedented technical challenges. More than 100,000 people were evacuated but only about 13 percent have returned home, although the government has announced that it is safe to return to some evacuation zones: here.

Asking the tough questions on Fukushima — The Japan Times.

The Japanese government may buy [contaminated soil], using soil from the Fukushima prefecture as landfill for “green areas” and parks, potentially subjecting citizens to dangerous radiation: here.

From the Asia Times:

Six years after Japan’s Fukushima nuclear accident three global nuclear corporations are fighting for their very survival.

The bankruptcy filing by Westinghouse Electric Co. and its parent company Toshiba Corp. preparing to post losses of ¥1 trillion (US$9 billion), is a defining moment in the global decline of the nuclear power industry.

However, whereas the final financial meltdown of Westinghouse and Toshiba will likely be measured in a few tens of billions of dollars, those losses are but a fraction of what Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco) is looking at as a result of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Japanese bats in winter, video

This video says about itself:

Searching for Japanese Bats – Japan‘s Northern Wilderness – BBC Earth

Steve heads for the Rimizu limestone caves in Japan to search for hibernating bats.

Japanese snow monkeys video

This BBC video says about itself:

15 March 2017

In Northern Japan, Steve Backshall finds the elusive snow monkey. Winter shrinks their feeding grounds making them easier to spot.

Fukushima cancer child not in government files

This video from the USA says about itself:

“What became clear in the Diet Fukushima Investigation Committee”

HD, 16 min 25 sec, in English


Member of Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Commission Risk Assessment of Low Dose Radiation in Japan
Former Senior Researcher in National Institute Radiological Science

Human Rights Now, Physicians for Social Responsibility, & Peace Boat US present:

“Experts call for immediate action to protect the right to health of women, children and others affected by the nuclear accident in Fukushima.”

March 13, Wednesday, 10:30AM to Noon, at the UN Church Center, NYC

WHAT: Since the March 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima, individuals and communities in Japan continue to be exposed to dangerous levels of radioactivity. There are serious concerns about consequent health effects for pregnant women, mothers, children and others in contaminated areas. Residents have a right to live in a safe and healthy environment, however, sufficient protective measures and support are not being provided. The right to access medical treatment and the medical data about one’s own body are being seriously denied.

A human rights expert from Japan, a medical doctor from Japan, and a medical doctor from the U.S. will speak about how the lives and health of local women, children and others in the Fukushima area are being affected after the disaster and what should be done to provide immediate relief. The actions called for in the December 15, 2012 Human Rights Now “Civil Society Statement” to immediately implement the recent recommendations by the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health will be highlighted.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Japan: Fukushima cancer kid missing from official files

Saturday 1st April 2015

A CHILD who was diagnosed with thyroid cancer after a meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant is missing from government check-up data, medical workers warned yesterday.

The 3.11 Fund for Children With Thyroid Cancer, named after the date of the March 11 2011 disaster, said that the four-year-old is missing from a list of 184 cases of thyroid cancer in Fukushima.

Government officials claim that no-one younger than five got the cancer after the nuclear meltdown.

Dr Hisako Sakiyama, a fund representative, said that the missing record was alarming.

The boy, now 10, is receiving treatment at Fukushima Medical University, so she said it was inconceivable the university — which compiled the list — was unaware of the case.

Japanese government’s extreme right scandals

This video says about itself:

Japan: Anti-Abe activists protest PM’s alleged ties to ultra-nationalist school

5 March 2017

Scores of demonstrators gathered in Tokyo, Sunday, to protest Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe‘s alleged links to an ultra-nationalist private schooling company.

By Peter Symonds:

Scandal exposes Japanese government’s ultra-right ties

27 March 2017

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is embroiled in a widening scandal over his alleged involvement with a private elementary school project in Osaka by Moritomo Gakuen, an extreme-right educational organisation. The allegations, which also involve Abe’s wife Akie, have contributed to falling opinion polls for Abe and his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) government.

In sworn testimony to the Japanese parliament last Thursday, Moritomo Gakuen head Yasunori Kagoike added further fuel to the controversy swirling around Abe. He confirmed he received a sizeable donation for the school from Abe via Akie in September 2015. “She said ‘please, this is from Shinzo Abe,’ and gave me an envelope with 1 million yen ($US9,000) in it,” he said.

Abe flatly denied making a donation. However, Kagoike declared: “Abe’s wife apparently says she doesn’t remember this at all, but since this was a matter of honour to us, I remember it quite vividly.” Akie was named as “honorary principal” of the school until she abruptly resigned after the scandal broke.

Whether or not money changed hands, Abe and his wife are clearly in sympathy with Moritomo Gakuen’s curriculum and methods. While the school project has been shelved, the organisation already operates a kindergarten in Osaka in which young children are required to recite the Imperial Rescript on Education—a 19th century edict issued by the Emperor calling for loyalty and filial piety and hailing the glory of the Japanese empire. The school has been accused of sending a letter to parents expressing hatred toward Koreans and Chinese.

The alleged donation is not strictly illegal, but the controversy first erupted in February over allegations that government influence was enabling Moritomo Gakuen to purchase land for the new school at a fraction of its worth. Kagoike testified in parliament last week he believed some sort of political intervention took place as the process began to move more rapidly after he began asking for assistance.

Kagoike later told the media he believed finance ministry officials, whom he did not name, helped in the sale … His organisation bought the land for 134 million yen (about $1.2 million) or about one seventh of its assessed value—supposedly discounted to cover waste disposal costs. Kagoike defended the discount, claiming it needed “a lot of money to take out the household waste in the land and replace it with good soil.”

The scandal has drawn in other political figures close to Abe, providing a glimpse of the network of right-wing nationalist organisations connected to his government. Defence Minister Tomomi Inada was forced to apologise to parliament and retract a statement that she had never represented Moritomo Gakuen in court. As a lawyer, Inada appeared in court on its behalf in 2004, and defended other extremist organisations in high-profile cases.

Three other politicians—two from the LDP and one from the ultra-nationalist Nippon Ishin—denied assisting Moritomo Gakuen after being named in parliament last week. In Osaka, the organisation asked the prefectural government to relax the restrictions on setting up private schools, which was granted in April 2013 when Ichiro Matsui, a close political ally of Abe, was governor.

Abe and the overwhelming majority of his cabinet, including Defence Minister Inada, are members of Nippon Kaigi, an extreme nationalist organisation that seeks to re-establish Japan as a “proud nation.” It promotes the necessity for a strong military, the writing of the constitution to remove restrictions on the armed forces and patriotic education, whitewashing the crimes of Japanese militarism in the 1930s and 1940s.

Moritomo Gakuen head Kagoike was a member of Nippon Kaigi but claims to have left in 2011. He boasted that the school he planned to establish would be the first Shinto primary school in Japan with a shrine housed on the grounds. The organisation claimed the shrine would help connect the school and “the roots of our country.” Shintoism was the state religion of the pre-World War II militarist regime in Japan that revered the emperor as a god.

The Imperial Rescript on Education was a key element of this militarist ideology, read in schools and enshrined alongside a portrait of the emperor until after the war. The document refers to the people of Japan not as citizens but “subjects of the emperor” and declares: “Should an emergency arise, muster your courage under a cause and dedicate yourselves to the good of the Imperial state.”

During the post-war US occupation of Japan, the parliament officially repudiated the rescript as incompatible with the country’s democratic constitution. Successive governments have held that the imperial edict was invalidated by the adoption of the Fundamental Law on Education. The promotion of the rescript is part and parcel of efforts by government-linked organisations such as Moritomo Gakuen and Nippon Kaigi to whip up patriotism and militarism.

Since coming to power in 2012, Abe has taken significant steps to remilitarise Japan. These include boosting the military budget, removing constitutional constraints on “collective self-defence”—that is, participating in US-led wars—and establishing a US-style National Security Council to centralise military strategy, planning and operations in the prime minister’s office (see: “Japanese imperialism rearms”).

Abe has also encouraged an ideological offensive designed to cover up the past crimes of Japanese imperialism and stir up militarism, particularly among young people. Significantly, Defence Minister Inada has repeatedly defended the use of the imperial rescript in schools. Asked about it in parliament in February, she declared: “I don’t agree with the education ministry saying that there’s a problem having students memorise the rescript by heart.”

The revival of Japanese militarism is another sign of the deepening crisis of Japanese and global capitalism, which is fuelling geo-political tensions and the drive to war. The Abe government’s determination to rearm reflects the sentiment in ruling circles that Japanese imperialism must be able to use all means, including military, to prosecute its economic and strategic interests against its rivals.

Despite protests by thousands of people outside the Diet (parliament) building, the Japanese government last week pushed through the lower house legislation that enables a vast expansion in police powers and suppression of political opposition: here.