Rice Paddy Art in Inakadate, Aomori, Japan

Did you know growing rice could be a form of fine art!?

In Inakadate Village, in Aomori prefecture you can visit enormous images constructed from different kinds of  rice. The images reference Japanese culture by evoking mythologies and sometimes even popular culture!

Visit the link below for more information on the imagery, how they are constructed, and tourism information.

Rice Paddy Art Info.tanbo art

There are new Rice Paddy images every year, so include these magnificent creations in your future Aomori travel plans.

Vending Machines in Japan, Art and Innovation

The culture surrounding vending machines is very different between Japan and America. Check out the JapanTimes article linked below to learn about how one Japanese photographer, Eiji Ohashi, explores the relationship the people of Japan have with vending machines.

In Japanese vending machine is 自動販売機 (Jidohanbaiki) but is often shortened in conversation to 自販機 (Jihanki)

Follow this link to read the article!

For an in depth understanding of Japan’s vending machines and their history watch the following short documentary from NHK world’s series Begin Japanology. Did you know that you can get hot drinks and even fresh, hot food from a Vending Machine?

Gonohe International Music Festival

If you will be in the Gonohe area, or are planning to make a trip to Aomori this coming Fall, you may want to think about planning your trip around the one-of-a-kind event known as: The Gonohe International Music Festival!

Beginning in 2013, the Gonohe International Music Festival is a free event that takes place annually at Kowataritai Park in the town of Gonohe, which is located within the Aomori prefecture. Started by Dave Herlich and Michael Warren two friends who were English teachers in the town of Gonohe for several years – as a means of intercultural outreach and community, the Gonohe Music Festival has expanded over the years to include a wide variety of musicians, cultural performances, and seasonal/specialty foods from around the world as well as Japan/Aomori. While the festival features many cultural aspects unique to the Aomori prefecture, the Gonohe Music Festival also includes musical acts from a variety of foreign cultures and countries – such as a West African Drum Line (2013), a Reggae group (2015), and Beatles covers (2016) – while additionally showcasing Japanese indie, rock, jazz, fusion, and traditional music groups/bands.

The Fifth annual Gonohe International Music Festival will be held Sunday, October 8th of this year (2017) and is an all day affair – running from Sunrise to Sunset. While the music lineup has not yet been released, looking at the lists from previous years, it is safe to say that 2017 is sure to be a blast!  

All images property of http://www.gonohemusicfestival.com/

To hear samples of the music played at the 2013 Gonohe International Music Festival, click on the link here: https://gonohemusicfest.bandcamp.com/  

A commentary by the founders of the Gonohe International Music Festival on the back story, goals, and future of the festival is available for listening here: http://www.pechakucha.org/presentations/harmony-in-aomori-the-gonohe-music-festival/play  
For more information and to keep up to date on the 2017 line-up, please visit the festival’s main page at: http://www.gonohemusicfestival.com/2017

Bath-Tsugaru Student Exchange is in Need of Host Families!

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Do you live in the Bath/Brunswick area? Are you interested in hosting a Japanese student this summer? Well, you’re in luck! The Bath-Tsugaru Student Exchange is in need of host families for Japanese students who will be visiting this coming August!

General Hosting Requirements Include:
  • Complete a host application (document attached)
  • Agree to a background check
  • Attend an orientation session for hosting students on Thurs., July 13th from 6:30-8pm at the Highland Green Community Center, Topsham
  • Provide private sleeping quarters with a bed
  • Weekend host activities (take your guest to Freeport, Portland, Boothbay, boating, canoeing, etc.) & all meals on weekends
  • Provide breakfast and dinner most weekdays
  • Provided transportation to/from the greater Bath area during the week
  • Attend welcome and farewell parties
  • Contribute to omiyage (gift-giving)

Please send us a message through our Contact page OR contact the Bath-Tsugaru Student Exchange directly here!

Cape Elizabeth Middle School’s Festival of Curiosity

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Friends of Aomori had an absolute blast last week at Cape Elizabeth Middle School’s Festival of Curiosity!
FOA held a workshop educating students on the art of printmaking, talked a bit about the influence of Japanese woodblock printmaking on the art form, and posed the question: “How does sharing global art affect our local communities?”
Of course, we also talked to some of them about the unique Sister State relationship between Aomori and Maine that we foster. It was a busy day, but the kids were a great crowd!

The Japanese Woodblock Printing Process

In line with the opening of the 2017 MAPS exhibition, this weekend’s written feature will be focusing on the process of making traditional Japanese woodblock prints. While not all of the prints in the MAPS exhibit are made in this manner, the process and its cultural resonance in Japan are certainly an integral part of and influence on printmaking worldwide.

(To see more details about MAPS 2017 see our home page)

Before delving into the process, first a brief introduction into the history of woodblock printing in Japan:

“Woodblock printing came to Japan during the eighth century and became the primary method of printing from the eleventh to the nineteenth centuries. As in China, the technology was first used to duplicate Buddhist texts and then later, books of Chinese origin. It was not until the 1500s that books originally in Japanese began to be printed. Black and white illustrations were a part of these early texts, to which color was sometimes added by hand, but eventually colored prints developed around 1765 as printing techniques improved. The first colored prints in Japan were original works of art, which soon led to the publishing of the popular, single-sheet ukiyo-e” (Khan Academy).

The woodblock printing process and the artistry of it that developed in Japan led the country to develop it’s own unique style, perspective, and craftsmanship in woodblock printing – a style which became known as ukiyo-e, or “images of the floating world”. While artists now are based less around the traditional ukiyo-e style, the technical process developed in Japan is still in use today.

The technical process of making a traditional woodblock print is intricate and requires an intense amount of concentration, accuracy, and skill. Listed below is the step by step methods of making such a print:

  1. The block carver begins with a flat piece of wood – typically cherry – and take the prescribed drawing and place it face down onto the block
  2. The piece of paper thus applied would then be made transparent by rubbing it with oil and then removing the paper so that the reverse image of the ink was transferred to the block
  3. The carver would then outline the areas that were to be inked/printed black and, after doing that, would carve away the areas that were to be left blank
  4. This part of the process creates the block which would be used to print the black lines and is known as the “key block”
  5. This process would then be repeated for every color that would be used within the image, resulting in different blocks for each different color.
  6. In order to retain accuracy in the printing of the different colors onto the single image/page, a registration key is used – typically a kagi (a raised “L” shape which fits to one corner of the block and into which a corner of the page is placed) and a hikitsuke (a raised bar usually laid along the long-side of the block and into the corner of the hagi)
  7. The printing process of a single sheet continues by using the various blocks and colors and re-registering the sheet until the entire image was completed to the artist’s satisfaction

To see the process described above with more intricate detail, watch a video here!

 

For more information on the history, techniques, processes, as well as more examples of Japanese woodblock printing, please see the following references:

https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/art-asia/art-japan/edo-period/a/the-evolution-of-ukiyo-e-and-woodblock-prints

http://woodblock.com/encyclopedia/entries/011_07/011_07.html

http://www.druckstelle.info/en/holzschnitt_japan.aspx

http://viewingjapaneseprints.net/texts/topictexts/faq/faq_making_a_print.html

http://mercury.lcs.mit.edu/~jnc/prints/process.html