Traditional Japanese Culture
(Videoserie, 9 VHS Kassetten, 1999-2000)
Traditional Japanese calligraphy is the art of writing characters on white paper with a brush dipped in black ink. The completed work can be regarded as both a type of formative art and the art of lettering.
Since calligraphy is an essential part of Japanese school education, it is very familiar to ordinary people. By introducing the history of calligraphy, the processes used to make brushes and ink, the techniques needed to write characters and the significance of their shape, and how a professional calligrapher creates exquisite works of brushmanship, this programme looks at the intimate relationship between calligraphy and the Japanese people, in particular the way it can help to train the mind.
Japan's many traditional musical instruments, such as the shamisen, the yoko-bue flute, the tsuzumi hand-drum and the taiko drum, developed as accompaniment to classical songs and in association with the theatre arts of Kabuki and Bunraku.
This programme introduces the history of the instruments and the types of performance in which they are played, and demonstrates how shamisen, taiko and shino-bue flutes are made. It also shows the training of the next generation of performers through school education and looks at the way traditional instruments are being used today, such as the concerts combining Western and traditional Japanese instruments which are opening up fascination possibilities for the future.
The various styles of traditional Japanese dance can be roughly divided into four categories: the showy Kabuki buyo from the Kabuki theatre; the more subdued kamigata-mai, which includes elements of the Noh theatre; minzoku-buyo folk dances; and Ryukyu-buyo, which originated in the Ryukyu Islands, now called Okinawa. Japanese dance has developed in close contact with the daily lives or ordinary people. Its two basic concepts, the sedate mai and the more lively odori, both originated from dances dedicated to the gods.
In this programme we introduce the history and particular charms of each style of dance, the distinctive forms of expression used, the way the next generation of cancers is being trained, and also how traditions are handed down trough local communities performing the Bon-Odori dances of summer festivals.
Japanese cuisine is attracting ever more attention worldwide. The key elements behind its distinctive flavours are two unique types of seasoning, miso bean paste and shoyu soy sauce, plus salt and vinegar.
Miso is made by mixing cereals such as rice and barley with salt and soybeans. Shoyu is also made from soybeans. Salt used to be produced by salt farms taking full advantage of Japan's long coastline. Japanese vinegar, made from rice, is similar to wine vinegar.
By introducing the history of Japanese cuisine, showing how seasonings are produced and demonstrating how various dishes are prepared, this programme fully demonstrates the tremendous culinary and aesthetic appeal of traditional Japanese cuisine.
It has been nearly 1'200 years since tea was first introduced to Japan, and our ancestors developed a unique way to drink it: the tea ceremony.
The tea ceremony requires not only tea and special utensils, but natural surroundings and ornaments like arranged flowers. Participants cooperate to achieve peace of mind and freedom from all the mundane troubles of the world. This program introduces the unique esthetic world of tea.
The kimono, Japan's traditional costume, is evaluated very highly worldwide for its beauty and elegance. Various traditional techniques are used to produce kimono material, including the weaving of different coloured threads and the drawing of patterns on white cloth followed by careful dyeing using a variety of devices.
This programme introduces the main techniques in use to create the two basic elements of a kimono, the material itself and the obi sash. Both begin with the spinning of silkworm cocoons into raw silk. In the technique called Yuzen, patterns are drawn on the white silk cloth ready for a succession of dyeing processes. In the Nishijin technique, silk threads dyed in a myriad of different colors are woven together.
There is also a detailed explanation of the procedure involved in putting on a kimono and a thorough introduction to the charms of this original Japanese style of formal wear.
Japanese Pottery & Porcelain
Clay has long been used in Japan in the form of earthenware, pottery and porcelain for the production of tableware, tea sets, food storage containers, ornaments such as vases, and many utensils for daily life. Today Japanese ceramic utensils enjoy an excellent reputation worldwide and exports are steadily increasing. Japanese ceramics are also highly regarded worldwide as exquisite works of art.
In the distant past, simple earthenware was used for the household items of ordinary people. Then in medieval Japan, more sophisticated pottery-producing techniques were introduced from China, and feudal lords and aristocrats began to place great value on ceramic items as household ornaments and works of art. Porcelain-producing techniques were introduced from Korea and were used to develop original Japanese ceramic techniques closely associated with the needs of Japan's traditional tea ceremony and flower arranging arts.
In this programme we introduce the history of Japanese ceramics and many great works from the past and also demonstrate the methods being used today to produce fine pottery and porcelain all over Japan.
Japanese Arts and Crafts
80% of Japan's land surface is covered with trees, so it is perhaps not surprising that a full woodworking culture was developed to use those rich resources.
Traditional woodworking techniques make full use of Japanese manual dexterity and demonstrate several unique aspects. The same techniques are still being used today to produce a huge variety of items, ranging from utensils for everyday life, such as bowls and wooden trays, to artistic handicrafts using lacquer. Washi traditional Japanese paper was also born from Japan's unique woodworking techniques.
This programme introduces a broad selection of Japanese wooden products: bowls carved from huge logs; unusual containers created by slicing and bending wood; lacquered containers beautifully decorated with gold dust; and various carved craft items: It also demonstrates the skills used to produce traditional kokeshi dolls and Japanese washi paper.
Traditional Japanese architecture made full use of the country's rich resources of timber. In fact, wood has always been the main construction material used for all types of structures, including shrines and temples, aristocratic mansions, castles, assembly halls and ordinary houses.
One major feature of Japanese architecture is the skillful and beautiful way beams are interlocked. This not only increases the structural strength but also enhances the beauty of the building's appearance, for example the eaves. Various types of wood are also used for room interiors.
This programme traces the history of Japanese architecture, introducing the world's oldest surviving wooden structure and various buildings regarded as architectural masterpieces and demonstrates the exquisite joinery techniques. It also focuses on the making of several important traditional interior elements: tatami mats, the original Japanese type of flooring; shoji sliding woodlatticed paper screens which can also serve as skylights; and fusuma sliding doors which are used to partition rooms.