“I have drawn ‘spring’.”

According to this article in the Economist, the average peak-bloom date for cherry blossoms in Kyoto is getting earlier, probably because of climate change.

Here are some ukiyo-e featuring cherry blossoms with explanations in English. This is of a hanami party from the mid-19th century:

Discussion/Writing/Research questions:

  • Did you enjoy a hanami this year? Where do you think are the best places for different types of hanami (walking around type, sitting and eating/drinking type)?
  • How would you explain the word “hanami” to someone who does not speak Japanese, has never been here, and doesn’t know much about Japan?
  • Do you associate cherry blossoms more with entrance ceremonies or graduation ceremonies? If this trend continues and cherry blossoms continue to bloom earlier, what do you think will happen to this tradition?
  • In this excerpt from The Tale of Genji, it says that they celebrated the cherry blossoms in “the second month”. But they followed a different calendar in the Heian Period, didn’t they? What would that be today? Have you read Genji? What do you remember about it?

Diversions and distractions

This short video from The Met explains how different lighting makes us see one famous painting very differently, and probably more as the artist intended us to see it.

… which of course makes me think of the classic movie “Gaslight” and its relevance today. The movie is the origin of the verb “to gaslight someone”.

It also makes me think of the phrase “bread and circuses”

and this amazing circus performance I saw on Colbert the other day:

Discussion and writing prompts:

  • Have you ever been to a circus?
  • Should circuses have real animals?
  • How would you explain the concept of “bread and circuses” in Japanese?  In your own words in English?
  • What do you think are the main “bread and circuses” of today’s society?
  • Have you seen the movie “Gaslight”?
  • How do you say “to gaslight someone” in Japanese? Can you think of an example from the news, history, or a book, movie or manga you have read or seen, of someone being gaslighted?
  • How would you explain the differences between the words “diversion” and “distraction”? Try using both in detailed example sentences.

“Say whatever you want, but say it well!”

“a misspelling is a lack of respect”

I like the Edgar Allen Poe decoration hanging from their rearview mirror (though doing that appears to be illegal in many US states … how about in Japan?). But then, so is graffiti

What are some differences between graffiti and street art? Would you like to see more of the latter around the streets of Tokyo?

Two articles to read about street art in Tokyo:

Explore the Street Art and Murals of Tokyo’s Tennozu Isle” (from Spoon and Tamago)

“Street artists in Japan try to wipe out conservative views toward graffiti” (from Japan Times)

From comics to graphic novels

Continuing on the theme of comics and cartoons, here’s a short article about a graphic novelist named Gene Luen Yang.

“GENE LUEN YANG’S PLOT FOR GRAPHIC NOVEL DOMINATION” (from Ozy)

His graphic novel “American Born Chinese” was published in 2006 and was a finalist for the Young People’s Literature category of the National Book Awards that year. Later, it won several other awards.

In the article, he talks about using graphic novels in education, maybe especially for students who may be confused about identity.

One line that made me balk a little: he talked about writing “educational graphic novels VERSUS entertaining ones” (the caps are mine). I don’t think they need to be mutually exclusive!