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Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Huangdao, at Ding Jia He Park

The Ding Jia He Park located in front of the government building of Huangdao is a reflection of Feng Shui principles that is the traditional Chinese art that determines the placement of objects to enhance the natural yin/yang balance.

Feng Shui which literally means "wind" and "water" emphasizes general geographic orientation, such as the relationship to nearby mountains or bodies of water. The principle of Feng Shui  relates to the flow of energies in nature. The ideal orientation of a building, is facing out to sea, lake or river with a mountain behind , which also gives the best view and a cooling breeze.

Indeed the beautiful Ding Jia He park with the flowing river water and cooling breeze, gives the feeling of the flowing nature energies to the Government Building.

The Ding Jia He Park design, expressing the Chinese art of landscape design, focuses on the careful blending of nature with man-made structures. The delicate balancing of four main elements of Feng Shui to create a harmonious environment where yin and yang energies compliment and contrast in beautiful results in a sensual and spiritual experience for the visitors.

The Four Elements of Feng Shui incorporated in Chinese garden and park design are:

Water - Represents the Yin energy (cool, soft)  that is the living pulse of the Garden.

Stone - Balancing the Yin Energy  of the water, rock formations represent mountains and Yang Energy (warm, hard).

Plants - Symbols of human qualities such as endurance (pines), flexibility (bamboo) and purity (lotus) are incorporated into Chinese Garden Design through careful plant selections.

Architecture - Arrangement of the buildings within the Chinese Garden is focused on creating spaces that enhance the garden design, plants and beautiful views.

We can see the four main elements above in the Ding Jia He park and enjoy the beauty expecially in spring and summer. This park is one of the best park in Huangdao. Huangdao which means  "yellow island" in Chinese is a district of Qingdao, Shandong province, in China.


Saturday, July 21, 2018

Huangdao, Sakura blooming

Spring is one of the most popular times to visit China, and it’s easy to understand why. The weather is warming, the leaves are budding on the trees, and change is in the air.

In late March to April Sakura is blooming in many places in China, including Huangdao. The splendid sakura always impress visitors with its beauty, in variety of collors which range from white to pink.

In China, the sakura flower is associated with female beauty and dominance, as well as feminine sexuality. It ultimately symbolizes power and strength.  The flower also symbolizes love, which is known as maintaining a feminized emotion.

So if you come to Huangdao in spring you will be able to enjoy the beautiful sakura blooming in the city.

Huangdao  which means  "yellow island" in Chinese is a district of Qingdao, Shandong, China, located southwest and west of the main urban area of the city on the western shore of Jiaozhou Bay.


Saturday, July 14, 2018

Huangdao, illumination of buildings

Recently, many of the buildings in Huangdao are illuminated at night, giving a spectacular light show around the bay of Tang Dao Wan. The large-scale connected LED lighting decorates the buidings and LED-based animations are displayed on the buildings.

At night, the lights from the buildings are reflected onto the bay and form dramatic images that captivate people watching it. The connected LED lighting creates dynamic light effects and images displayed on the buildings including blossoming flowers.

The beautiful lighting is also highly energy efficient and illustrates LED leadership in connected lighting. It is said that the LED lighting system can save up to 75% electricity as well as reduce operational and maintenance costs.

So if you are in Huangdao, see the buildings illumniation at night and enjoy the LED animations displayed on the buildings. 
Huangdao  which means  "yellow island" in Chinese is a district of Qingdao, Shandong, China, located southwest and west of the main urban area of the city on the western shore of Jiaozhou Bay. 


Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Huangdao in Summer

Huangdao  which means  "yellow island" in Chinese is a district of Qingdao, Shandong, China, located southwest and west of the main urban area of the city on the western shore of Jiaozhou Bay.

The Tang Dao Wan Bay Park located in Huangdao is a beautiful park around the the bay of Tang Dao Wan, which serves as a place for family recreation, picnic, cycling and gathering.

Huangdao's early summer is quite an enjoyable season, although it can be humid near the sea shore. Late summer can become hot, while other places of Northern China start to feel cooler. The climate in late fall and winter can be harsh but snow patches can generally last no longer than a few days. It is a fun place to bring the family for a bike ride along the Bay.

In summer, the park is especially beautiful with colorful flowers grown in well arranged landscape. This coastal park perfectly blends nature, culture, and entertainment. It is famous for its beautiful natural scenery and leisurely walkways.

You can rent bikes in this  scenic area. The coastline involved in the scenic area is very long, about 7 km. This place is a good place to ride a bike ride along the scenic Bay .

Flowers have a privileged position in Chinese culture. Chinese believe that flowers convey positive messages and play a significant role in the day to day life.  In this park during summer you can find various flowers, roses in red , pink, white and yellow, lavenders, chrysanthemum, lotus etc. A beautiful scenery at one time.


Monday, July 2, 2018

An Interview with Victor

That Friday morning I rushed to Le Consulat Café to meet Victor for a chat.  I was so excited to meet him as I have many questions to ask about his famous novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. When I arrived he was already there sipping a warm une noisette coffee.

I said:
“Bonjour Monsieur, thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule. I have abundant questions to ask, hopefully we can discuss them all and finish the discussion on time.”

“Tell me, mon amie… “

I said:
“Monsieur, the original title of your famous novel “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame” is actually “The Notre-Dame of Paris”. With this original title do you wish to emphasise the historical Notre-Dame or rather the human drama staged in the Notre-Dame?”


“As told in Book 3 Chapter 1 the Notre-Dame had been growing old due to the numberless degradations and mutilations which time and men both caused. Time had had notched its surface here and there, and gnawed it everywhere; political and religious revolution had torn its rich garment, carving and sculpture, burst its rose windows, broken its necklace of arabesques and tiny figures, torn out its statues.
Then the restoration efforts made it even more grotesque and foolish.  The restoration had adjusted, in the name of "good taste," upon the wounds of gothic architecture, their miserable gewgaws of a day, their ribbons of marble, their pompons of metal, a veritable leprosy of egg-shaped ornaments, volutes, whorls, draperies, garlands, fringes, stone flames, bronze clouds, pudgy cupids, chubby- cheeked cherubim.

But the Notre-Dame is also the home of Quasimodo, the ugly Hunchback-man with a heart of gold, as well as home of Claude Frollo, the solemn priest turned to evil, who adopted Quasimodo abandoned as a child on a bed in the Notre Dame. And Esmeralda took refuge in Notre-Dame for a while hiding from the royal soldiers. It was also the stage where Esmeralda, Frollo and Jehan fell to their tragic death“.

I said:
“The sufferings of Quasimodo, the Hunchback-man in this novel, seem to be so  gross beyond human. As a child he was abandoned because of his ugliness, his body deformed, has only one eye, his head placed directly on his shoulders, his spinal column was crooked, his breast bone prominent, and his legs bowed.
The ladies who saw the child in the bed of Nortre-Dame were so horrified that one of them asked: “What is this, sister?", and the other lady said: “"What is to become of us, if that is the way children are made now?" and then the other: “it must be a sin to look at this one."

“He then also lost his hearing being the bellringer of the Notre-Dame, the bells had broken the drums of his ears, he had become deaf.
But such sufferings are not comparable with the suffering of Stephen Hawking. He was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a form of motor neurone disease, when he was 22 and was not expected to live for more than a few years.  The disease causes weakness of either upper motor neurons or lower motor neurons or both. He could not walk, move and bound to a wheelchair, he also could not write and speak. He started using a menu controlled by a computer system to communicate. “

I said:
“But people respect and adore Stephen Hawking for his intelligence, for his his life spent seeking to unlock the mysteries of the universe through physics. I can imagine it was very aggravating for him to have a disease that constraint his movement in pursuit of the “theory of everything”.
On Quasimodo’s case it is different, people make fool of him all the time, he was even crowned the Pope of Fools during the Festival of Fools. “

“The hardest part must be the feeling of being ugly in front of Esmeralda, to be watch by the woman whom he adored and loved so much… In Book 9 Chapter 2 he said to Esmeralda: “I frighten you. I am very ugly, am I not? Do not look at me; only listen to me.”

I said:
“ Yes, it is such a heart wrenching scene, to be uncomfortable on front of the woman he loved  so much that he risked his life saving her from execution, and brought her to the sanctuary of the Notre-Dame as an escape. “

“More than that, in Book 9 Chapter 4 it tells us: “Once Quasimodo came at the moment when Esmeralda  was caressing Djali, her pet goat. He stood pensively for several minutes before this graceful group of the goat and the gypsy; at last he said, shaking his heavy and ill-formed head,--"My misfortune is that I still resemble a man too much. I should like to be wholly a beast like that goat."  She gazed at him in amazement.”

Hearing that, I was speechless fo a moment… then as if to console Quasimodo of his unfortunate fate I said:
“I cannot forget the scene in Book 8 Chapter 6, when Quasimodo saved Esmeralda from execution, rush to the two executioners with the swiftness of a cat which has fallen from a roof, knock them down with two enormous fists, pick up Esmeralda with one hand, as a child would her doll, and dash back into the Notre-Dame with a single bound, lifting the young girl above his head and crying in a formidable voice,-- "Sanctuary!"
And then, "Sanctuary! Sanctuary!" repeated the crowd; and the clapping of ten thousand hands made Quasimodo's single eye sparkle with joy and pride.”

“Yes the medieval law dictated that Notre Dame was a place of refuge from the law. Esmerelda could not be harmed by the executioners as long as she stayed inside the walls of Notre-Dame.”

I said:
“But Notre-Dame is also the home and sanctuary of Claude Frollo the solemn priest turned into evil. This man, at first was the angel that adopted Quasimodo despite his deformed, ugly look, for the love of his blood brother little Jehan.”

“And the Book 4 also tells us:” Claude's compassion increased at the sight of this ugliness; and he made a vow in his heart to rear the child for the love of his brother, in order that, whatever might be the future faults of the little Jehan, he should have beside him that charity done for his sake.
When a little lad, it was between Claude Frollo's legs that Quasimodo was accustomed to seek refuge, when the dogs and the children barked after him. Claude Frollo  aslo had taught him to talk, to read, to write. We will say then, that out of gratitude Quasimodo loved the priest as never a dog, never a horse, never an elephant loved his master.”

I said:
“Then how on earth this compansionate priest, this angel, became an evil sorcerer?”

“ From the cloister, his reputation as a learned man had passed to the people. He studied medicine, astrology and hermetics. His latest obsession was alchemist as he wanted to develop gold from stone. During the Middle Ages we ought to mention however, that the sciences of Egypt, that necromancy and magic, even the whitest, even the most innocent, had been considered as the act of sorcery.”

I said:
“But this angel really turned into evil, after he fell deeply in love with Esmeralda, or rather after he was trapped in lust to Esmeralda.”

“In his mind Claude Frollo believed that Esmeralda’s destiny is faith, in Book 7 Chapter 5 it tells us how Claude Frollo said in a voice which seemed to proceed from the depths of his being, "behold here a symbol of all. She flies, she is joyous, she is just born; she seeks the spring, the open air, liberty: oh, yes! but let her come in contact with the fatal network, and the spider issues from it, the hideous spider! Poor dancer! poor, predestined fly! Let things take their course, Master Jacques, 'tis fate! Alas! Claude, thou art the spider!”

I said:
“I can see that in this chapter Claude Frollo spoke about how the fly reaches to open air, the full daylight, but did not see the window glass which opens  to the other world. The fly does not have the sense to understand the trapping of the spider’s web in front of the window and flies head-on into the spider’s web. The fly struggles with head broken and mangled wings in the web. Such is the fate of the fly.”

"Further he said: “And even couldst thou have broken through that formidable web, with thy gnat's wings, thou believest that thou couldst have reached the light? Alas! that pane of glass which is further on, that transparent obstacle, that wall of crystal, harder than brass, which separates all philosophies from the truth, how wouldst thou have overcome it? Oh, vanity of science! how many wise men come flying from afar, to dash their heads against thee! How many systems vainly fling themselves buzzing against that eternal pane!"

I said:
“ It is like what happened to Esmeralda, she escaped execution as Quasimodo released and saved her, brought her to the sanctuary of the Notre-Dame.  Also, when the vagabonds raided the Notre-Dame, she was rescued by Pierre Gringoire, “her husband on paper”, but actually she trapped and caught again by Frollo.  Sister Gudule, her real mother, tried to free La Esmerelda from Frollo's trap, but the attempt failed as Esmeralda suddenly noticed Phoebus, the man she loved, in the troop and she shouted his name calling to rescue her. This gave away her hiding place and the royal  soldiers caught her. Then her fate was sealed.”

“Like the way Dante describes Beatrice as the “Beauty in white robes”, that is how beautiful Esmeralda died, in white robes. She died because of her own act of love, although unrecruited, rather it was an infatuation with Phoebus. They only met a few times, like Dante and Beatrice, only a few times. But Phoebus didn’t love Esmeralda, he just wanted to sleep her.  He did not hear Esmeralda calling his name for help from her hiding place, that let to her capture and death, in white robes.”

I said:
“You know, Stephen Hawking whom spent his life in pursuit of the “theory of everything”, once said  when asked what he  thinks most about during the day: "Women. They are a complete mystery."

This is an imaginary interview in memory of Victor Hugo.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Strasbourg, the city of Europe

Strasbourg as the capital of Europe, is rather small and peaceful city, not as big and busy as Paris or Milan.  It seems that Strasbourg is very sweet and easy , compared with Paris.

Strasbourg is located close to the border between France and Germany in the historic region of Alsace. The name Strasbourg is of Germanic origin which means "Town (at the crossing) of roads”. It is a symbol of French-German reconciliation and European unity.

It is the official seat of the European Parliament, alongside Brussels and Luxembourg. Strasbourg is considered to be the capital of Europe due to the presence of several European Union and other institutions in the city.

In the historical centre of Strasbourg stands the Notre-Dame cathedral, a masterpiece of Gothic art, owes much of its charm to the pink  sandstone used for its construction. Although some of its parts are still in Romanesque architecture, the Notre-Dame Strasbourg Cathedral  is widely considered to be among the finest  Gothic architecture. Erwin von Steinbach is credited for major contributions to the cathedral  architecture from 1277 to his death in 1318.

 Its rose window, which is about 15 meters in diameter, is  one of the biggest Gothic rose windows in Europe. It's very beautiful and majestic, especially when seen from the inside of the cathedral as it gives off a coloured light.

Strasbourg is also called The Capital of Christmas as the Christmas markets here are world famous, decorated with a huge Christmas tree in the town square. The first markets were held in 1570, making them one of the oldest in Europe and the very first in France.


Sunday, June 17, 2018

Paris, at Montmartre

As a foreigner you can only guess what Montmartre means, it is easy to guess that “Mont” means “Mount” as the place is a large hill in Paris. But “martre” may sound a little like “mother”, so you think maybe it means Mary , the mother of Jesus. This association might arised after you visited the Notre-Dame, which means “Our Lady”.  So Montmatre maybe means the Mount of Mother, you think.

An Indonesian might think “martre” means “matre” which means materialistic. But people would not name a place like this a “Materialistic Mount”, so it is not possible to mean like that. Montmartre was once the place where artists, writers and bohemians who lived, worked and gathered in cafes and bars, while they were poor. Its low rents lured struggling artists whose canvases now sell for millions, such as Renoir, Degas, Picasso, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Utrillo.  So if we consider this, Montmartre should sound more like an “Artistic Mount” rather than “Materialistic Mount”, don’t you think so?

Actually rather than making some hazard guesses it is easier to open a dictionary , Montmartre is the French word for the “Mount of Martyrs”, as the name is related to the 3rd century bishop of Paris. Bishop Denis was apprehended by the Romans and sentenced to death for teaching Christianity. There are various versions of the bishop’s martyrdom. One legend states that he was beheaded on the hill, after which the body picked up the head and carried it to the Parisian Saint Denis suburb. The bust of the decapitated bishop is located atop the hill of Montmartre.

Nowadays, a popular landmark in Montmartre, the Sacré-Cœur Basilica is located at the summit of the hill, the highest point in the city. Sacré-Cœur means Sacred Heart as it is  dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which was an increasingly popular vision of a loving and sympathetic Christ. The basilica was designed by Paul Abadie. Construction began in 1875 and was consecrated in 1919.

Montmartre was once  towered with 30 windmills, used to press grapes and mill  grain. Nowadays one of these windmills still stand, the famous  "Red Windmill" — the Moulin Rouge cabaret theatre.  When it opened in 1889, the lively nightclub seemed to sum up the pleasure-seeking belle époque, a period of high artistic or cultural development.

Unmissable as you wander Montmartre for the spinning red windmill on its roof, the Moulin Rouge is an unforgettable mix of colour, movement and sound. The cabaret show performed by young girls dancing the sexy Can Can, was a magnet for all Parisians. The show featuring beautiful topless dancers, has become world famous.


Sunday, June 10, 2018

Paris, at the Notre-Dame

In the novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, a deformed ugly looking child was abandoned at the Notre-Dame Cathedral. The baby was named Quasimodo by Archdeacon Claude Frollo who adopted him.  This scene reminds me of a scene from the movie Rashomon by Akira Kurosawa, showing an unwanted baby abandoned at the ruined Rashomon Gate. The baby then was adopted by the Woodcutter (read “An Interview with Akira” in this blogspot). 

In the novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, Victor Hugo wrote largely about Notre-Dame to make the people of Paris become more aware of the value of the Gothic architecture, which was neglected and often destroyed to be replaced by new buildings or defaced by replacement of parts in a newer style. The first three chapters of the novel are a plea to preserve Gothic architecture—in Hugo’s words, a “gigantic book of stone,” which he found beautiful.

After centuries of mistreatment, additions, vandalism, and purgings, the visitors find a beautiful cathedral that was not as it is today.  Victor Hugo was able to bring about the salvation of a magnificent church because he was able to capture the lost beauty of this church with his novel. 

Now the cathedral is widely considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture, and it is among the largest and best-known church buildings in France, and in the world. The naturalism of its sculptures and stained glass serve to contrast it with earlier Romanesque architecture.

However, currently the cathedral has required an extensive makeover once again due to deterioration, broken gargoyles and fallen balustrades replaced by plastic pipes and wooden planks. Flying buttresses darkened by pollution and eroded by rainwater. Pinnacles propped up by beams and held together with straps.

Little of that deterioration is immediately visible to the millions of awe-struck tourists who visit the Cathedral of Notre-Dame, many of them too busy admiring the intricately sculpted front to notice the deterioration.

Everywhere the stone is eroded, and the more the wind blows, the more all of these little pieces keep falling. Experts say Notre-Dame, although not at risk of sudden collapse, has reached a tipping point, therefore it needs a make-over, an expensive make over estimated to cost 150 million Euro.

As Victor Hugo wrote in his novel, the words ring true today 150 years later: “Assuredly, the Cathedral of Notre-Dame at Paris is, to this day, a majestic and sublime edifice, but noble as it has remained while growing old, one cannot but regret, cannot but feel indignant at the innumerable degradations and mutilations inflicted on the venerable pile, both by the action of time and the hand of man.”


Sunday, June 3, 2018

Paris, at the Eiffel Tower

Arriving at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris in a cool afternoon, I noticed how huge, busy and modern airport it is. Terminal 1 was built to an avant-garde design, comprising a ten-floor high circular building surrounded by seven satellite buildings, each with four gates. The main architect was Paul Andreu, he is famous for his work on various airports, including Dubai International Airport and Shanghai Pudong International Airport.

After clearing my passport and collecting my bag, I head towards the shuttle train station. The ticket cost around 10 Euro, for a 35 minutes ride to Gare du Nord, nearby my hotel.

The next morning, after a good breakfast of bread, cheese, a benedict egg and orange juice, the first place to go is off course the Champs-Élysées. The Champs-Élysées avenue is 1.9 kilometres long and 70 metres wide, running between the Place de la Concorde and the Place Charles de Gaulle, where the Arce de Triomphe is located.  The name is French for the Elysian Fields, the paradise for dead heroes in Greek mythology. The Champs-Élysées  is known for its theatres, cafés, luxury shops, and for the annual Bastille Day parade, and as the finish of the Tour de France bicycle race.

The monument at  the beginning of the avenue, The Arce de Triomphe, honours those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, with the names of all French victories and generals inscribed on its inner and outer surfaces. The Arc de Triomphe is the biggest arch in the world. It was commissioned by Napoleon in 1806 to celebrate his victory at Austerlitz, designed by Jean Chalgrin in 1806.  Beneath its vault lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I. 

From Champs-Élysées, riding the Hop-on Hop-Off Tourist bus, I go to the iconic Eiffel Tower. While in English it is pronounced sounding like “Aifel”, in French it is pronounced sounding like “E-fell”. The Eiffel Tower is a wrought iron lattice tower named after the engineer Gustave Eiffel, whose company designed and built the tower.

Constructed as the entrance to the 1889 World's Fair, it was initially criticized by some of France's leading artists and intellectuals for its design, but it has become a global cultural icon of France and one of the most recognisable structures in the world.

The Eiffel Tower brings magic to Paris when the nights come. The sparkling lights are made up of 20,000 light bulbs, 5,000 per side.  Paris is called the City of Lights because of its dazzling landmark boulevards and bridges illuminated with thousands of light bulbs each night. Paris was also one of the first European cities to adopt gas street lighting.

However, the name actually stems from its cultural legacy. It used to be dubbed The City of Lights, because Paris was the birthplace of the Age of Enlightenment and was known as a centre of education and ideas throughout the whole of Europe. The city inspired many poets and philosophers, engineers and scientists.


Sunday, May 27, 2018

From Tokyo Streets to Kasuga Taisha Shrine

Walking the Tokyo streets in the evening we can see many people flooding the enormous pedestrian walkways. It seems people here, although they are famous for their hard working for long hours, yet don’t go home straight-away after work. They like to stroll the streets, the shops, the coffee shops and bars after work. The atmosphere is lively, many of them are just chit-chatting outside bars or at the squares in Shinjuku.

Shinjuku area is constantly a bustling, busy town, being a business district in the day and an entertainment district at night. This area initially flourished as a post town for travellers, and gradually developed into a downtown area after the railway station was completed after the Meiji period. Furthermore, many of the lines used by majority of the people living in East Tokyo gather at Shinjuku, evolving the station into a huge terminal.

If you are into youth fashion, there is nowhere in the world that people can see such a dynamic, colorful and youthful street fashion culture with fascinating styles changing every day like what  is happening in Japan, especially Tokyo, the new raising fashion capital of the world. 

If you're looking for certain youth fashion styles, Takeshita Street , and the surrounding areas,  offer countless different unique styles. You can get band shirts, 'princess' style, goth style, and even costumes. That's what makes this street so unique and popular. You can buy everything from boots to earmuffs, and band t-shirts to badges in lots of styles you might not get at home - and at decent prices, too.

It hard to imagine how fashion of Japanese pop culture has developed into such a free style trend that value individual uniqueness in a country of collectivism, focusing on harmony, politeness, hierarchy and tradition.

Away from the busy streets, there is another world.  Inside a grove of trees through the winding path with 3000  various sizes of stone lanterns along the walk , stands the Kasuga Taisha temple. It is a Shinto shrine, its location was purposefully chosen inside a grove of trees. Shinto is deeply connected with nature and walking through the woods makes it feel you are in another time, even though you are just a few miles away from the busy streets. 

The 3000 lanterns are symbolic of the 3000 Kasuga shrines spread throughout Japan. Each lantern is donated by a citizen to show thanks and support to the shrine. Writing on each lantern shows which deity the lantern is donated to, or the person’s name that donated the lantern.


Saturday, May 19, 2018

An Interview with Katsushika

I discovered Katsushika’s work while looking at souvenirs displayed at the front of a souvenir shop in Mount Fuji 5th station, pictures of a great engulfing wave with Mount Fuji at the back ground on mugs, fans, key holders, and tee shirts. Somehow its uniqueness sticked to mind as something of Japanese painting style, in otherwords it branded itself as something Japanese, it becomes iconic. Such is the power of this picture. 

Later, upon browsing the internet I discovered that it is the well known “The Great Wave off Kanagawa” woodblock print work by Katsushika Hokusai, which is part of his Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji woodblock work.

Then I attempted to reach Katsushika-san for an interview, and managed to meet him in one great sunny morning at his residence.

I said: 

“Katsushika –san, your famous “The Great Wave off Kanagawa” and other most important work from the Mount Fuji series were made at the beginning of your “final years”.  You already had a long career in ukiyo-e – the art of the floating world – with beautiful prints of hurried pedlars, kimonoed courtesans and pilgrims spellbound by the moon over your home city of Edo (old Tokyo). Yet, your master piece creativity seemed to bloom in your final years, in your seventies. Why did you “emerge” so late?”


“The 1820s was a difficult time for me, I was struck by lightning at 50, suffered a stroke in my 60s that required me to re-adapt to my art work. So I did little work in my sixties; my wife got ill and one of my daughters died. I could cope because that time I was prosperous from my work. 

But then I was faced by my grandson misfortune who had a lot of debts from gambling habit and I had to pay off all his debts. But in about 1828, I sent my grandson away to the far north of Japan where he couldn't gamble. Then I was free to devote my energy to my creative work. Although, even while drawing the Thirty-six Views, I had scarcely any food. Edo was ravaged by smallpox and flood, and a fire in 1839 destroyed all my studio work. 

One of the factors for the emergence of my work was the introduction of Prussian blue to the market, imported from the West. As a synthetic pigment, it is more lasting and it lowered the price enough that it became feasible to use the shade in prints for the first time. 

A print produced entirely in Prussian tones looks like a landscape during pre-dawn. Also, the Great Wave seascape incorporated a middle distance, with Mount Fuji in the remote background, so that the foaming blue foreground wave gives the picture a deeper dimension.”

I said: 

“ The period of ukiyo-e – the art of the floating world – represented the floating Japan, or the prosperous Japan, which generally depicted the pleasurable side of urban living – courtesans and kabuki actors included. It was the period of Japan’s hedonism world, living life for the moment, partying, dancing, getting drunk, along with the economic boom in Edo (old Tokyo).  The art of this floating world, ukiyou-e, raised with the demand,  pictures of Kabuki, beautiful women, geisha, courtesans became popular and displayed at homes. Hence you were floating too, your wood block print works were sold well that time. 

Then came your Great Wave woodblock print depicting a very huge wave about to swallow the two floating boats of fishermen. Was it some kind of a “tsunami warning” to the floating world approaching in a few minutes?”


“It is not a tsunami, it is a huge wave, but not a tsunami. It was meant for decoration, depicting one of the various views of majestic Mount Fuji, in Prussian blue. For me, the world is more panoramic, and the joy lies in making new graphic representation for each visual phenomenon. Such that more than 5000 prints of the Great Wave had been made and sold that time.”

I said: 

 “Indeed you are known to be a good businesman, you have a good sense about popular demands. You are also good in promoting yourself, creating massive paintings in public with the help of your students. At a festival in Edo in 1804, you painted a 180-meter-long portrait of a Buddhist monk using a broom as a brush. Years later, you publicized your best-selling series of sketchbooks with a three-story-high work depicting the founder of Zen Buddhism.”


“From the age of six, I had a penchant for copying the form of things, and from about 50, my pictures were frequently published; but until the age of 70, nothing I drew was worthy of notice… Thus when I reach 80 years, I hope to have made increasing progress, and at 90 to see further into the underlying principles of things, so that at 100 years I will have achieved a divine state in my art, and at 110, every dot and every stroke will be as though alive.”

I said: 

“You painted dragons, creatures of long life, by the dozen. You painted the phoenix, bird of resurrection, and Mount Fuji;  immutable, enduring, outlasting all your fellow painters, calligraphers, woodblock-cutters and sellers of coloured books who scrabbled for a living Edo, old Tokyo.

You changed your name so frequently, about 30 times, often related to changes in your artistic style and production, that are used for breaking your life up into periods.”

Katsushika-san said smiling: 

“In my seventies, I was Manji, which meant ‘ten thousand things’ or ‘everything’. That is what I wanted to paint — everything. My tombstone shall bear my final name, Gakyo Rojin Manji, which translates to “Old Man Mad about Painting.”

I said: 

“ You also made manga drawings. There is 15 volumes of them a pictorial encyclopedia of everything under the sun: frogs, snakes, samurai, sumo wrestlers, parasols, fish markets, farm ploughs, oceans and tea bowls.  You also made ‘shunga’, or Japanese erotic ‘spring pictures’, which is quite sexually explicit like the Dream of Fisherman’s Wife which became one of the most celebrated of all Japanese erotic prints.” 


“Shunga is sexually explicit art, produced to exactly the same technical perfection as art in other formats by the same people. The Dream of Fisherman’s Wife was based on the story of Princess Tamatori, highly popular in the Edo period.

In this story, Tamatori is a modest shell diver who marries Fujiwara no Fuhito of the Fujiwara clan, who is searching for a pearl stolen from his family by Ryūjin, the dragon god of the sea. Vowing to help, Tamatori dives down to Ryūjin's undersea palace of Ryūgū-jō, however then pursued by the god and his army of sea creatures, including octopuses. She cuts open her own breast and places the jewel inside; this allows her to swim faster and escape, but she dies from her wound soon after reaching the surface. 

The Tamatori story was a popular subject in ukiyo-e art. The artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi produced works based on it, which often include octopuses among the creatures being evaded by the bare-breasted diver. 

 The Dream of the Fisherman's Wife is not the only work of Edo-period art to depict erotic relations between a woman and an octopus. Some early netsuke carvings show octopus fondling nude women.”

I said: 

“ Then who are the consumers of this Shunga art?”


“In the Edo period it was not only men who appreciated Shunga, but women were also customers. Further, there clearly was interest in Shunga from the young and old, regardless of status or location, and included commoners in the cities, farmers, as well as first-class intellectuals and powerful daimyos.  We can also see that shunga was not simply for stimulating sexual desire, but aimed to depict a wide range of aspects of sexuality.”

I said: 

“ Thank you for the interseting chat Katsushika-san, wish you long life and success with your work….”

This is an imaginary interview in memory of Katsushika Hokusai.
Source: Wikipedia

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Tokyo Disneyland, at the Castle.

Tokyo Disneyland was the first Disney park to be built outside the United States, and it opened in 1983.  The park was constructed in the same style as Disneyland in California and Magic Kingdom in Florida.

The park has seven themed areas: the World Bazaar; the four traditional Disney lands: Adventureland, Westernland, Fantasyland and Tomorrowland; and two mini-lands: Critter Country and Mickey's Toontown.

Many of these areas mirror those in the original Disneyland as they are based on American Disney films and fantasies. Fantasyland includes Peter Pan's Flight, Snow White's Scary Adventures, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, based on Disney films and characters.

Cinderella’s Castle is the fairy tale castle at the center of  the Tokyo Disneyland. It serves as worldwide recognized icon and the flagship attraction for the theme park.

Cinderella’s Fairy Tale Hall is located in the castle where various artworks are exhibited that show scenes from her story.

In the lobby and corridor, guests will find eight murals showing how Cinderella changed from beloved daughter, to servant girl, and then to Princess.

The murals mozaik were designed by Imagineer Dorothea Redmond and crafted and set in place by a team of six artists led by mosaicist Hanns-Joachim Scharff, the 4.6 by 3.0 m  ornate panels are shaped in a Gothic arch. The murals took 22 months to complete and contain just over 300,000 pieces of Italian glass and rough smalti (glass made specifically for mosaics traditionally used by Italian craftsmen) in more than 500 colors.

 Many of the hand-cut tiles are fused with sterling silver and 14-karat (58 percent) gold, and some are as small as the head of a tack. Looking closely at these ornate murals, one will notice that each of Cinderella's wicked stepsisters appears with a little added color - one sister's face is clearly "red with anger", while the other is a little "green with envy" as they watch Cinderella try on the glass slipper.
Source: Wikipedia