Tokyo Weekender’s “Day in the Life” series started in 2017. The goal was to showcase the stories of professionals working in environments unique to Japan, be it as artists, craftsmen or entertainers. As the coronavirus outbreak hits Japan, we have to take a step back from traveling to explore culture in different cities and prefectures, but this doesn’t mean we can’t still absorb inspiration and education from these talented individuals.
Below are some of TW’s favorite interviews featured in the series with a focus on jobs you can’t really find anywhere else in the world.
You haven’t heard of noh, it is one of the two traditional theater arts of Japan. On one end of the spectrum, you have kabuki, which is rather energetic and extravagant. On the other end, there is noh, a meditative performance of classic Buddhist plays. Trainees spend years perfecting character-revealing precise movements. Last year, we chatted with Takehito Tomoeda, a professional noh actor, to learn more about what a typical day looks like for him. Hint: it’s surprisingly leisurely.
If you live in an older Japanese house, chances are you have a tatami room. If you live in an apartment, maybe your entre room has tatami floors. Either way, you might not know that tatami making is an intricate process. These complex bamboo mats are handmade and require a true eye for detail. For this interview, we spent the afternoon with Tatsuya Ebisawa, a fourth-generation tatami maker, and tatami craftsman Yasuaki Hanazaki to learn more about the work that goes into making this unique type of flooring.
Japanese tea ceremony is loved by many, both among Japanese nationals and tourists. It’s often praised for its zen experience and is said to reflect the upmost level of Japanese hospitality. While brewing a cup of tea might seem like a mundane task, Maiko Tsunemine taught us that it’s quite the opposite. Years of training are required to get every detail just right. Nowadays, the experience is quite an accessible one, but this interview takes you just a step closer to what it’s really like to be a tea ceremony host.
Japanese calligraphy, or shodo, is the ancient art of writing beautifully. It uses all three Japanese scripts and often evokes images of traditional settings and elderly sensei. In early 2019, TW met up with Wakana Shingae, a young woman practicing this old craft infused with her own distinctive style.
Want to try out Japanese calligraphy? We have a guide for that.
Every year, Hina Matsuri is celebrated on March 3. And every year, dozens of locations put on display their hina dolls. They are a form of kimekomi doll, usually used for simple ornaments and decorations. Most importantly, they are seasonal. The art of making them, however, dates to about 260 years ago. Toshimitsu Kakinuma, a second-generation kimekomi craftsman of the company Kakinuma Ningyo, took us to his atelier to find out more about the intricate creation process of each doll.
Moving forward from more classic Japanese arts to something a little more contemporary is our interview with Nao Yazawa, manga artist. You might have already suspected that the process of storyboarding, drawing and publishing a Japanese comic is quite complex, much like that of any printed work. So what does a single day in the life of a manga artist look like?