A Quick Introduction to Japanese Typography

The follow link leads to an article about Japanese Typography, and is from the site Smashing Magazine, and is written by Shoko Mugikura, who is a Japanese designer based in Berlin. Alongside working on book design projects, she is running the type design studio Just Another Foundry

Japanese, A Beautifully Complex Writing System

The article is a quick introduction into the complexity of the Japanese Typography and how it differs from the “western” style. The article starts out with introducing the reader to the Kanji, Katakana, and Hiragana alphabet, and the two writing orientations, and goes on to show how the different orientations are used in everything from books and newspapers, to Metro stations information boards, post cards, and on-screen media.

If you have even a slight interest in layouts and typography, or are just interested in how what ways Japanese might be used, this article is for you. And for the rest: have a read, maybe it makes you think of that station map in the subway in a different way next time you see it ^_^



Shortly after posting about this article, I found another article relating to Japanese Typeface on GaijinPot.

Choosing a Japanese Typeface for your Hanko

A Hanko is your personal stamp, and it’s used in everything from opening bank-accounts, to renting apartments. Sooner or later you might need to design your own. This article brings up the issue of Typeface (or Font, if you will), and what messages different styles might give to others.

Ueno Park 上野公園

The sun is out, the temperature is up, and summer is approaching fast. A good way to enjoy the sun is to visit one of Tokyo’s many parks. So why not visit Ueno Park?

Ueno Park is one of the oldest public parks in Japan, and houses not only a wide range of temples, but also museums and art exhibits.  Established in the Meiji Period (1873 to be precise) it took inspiration from the western idea of a park, and it’s located on former temple grounds, after the temple was destroyed in the battle for Ueno during the Bakumatsu period.

Statue of Saigo Takamori walking his dog

Statue of Saigo Takamori walking his dog

In the park you can find a statue over Saigo Takamori. Fans of the film The Last Samurai should note that Katsumoto, the character played by Ken Watanabe, was loosely based on Takamori, a legendary Tokugawa loyalist. Today he remains an exemplar of the samurai spirit in Japan.

Tokugawa Mausoleum

Tokugawa Mausoleum

Among the temples in Ueno Park, the most famous might just be the Tosho-gu, where Tokugawa Ieyasu is enshrined, and neighboring Hanazono Inari Jinja has red-bibbed Inari fox statues in an atmospheric grotto. There are also rows of red Toriis leading up to the temples.

Shinobazu Pond

Shinobazu Pond

In Ueno Park you also find the Tokyo National Museum, which is the oldest Japanese national museum. You can also find the National Museum of Nature and science, as well as the National Museum of Western Art.

Kuroda Kambei at Edo Tokyo Museum

Every year, NKH airs a drama that runs almost the whole year, something they call 大河ドラマ (“Taiga Drama”). This year the Taiga drama is about Kuroda Kanbei, a man of great ambition, and who later became the chief strategic adviser to both Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi. The drama is called 軍師官兵衛 (“Gunshi Kanbei”), and you can see it on NHK all through the year.

Coinciding with the drama being shown on NHK, The Edo Tokyo Museum has a special exhibition about Kuroda Kanbei, starting today, and continuing to June 13th.

Courtesy of Edo Tokyo Museum

Courtesy of Edo Tokyo Museum

Price for admission is as follows:

Prices Ticket to special exhibit Ticket to normal exhibit and special exhibit
General: 1 300 Yen 1 520 Yen
University student or student at specialist school 1 040 Yen 1 210 Yen

If you have seen the drama, are interested in samurais and the Sengoku period, or just want to get a glimpse of Japans in days past, check out this exhibition. And I always recommend the permanent exhibition as well, if you don’t have a particular interest in Kanbei.

More info about the Edo Tokyo Museum is found HERE.

A Geek In Japan – Discovering the Land of Manga, Anime, Zen, and the Tea Ceremony

Another book from our mini- library that you have to check out!


Author: Hector Garcia
ISBN 978-4-8053-1129-5
Tuttle Publishing

Chapter 1 – The Origins of Japanese Culture
Chapter 2 – The Traditional Arts & Disciplines
Chapter 3 – The Unique Japanese Character
Chapter 4 – Curiosities & Symbols
Chapter 5 – The Japanese at Work
Chapter 6 – Japanese Society & Daily Life
Chapter 7 – Japan Today
Chapter 8 – The World of Manga & Anime
Chapter 9 – Modern Japanese Music
Chapter 10 – Movies & Television
Chapter 11 – Visiting Tokyo
Chapter 12 – Traveling Around Japan

This book, A Geek In Japan, reinvents the culture guide for the Internet age. Packed with articles and photographs, it ranges from the touchstones of traditional culture like bushido, geishas, Shinto, Buddhism, and Confucianism to chapters on traditional arts and disciplines like ukiyo-e, ikebana, Zen meditation, martial arts, and the tea ceremony. There are also cultural code words and values; society and daily life; business and technology; the arts; and symbols and practices that are peculiarly Japanese. A quarter of the chapters are devoted to pop cultural genres, with attention to the stars, idols, and urban subcultures – otakus, gals, lolitas, visual kei, and cosplay – associated with them. For visitors to the country, the author includes a mini-guide to his favorite neighborhoods in Tokyo as well as tips on other places of outstanding interest.




What is Kofun?

Up until last Sunday, you could go to Tokyo National Museum and look at an exhibition of wallpaintings from Asuka Kofun. Unfortunately, the exhibition is over, but you might be thinking “What’s a ‘Kofun’, and what is an ‘Asuka’?”. Well, here is a short explanation of what a Kofun is:

The word Kofun, or 古墳, literally means “ancient grave”, and are megalithic tombs in Japan. (“Megalithic” means that it’s monument made out of large stones.) These graves were built between the early 3rd century (or the 200’s if you want) and the early 7th century (the 600’s), a period in Japanese history that has gotten its name from these graves: the Kofun Period.

Daisen Kofun, Osaka, the largest Kofun. (Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

The kofun has taken many shapes through-out the years, but the most common one is a keyhole shape, like the one on the picture above, with a rectangular and a circular shape together (前方後円墳 “Zen-pou-kou-en-fun”). But they can also be only circular (円墳 “En-fun”), rectangular (前方後方墳 “Zen-pou-kou-hou-fun”), and squared (方墳 “Hou-fun”).

Asuka is a village in Nara Prefecture, where in the ancient times the Asuka Palaces were built, and a lot of graves of this type can be found. Two of the more famous tombs in Asuka are Takamatsuzuka Tomp (高松塚古墳 “Takamatsuzuka-kofun”), and the Kitora Tomb (キトラ古墳 “Kitora-kofun”).

The exhibition at Tokyo Natonal Museum was about wall-paintings found in the Kitora Tomb in Asuka. Sadly, I could not go myself, although I really wanted to. Will keep my eyes open, in case they show this exhibition again, or another similar one.


Laos Festival in Yoyogi Park

Did you enjoy the Thai Festival last weekend? Or did you miss the Thai Festival, but want to experience the festivities, food and culture of south-east Asia? Then you are in luck! Because this weekend there will be a Laos-themed Festival in Yoyogi park.

As with the previous festival, it is free to participate, and the event will be held on both Saturday (May 24) and Sunday (May 25), and you can enjoy the festivities between 10 am – 7 pm.

More info is found here (in Japanese): http://laos-festival.info

Laos Festival logo