“Cool Traditions” Stay in Tune with Modern Life

Traditional art forms and aesthetics can be infused with new creativity as they are passed along from generation to generation. This series looks at some of these “cool traditions” that remain relevant by perfectly suiting contemporary sensibilities.

Fireworks by “Hanabishi” Masters Blossom in the Night SkyIzumiya Gensaku

Traditional firework makers, or hanabishi, have thrilled spectators since the Edo period (1603–1868). One of the preeminent firework craftsmen today is Aoki Akio, who comes from a long line of outstanding hanabishi. Izumiya Gensaku takes a look at how Aoki is bringing this old craft into the twenty-first century.
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Modern-day Artisans Carry On the “Ukiyo-e” TraditionBrigitte Koyama-Richard

The Adachi Institute of Woodcut Prints has reproduced around 1,200 masterpieces by artists such as Hokusai and Utamaro. Brigitte Koyama-Richard, a researcher in Japanese fine arts from France, visited their Tokyo studio to report on how they are using techniques unchanged since the Edo period.
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Glorious Fireworks Color the Autumn Sky

The Nagano Ebisukō Fireworks Display, held alongside the Ebisu festival each November, is famous as the last fireworks display of the year. This exclusive video, taken over the course of a day, whisks you to a front-row seat at one of the most breathtaking displays of pyrotechnical wizardry in Japan.
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Ukiyo-e Prints Reflect the Popular Culture of EdoBrigitte Koyama-Richard

Japanese woodblock prints had a major influence on the development of European modern painting. Ukiyo-e continue to be extremely popular around the world, but few people know much about the original uses to which these prints were put back in the Edo period. Brigitte Koyama-Richard, a French expert on Japanese art, provides an introduction to the world of ukiyo-e.
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Ōmagari Fireworks Bedazzle the World

Ōmagari in Daisen, Akita Prefecture, has long been a popular place for fireworks, and is familiar to millions of people as the host city of the famous Ōmagari National Fireworks Competition, which draws pyrotechnicians from all over the country. We take a look at the proud history and exciting present of the country’s leading fireworks competition.
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Shunga: Japanese Erotic Art Takes London by StormTony McNicol

Most people with even a nodding familiarity with Japanese art have marveled at the subtlety and liveliness of woodblock prints. But besides the famous scenes of rural and urban life, many of the best-known artists produced large numbers of sexually explicit pictures. Known as shunga, these works are marked by tenderness, humor, and biting satire. As a major exhibition at the British Museum draws big crowds, writer Tony McNicol takes a look at this most intimate of artistic genres.
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Mining the Past for New Gold: Artist Yamaguchi AkiraBrigitte Koyama-Richard (interviewer)

Yamaguchi Akira is an artist who uses the techniques of traditional Japanese painting to explore new possibilities for contemporary art. With its humorous and contempory sensibility, his work has beguiled audiences around the world. In this interview, a French scholar of Japanese art looks at the roots of Yamaguchi’s creativity.
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Bonsai: Nature in the Palm of Your Hand

The cultivation and appreciation of bonsai trees or plants is on the rise, both in Japan and around the world. Here we introduce the aesthetic elements of this fascinating art that compresses nature without sacrificing its majesty and beauty.
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