With a touch of class.. Sakura Sunday with the JASGP

5 cm per second got’s nothing on real life.

chigaimasu-48.jpg

If you’re a regular to Anime Academy (And if so, many thanks for supporting us!), then you should know that we love to take ourselves outside the boundaries of anime. So when the annual Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival, organized by Japanese American Society of Greater Philadelphia (JASGP), with the highlight Sakura Sunday event rolling in last Sunday, my excitement was palpable (when I wasn’t bogged down with this, that, and the other thing for that matter anyway). Even if peanut (kame) and bro-ham choosing not to come down to check it out as well, I wasn’t going to let that rain on my festival (even if it was forecasted to, literally, rain on the festival). Anyway, I’m back, with pictures (mega thanks to my friend Greg for letting me borrow his camera), ready to talk about the culture behind the subculture. Let’s start!

Marching to the Beat of Your Own Drum: Taiko

A sound that shook like thunder throughout all of the park. And an energy that invigorated the already lively sakura.

Once an item used in to pace combat, the taiko, like Japan, has come a long way over the last millenium. There’s still an air of class regarding the taiko, as it is still used in Japanese courts to this day. But there has been a major modernization of the taiko over the last 50 years. This was the first time I had ever seen the taiko, and I was taken aback by the sheer energy of the performers and the performance. Even the ladies’ taiko number was invigorating, albeit in a more graceful way. But something was clear: Japanese culture marches to the beat of it’s own drum, and it has for years. From the zaibatsu and the economic profile, to the birth rate and the precarious issue of age, Japan has shown the world that it does things a little differently, but there’s no questioning that they get results too.

The timeless beauty. Of the drums, I mean. Oh, and the ladies are nice too.

The Harmony of Body and Mind: The martial arts of Aikidou and Kendou

Spin! Spin! That definitely looks like it’s going to hurt.

The martial arts had, at a time long ago in Japan’s history, been about pride, honor, and climbing the social ladder. The early “Samurai” (A term I, as well as most people who study Japanese medieval history, use with caution because they were not, at least not always, the sword wielding fellows that we have become accustomed to from a Tom Cruise movie and Rurouni Kenshin. Warriors of the early medieval period were mounted archers; the transitions to swords wouldn’t come until the Mongol Invasions in the late 1200s-early 1300s) used success in battle to gain favors that never would have come to non nobility. Semi-“Historical” Tales like the Heike Monogatari give numerous stories about talented warriors earning incredible honor on the battlefield through successful one-on-one combat with warriors of comparable stature. But then came the Edo, where the need for full-time warriors diminished, and finally the Meiji came and, with the quashed Satsuma rebellion in 1877, the age of the samurai had finally ended.

As a result of the “swords to plowshares” nature of the Edo, eventually the focus of martial arts had changed. As it had done with the tea ceremony (discussed later), Zen Buddhism found its way into the martial arts. Meditation led to the necessity to find balance, in both mind and body. Form, with an emphasis on harmony and unity of spirit and motion, became the new goal of the martial arts because such unity was believed to lead to nirvana. The end result gives us modern martial arts.

In eerie synchronicity, well, at least in this shot. There were quite a bit of unplanned “quirks” for the Saboten Dojo during the Swordsmanship demo I attended. Still, applauds to them for a good performance, even if the tatami mats didn’t cooperate.

The Purity of Simplicity: Sadou

The majesty of the tea ceremony.

With the crash of the Heian in 1185, Japan stumbled into a period of war that would scar the Land of the Rising Sun for about 400 years. Disillusioned by death, and centuries removed from the formality and extravagance of the Heian, simplicity and the search for enlightenment became increasingly paramount throughout the era. As a result, processes that had once been of much vanity, like the sadou, were boiled down to the mere essential components. Perhaps the most important figure in the history of the tea ceremony, Sen No Rikyu, was a pioneer of this transition. The contemporary tea ceremony draws its roots primarily from this evolution.

The focus, as I currently understand it, is on purity of mind and spirit. The influence from Zen Buddhism is readily apparent: while enlightenment may not necessarily still be the goal of the ceremony, the underlying notion of the wellness of all of the participants still exists today. Much like in the Sengoku, the beauty of the ceremony today lies in its simplicity, from the artisan created cups and tools, to the conserved motions and manners.

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Anyway, that finishes up my cultural reflections. So a couple more pictures for you guys, and I’m done:

More of the natural beauty.

Obligatory Product Placement. A huge thanks to Subaru though for making this all possible.

For all you loli-con readers. Kawaii, deshou?

I had the caligraphy booth write this for me to go on my window. Wasurenai, meaning to not forget. To go with my life’s motto: Don’t forget the lesson.

Anyway, back to mathematics proofs and computational bioengineering lab work for me. I’ve still got reviews pending.. I’ll get to them eventually. But this will do for now.

-chigaimasu

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One Response to With a touch of class.. Sakura Sunday with the JASGP

  1. Hynavian says:

    Thumbs up! I enjoyed reading this “outside the boundaries of anime” piece. Just a side note, fancy picture of a car that’s has taken on the cherry blossom’s theme. 😉

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