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Friday, July 30, 2010

My new video art project = Poems of Phyllis Lin Huiyin + Andy Warhol's Screen Test

Picture 11


A few weeks ago I was contacted by Huey Ching, also a Malaysian in Japan (and a composer), proposing a collaboration. An experimental festival for live performances and all sorts of music project's coming up soon in Tokyo, she intended to merge her own music performance with videos.

I was in the middle of writing the treatment for my feature-length film, and had been feeling increasingly depressed over the lack of filmmaking endeavours I've been involved in (last time I shot a film was in March for my soon-to-be-released short, INHALATION), so I met up with her. After a brief brainstorming session in a nice Shinjuku cafe, we agreed to make her performance a combination of music, visuals (courtesy of my videos) and poetry.

It was a matter of finding the right poetry. That night I chanced upon the poems of Phyllis Lin Huiyin (1904-1955), the first female architect in Modern China, and writer.

Phyllis Lin Hui Yin


It was entirely by coincidence. We were originally considering the poems of the famous Chinese poet, Xu Zhimo (four years ago I pointed out the uncanny resemblance between Xu Zhimo and my friend Alex Yuen). Lin Huiyin is remembered mostly by the masses as Xu Zhimo's object of (probably unrequited) love thanks to the many dramatized portrayals of their relationship in films and TV dramas. (by the way, Zhang Ziyi's gonna play Lin Huiyin in an upcoming biopic), some even said that Xu Zhimo's fatal plane crash occurred when he was on his way to a talk that Lin Huiyin was giving.

While finding the right Xu Zhimo poems, I stumbled upon Lin Huiyin's on the same Chinese website, and I liked it quite a lot. I tried my best to find English translations of her works but my efforts were in vain, so I decided to pick a few, showed it to Huey Ching and proceeded to do the translations myself.

... the following were my attempts at two poems.

记忆

断续的曲子,最美或最温柔的
夜,带着一天的星。
记忆的梗上,谁不有
两三朵娉婷,披着情绪的花
无名的展开
野荷的香馥,
每一瓣静处的月明。

湖上风吹过,头发乱了,或是
水面皱起象鱼鳞的锦。
四面里的辽阔,如同梦
荡漾着中心彷徨的过往
不着痕迹,谁都
认识那图画,
沉在水底记忆的倒影!


MEMORY

A broken melody, the most beautiful and gentle night,
a sky full of stars.
resting upon a branch of memories,
the women of flowers, petals of emotions,
blossoming namelessly.
a wild scent,
spreading throughout the moonlight

Wind blew over the lake, hair swaying,
Rippling surface seem like fish-like scales
the vastness of its surroundings, like a dream
the ripple of my storm-filled heart
A recognizable picture,
A reflection submerged deep within the water of memories

无题

什么时候再能有
那一片静;
溶溶在春风中立着,
面对着山,面对着小河流?

什么时候还能那样
满掬着希望;
披拂新绿,耳语似的诗思,
登上城楼,更听那一声钟响?

什么时候,又什么时候,心
才真能懂得
这时间的距离;山河的年岁;
昨天的静,钟声
昨天的人
怎样又在今天里划下一道影!

UNTITLED
When again will it be
that veil of silence.
melting in the spring breeze.
as it faces the mountain and flowing stream?

When again can I still
cling on to hope,
the swaying grass, a whisper in my thought
ascending that building, hearing the ringing bells?

When? Wither in time
will the heart know
the distance of time, the lifespan of mountains and rivers,
yesterday's silence, the sound of bell ringing,
how can a person of yesterday,
cast a shadow over today?

I then proceeded to prepare for a video shoot. All kinds of possibilities were floating about. Make a narrative short? Make a music video? Then I started pondering the locations. Odds were stacked against me because the lab is now short on resources, and I've long lost a producer to put something like this together for me since Maiko left. I started making phone calls, asking for help, trying to find a Chinese actress who could read the poems of Lin Huiyin. At such a short notice, it was difficult to get anyone.

I worried a little, time was running out (I'm flying back to Malaysia on the 5th of August and I want to get this done before I leave). I listened to Huey Ching's compositions again and it started to dawn upon me that I may have been taking the wrong approach with the project. So used to conventional filmmaking and narratives that I was preparing for what I usually do, when this could've been done in a very different manner, I wasn't supposed to be making a FILM, but something more of an experimental nature, a video installation.

I suddenly thought of Andy Warhol, and remembered his Screen Tests. They were basically a series of silent film portraits. Sounded like a fun thing to try, and seemingly easier to attempt too. I would merge poems with video portraits. The actress wouldn't have to spend that much time for the shoot, just a few minutes before my camera, doing whatever she felt like, and voila! I also prepared some food on the table in case she wanted her portrait to be of her eating.

So I managed to secure the help of Tao Sha, a friend of a friend who is a model and actress. She's from China. I was relieved that she was willing to help. All I needed was for her to stay in front of the camera, and after that, let me do a recording of her poem recital, and I'll be done.

Yesterday was the shoot, I managed to have her around for half an hour. Mahmoud was helping with the cinematography. He also brought his Harinezumi camera along (a digital camera that shoots Super 8-like footage)


Tao Sha and a Harinezumi camera

Tao Sha during the video shoot

Tao Sha during the video shoot 2


She opted to eat potato chips for her first take, which you can see from the first photo of this entry.

Once she was gone, and also after I got myself a few more subjects for this fun little experiment, I started editing a rough cut for Huey Ching. Got it done at 4 this morning.

Perhaps you'll hear more of this project soon.

For me, it was fun to be in a shoot again.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The first KINGYO screening at SKIP CITY INTERNATIONAL D-CINEMA FESTIVAL 2010

27th of July, two days ago, the first screening of KINGYO was held as part of the short film competition program in the Skip City International D-Cinema Festival 2010.

I was surprised by the amount of audiences, being a Tuesday morning and all. Mine was the last one to play, so I got to watch the other three short films, which were all really diverse in tone and genres: A fantasy black comedy, a cyberpunk samurai actioner, and a coming-of-age tale. Left the hall when KINGYO started playing, so not entirely sure of its reception.

The filmmakers and cast members were all invited onto the stage after the screening to introduce themselves and what they wanted to say about their films.

Filmmakers and cast members of the short films invited onstage after screening


Once again, I explained that KINGYO was inspired by the short story of Yasunari Kawabata, 'Canaries', and also featured elements of his novel, 'Snow Country'. I also pointed out that the film has a special place in my heart because it was my first-ever Japanese-language short.

Me, explaining about KINGYO


Here's a brief video clip of me inviting KINGYO actress Qyoko Kudo (credited as 'Amane Kudo' in the film) onto the stage as well.





Qyoko, dressed in glorious traditional Japanese garb, gave a brief anecdote of the KINGYO shoot, in which my often boisterous and cheery manner on the set would distract her attempts to get into her (very gloomy and angsty) character. When you don't have a cheerleader on your set, you kinda have to be your own cheerleader, hohoho.

After inviting Qyoko onstage

Kingyo actress Qyoko Kudo introduces herself to the audience


A tough question was asked regarding how filmmakers of digital cinema deal with the rapidly blurring of the line between cinema and television, as the US as been making really cinematic television shows lately, while certain filmmakers would opt for a more TV sitcom-my look for their own films etc. I voiced out my agreement about the blurring of lines, though I never really gave this topic much thought. I added that I was really in service of my story (and prior to that I would decide whether said story was suitable for the medium) and all I think of was just to bring forth my own visual filmmaking skills to serve my story.

Me listening intently to the translation


With Qyoko outside the hall, after the screening.

With KINGYO actress Qyoko Kudo. Skip City International D-cinema Film Fest (27/7/2010)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Q and A session after the LOVE SUICIDES screening at Fuji TV, Odaiba

On Sunday (25th of July, just a day after the opening of the Skip City Film Fest mentioned in my previous post), I headed off to the Fuji TV headquarters in Odaiba for a screening of LOVE SUICIDES. It was part of the SF7 program. SF stands for 'Student Films', seven universities participated, hence the '7'.

SF7 poster


After the screening there was a Q and A panel with 3 guests, influential film critic Tadao Sato, director Eiichiro Hasumi ("Umizaki" series, "Oppai Volleyball") TV and film producer Hirotsugi Usui ("Amalfi", "Umizaru" series, "Suspect X" etc). Aside from my answers, most of the video is in Japanese. Labmate Stephen was my translator.




Few hours later, we returned on stage to take a group photo.

Heading onstage for a group of SF7, Odaiba

SF7 group photo 1

SF7 group photo 2


We had a party after that.

Another toast.


video link


With Ishizaka-san of the Tokyo Film Fest, and the emcee lady.

With Ishizaka-san and the emcee lady


With Yuki Tange, director of the experimental short A AN. Her stuff was very avant-garde, it was a 5-min stop-motion animation short using the remains of dead insects, very nice.

With Yuki Tange, director of A AN

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The opening of Skip City International D-Cinema Festival 2010

Went to the opening ceremony of Skip City International D-Cinema Festival 2010. My short film, KINGYO, is in competition. 10 shorts were in competition, it's supposed to be a domestic competition for Japanese shorts only, KINGYO was a Japanese short, but its director ain't a Japanese, so that makes me the token foreigner among the nominees, awesome!

I was actually late, missed all of the opening speeches from the ceremony, but I arrived just in time to be introduced on-stage. When I walked into the place, the conversation between me and the staffer was like that:

Her: You're late!
Me: I knowwww, missed the bus!
Her: Never mind, they've only just started introducing the directors!
Me: OH! The directors will be introduced??







At the opening ceremony of the Skip City D-cinema Film Fest 2010

Group photo of Skip City D-cinema Film Fest 2010


After the group photo with the other directors and the jury members. Legendary director Yoji Yamada came out to present the digitally remastered version of his 1977 film, THE YELLOW HANDKERCHIEF 『幸福の黄色いハンカチ』.



幸福の黄色いハンカチ


It's the Best Picture winner of the inaugural Japan Academy Awards (while also winning Best Director and Best Screenplay for Yoji Yamada, Best Actor for Ken Takakura, Best Supporting Actor for Tetsuya Takeda and Best Supporting Actress for Kaori Momoi... it was a sweep)



Yoji Yamada before the screening of Yellow Hankerchief


The trailer of the digitally remastered film.




(click here if you can't see embedded video)


It's the first time I've ever seen the film, and not knowing much about it, I was surprised by how entertaining and funny it actually was. It's a very heartwarming, feel-good film that had most people around me crying.

The film was actually recently remade in the US and was released earlier this year. US version starred William Hurt in the Ken Takakura role, Kristen Stewart in the Kaori Momoi role and Eddie Redmayne in the Tetsuya Takeda role.



イエロー・ハンカチーフ


This is the trailer of the US version.



Click here if can't see embedded video


We headed off to the party.




Click here if can't see embedded video


With DEAR KUMASHIRO director Takano Toru and his lead actor J. Hashiguchi. Toru's only 22, youngest among the bunch. When I was his age 4 years ago, I was still languishing in obscurity (... well, technically I'm still pretty obscure now, but perhaps slightly less than I was back then?)


With DEAR KUMASHIRO director Takano Toru and his lead actor J. Hashiguchi


Hashiguchi again, but with Norihori Niwatsukino, director of STRAWBERRY JAM, which is also currently in competition at the ongoing Pia Film Festival.


With Hashiguchi and STRAWBERRY JAM director Norihiro Niwatsukino


After that, jury members were asked to officiate the opening of the film festival.


Jury members officiating opening of Skip City Film Fest

Roger Garcia and others looking awesome




Video link


And then, a toast. You can see me toasting with the rest of the directors in the short film section.



Video link


We were then asked to go on-stage again. I asked my bud Roger Garcia to help take photos of me. (He's serving as jury member for the feature-length competition)

I went out of control with my camwhoring.


Me going onstage during the opening party

Yay! I'm in Skip City D-Cinema Film Fest 2010!

Directors of the short films in competition. Skip City D-Cinema Film Fest 2010


Director Lisa Takeba was asked to give an impromptu speech on our behalf.


Director Lisa Takeba giving a speech (while I pose)

Director Lisa Takeba giving a speech (while I pose) 2


Silly, I know.


Lisa Takeba finishes her speech


Even the guy next to me disapproved my methods.

Having fun with the limelight


With model and actress of the short film Karakuri, Hitomi Katayama 片山瞳.

With actress/ model Hitomi Katayama


Then I headed home with the cast and crew of Seesaw, the Japanese feature-length film in competition.

Actresses of Seesaw, Maki Murakami (the right one) and Sora. Sora is actually a singer-songwriter, but she has some fabulous photos on her Flickr account. (she's a fellow Canon user)

Actresses of Seesaw, Maki Murakami and Sora


KINGYO is screening on the 27th and 31st of July, I'll be there for the Q and A sessions. I hope I'll be able to catch some other films too.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Kazue Fukiishi 吹石一恵 at the Gegege No Nyobo 『ゲゲゲの女房』 world premiere

Nine years ago, when I was just finishing high school, I went to Japan for a family trip. I remember being in a hotel that was known for the hot springs, but what I remember most then was the lobby, where a public service announcement poster of actress/ model Kazue Fukiishi from the fire department was pinned onto the wall.

I vaguely recognized her name (few years earlier I had seen her debut feature in the TOKIMEKI MEMORIAL, a film adapted from a dating simulation... er, yeah), but I was mostly mesmerized by her beauty. That large luminous eyes peering deep into my soul, telling me to be careful not to play with fire, the slight playful smile on her face hinted that she knew secrets of me and would be a willing co-conspirator.

Returning to my room, images of her lingered, and the question that haunted my mind then was... "what if I cannot see this poster again? What if, for the rest of my life, this poster would just be a fleeting image that would just fade off in my mind, along with her name?"

Night came. I went back to the lobby. It was unattended, I approached the poster, looked at it, and slowly... I liberated it from its original place.

Nine years have passed since then. My fears of Kazue Fukiishi disappearing into obscurity and from my mind, were unfounded, she had became bigger than before, first as the spokesperson of Uniqlo (now, before things get too creepy, I will reiterate the fact that I am a frequent customer of Uniqlo NOT because of her, but mostly because of its economical price!) and also involved in numerous high-profiled film and TV projects.



While I myself had became a globe-trotting award-winning filmmaker two months removed from writing and producing a film selected by the Cannes Film Fest. Even so, a sight of her poster, or a mention of her name, would make me remember the events from nine years ago, in that hotel lobby, when I did something I've never done before.

In a cliched Hong Kong romantic film, or TV dramas, whenever the main protagonists were to reunite after separating for a period of time (usually a number of years), both man and woman would have become professionally successful individuals and they would end up being impressed with each other. Then this would be the obligatory exchange that would lead to tears of joy and reconciliation.

WOMAN: You have changed a lot.
MAN: Yes. (a beat) But my feelings for you remain unchanged. (meaning his love for her, not his resentment towards their separation)


Since the history between Kazue Fukiishi and I had been entirely one-sided, and played solely in the crumbling architecture within my mind, the scene described above would not really apply.

The more I narrate my tale here for the sake of amusement, I wonder whether I would come off as a stalker?

Yesterday I headed off to the 32nd Pia Film Festival. I just got myself a free pass from Professor Ando and thought to catch whatever film that was playing.

The event held then happened to be the world premiere of Gegege No Nyobo ゲゲゲの女房, a biopic based on an autobiographical novel by Nunoe Mura, wife of “Gegege no Kitaro” creator Shigeru Mizuki, directed by Takuji Suzuki. Also currently a long-running NHK series, the story covers the married life of Shigeru and Nunoe. Theirs was initially a fixed marriage. They lived a life of poverty as as he struggled and toiled to gradually become a famous manga artist, the relationship between the two would also blossom from one filled with distant formalities to genuine affections. Kazue Fukiishi played Nunoe and Kankuro Kudo (screenwriter of Ping Pong and Zebraman) played Shigeru. (news of the film on Nippon Cinema and J-Film Pow Wow)

I felt excited, and headed off to the Tokyo National Center of Film (venue of the Pia Film Festival, it's in Ginza). When I finally saw Kazue Fukiishi emerging on stage prior to the screening, and bathed in the blinding lights of the photographers, I felt as if past, present and future were bridged, and all time had manifested into that single instant.

(Or maybe I felt like that because while on my way to the premiere, I was reading Yukio Mishima's TEMPLE OF DAWN in the train. I would end up finishing the book last night, hours after the premiere)

Kankuro Kudo talking while Kazue Fukiishi listens during Gegege no Nyobo world premiere


Click here if you can't see embedded video

Photo session with Kazue Fukiishi 吹石一恵, Kankuro Kudo 宮藤官九 and director Takuji Suzuki 鈴木卓爾 at Gegege no Nyobo world premiere


Click here if can't see embedded video

Director Takuji Suzuki speaking to Kazue Fukiishi. Gegege No Nyobo world premiere at the Pia Film Festival


Oh, as for the film, it was all right, I liked how most scenes were staged nicely in long takes, but I had some issues with some stylistic choices, the mixing of the fantastical with the mundane realism (the cartoonish characters from Shigeru's drawings would pop out) remembered me a little of the Serge Gainsbourg biopic that came out earlier this year, yet they felt a little jarring due to its more grounded execution (the Gainsbourg biopic was very whimsical and psychedelic)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

3PM, a short film exercise

[3PM] Mika (Yumiko Kitazawa) listens to music


3PM is an exercise from the cinematography class I was taking last year. I remember finishing it around the end of June. Then summer came, and I was mired into some sort of depression, which is what I am pretty much going through now. (Quite odd, it's as if I'm stuck in a time loop like the protagonist of the film.)

I digress.

Anyway, all my rushes (raw footages) of this film had been destroyed when my hard disk died last year (just a few weeks after the film was done), making this a 'lost work' of mine. And I wouldn't exactly classify this as part of my oeuvre since it's really just a class project of sorts.

The film only existed in the form of some DVDs that I managed to burn for myself. There are some works that I've done which I would rather it doesn't see the light of the day, but I had a lot of fun shooting 3PM, with the help of a nice cast and crew. And I wouldn't want the film to disappear just like that, so I might as well upload it online for fun.

The main actress of this film is Yumiko Kitazawa, the remaining co-stars were non-actors (course mates Yoh Kabayama and An-chan).

I would say that this project is a nice precursor for subsequent collaborations, as I would work with some of the crew members again after we made 3PM. Some staging techniques that I experimented with here would also be used in my later films.

Erika Matsushita was the cinematographer. Yuiko Kato was the producer/ asst director (this was our first collaboration, she would later help me as assistant producer for THE TIGER FACTORY when we were prepping for Cannes in April) Koda Shomin was the sound guy (he would later serve as the assistant director for my new short film, EXHALATION).

3PM is basically a GROUNDHOG DAY homage, about a tomboyish girl Mika who likes hanging out at the university rooftop everyday at 3pm to catch a glimpse of a boy she likes. Then, she ends up in a time loop.

The two songs I used in the film are 'ARNE' by Haruka Nakamura and 'RALGO' by Janis Crunch, both tracks can be found in Haruka Nakamura's album, GRACE. (no idea why it's rated as explicit in Amazon.com, weird)

So, here's the film.



Click here if you can't see embedded video.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

I have suffered so long for nothing.

I might be a tormented artist like Van Gogh


It was getting increasingly hard to sleep recently, especially in the past few weeks. I could never understand why.

Perhaps I've been thinking too much, perhaps there had been nothing much that could shake me off from my perpetual melancholy. It's this crippling feeling I always endure when I'm not making films. Perhaps it had to do with the girl problems, or the lack of them. Perhaps...

I couldn't really come up with a reason, it was just becoming insanely difficult to sleep. I slept at crazy hours, many times only after I finish BREAKFAST. I wondered why was it that it was so easy for me to get a good night's sleep during my France trip, yet a different story here.

I'm in the midst of summer, arguably the season I like least. I never like the heat, my solution had always been to close the curtains, snuff out all traces of sunlight in my room. Even so, my room was stuffy, oppressively hot, and difficult to breathe.

It had happened a few weeks already, I wondered whether I was suffering from a metaphorical problem often suffered by artists with tormented souls, or whether my room was indeed stuffy... despite blasting the air-con at the lowest temperature, and having a fan nearby as well.

Of course I thought it was the former, it has to be the former, a guy like me has a romanticized worldview, and an inflated ego known for dramatics. I am like Florentino Ariza, I suffer literally (as in, there IS physical discomfort) for love, clinging on to this archaic, intense view of romantic love. I am like Don Quixote, a chivalrous figure of contradictions, living in his own world, falling deep into the world of his own imaginings. I am like Mr. Darcy, I suffer stoically with seer manliness. And so on and so forth.

But then, after suffering this metaphorical pain for so long in my room, I started suspecting that my bloody room was ridiculously stuffy. The air conditioner didn't seem to work at all!

So this afternoon, I went to the dormitory's office to complain, I wasn't expecting my problems to be solved, yet since I wasn't making films, there is no canvas for me to paint upon with the colours of my sorrow, no medium to channel my built up agony and depression.

Nonetheless, the guy came to my room to check the air conditioner.

"See? It's ain't working, right?" I insisted.

I wondered whether being such a tormented artistic soul, I have started to hallucinate imaginary pains for myself.

Then the guy reached for the bottom of the air-con and pulled out its filter. Or rather, what vaguely resembled an air conditioner filter, if it weren't caked by a magnificently gross layer of dust, crap and other things that I do not dare to imagine.

"Wow... that's more than an inch of... dust." The guy said. "You haven't clean it?"

"... not since March 2008, when I first moved in." I said.

It never occurred to me that one needs to constantly take care of his own air conditioner filter.

I took it to the bathroom and scrape off the crap, the sink ended up looking horrendous.

Once I was done, my air conditioner was working perfectly again. The cold air emanating from it left me dizzy with ecstasy, I wanted to compose a 1000 stanza poem of the sudden liberation from my physical discomfort in my room. The gloomy, oppressive air that had plagued me for nearly two months... could they be caused by... a dirty air conditioner filter??

It's odd, to feel this sort of lovely coziness in my life again.

Monday, July 19, 2010

I Wonder What Human Flesh Tastes Like by Justin Isis

My friend, author Quentin S Crisp, has an important announcement to make.

Dear Readers,

My name is Quentin, but please call me Quentin S. Crisp. I have had the privilege of being interviewed on this blog in the past, and now I would like to address you directly. For some time I have been in correspondence and creative collaboration with Justin Isis, guest writer on this blog. A significant overlap in our aesthetic concerns led us to found the dadaoist blogzine, Chômu. Catching the westering rays of that dying blog (which will perhaps rise again), and taking its name therefrom, a new celestial body has appeared in the publishing firmament: Chômu Press.

The first publication from Chômu Press, now available, is my macabre
bildungsroman, Remember You're a One-Ball!



However, I would most especially admonish readers to look forward to a forthcoming publication, Justin’s debut collection, I Wonder What Human Flesh Tastes Like. If you are a glamorous model for a Japanese fashion magazine, a famous dancer, or Kanehara Hitomi, and think you might want to read the book with a view to providing a blurb of recommendation for the back cover, please get in touch with us for preview copies.

Otherwise, I hope you will simply look forward with piqued curiosity to further announcements. In his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize, Kawabata Yasunari said the following:

The Zen disciple sits for long hours silent and motionless, with his eyes closed. Presently he enters a state of impassivity, free from all ideas and all thoughts. He departs from the self and enters the realm of nothingness.

This is not the nothingness or emptiness of the West. It is rather the reverse, a universe of the spirit in which everything communicates freely with everything, transcending bounds, limitless.


Yoroshiku onegai itashimasu,
Quentin.

Link to announcement on Chomu's Press official website.

Guestblogger Justin is most remembered for his 2005 blog post, In Defense of Fanfiction: Guestblogger Justin Goes Robin Hobbnobbing, which was a rebuttal against fantasy novelist, Robin Hobb. The post remains the most-commented, and one of the most-read entries of this blog. Last year Quentin interviewed Justin on this blog too.

I've made numerous efforts to let people of the local literary circle read Justin's works, but to no avail. I have high standards, so I generally don't promote mediocre stuff, even if they were by friends. And I think I'm well-read enough to make an objective observation that Justin's not a talentless hack. Anyway, you can read some of his short stories here, here and here.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Mitama Matsuri at Yasukuni Shrine 2010

Yesterday, I noticed an increase of traffic for last year's blog post about the Mitama Matsuri (or Mitama Festival) at the Yasukuni Shrine. I checked the date and realized that it's exactly been a year (plus a day) since I went to the festival. Last year I went with two of my friends, Zifeng and Yang Yang, it was a fun experience. We went there in the evening, and left after sunset.

It took me a while to decide whether I wanted to go again or not, with a newer camera, I could take much better photos than last year's. Too bad I would be going alone, but then, it's always been the case anyway.

This time, I arrived at the shrine at around 7:30pm. It was already night.


Mitama Matsuri at Yasukuni Temple (15th July 2010)


And immensely crowded!


Entering the Mitama Matsuri at Yasukuni Temple

People eating at the food stalls during Mitama Matsuri


The haunted house was still there, so were the two elderly women at the entrance.


The two ticket attendants of the Mitama Matsumi Haunted House (Yasukuni Temple)

The Haunted House at Mitama Matsuri, Yasukuni Temple


Mitama Festival is a celebration of the spirits of the ancestors, people are here to pay their respects. Nearly 30 000 lanterns are hung on the walls throughout the shrine.


The lanterns of Mitama Matsuri

Mitama Matsuri lanterns


It was difficult to wade through the crowd.


Click here if you can't see embedded video


One of my clearest remembrances of last year's festival was the Bon Odori. Last year, the dance was just about to start when I was leaving, this time, I was in the midst of its infectious joy!


Click here if can't see embedded video

Bon Odori, Yasukuni Shrine (Mitama Festival 2010)


Click here if you can't see embedded video


I continued my way, battling through the sea of humanity, pausing only slightly to catch a better glimpse of a beautiful young woman in yukata, yet I pressed on.


Click here if you can't see embedded video


Click here if you can't see embedded video


I arrived at the Chumon Torii, the last gate before the main prayer hall.

The famous Chumon Torii of Yasukuni Shrine (Mitama Festival 2010)

Swaying colours at the temple gate

Before the temple gate


I paused before making my way through the gate. I looked at the lanterns, I liked them.

Beautiful lanterns at Yasukuni Shrine (Mitama Festival 2010)

Lanterns of Mitama Festival 2010


Next to the controversial Yushukan (a Japanese military and war museum) were lanterns of a different kind.

Lantern exhibition during Mitama Festival 2010


Traditional mural.

Traditional Japanese mural at Yasukuni


And a group of kids running around the trees of the courtyard.

Under the tree (Mitama Festival 2010)


I heard the sound of a woman singing traditional Japanese song and went towards its direction.


Click here if you can't see embedded video

Lady performing at Yasukuni Shrine, Mitama Festival 2010

Watching a stage performance (Mitama Festival 2010)


The main courtyard was also filled with lanterns, and lovey dovey young couples, filling my desolate wasteland of a heart with darkness and angst.


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I finally made my way to the main prayer building, the Haiden.

Yasukuni Haiden


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The crowd and a pretty girl were praying.

Pretty girl praying at Yasukuni Haiden (Mitama Festival 2010)


Then, more people praying.

Praying at Yasukuni Haiden (Mitama Festival 2010)


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Yes, the main hall was indeed busy. So busy that I regretted not paying closer attention to the pair of pretty ladies walking across the frame at the 5-10 second mark (evident by the fact that I panned my camera away from them)


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Lanterns of Yasukuni Shrine at Mitama Festival 2010

Sleeping child (Mitama Festival 2010)


I turned and left.

Leaving Yasukuni (Mitama Festival 2010)


But before that, I paused, looking at the swaying banners above me, a kaleidoscope of colours.


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I walked past a girl in Yukata, posing for her lover. Like a model for a photographer in a private photography session, I felt as if I had invaded their privacy even though I was several meters away.

Girl in Yukata having her photo taken by lover (Mitama Festival 2010)


Two babies caught my attention, one had a mohawk, another had cornrows (the one the right, but you can't see in this photo).

Babies with mohawk and cornrows (Mitama Festival 2010)


I thanked the father and resumed my stroll. Two young ladies in yukata hurried past me.

Women in Yukata hurrying away (Mitama Festival 2010)

Dazzling colours at the Yasukuni Temple gates (Mitama Festival 2010)

Chumon Torii at Yasukuni Shrine (Mitama Festival 2010)


How odd. Yasukuni Shrine is only 3 stations away from my place. I was told that it was within walking distance (well, a one-hour walk), yet since I've moved to stay in Tokyo in 2008, I've only been there three times. Almost only once a year.

Two ladies disapproved my photo-taking.

Two yukata-wearing girls disapprove my photo taking (Mitama Festival 2010)


I reached the Kudanshita station and took the train home.

Girls in Yukata entering the Kudanshita station
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