Renewing Connections

August 13

Thanks to jet lag, I was up early, so I caught up on some reading with the Olympics on in the background. I had long had a sense that Japanese TV commercials as a genre are distinct from North American ones, but never bothered to analyze it too deeply. One thing that finally struck me is that a matte camera filter is very popular and helps give many of the commercials here a distinctive look. Of course it's also fun to identify international celebrities endorsing products who have no endorsement profile back home outside of print ads at the most (I'm looking at you Neymar Jr. and Cristiano Ronaldo). Now whether it's true or not from the limited sample I saw—who knows?—but it seemed like there were a lot more close up shots than I'm used to as well.

The main part of the day was spent at the National Museum of Japanese History in Sakura—a fine museum that blends artifacts, reconstructions, children's activity areas, and special exhibitions. Perhaps because it was a Saturday, it was the busiest I've ever seen it, but the building is spacious enough to comfortably handle everyone. Having been there a few times, the larger purpose was social, as we had three families join for a total of twelve people aged 1-64. Coordinating so many people inevitably led to some separation and down time, but we still somehow managed to renew friendships, start new ones, and learn a little more about Japanese history.

The highlight for many in the group was seeing the Siebold exhibition. Philipp Franz von Siebold was a nineteenth century doctor and botanist who lived in Japan for two extended periods and collected a number of gorgeous artifacts that he exhibited in Europe and which helped launch the Japonisme craze there.

My personal favourite was seeing a temporary exhibit of elaborate daimyo helmets, including one which had the most ferocious set of rabbit ears I've ever seen in my life. In fact they were so stylized, I wouldn't have realized that they there were inspired by rabbits without the museum's information board. They were also improbably long, making me wonder how the daimyo wore it without his head tilting back. I would assume they were hollowed out lacquered attachments that weren't as heavy as they looked, but still, they were awkward enough to give one pause.
Daimyo Helmets
The only bittersweet part of the day was seeing that my friends are getting older, which made me realize that I am their visual reminder of mortality. Fortunately, there were plenty of cute interactions filled with laughter between adults and children who bore such strong resemblances to their parents that one could not help but reflect on the ways we dodge and weave the inevitable by bridging the path between past and future generations.

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