Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Kagoshima Walk - Museums and Galleries, Part 2

Houzan Hall is right across the street from the Kagoshima Municipal Museum of Art, at the north end of Central Park. Also known as the Kagoshima Prefecture Cultural Center, "Houzan" is made up of the kanji for "star" and "mountain". The first floor is a 1,500-seat concert hall, with recital rooms in the basement. There's a cafe on the second floor, but otherwise floors 2 and 3 are just offices.

The 4th floor is the main cultural section. I went on a Sunday when there was no one at the ticket desk on first floor, and the 4th floor ended up being free, but I think the open area is free normally, anyway. There's the planetarium at one end of the building, which does cost money to enter; a small exhibit showing a telescope and a number of electronic star viewing boxes; a bunch of fossils; and at the other end, examples of rocks and more animal fossils (I think that this is where the materials went when the original Archeology building closed down). Check the website for events and times. Unfortunately, there's no mention of prices for the planetarium.


Now, the Jigen-ryuu Tactics museum isn't actually right in the Cultural Zone, but it's nearby. From the Kagoshima-chuo station follow the streetcar line down Tram Douri to the Takamibaba stop and proceed a little farther until you reach the Washington Hotel (on the right corner) and turn left at the intersection. Go about 1.5 short blocks and it will be on your right. While the building is modern, I'm told that the dojo was first formed at this location 300 years ago. I can't find an English wiki page, but there is a collection of reminiscences in English at The Land of Fire on geocities. And the official website doesn't have an English page. Fortunately, the museum itself does have an English brochure. Open from 10 to 5, last admission at 4:30, closed on Mondays. 500 yen for adults.

From the brochure: Jigen Ryuu is a school of sowordsmanship founded by Togo Bizen no Kami Chui. Chui was born in Kagoshima in 1561 and was trained in the local style of fighting until age 20 when he went to Kyoto to study goldsmithing, and continued practicing martial arts as well. He was introduced to the Buddhist monk Zenkichi, who was a master of Tenshinsho Jigen Ryuu. Chui studied under Zenkichi intensively for 6 months. When he returned to Kagoshima, he set up his own dojo. Subsequently, many of the Satsuma samurai were practitioners of Jigen Ryuu style, including Sagio Takamori and Okubo Toshimichi.

The museum/school consists of a front desk, an exhibit room to the left, a waiting lounge with a TV, the main dojo, and private rooms. One of the students was attending the desk, and was very happy to answer questions (he didn't speak English, though). The entrance fee gives you access to the exhibit room and the dojo. There's also a short 5 minute video of masters of the school demonstrating the sword style. You're allowed to take photos and to try practicing in the dojo.

Jigen Ryuu is characterized by a very short step walking approach with many rapid strikes to the head and shoulders, while yelling loudly. There's no defense, only attack, and the first strike is intended to be the killing one - there's no secondary move to supplement the first one. While you show respect by bowing to the dojo, you do not bow to your opponent. You do not brag about your school, and you practice heavily everyday to build up your arm muscles. Practice consists of taking a log from a persimmon tree and using it as a sword to strike a wooden pole buried in the dirt.

The poles get ripped apart and need to be replaced every 3-5 years. They are about 15 feet long, and 2/3's of them are underground with 5-6 feet exposed to be struck. It's said that when a master is practicing, you can smell the scorched smoke coming from the pole. I tried doing the strikes myself for a few minutes and when I was done my hands were tingling badly.

Jigen Ryuu is a very stylistic approach to swordfighting and will look strange to outsider eyes. But, it is very strong and is intended for the battlefield.

(The main dojo.)


Back in the Cultural Zone, go down to Central Park and keep on the right side of Houzan Hall as you go northeast another couple of short blocks. Turn right and you'll see Yozan Museum of Art about 50 feet on the left. The museum itself is on the 3rd floor, above an eyeglasses shop. Yozan has been closed every time I've tried visiting, so I still haven't been inside. Admission is 500 yen, and it's (supposedly) open during business hours.

On the other hand, there was a flier for an exhibit for Kiyoshi Nakajima at the Saga Art Museum in Saga Prefecture. There's little in English on Kiyoshi other than some artist profiles at various gallery sites. He was born in Manchuria in April, 1943, and focuses on "bijn-ga" (beautiful women paintings). He's got a very interesting style and would be perfect for a magazine like Garo. I just wanted to make a mention of him when I had the chance.

("Payphone and shoe cup", in front of the Yozan museum entrance. I call it "an impromptu installation piece".)

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