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Absorbing Japanese culture in a very short week

THE LAST week in July offered quite a number of varied cultural events and entertainment in Bratislava and anyone who picked this week for their summer holiday missed a lot. The Japanese Embassy in Slovakia chose the week from July 25 to July 31 for a concentrated presentation of Japanese culture and traditions. Although it first seemed that the week would be affected by Slovakia’s inclement weather – most of the events were held outdoors – everything turned out quite well – as if Mother Nature wanted to show a more merciful face.

Sculpting a swan. (Source: SME)

THE LAST week in July offered quite a number of varied cultural events and entertainment in Bratislava and anyone who picked this week for their summer holiday missed a lot. The Japanese Embassy in Slovakia chose the week from July 25 to July 31 for a concentrated presentation of Japanese culture and traditions. Although it first seemed that the week would be affected by Slovakia’s inclement weather – most of the events were held outdoors – everything turned out quite well – as if Mother Nature wanted to show a more merciful face.

On July 25 and 26, the embassy’s chef, Shoichi Sato, taught visitors how to prepare and display Japanese cuisine. July 27 was marked by the playful side of Japanese culture as there were workshops on the traditional paper-folding art of origami as well as a special type of Japanese chess called Shogi offered on Bratislava’s Main Square, outside the embassy. The workshops were primarily led by Slovaks, with Jaroslav Jaroš teaching about origami and members of the Slovak Shogi Association teaching the Japanese chess game, both of which attracted not only children but also a surprisingly large number of playful adults.

Chef Sato later showed his skills and firm hand while sculpting two swans from ice. Both were true to the original design sketched on a sheet of paper but unfortunately the first graceful ice- bird grew fragile because of the heat and its neck broke during its final transport and positioning. Nevertheless, the ice sculptures were admiringly intact considering that sunshine had finally emerged after a spell of rainy and cold days.

Lucia and Marcos Shimabukuro taught Slovaks to play the traditional Shamisen musical instrument on July 28 and on the next day Lukáš Vyletel presented another traditional Japanese game, Go, at a workshop in the embassy. On Saturday, the Main Square literally seethed with Japanese culture, with Somei Fuehrmann presenting a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, Shogi being taught once again, and the evening ending with the exotic and powerful music of Taiko drums presented on stage by the Kiyo-Kito Taiko band from Budapest. The week finished off with the concert of classical music performed by pianist Motoki Hirai, a successful composer. A photo exhibition called Kyoto, offering a selection of works from the Japan Foundation’s collection remained on display until August 5 for fans of Japanese landscapes, architecture and history.


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