Friday, July 10, 2009

violins, beer, and Perry (Y150!)

On a recent visit to Yokohama to BankArt 1929 Christa and I took in a lot, including the blitz of media and events around Yokohama's 150th anniversary
But anniversary as what? The town has been around a longer time than that, but 150 years marks the year - 1859 - when Yokohama opened as an official internationl port city. In this case, the city's very identity is framed on its opening from the 200 year isolation of the Tokugawa shogunate. A recent article in the JR bullet train magazine discusses the adoption of Western music -and particularly jazz- by Japan. Some of the images from the magazine are pretty great in showing the odd mixtures and transitions in the early Meiji period (click on the above image to see it in detail).

Of course the man to force that opening was Commodore Matthew Perry six years before that when he arrived in the area in 1853. Perry references abound in the city right now, in fact one artist's work at BankArt on exhibition now uses Perry as a major theme. The gallery's restaurant/bar is even serving a commemorative beer based on a recipe for beer brought by Perry's crew on that first visit to Nippon. The beer, let me say, was tasty. The label that BankArt designed for the berr (called Pe-ru-ri" katakana for "Perry") makes him out to be something in between Rudolph the red-nose reindeer and a fellow who maybe is a little pink in the face from imbibing a little too much. Either way, pretty charming.

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