Empire of Mirrors


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Even now, 150 years since the country opened itself up to the world in 1868, there is something uniquely special and particular about Japan, something which seems to survive its hectic pace, hyper-modern technology and mega-metropolis of Tokyo, all hallmarks of the age of globalization. Director Bianca Charamsa made her way to Japan during this year's cherry blossom season to get to grips with the country's character through conversations with some of its artists. Among those she met were the actress Kaori Momoi, superstar architect Tadao Ando, Cannes award-winning director Naomi Kawase, and other cultural figures such as the artist Takahiro Iwasaki, writer Keiichiro Hirano and two guardians of traditional culture: a Soto Yen priest and a tea master. Although two violent atomic catastrophes - the bombing of Hiroshima and the Fukushima nuclear disaster - have shaken and shaped modern-day Japan, the artist Takahiro Iwasaki believes that memory of 6th and 9th August 1945 is slowly fading, despite all the folded cranes left by visitors to the memorial sites. Natural catastrophes like sea- and earthquakes also rock Japan time and time again; perhaps this explains why the Japanese aesthetic Wabi Sabi incorporates both beauty and decay...much like the beauty of the cherry blossom as it withers during the annual festival of Hanami.

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