In Kansai Cool anthropologist, writer and filmmaker Christal Whelan offers profound insights in the only collection of essays to focus on Kansai, Japan's ancient heartland. Kansai--the region in Western Japan that boasts the ancient capitals of Kyoto and Nara, the bustling commercial city of Osaka and the cosmopolitan port city of Kobe--has a character all its own, right down to its dialect, mannerisms, and cuisine. It is home to some of Japan's oldest history and an area where the country's most time-honored arts and crafts still thrive. Worldly and otherworldly, spirited and spiritual, trendy and traditional, it's a place where past and future live side-by-side, sometimes at odds. Part Japanese travel book, part cultural commentary, these 25 spirited essays and 32 pages of color photos paint a broad yet penetrating portrait of the unique Western Japan region, covering such diverse topics as:
The needs of the spirit--shrines, temples and the call to pilgrimage
The arts in Kansai--dance, painting, anime, and combat
The relationship between hi-tech and old-tech
Material culture--bikes, robots, and dolls
The culture of fashion in Kansai--from kimonos and obis to modern fashion designers, and the Lolita complex
The meaning of landscape-- human-made islands and the mystical power of water
The hidden meaning of food--an anthropology of coffee and traditional cuisine
From the deep-seated ancient beliefs of Kyoto to modern teen otaku culture, costume play and haute couture of Kobe and Osaka--Whelan delves below the surface to let readers eager to travel to Japan experience how art, science, faith and history swirl together in the Kansai region to produce this unique wellspring of Japanese culture.
About the Author Christal Whelan is an anthropologist and interpreter who has lived and worked in Japan and Mongolia. She studied at Harvard University, Boston University, and Brown University. Many of the chapters in Kansai Cool originated from her former columns in Kansai Culturescapes, which ran in The Daily Yomiuri.