InKansai 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 liveside-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 teenotaku
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.
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 inKansai Cool originated from her former columns inKansai Culturescapes, which ran inThe Daily Yomiuri.
"This fascinating collection of essays illuminates the mind-blowing diversity of "cool" in contemporary Japan. From Lolita fashion to Buddhist microtemples, this is a must-read for anyone interested the hidden treasures of Kyoto, Osaka and Nara." —Ian Condry, MIT professor and author ofThe Soul of Anime: Collaborative Creativity andJapan's Media Success Story
"Christal Whelan's highly intelligent new book on the essence of Japan seems to manage to include a revelation on every page…Endlessly engaging and supremely readable." —Simon Winchester, OBE, journalist, author ofThe Professor and the Madman
"Kansai Cool is much more than an excellent guide to visiting this region of the country of the Rising Sun. It is, as the subtitle says, a trip to the cultural heart of Japan, to its most authentic character."—Fernando Cid Lucas, Chief DirectorRevista Internacional Korkoro