Portal:Japan/Selected biography

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Selected biography list

Portal:Japan/Selected biography/1

Hasekura's portrait during his mission in Rome in 1615, by Claude Deruet, Coll. Borghese, Rome
Hasekura Tsunenaga was a Japanese samurai and retainer of Date Masamune, the daimyo of Sendai. In the years 1613 through 1620, Hasekura headed a diplomatic mission to the Vatican in Rome, traveling through New Spain and visiting various ports-of-call in Europe. This historic mission is called the Keichō Embassy. On the return trip, Hasekura and his companions re-traced their route across Mexico in 1619, sailing from Acapulco for Manilla, and then sailing north to Japan in 1620. This is conventionally considered the first Japanese ambassador in the Americas and in Europe. Although Hasekura's embassy was cordially received in Europe, it happened at a time when Japan was moving toward the suppression of Christianity. European monarchs such as the King of Spain thus refused the trade agreements Hasekura had been seeking. Hasekura returned to Japan in 1620 and died of illness a year later, his embassy seemingly ending with few results in an increasingly isolationist Japan.
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Three Maiko posing on an engawa, c. 1885. Hand-coloured albumen silver print.
Adolfo Farsari was an Italian photographer based in Yokohama, Japan. Following a brief military career, including service in the American Civil War, he became a successful entrepreneur and commercial photographer. His photographic work was highly regarded, particularly his hand-coloured portraits and landscapes, which he sold mostly to foreign residents and visitors to the country. Farsari's images were widely distributed, presented or mentioned in books and periodicals, and sometimes recreated by artists in other media; they shaped foreign perceptions of the people and places of Japan and to some degree affected how Japanese saw themselves and their country. His studio—the last notable foreign-owned studio in Japan—was one of the country's largest and most prolific commercial photographic firms. Largely due to Farsari's exacting technical standards and his entrepreneurial abilities it had a significant influence on the development of photography in Japan.
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Tatsuguchi soon after his induction into the Imperial Japanese Army in 1941 and his initial assignment to the First Imperial Guard Regiment in Tokyo.
Paul Nobuo Tatsuguchi, sometimes mistakenly referred to as Nebu Tatsuguchi, was a surgeon in the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) during World War II. He was killed during the Battle of Attu on Attu Island, Alaska on May 30, 1943. A devout Seventh-day Adventist, Tatsuguchi studied medicine and was licensed as a physician in the United States (US). He returned to his native Japan to practice medicine at the Tokyo Adventist Sanitarium, where he received further medical training. In 1941, he was ordered to cease his medical practice and conscripted into the IJA as an acting medical officer. In late 1942 or early 1943, Tatsuguchi was sent to Attu, which had been occupied by Japanese forces in October 1942. The United States Army landed on the island on May 11, 1943, intending to retake the island from the Japanese. Throughout the resulting battle, Tatsuguchi kept a diary in which he recorded the events of the battle and his struggle to care for the wounded in his field hospital. He was killed on the battle's final day after the remaining Japanese conducted one last, suicidal charge against the American forces.
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The mark of Pierre Rossier's photographic studio in Fribourg
Pierre Rossier was a pioneering Swiss photographer whose albumen photographs, which include stereographs and cartes-de-visite, comprise portraits, cityscapes, and landscapes. He was commissioned by the London firm of Negretti and Zambra to travel to Asia and document the progress of the Anglo-French troops in the Second Opium War and, although he failed to join that military expedition, he remained in Asia for several years, producing the first commercial photographs of China, the Philippines, Japan and Siam (now Thailand). He was the first professional photographer in Japan, where he trained Ueno Hikoma, Maeda Genzō, Horie Kuwajirō, as well as lesser known members of the first generation of Japanese photographers. In Switzerland he established photographic studios in Fribourg and Einsiedeln, and he also produced images elsewhere in the country. Rossier is an important figure in the early history of photography not only because of his own images, but also because of the critical impact of his teaching in the early days of Japanese photography.
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Portal:Japan/Selected biography/5

Kanō Jigorō, the founder of judo
Kano Jigoro was the founder of judo. Judo was the first Japanese martial art to gain widespread international recognition, and the first to become an official Olympic sport. Pedagogical innovations attributed to Kanō include the use of black and white belts, and the introduction of dan ranking to show the relative ranking between members of a martial art style. Well-known mottoes attributed to Kanō include "Maximum Efficiency with Minimum Effort" and "Mutual Welfare and Benefit." In his professional life Kanō was an educator. Important postings included serving as director of primary education for the Ministry of Education from 1898 to 1901, and as president of Tokyo Higher Normal School from 1901 until 1920. He played a key role in getting judo and kendo made part of the Japanese public school programs of the 1910s. Kanō was also a pioneer of international sports. Accomplishments included being the first Asian member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) (he served from 1909 until 1938), officially representing Japan at most Olympic Games held between 1912 and 1936 and serving as a leading spokesman for Japan's bid for the 1940 Olympic Games.
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Portal:Japan/Selected biography/6 Tōru Takemitsu was a Japanese composer and writer on aesthetics and music theory. Though largely self-taught, Takemitsu is recognised for his skill in the subtle manipulation of instrumental and orchestral timbre, drawing from a wide range of influences, including jazz, popular music, avant-garde procedures and traditional Japanese music, in a harmonic idiom largely derived from the music of Claude Debussy and Olivier Messiaen. In 1958, the international attention he drew with his Requiem for strings (1957) resulted in several commissions from across the world, and settled his reputation as the leading Japanese composer of the 20th century. He was the recipient of numerous awards, commissions and honours; he composed over one hundred film scores for ensembles of various sizes and combinations. He also found time to write a detective novel, and appeared frequently on Japanese television as a celebrity chef. In the foreword to a selection of Takemitsu's writings in English, conductor Seiji Ozawa commented: "I am very proud of my friend Tōru Takemitsu. He is the first Japanese composer to write for a world audience and achieve international recognition."

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Portal:Japan/Selected biography/7

Ayumi Hamasaki, March 2007
Ayumi Hamasaki, born October 2, 1978, is a Japanese singer-songwriter and former actress. Also known as Ayu to her fans, Hamasaki has been dubbed the "Empress of pop" and "the Empress of J-Pop" due to her popularity and widespread influence in Japan. Born and raised in Fukuoka, she moved to Tokyo at fourteen to pursue a career in entertainment. In 1998, under the tutelage of Avex CEO Max Matsuura, she released a string of modestly selling singles that concluded with her 1999 debut album A Song for XX, which debuted atop the Oricon charts and stayed there for four weeks in a row, establishing her popularity in Japan. Because of her constantly changing image and tight control over her artistry, Hamasaki has become a "trendsetter" and an "icon of fashion" in Asia; her popularity and influence in music and fashion extend to China, Singapore, Taiwan, and South Korea.
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Portal:Japan/Selected biography/8

Portrait of Teika by Kikuchi Yōsai
Fujiwara no Teika, also known as Fujiwara no Sadaie or Sada-ie, was a Japanese waka poet, critic, calligrapher, novelist, anthologist, scribe, and scholar of the late Heian and early Kamakura periods. His influence was enormous, and he is even to this day counted as among the greatest of Japanese poets, and perhaps the greatest master of the waka form - an ancient poetic form consisting of five lines with a total of 31 syllables. His critical ideas on composing poetry were extremely influential and studied until as late as the Meiji era. A member of a poetic clan, Teika was born to the noted poet Fujiwara no Shunzei. After coming to the attention of the Retired Emperor Go-Toba (1180–1239; r. 1183–1198), Teika began his long and distinguished career, spanning multiple areas of aesthetic endeavor. His relationship with Go-Toba was at first cordial and led to commissions to compile anthologies, but later resulted in his banishment from the retired emperor's court. His descendants and ideas would dominate classical Japanese poetry for centuries afterwards.
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Portal:Japan/Selected biography/9 Katsuhiko Nakajima is a Japanese professional wrestler, represented as a freelancer by his mentor Kensuke Sasaki's Kensuke Office dojo and agency. He along with Sasaki and other Kensuke Office graduates currently most frequently wrestle in Pro Wrestling Noah (or simply NOAH), as well as sporadic self-produced independent shows. Prior to that Nakajima participated in All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW), where he is a former AJPW World Junior Heavyweight Champion. Having made his professional debut aged 15, Nakajima has already made a significant impact on puroresu, earning the nickname "Supernova" and facing Hall of Famers such as Kenta Kobashi, Satoru Sayama, Jushin Liger, and Tatsumi Fujinami. He has competed in several notable Japanese promotions, including New Japan Pro Wrestling, AJPW, Pro Wrestling ZERO1, Michinoku Pro, Dragon Gate, and currently, NOAH. He has set several age records over his short career, including being the youngest wrestler to compete in AJPW's Champion's Carnival tournament and the youngest to hold the AJPW Junior Heavyweight Championship. He won the Tokyo Sports Grand Prix "Rookie of the Year" award in 2004 and the Fighting Spirit award in 2005.

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A statue of Bashō in Hiraizumi, Iwate Prefecture
Matsuo Bashō was the most famous poet of the Edo period in Japan. During his lifetime, Bashō was recognized for his works in the collaborative haikai no renga form; today, after centuries of commentary, he is recognized as a master of brief and clear haiku. His poetry is internationally renowned, and within Japan many of his poems are reproduced on monuments and traditional sites. Bashō was introduced to poetry at a young age, and after integrating himself into the intellectual scene of Edo he quickly became well known throughout Japan. He made a living as a teacher, but renounced the social, urban life of the literary circles and was inclined to wander throughout the country, heading west, east, and far into the northern wilderness to gain inspiration for his writing and haiku. His poems are influenced by his firsthand experience of the world around him, often encapsulating the feeling of a scene in a few simple elements.
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Portal:Japan/Selected biography/11 Tetsuji Takechi was a Japanese theatrical and film director, critic and author. First coming to prominence for his theatrical criticism, in the 1940s and 1950s he produced influential and popular experimental kabuki plays. Beginning in the mid-1950s, he continued his innovative theatrical work in noh, kyōgen and modern theater. In the 1960s, Takechi entered the film industry by producing controversial soft-core theatrical pornography. His 1964 film Daydream was the first big-budget, mainstream pink film released in Japan. After the release of his 1965 film Black Snow, the government arrested him on indecency charges. The trial became a public battle over censorship between Japan's intellectuals and the government. Takechi won the lawsuit, enabling the wave of softcore pink films which dominated Japan's domestic cinema during the 1960s and 1970s. In the later 1960s, Takechi produced three more pink films. Takechi did not work in film during most of the 1970s, instead serving as the host of a popular TV program, The Tetsuji Takechi Hour. In the 1980s, he remade Daydream twice, starring actress Kyōko Aizome in both films. The first Daydream remake (1981) is considered the first theatrical hardcore pornographic film in Japan.

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Portal:Japan/Selected biography/12

Kawarazaki Gonnosuke as Daroku, ca.1869
Toyohara Kunichika was a Japanese woodblock print artist. Talented as a child, at about thirteen he became a student of Tokyo's then-leading print maker, Utagawa Kunisada. His deep appreciation and knowledge of kabuki drama led to his production primarily of ukiyo-e actor-prints, which are woodblock prints of kabuki actors and scenes from popular plays of the time. An alcoholic and womanizer, Kunichika also portrayed women deemed beautiful (bijinga), contemporary social life, and a few landscapes and historical scenes. He worked successfully in the Edo era, and carried those traditions into the Meiji era. To his contemporaries and now to some modern art historians, this has been seen as a significant achievement during a transitional period of great social and political change in Japan's history. The artist who became known as Toyohara Kunichika was born Ōshima Yasohachi on June 5, 1835, in the Kyōbashi district, a merchant and artisan area of Edo (present-day Tokyo). His father, Ōshima Kyujū, was the proprietor of a sentō (public bathhouse), the Ōshūya.
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Kumi Koda, 2005
Kumiko Koda better known by her stage name Kumi Koda, is a Japanese singer and songwriter from Kyoto, known for her Japanese Urban and R&B songs. Having debuted in 2000 with the single "Take Back", Koda gained fame for her seventh single, "Real Emotion / 1000 no Kotoba", the songs of which were used as themes for the video game Final Fantasy X-2. Her popularity grew with the release of her fourth studio album Secret (2005), her sixteenth single "Butterfly" (2005), and her first greatest hits album Best: First Things (2005), reaching the number-three, number-two and number-one spot respectively. Though her early releases presented a conservative, quiet image, since as early as 2003 Koda has adopted a sexier and more provocative style. Because of this image, she has become a fashion leader among young women, setting trends such as the ero-kakkoii style. She has also won many fashion awards such as, the "Best Jeanist Award" and the title of "Nail Queen" three times since 2006. Since the rise in her popularity, Koda has lent her face and songs to many advertisements.
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Felice Beato, c. 1866.
Felice Beato, sometimes known as Felix Beato, was a Corfiote photographer. He was one of the first photographers to take pictures in East Asia and one of the first war photographers. He is noted for his genre works, portraits, and views and panoramas of the architecture and landscapes of Asia and the Mediterranean region. Beato's travels to many lands gave him the opportunity to create powerful and lasting images of countries, people and events that were unfamiliar and remote to most people in Europe and North America. To this day his work provides the key images of such events as the Indian Rebellion of 1857 and the Second Opium War. His photographs represent the first substantial oeuvre of what came to be called photojournalism. He had a significant impact on other photographers, and Beato's influence in Japan, where he worked with and taught numerous other photographers and artists, was particularly deep and lasting. The origins and identity of Felice Beato have been problematic issues, but the confusion over his birth date and birthplace seems now to have been substantially cleared up. Based on an application for a travel permit that he made in 1858, Beato was born in 1833 or 1834 on the island of Corfu.
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