Apr 7

JQ Magazine: Film Review — ‘Your Name’

“You do not have to like animated or Japanese films specifically to love Your Name. However, it is rare for any film to capture the Japanese essence and tone as this one has so expertly achieved.” (© 2016 “YOUR NAME.” FILM PARTNERS)

By Greg Beck (Hiroshima-ken, 2006-11) for JQ magazine. Greg is a writer, producer, home brewer, and Social Coordinator for JETAA Southern California and Arizona. A former news producer for Tokyo Broadcasting System in New York, he currently works freelance in Los Angeles. For more cinema reviews, follow him on Twitter at @CIRBECK #MovieReview.

Never mind that Your Name has become the highest-grossing Japanese film internationally, anime or otherwise; this creative and beautiful film written and directed by Makoto Shinkai (5 Centimeters Per Second, Children Who Chase Lost Voices) draws on everything reverent in Japanese history and culture, celebrates the modern metropolis that is Tokyo, and tugs at your heartstrings while embracing the silly and universally relatable challenges of the human experience. You do not have to like animated or Japanese films specifically to love Your Name. However, it is rare for any film to capture the Japanese essence and tone as this one has so expertly achieved.

The story focuses on Mitsuha Miyamizu, a high school girl living in a tiny, rural village in the Hida region of Gifu—or as one classmate puts it: “the boonies.” Growing up with her little sister and grandmother at the local shrine, we are introduced to a culturally rich history of weavers who connect their trade to the local Shinto god and traditions. Mitsuha feels understandably cramped by her rural routine and dreams of moving to Tokyo. Suddenly, that is just where she finds herself, inexplicably waking up in the body of our second protagonist, Taki, a boy of the same age, living in a small apartment with his father in Shinjuku.

As the story progresses, we get to enjoy both very different worlds, but there is no denying the village’s gorgeous rural landscapes rich with nature and the intimate, cultural ceremonies that take center stage. The grandmother’s patient lessons on Mitsuha’s family history grant us special access to something sacred, like a backstage pass to Japanese culture. The last film to achieve this feeling, Okuribito (Departures), later won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 2009. Your Name is similar, but surpasses it by making the cord weaving pivotal to understanding the supernatural body swapping, blending epic adventure with sublime heartache.

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Feb 6

WIT Life #310: The Beauty of Washi

WIT Life is a periodic series written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03). She starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she shares some of the interesting tidbits and trends along with her own observations.

20170204_160148

One of Suzuki Sensei’s amazing works: 以花為師 (“Life lessons from flowers”). It reads from right to left, but is slightly cut off at start.

This weekend I had a chance to sit in on a culture class at the Nippon Club for the purpose of writing an article in Chopsticks.  We were studying calligraphy, but specifically practicing this art on 和紙 (washi or Japanese paper).  Sensei Mori Suzuki was visiting from Japan just for this class, and in addition to guest teaching we got to enjoy an exhibition of his work and other washi delights in the 7th floor gallery.  Entitled 「和紙・伝統と創造」 (Washi: Dentou and Souzou or “Washi Paper: Cultural Heritage and Artistic Creativity”), this exhibit introduces the history of traditional handmade washi, the aesthetic beauty of 切金(kirikane or metallic foil cut into strips or other shapes to form decorative motifs) through the subtle light reflected from foil, origami artwork, modern washi sculptures, and Suzuki Sensei’s calligraphy creations on handmade washi. It runs through February 24 with free admission, and the gallery is open every day but Sunday so make sure to check it out before it closes!

 


Feb 5

JQ Magazine: Nippon in New York — ‘Your Name’ Premiere, Hougaku Quartet, ‘Girl X’

 

By JQ magazine editor Justin Tedaldi (CIR Kobe-shi, 2001-02). Justin has written about Japanese arts and entertainment for JETAA since 2005. For more of his articles, click here.

Stay warm this winter with some hot local events, from an exhibition that will transport you to another time and place, some new an classic anime screenings, and a mash-up multimedia performance you won’t want to miss.

This month’s highlights include:

Courtesy of Cmom.org

Courtesy of Cmom.org

Now through May 14

Hello from Japan!

Children’s Museum of Manhattan, 212 West 83rd Street

$12 children and adults, $8 seniors 

Back for the new year, this exhibit highlights how old and new traditions coexist in Japan, giving visitors a family-friendly window into Japanese culture. Children will have fun learning about life in present day Japan in this playful, immersive environment. Hello from Japan! is a new interactive exhibit in the Museum’s Lower Level Gallery. It will transport families to two distinct areas of Tokyo that exist side by side: the serene and exquisite Shinto Shrine Park, and the too-cute-for-words Kawaii Central.

Courtesy of Citycinemas.com

Courtesy of Citycinemas.com

Feb 7-8

The Ghost in the Shell

City Cinemas Village East Cinema, 181-189 Second Avenue

$15 

Before the release of next month’s live-action adaptation starring Scarlett Johansson and Takeshi Kitano, catch one of the greatest anime films of all time (based on the manga by Masamune Shirow and directed by Mamoru Oshii) on the big screen! In the near future, an elite group of police cyborgs called Section 9 works to stop hackers from commiting cyber crimes across the globe. However, there skills are put to the test when they come up against a hacker known as the Puppet Master. The pair of Feb. 7 screenings will be in Japanese with English subtitles; Feb. 8’s screening is English dubbed.

Courtesy of Asiasociety.org

Courtesy of Asiasociety.org

Thursday, Feb. 16, 8:00 p.m.

The Hougaku Quartet

Asia Society, 725 Park Avenue

Free, tickets available here.

Re-envisioning Japanese traditional instruments for contemporary music, the Hougaku Quartet explores everything from traditional Japanese music to cutting edge new compositions, all performed on traditional instruments. The quartet is made up of a group of young virtuoso musicians who graduated from Tokyo University, who have mastered the art of creating music for today and for the future, through traditional Japanese instruments. The Hougaku Quartet carries out its mission through commission, revival performance of masterpieces composed after the 1960s, and performance in the traditional “Sankyoku” ensemble style. A group of young musicians who are committed to both sustaining and expanding tradition, Hougaku Quartet is a fresh approach to Japanese music. With a special guest performance by Ralph Samuelson.

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Jan 2

JQ Magazine: Nippon in New York — Anime films, Final Fantasy Live, Yoshiki at Carnegie Hall

 

 

By JQ magazine editor Justin Tedaldi (CIR Kobe-shi, 2001-02). Justin has written about Japanese arts and entertainment for JETAA since 2005. For more of his articles, click here.

Start 2017 off right by heading down to your local concert hall, cinema, or arts center for some fantastic new year’s fare. Whether you enjoy movies, travel, or orchestral performances classic video games, treat yourself and catch a break from the cold.

This month’s highlights include:

GKIDS

GKIDS

Now playing through Jan. 5

Ocean Waves

IFC Center, 323 Sixth Avenue

$15 

New 4K restoration! Rarely seen outside of Japan, Ocean Waves is a subtle, poignant and wonderfully detailed story of adolescence and teenage isolation. Taku and his best friend Yutaka are headed back to school for what looks like another uneventful year. But they soon find their friendship tested by the arrival of Rikako, a beautiful new transfer student from Tokyo whose attitude vacillates wildly from flirty and flippant to melancholic. When Taku joins Rikako on a trip to Tokyo, the school erupts with rumors, and the three friends are forced to come to terms with their changing relationships. As the first Studio Ghibli film directed by someone other than studio founders Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, these new screenings of Ocean Waves are paired with Ghiblies: Episode 2, a unique 25-minute short film from Studio Ghibli, featuring several comedic vignettes of studio staff as they go about their day. Utilizing new animation techniques and software that would then be deployed on the production of My Neighbors the Yamadas, Ghiblies: Episode 2 made its North American debut in December 2016. Presented in Japanese with English subtitles.

GKIDS

GKIDS

January 5 & 9, 7:00 p.m.

Princess Mononoke: 20th Anniversary

AMC Empire 25, 234 West 42nd Street

$15.99

A two-night event! Princess Mononoke, the classic animated film from groundbreaking writer/director Hayao Miyazaki and the legendary Studio Ghibli, returns to movie theaters in celebration of the beloved historical fantasy’s 20th anniversary and director Miyazaki’s birthday. The first Studio Ghibli film to receive an uncut U.S. theatrical release, Princess Mononoke returns to cinemas subtitled on Jan. 5 at 7:00 p.m. and English-dubbed on Jan. 9 at 7:00 p.m. The celebration will include a special bonus screening of the music video directed by Hayao Miyazaki, Chage and Aska’s “On Your Mark”!

Courtesy of Publictheater.org

Courtesy of Publictheater.org

Jan. 5-9

Club Diamond

The Public: Martinson Hall, 425 Lafayette Street

$25, $20 members

Part of the 2017 Under the Radar Festival! Tokyo, 1937: An American silent film about a Japanese immigrant is introduced by a celebrated narrator whose existence is being threatened by the impending arrival of the talkies. Ten years later, he will survive under U.S. occupation as a street performer, desperately attempting to finish this story. Admiration and resistance, dreams and survival, Club Diamond is a modern take on the immigration tale. Its creators are Nikki Appino, an award-winning filmmaker, Saori Tsukada, who has been described as a “charismatic mover” (Backstage) and a “startlingly precise dancer” (The New York Times), and has been developed in collaboration with violinist Tim Fain.

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Dec 29
"This graphic novel series arrests your attention, from the immersive quality of the art, to the highs of self depreciating humor, to the lows of isolation and despair that run through it. Those who have lived abroad will find a lot to relate to." (Top Shelf Productions)

“This graphic novel series arrests your attention, from the immersive quality of the art, to the highs of self depreciating humor, to the lows of isolation and despair that run through it. Those who have lived abroad will find much to relate to.” (Top Shelf Productions)

 

By Julio Perez Jr. (Kyoto-shi, 2011-13) for JQ magazine. A bibliophile, writer, translator, and graduate from Columbia University, Julio currently keeps the lights on by working at JTB USA while writing freelance in New York. Follow his enthusiasm for Japan, literature, and comic books on his blog and Twitter @brittlejules.

Everyone has felt out of place at some point in their lives. People who choose to live abroad sometimes make that their everyday. In Tonoharu, cartoonist and JET alum Lars Martinson (Fukuoka-ken, 2003-2006; Kyoto-fu, 2011-2016) illustrates a story exploring themes of human relationships through the experience of an English teacher in Japan on a journey of self-discovery. Told in three parts, the final volume was released in November and represents many years of work for Martinson that began to see fruition when he received the Xeric Grant for Comic Book Self-Publishers in 2007.

Tonoharu is a tale of several non-Japanese teachers of English living in the titular rural town outside of Fukuoka City, mostly from the viewpoint of a young American named Dan Wells. Wells feels out of place in Japan, but claims to have felt the same way back home without having the excuse of being a foreigner. The reader climbs in the back seat for an intimate road trip with him through his pursuit of purpose and success in his job and social life, privy to all manner of encounters from intimacy in the bedroom to traditional parades with locally made floats. In just one year, Wells encounters unique challenges in his work, frustrations with seemingly unrequited romantic interest for another American, confusion and alarm at the mysterious activities of other foreigners in Tonoharu, and worst of all, the inability to replace light bulbs in his apartment!

Tonoharu is full of quiet moments that when described may come off as unimpressive, but they are always captivating and powerful in the way the words and imagery captures the moodiness of imperfect exchanges between people that are not usually seen in glossier fiction. This quality is enhanced by a lack of narration—the framing story of Dan’s successor (also named Dan) features his narration, but in the main story the characters only express themselves by speaking to one another. Often the things they don’t say, their expressions and their body language, and the things they choose to say while alone, speak just as powerfully as the introspective autobiographical style of narrative-driven graphic novels such as Persepolis.

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Nov 19

JQ Magazine: Manga Review — ‘Kitaro Meets Nurarihyon’

"If you are a lover of the weird or irreverent comedy mixed with supernatural horror, manga, and Japanese folklore-inspired fiction, then find the spiritual world portal of your choice to get your hands on a copy of Kitaro Meets Nurarihyon." (Drawn and Quarterly)

“If you are a lover of the weird or irreverent comedy mixed with supernatural horror, manga, and Japanese folklore-inspired fiction, then find the spiritual world portal of your choice to get your hands on a copy of Kitaro Meets Nurarihyon.” (Drawn and Quarterly)

By Julio Perez Jr. (Kyoto-shi, 2011-13) for JQ magazine. A bibliophile, writer, translator, and graduate from Columbia University, Julio currently keeps the lights on by working at JTB USA while writing freelance in New York. Follow his enthusiasm for Japan, literature, and comic books on his blog and Twitter @brittlejules.

Imagine coming home to find a stranger in your house. He acts like he owns the place, eats your food and drinks your beer, before leaving you reeling in confusion! Better send a letter to the Yokai Post for help from Kitaro, a charming character made by manga legend Shigeru Mizuki. Kitaro investigates strange phenomena and protects humans from ill-intentioned yokai.

Shigeru Mizuki’s Kitaro – Kitaro Meets Nurarihyon is a manga volume collecting seven more of Kitaro’s paranormal adventures. While this book can be enjoyed as a stand-alone dive into the classic character’s adventures, your enjoyment can be enhanced by checking out Kitaro’s origin story featured in the first volume, The Birth of Kitaro, reviewed last year by JQ here. This book is one of several entries in a list of literary delights from Japan that Drawn and Quarterly has been bringing to America for affordable access. This volume was also translated by JET Alum and Shigeru Mizuki expert/JQ interviewee Zack Davisson (Nara-ken, 2001-04; Osaka-shi, 2004-06).

Like it says on the tin, in this book Kitaro encounters a uniquely urban yokai: Nurarihyon. This creature takes on the appearance of an unsettling-looking and self-important man to stealthily wreak havoc as mundane as forcing you to serve him your best snacks and as extreme as explosions in cities.

Many of the yokai Kitaro encounters cause trouble because it is in their nature, some have a need to feed, or have a human-like impulse that persists beyond the grave, but Nurarihyon is cut from a different cloth. He is simply cruel and makes mischief because of his hatred for humans. He also stands apart from others in Kitaro’s rogues gallery because he finds it repulsive that Kitaro helps humans and targets him for that reason. You’ll have to pick up the book to find out just how Nurarihyon plots Kitaro’s demise, and how he very nearly gets away with it!

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Nov 8

JQ Magazine: Book Review — ‘I Want That Love’

"I Want That Love is a very enjoyable read that teaches the importance of friendship, love and tenderness. Young readers will also learn how life’s most important lessons can be passed down from generation to generation." (Museyon)

I Want That Love is a very enjoyable read that teaches the importance of friendship, love and tenderness. Young readers will also learn how life’s most important lessons can be passed down from generation to generation.” (Museyon)

By Rashaad Jorden (Yamagata-ken, 2008-10) for JQ magazine. A former head of the JETAA Philadelphia Sub-Chapter, Rashaad is a graduate of Leeds Beckett University with a master’s degree in responsible tourism management. For more on his life abroad and enthusiasm for taiko drumming, visit his blog at www.gettingpounded.wordpress.com.

During your elementary school days, you surely read about the primordial creatures you know as dinosaurs. But if you haven’t been reminded of the creatures that roamed the earth roughly 65 million years ago in some time, you might not realize that there’s more than meets the eye. Case in point: Tatsuya Miyanishi’s I Want That Love.

I Want That Love (the third book in Miyanishi’s Tyrannosaurus series of 13 titles that have sold more than three million copies internationally) tells the story of a Tyrannosaurus, who is described by the author as “the strongest of all the dinosaurs.” Not surprisingly, everyone is scared of him as he never fails at getting his way by force. But the good times don’t last—the Tyrannosaurus (whose name is revealed to be Mr. Rhadbodon)—is somehow sapped of his strength after being bitten in his tail by a Masiakasaurus.

As expected from someone whose identity is clearly tied to brute force, the Tyrannosaurus loses all sense of who he is, so he’s desperate to find any solution to the disaster that has befallen him. Fortunately, he receives help in the form of berries given to him by fellow creatures and he uses his newfound energy to protect his friends from other dinosaurs.

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Oct 1

JQ Magazine: Book Review — ‘Are You an Echo?’

"This is an outstanding collection of poems that reflects a wide variety of emotions and observations while giving readers new and colorful images of Japan." (Chin Music Press)

“This is an outstanding collection of poems that reflects a wide variety of emotions and observations while giving readers new and colorful images of Japan.” (Chin Music Press)

By Rashaad Jorden (Yamagata-ken, 2008-10) for JQ magazine. A former head of the JETAA Philadelphia Sub-Chapter, Rashaad is a graduate of Leeds Beckett University with a master’s degree in responsible tourism management. For more on his life abroad and enthusiasm for taiko drumming, visit his blog at www.gettingpounded.wordpress.com.

As we might take for granted the ability to research anything and everything quickly, it’s easy to forget how much of a struggle it has been (and still might be) to discover fascinating aspects of history. But when those discoveries are made, it’s satisfying not just for those who make the extensive effort—it’s rewarding for those who have benefited from the discoveries.

Thanks to fellow author Setsuo Yazaki, English-language speakers from all over the world now have the opportunity to read Are You an Echo? The Last Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko, a collection of poems produced by the late lauded children’s writer. Yazaki was a young student when he read Misuzu’s poem “Big Catch,” and he was automatically intrigued by her. So he wanted to discover more of her works and immediately started trying to find them—only to run into run one obstacle after another. Finally, Setsuo made a breakthrough when he was able to reach Misuzu’s younger brother Masasuke (then 77 years of age), who handed Yazaki a set of diaries, which included poems Misuzu wrote.

A prolific writer, Misuzu’s works regularly appeared in popular magazines. She wrote 512 poems, but only a few of them appear in Are You an Echo? Even so, that small sample size is enough to give you a glimpse into her life. Misuzu grew up in a fishing village in western Japan, and she loved being around water (she wrote one poem about an island she visualized but couldn’t reach). She also had a very vibrant imagination, and everything she encountered had feelings, like snowflakes (she’s actually concerned about their well-being) or telephone poles (which at one point, got sleepy). Even cicadas wore clothes in Misuzu’s world.

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Sep 17

JQ Magazine: Book Review — ‘Diary of a Tokyo Teen’

"Through reading her travelogue, Inzer comes across as a writer who would make an excellent travel blogger, as she gives prospective visitors to Japan fascinating tidbits about the country’s culture and attractions." (Tuttle Publishing)

“Through reading her travelogue, Inzer comes across as a writer who would make an excellent travel blogger, as she gives prospective visitors to Japan fascinating tidbits about the country’s culture and attractions.” (Tuttle Publishing)

By Rashaad Jorden (Yamagata-ken, 2008-10) for JQ magazine. A former head of the JETAA Philadelphia Sub-Chapter, Rashaad is a graduate of Leeds Beckett University with a master’s degree in responsible tourism management. For more on his life abroad and enthusiasm for taiko drumming, visit his blog at www.gettingpounded.wordpress.com.

You may remember being treated to “What I did during my summer vacation” tales in elementary school. Well, Christine Mari Inzer spent a memorable summer vacation visiting family in Japan and she documents those travels in a largely visual journey entitled Diary of a Tokyo Teen.

Originally published independently in 2014, this updated, expanded edition is in gorgeous full color and includes over 20 new comics and photos in a large-size format (7.5” x 10”) — all at a very affordable price.

The spirited daughter of a Japanese mother and American father, Inzer describes herself as being half at home in the United States and half at home in Japan, and summarizes her travels through a collection of photos, illustrations (all self-drawn), and anecdotes. Geared toward young adults (the author is currently a student at the University of Richmond), Inzer details the ups and downs of travel while humorously detailing some moments of aggravation, such as her frustration with the shyness of Japanese boys.

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Aug 14

JQ Magazine: Manga Review — ‘The Osamu Tezuka Story’

"Gargantuan in size at 928 pages (including detailed appendixes), this manga-format biography is a surprisingly quick read. Its fast-paced visuals and story provide a unique vantage to observe a legendary figure that leaves you energized after each sitting." (Stone Bridge Press)

“Gargantuan in size at 928 pages (including detailed appendixes), this manga-format biography is a surprisingly quick read. Its fast-paced visuals and story provide a unique vantage to observe a legendary figure that leaves you energized after each sitting.” (Stone Bridge Press)

By Alexis Agliano Sanborn (Shimane-ken, 2009-11) for JQ magazine. Alexis is a graduate of Harvard University’s Regional Studies-East Asia (RSEA) program, and currently works as a program coordinator at the U.S.-Asia Law Institute of NYU School of Law.

For many, the newest publication from Stone Bridge Press will seem like a long lost friend. Originally serialized in 1989 and completed in 1992, The Osamu Tezuka Story: A Life in Manga and Anime, written and illustrated by Toshio Ban in association with Tezuka Productions and translated by Frederik L. Schodt, is a book worth the wait. Gargantuan in size at 928 pages (including detailed appendixes), this manga-format biography is a surprisingly quick read. Its fast-paced visuals and story provide a unique vantage to observe a legendary figure that leaves you energized after each sitting. Whether you first learned about manga and anime yesterday, five years ago, or have been a diehard fan for decades, this book has something to offer.

Manga and anime artist Osamu Tezuka carries the weight that Walt Disney carries in the West. His vision, ingenuity, and motivation defined and propelled the bourgeoning manga and anime industry of the fifties, sixties, and seventies. This book follows Tezuka through it all: from his birth in Osaka in 1928 to his death in 1989, and everything in between. Through him, we see 1930s Japan and the rise of militarism, the authoritarian interwar, the penurious postwar, and the gradual rebirth and growth leading to the booming days of the 1980s. In his lifetime, Tezuka experienced it all—feast and famine, war and peace—and it is fervently captured in his artwork and stories.

This book is written and illustrated by Toshio Ban, a longtime animator and friend of Tezuka. Carefully researched and painstakingly detailed, Ban covers everything from Tezuka’s lifelong fascination of insects, his struggle balancing his academic passion of medicine, and his artistic passion of manga and anime, to his various commutes between Takarazuka City and Tokyo. While some details are lacking (for example, the reasons behind his first animation studio Mushi Production’s bankruptcy and financial problems), Ban has created a work exhaustive as it is fascinating.

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Aug 14

Justin’s Japan: ‘The Osamu Tezuka Story’

Click image to read issue

Click image to read issue

By JQ magazine editor Justin Tedaldi (CIR Kobe-shi, 2001-02) for Shukan NY Seikatsu. Justin has written about Japanese arts and entertainment for JETAA since 2005. For more of his articles, click here.

This summer, get to know the “God of Manga.”

From Stone Bridge Press comes “The Osamu Tezuka Story,” a documentary manga biography of the influential artist and the birth and evolution of manga and anime in Japan.

Written and illustrated by longtime Tezuka associate Toshio Ban and newly translated into English by Frederik L. Schodt (author of “Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics”), this colossal 928-page trade paperback covers the entire life of Tezuka (1928-1989), warts and all.

“Readers may be surprised to see how honestly Tezuka is depicted, as an extraordinarily obsessed individual whose family rarely saw him and as someone who suffered from his creative impulse and hyper-competitiveness,” writes Schodt in the introduction.

The creator of such beloved characters as Astro Boy and Kimba the White Lion, Tezuka also experimented with darker, more adult-themed works, penning more than 150,000 pages (over 700 volumes) in his lifetime, dwarfing any other manga artist. The book includes a detailed appendix of his complete creative output.

“As Tezuka grows and develops you are slowly introduced to his world and genius. This book isn’t just a book about a man, it’s a book about the development of a nation,” says Alexis Agliano Sanborn, a New York University program coordinator and Japan specialist. “Japan wouldn’t be the Japan it is today without Tezuka, and this book helps you realize it.”

For more information, visit www.stonebridge.com/catalog/the-osamu-tezuka-story.


Aug 31

WIT Life #291: Waku Waku +NYC event and Sebastian Masuda

Sebastian Masuda with protege Kyary Pamyu Pamyu

WIT Life is a periodic series written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03). She starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she shares some of the interesting tidbits and trends along with her own observations.

This weekend I had the chance to visit “Waku Waku +NYC,” a new Japanese pop culture festival which took place over two days across multiple venues in Greenpoint and Williamsburg.  According to the event’s homepage, it brings together the worlds of anime, manga, music, food, film, and fashion via exhibits, panels, screenings, and interactive events.  This blend of pop culture from Japan and Brooklyn was envisioned as “Cool Japan meets New York’s Coolest Borough.”  The name Waku Waku (わくわく) Read More


May 2

Justin’s Japan: VAMPS, ‘Monkey Business,’ AKB48 at Japan Day @ Central Park

AKB48 returns to New York for their debut performance at Japan Day @ Central Park May 10. (@AKS)

J-pop superstars AKB48 return for their first New York performance since 2009 at Japan Day @ Central Park May 10. (@AKS)

By JQ magazine editor Justin Tedaldi (CIR Kobe-shi, 2001-02) for Examiner.com. Visit his Japanese culture page here for related stories.

As spring continues and the weather continues to warm, New Yorkers can enjoy activities all over the city both indoors and out.

This month’s highlights include:

Friday, May 1, 8:00 p.m.

VAMPS

Best Buy Theater, 1515 Broadway

$35

Japan’s most daring rock band, VAMPS is fronted by vocalist hyde of L’arc~en~Ciel and guitarist K.A.Z of Oblivion Dust. Now touring in support of their latest album, Bloodsuckers (available on iTunes), VAMPS returns to take another bite out of the Big Apple for their first area performance since 2013.

Monday, May 4, 6:30 p.m.

Monkey Business: Japan/America Writers’ Dialogue in Words and Pictures

Asia Society, 725 Park Avenue

$15, $10 Asia Society members, $12 students/seniors

Join this annual conversation between contemporary Japanese and American authors in which Asia Society hosts an international dialogue, curated and moderated by the co-founders and editors of the Tokyo-based literary journal Monkey Business with writers who are featured in the latest edition of Monkey Business (#5), a unique, cutting-edge annual literary journal which showcases newly-translated Japanese as well as contributions from contemporary American and British writers.

Thursday, May 7, 6:30 p.m.

The Magical Art of Translation: From Haruki Murakami to Japan’s Latest Storytellers

Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street

$12, $8 Japan Society members, students/seniors

Since 1989, Jay Rubin has translated many of Haruki Murakami’s most successful and prize-winning novels, including The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Norwegian Wood and 1Q84. In this program, he is joined by Ted Goossen, translator of Murakami’s most recent U.S. publications, The Strange Library and Wind/Pinball: Two Early Novels, and co-editor of Monkey Business literary magazine, which showcases the best of contemporary Japanese literature for an international audience. They will discuss the unique challenges of translating modern Japanese literary works into American English, and vice versa. Rubin will also talk about his transition from translator to novelist vis-à-vis his debut novel The Sun Gods. Joining the discussion from Tokyo will be authors Aoko Matsuda and Satoshi Kitamura, and Motoyuki Shibata, friend and translating partner of Murakami. Author Roland Kelts, co-editor of Monkey Business, moderates the discussion. Followed by a reception.

For the complete story, click here.


Apr 3

Justin’s Japan: Nippon in New York — ‘Attack on Titan,’ Isamu Noguchi, Mitsuko Uchida, Sakura Matsuri

Escape from the Walled City, a live team puzzle solving challenge based on Attack on Titan, comes to Richmond County Bank Ballpark April 11. Escape from the Walled City, a live team puzzle solving challenge based on Attack on Titan, comes to Richmond County Bank Ballpark April 11. (SCRAP Entertainment Inc.)

Escape from the Walled City, a live team puzzle solving challenge based on Attack on Titan, comes to Richmond County Bank Ballpark April 11. (SCRAP Entertainment Inc.)

By JQ magazine editor Justin Tedaldi (CIR Kobe-shi, 2001-02) for Examiner.com. Visit his Japanese culture page here for related stories.

Spring has sprung in the Big Apple, and that means one thing: a new season of sounds, colors, and spectacular performing arts to match the blossoming sakura trees throughout the city.

This month’s highlights include:

Now through April 26

Takahiro Iwasaki: In Focus

Asia Society, 725 Park Avenue

$12/$10 seniors/$7 students; free on Fridays from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m.

Takahiro Iwasaki creates detailed miniature landscapes using towels, toothbrushes, used clothing, and other found and recycled materials. This exhibition is a part of Asia Society Museum’s ongoing In Focus series, which invites contemporary artists to create new works, often in conversation with the Asia Society Museum’s permanent collection of traditional Asian art.

April 5-May 3 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

East Meets West Brunch

Blue Note Jazz Club, 131 West Third Street

$35

Blue Note Jazz Club and the Japan Foundation present the East Meets West Brunch series to introduce Japanese jazz to New York audiences. This brunch series will take place on five consecutive Sundays this spring, and features food, music and a drink. Performers include Mika Mimura Group (April 5), Hiromi Suda (April 12), Martha Kato Trio (April 19), Sumie Kaneko (April 26), and the Takeshi Ohbayashi Trio (May 3).

Saturday, April 11, 10:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m., 6:30 p.m.

Escape from the Walled City

Richmond County Bank Ballpark, 75 Richmond Terrace (Staten Island)

$30, $35 at the door

The titans are coming, and they’re hungry. Based on the manga megahit Attack on Titan, the newest Real Escape Game (REG) takes players to a world inhabited by giant, humanoid creatures that live for no other purpose than to make a snack of all of us. The high walls of the stadium are the only thing keeping you safe…for now. Experience the latest edition of SCRAP’s interactive storytelling and puzzle-solving games on a scale never seen before. Join thousands of other players as you decode clues inside a real stadium! Be warned, though: survival isn’t easy, and teamwork will be essential if you hope to survive. After already hosting over 40,000 players in the U.S. to date, Escape requires participants to use their best detective skills as they race against the clock.

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Mar 25

JQ Magazine: ‘Life of Cats’ Showcases Frisky Furballs at Japan Society

Getting furrocious at Japan Society. (Courtesy of Alexis Agliano Sanborn)

Getting furrocious at Japan Society. (Courtesy of Alexis Agliano Sanborn)

By Alexis Agliano Sanborn (Shimane-ken, 2009-11) for JQ magazine. Alexis is a graduate of Harvard University’s Regional Studies-East Asia (RSEA) program, and currently works as an executive associate at Asia Society in New York City.

It’s no surprise that, in an age where Cats of Istagram reign over our feed with a lofty air, Japan Society in New York’s new art exhibition Life of Cats: Selections from the Hiraki Ukiyo-e Collection is garnering serious buzz. Presenting 86 drawings, paintings, woodblock prints and decorative objects dating from the 17th to the early 20th century, this latest showcase taps into cat fancying for the digital age.

Without a doubt, Life of Cats is a work of heart: it’s made by people who love cats, for cat lovers. Chief among the cat fanciers at Japan Society is Miwako Tezuka, Japan Society Gallery director and curator of the exhibition. To put this display together, she studied over 6,000 prints from Hiraki Ukiyo-e Collection, as well as private American collections. Publications like Forbes, The Guardian and The New York Times have already sung this exhibition’s praises, and why not? Love ’em or hate ’em, you can’t deny that cats are in a category all their own—straddling the intersection of elegant, comical and vicious. And you get to see all their many guises in this dynamic display, which is already drawing substantial crowds.

Believe it or not, this type of exhibition already has precedence back in Japan. Cats have never been hotter, no matter what side of the Pacific you reside. In 2006, the Hiraki Foundation led the way for this new type of cat-themed exhibition in Tokyo, which has now become a national trend in its own right. As quoted from The Guardian, Tezuka said, “People are really crazy about cats in Japan….We thought a New York version of this exhibition would be a great way to introduce Japanese art to a wider audience.” Indeed, looking at the repertoire of recent Japan Society exhibits, they certainly have been hard at work drawing new types of crowds—not simply geared toward the art historian or otaku, exhibitions run the gamut from Japanese Art Deco to interactive digital art, reeling in hipsters and techies alike.

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