With Thanksgiving weekend (and the hopes of eating right) now just a memory, we turn to colder weather, falling snow, and the new year to come. Fortunately for Japanese culture fans, December is just as busy as the holiday season itself. Whether you’re hosting guests from out of town or looking to squeeze in an event or two in between parties, we’ve got you covered.
This month’s highlights include:
Now through Saturday, Dec. 21
David Zwirner Gallery, 525 West 19th Street
In case you missed last year’s retrospectiveat the Whitney featuring the artist’s mega-buzzed about Fireflies on the Water, this current exhibition by Yayoi Kusama features 27 new large-scale paintings and The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away, a new mirrored infinity room made especially for this exhibition and the United States debut of another infinity room, which was recently on view in Tokyo at the Mori Art Museum. Also exhibited is the artist’s video installation, entitled Manhattan Suicide Addict, that draws its title from her first semi-autobiographical novel published in 1978.
Wednesday, Dec. 4, 8:00 p.m.
Klavierhaus Recital Hall, 211 West 58th Street
As part of its third annual festival entitled Timbre Tantrum, Composers Concordance(“Enterprising new music organization” -New York Times) presents this all-piano production featuring Taka Kigawa (“Extraordinary pianist” -New York Times), Inna Faliks (“Signature blend of grace and raw power” -Lucid Culture) and Carlton Holmes (“Inventive” -Jazziz). Each pianist will present a 20-minute solo set of their own contemporary repertoire, including music by Shchedrin, Zhurbin, Ellington, Palkowski, Monk, and Alexander. The grand finale serves up a triple-piano suite composed by Dan Cooper, Sean Hickey, Debra Kaye, Milica Paranosic, and Gene Pritsker performed on Klavierhaus’ antique instruments, including a 19th century Pleyel.The concert will be followed by a brief reception.
Thursday, Dec. 5, 8:00 p.m.
Town Hall, 123 West 43rd Street
A violinist since the age of four, contemporary classical and crossover musician Taro Hakase returns to New York as part of his first-ever world tour. Entitled JAPONISM after his latest album, Hakase’s pop-infused compositions and charismatic showmanship are known to get fans dancing at his concerts. First brought to international attention following a collaboration soundtrack and a concert tour with Celine Dion in 1996, Hakase has performed before over two million people and has sold more than six million albums in Japan alone. Along with his eight piece band, Hakase brings his tour to one of New York’s most celebrated stages.
For the complete story, click here.
Writer, researcher, and ex-JET Matt Leichter (Saitama-ken ’03-’05) will be presenting “College Education: Certain Debt, Uncertain Income” at the Henry George School of Social Science in New York City on Friday, December 20, at 6:30 PM. Here is the abstract:
Soaring costs for education, together with limited job opportunities and stagnant wage growth, place substantial financial and psychological burdens on students.
Noted columnist and researcher Matt Leichter reviews tuition inflation, cuts in public funding and the business of lending to students. Mr. Leichter will also propose reforms to the system of financing college education.
The school is located in Manhattan on East 30th Street between Park Avenue and Lexington Avenue.
Thanks to JETAA Singapore’s Nathalie Ng for sharing this update, originally written by Shane Wong:
JETAA Singapore had a simple but fun welcome back reception for recent returnees of the JET Programme on 26 Oct 2013 at the Minds Café Funan Centre. Opened to all members and friends, the event was also attended by staff of the Embassy of Japan in Singapore and CLAIR Singapore.
After a brief round of introduction, smaller groups were formed where the chatter continued over games, free-flow drinks and snacks. It was a good time for members to reminiscence their time on the JET Programme with the recent returnees sharing their experiences working and living in Japan.
Congratulations on successfully completing your stint on the Programme, and welcome home!
And thank you, Akita, Aomori, Miyagi, Shimane, and Tottori for hosting and sharing your cultures with our JETs. We hope, as always, that this would be the beginning of closer ties between Japan and Singapore.
Updated with media coverage of the visit.
Boston and New York had the honor of hosting Kumamon’s North American debut last week! Who is Kumamon you may ask? The rosy-cheeked, sack-shaped bear is the official mascot of Kumamoto Prefecture in Kyushu. Voted the top “Yuru-kyara” (cuddly mascot character) in Japan, he has taken Japan by storm and sold more than $300 million worth of merchandise in 2012 alone.
Kumamon’s remarkable success in promoting his rural prefecture across Japan–there is even an exclusive “Kumamon Goods” store in Tokyo’s upscale Ginza neighborhood–is being studied in government offices and marketing departments across Japan. In fact, no less than the Wall Street Journal has published no fewer than three articles about the phenomenon.
If you’d like to learn more about Kumamon, including what he does every day, I recommend checking him out online:
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/kumamotodiary.en
Home page: http://kumamon-official.jp/
Kumamon accompanied Kumamoto Governor Kabashima during his visit to Boston on Novermber 12-13, which included giving a lecture at Harvard on “The Political Economy of Kumamon: A New Frontier in Japan’s Public Administration.”
Kumamon spent time with the Boston Red Sox’s mascot, Wally the Green Monster, for what was surely an important, high-level diplomatic meeting. The full itinerary of their Boston visit can be found here, here, and here. Media coverage of their visit includes:
The lovable bear and Governor Kabashima made their way down to New York on November 14, where they paid back the compliment with a visit the Wall Street Journal. Later they visited the Consul General’s residence, as part of a special reception to promote Kyushu. JET alumni from the New York Chapter of JETAA representing all of the prefectures of Kyushu were invited to the reception. In addition to presentations on Kyushu travel, tourism and shochu, Governor Kabashima introduced Kumamon. Guests dined on Kumamoto oysters and “ekiben” prepared by the chef from Hataka Tonton, and sipped shochu from the region. Kumamon and Governor Kabashima’s full New York itinerary can be found here. Media coverage of their visit includes:
Photos of JET alumni at Kyushu Promotion event at Consul General’s residence
Governor Kabashima is an interesting person. He was an “at-risk” student who grew up poor in Kumamoto. Against all odds, through hard work and dedication he ended up earning a PhD from Harvard and becoming a political science professor at University of Tokyo. His launch of the Kumamon public relations campaign is one of the great local promotion success stories of recent times.
Kabashima has also gotten a lot done in Kumamoto, including making some real headway in repairing Kumamoto’s troubled finances (he started by cutting his own salary), trying to resolve remaining issues related to Minamata disease, and blocking Tokyo’s plans to build a huge dam in the prefecture. A very good article about his life can be found here in the Asahi newspaper. The governor introduces himself and his views in two videos, here and here.
From the start, Kumamoto Prefecture and local communities have been dedicated supporters of the JET Program. Year after year, the prefecture has been near the top of the list in hosting the most JETs, hosting around 100 this year. I myself was a Kumamoto JET. I grew to love the prefecture while I lived there, and now consider it to be my “second home.”
I encourage everyone to take some time to visit Kumamoto while traveling in Japan. The prefecture boasts some of the best onsen hot springs in the country. Aso-Kuju National Park is one of the natural wonders of the world, with its giant ancient crater that is so large that an entire volcano and six towns exist inside of it (I lived in one of them!). Kumamoto Castle is one of the three finest castles in Japan. Beautiful parks and gardens, beaches and mountains, history and culture, Kumamoto has it all!
If you are a JET alum from Kumamoto, I encourage you to join the LinkedIn Group for Kumamoto JET alumni here. In fact, I encourage all alumni to join their prefecture’s LinkedIn Group. You can find yours here. It’s a great way to stay connected with other alumni from your prefecture.
I’m glad JET alumni had a chance to welcome Governor Kabashima and Kumamon to the U.S. Congratulations on the great success of their first U.S. tour together!
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 week I had the opportunity to interpret for a Japanese delegation comprised of two groups who traveled to New York to receive the annual Tiffany Foundation Award. This award was created by the Tiffany Foundation in collaboration with the Japan Center for International Exchange (JCIE), and it recognizes non-profits that are preserving Japanese traditional arts at the national and regional community levels. This year’s recipients were the Association for the Promotion of Ipponsugi Street, located in Ishikawa Prefecture, and envisi, located in Miyagi Prefecture. They were the 6th round of winners since the award’s establishment in late 2007.
The Association for the Promotion of Ipponsugi Street, whose members are featured here wearing the happi coats, preserves their city Nanao’s unique custom of 花嫁のれん (hanayome noren). Noren are long curtains that hang in the entrances to Japanese restaurants and traditional Japanese rooms, and the special bridal ones are dyed using the Kaga yuzen technique. Hanayome noren are hung in the doorway leading to the butsuma (a small room holding sacred objects) for the bride to walk through when she gets married, a ritual that Read More
From Nintendo to manga to metal to Tarantino, November is just as colorful as the blowing leaves in the air and on the ground. Add to that a Meiji era throwback exhibition at Resobox, the destroy-all-monsters vibe of Kaiju Big Battel (just in time for Turkey Day), and a world premiere at Japan Society and you’ve got an irresistibly epic rundown.
This month’s highlights include:
Wednesday, Oct. 30, 7:00 p.m.
Columbia University, Uris Hall 301
$7 advance, $10 at the door, students free with ID
Following its New York premiere at Japan Society last July, the New York chapter of the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program Alumni Association presents an encore screening of this touching documentary film about Taylor Anderson and all the young people who travel the world trying to make a difference. Taylor was an extraordinary American who dedicated herself to teaching Japanese children in the JET program, living her dream right up to the events of March 11, 2011. Includes a post-screening Q&A session with director/producer Regge Life and Taylor’s father Andy Anderson.
Friday, Nov. 1, 8:00 p.m.
The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses Second Quest
While F. Scott Fitzgerald famously pooh-poohed second acts, second quests are an entirely different matter. Back by popular demand and presented by Jason Michael Paul Productions, The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses returns to the Theater at MSG with breathtakingly new visuals and music exploring additional chapters from the Zelda franchise as well as the beautifully orchestrated four movement symphony recounting the classic storylines from some of the most popular video games in history. Take up your wooden sword and shield as a live orchestra and the Montclair State University Vocal Accord brings to life the masterpieces of legendary Nintendo composer and sound director Koji Kondo.
Thursday, Nov. 7
Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street
$25/$20 Japan Society members, seniors and students
Best known as the creator of Astro Boy, Osamu Tezuka (1928-1989) is often credited as the “Godfather of Anime and Manga” due to his prolific output, pioneering techniques, and reimagining of genres. His work redefined Japanese cartoons, transforming them into an irresistible art form, and incorporated a variety of new styles in their creation. Leaving a lasting impact on literature and film, his work also influenced a range of other artistic genres. In this special lecture, Tezuka’s works are presented by JET alum Roland Kelts (Osaka-shi, 1998-99), author of Japanamerica. This event is moderated by NYC-based cartoonist Katie Skelly. Ticket price includes a pre-event wine and Japanese hors d’oeuvres reception.
For the complete story, click here.
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – The JET Alumni Association of Minnesota (JETAAMN) hosted this year’s USA National Conference from Sept. 26-29 with assistance from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and the Council of Local Authorities for International Relations (CLAIR). Attendees included delegates from all 19 JETAA USA chapters, as well as representatives from CLAIR, MOFA, and the Consulate General of Japan at Chicago.
Each national conference spotlights particular challenges facing the JETAA community. This year was no different, as critical topics included continuation of the JETAA national initiatives, common issues facing JETAA chapters, membership outreach, and collaboration between JETAA chapters and other Japan-related organizations.
Thursday, Sept. 26
The conference got underway with an evening reception at the restaurant Crave, featuring former Vice President of the United States Walter Mondale as a special guest. A native Minnesotan, Mondale was also the U.S. ambassador to Japan from 1993-96. In his speech, Mr. Mondale praised the work that the JET Program has done in building personal relationships between Japan and the U.S., and called for “JETers” to continue fostering those ties.
F. Scott Fitzgerald famously said, “There are no second acts in American lives.”
Fortunately, there are Second Quests.
Over 25 years after the blockbuster Nintendo video game series first hit the scene bearing its namesake in honor of Fitzgerald’s wife, The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses returns for an encore run in some of North America’s most distinguished theater halls (including, for the first time, a pair of dates in Mexico). Presented by Jason Michael Paul Productions, the show—currently on tour through December—presents the very best of Zelda’s lush symphonic scores paired with a live orchestra and visual effects.
In this JQ exclusive, producer and lead creative Jeron Moore sounds off what’s new about the show, the experience of working with Nintendo to bring the ultimate live experience to fans, and the evolution of Link throughout the saga’s rich history.
What was the inspiration for this installment of the show?
Well, if you’re a Zelda aficionado, you’ll recognize the term “Second Quest” from the New Game+ mode from the original 1986 entry, The Legend of Zelda, on the NES. It’s a mode you’d unlock once you defeated the game, and what it did was reorganize the game a little bit, made the dungeons a bit harder, made the items a bit more challenging to find, made the bosses a bit more difficult to defeat. We’ve taken the idea of visiting familiar places while encountering new challenges and applied that to the Second Quest, which has been revamped to include a half hour of new material while keeping all of the classics that make The Legend of Zelda what it is.
What surprises can we expect from the Second Quest?
They wouldn’t be surprises if I told you! But I will hint that we’re celebrating the 20th anniversary of a particular, very special handheld title. We’ve also finally included some music from one of the most recent Zelda games, which we steered cleared of with the first season program. And at the request of Mr. Eiji Aonuma, you can also expect to see a fully revamped Wind Waker segment, featuring gorgeous visuals from the game’s recent HD release on the Wii U. The Wind Waker has never looked better.
How did the idea for format of the show come about? The large screen, the orchestra?
It’s simple. There’s just nothing classier than a large orchestra tuning up, then performing powerhouse symphonic interpretations of your favorite music, no matter the genre. For The Legend of Zelda, we wanted Symphony of the Goddesses to be as accessible as possible. There’s nothing worse than sitting in a room and feeling left behind because you didn’t walk in with a prerequisite knowledge of the material. The music undoubtedly stands on its own, but incorporating visuals opens it up and informs the entire audience of context, not just those who’ve played the games before. Of course, being the fans that we are, we’ve carefully edited the footage into an entertaining narrative that, we feel, makes sense. With that, we’re able to hit on many of the important moments universally adored by fans, so yeah—lots of inside jokes, but we try not to let anything fall flat.
By Eden Law (Fukushima-ken, 2010-11). After the JET Programme more than fulfilled its promise of “an experience of a lifetime,” Eden returned to Sydney, Australia, where he joined the JETAA New South Wales chapter to take advantage of the network and connections available to undertake projects such as an uchiwa design competition for the Sydney Japan Festival. He also maintains the JETAANSW website and social media. Other than that, he’s a web designer and a poet, gentlemen and raconteur.
Like a springtime wave of hanami Down Under, the 17th Japanese Film Festival began showing in staggered releases nationally in Australia, blooming first in Broome in late September, before displaying a full bouquet of film delights in the major metropolitan areas of Sydney and Melbourne. This is the first time that the festival has launched a national program, ranging from a mini ensemble of three films for small towns like Broome and Cairns, to a behemoth 33 new films and five classics in major cities like Melbourne and Sydney, which means the festival will run from 17 Sep to 8 Dec as it tours around Australia. Many of the new films will be shown for the first time in Australia (aw, you spoil us, Japan Foundation, you really do!). In addition, at this time of writing, the five classics will be shown for free, allowing even the most penniless hipster to get a gander and drop a casual mention at the right fashionable dinner parties.
With so many new films, many of which aren’t known outside of Japan (trust me, I’ve Googled this), how will you know which to watch and be informed like the sophisticate that you no doubt are? Well, for a start, check out the screening schedules for all the films in your (nearest) city. But fret not, gentle reader, for I shall explore some of the selections on show.
Based on a True Story
Documentaries and dramatisations based on true stories feature strongly in this year’s program. A Boy Called H, which won Special Prize at the Moscow International Film Festival 2013, is based on Kappa Senoh’s best-selling autobiography about growing up in World War II-era Kobe. Closing some of the larger programs, Fruits of Faith is based on a novel inspired by a true story of a fruit grower who tries to achieve the impossible dream of the perfect crop of organic apples, despite skepticism and threat of bankruptcy. Reunion, based on a journalist’s accounts, is an illustration of how individuals strive to retain their humanity and compassion in the face of unrelenting misery and death in the wake of the Tohoku disaster. Leaving no eye dry at last year’s Montreal Film Festival, it’s a good way to see if life has yet to crush all feelings out of your bitter husk. And for anyone who has ever treasured a truly good bowl of ramen (especially after a long night of clubbing in Tokyo—the Japanese equivalent to our 4 a.m. kebab), the documentary The God of Ramen will inspire not just food lovers, but anyone who’s ever had an all-consuming (hah!) passion.
Don’t miss out on any emails from JETAA UK – add firstname.lastname@example.org to your address book or safe list. You are registered on the JETAA UK website with the email address email@example.com. To unsubscribe, login to your account at www.jetaa.org.uk, click on “My Profile” and update the “Receive JETAA mailshots” field.
As we head into fall, JETAA New York’s JQ magazine continues to provide content with an ever-expanding array of articles, interviews and features (see our recent stories here). We’re now looking for new writers, including recent returnees and JET vets, from all JETAA chapters worldwide for posting stories via our host at the global JET alumni resource site JETwit.com. (Scribes are also encouraged to join the JET Alumni Writers group on LinkedIn.)
Below are story ideas grouped by JET participants and alumni (JET World) and those more on Japanese culture (Japan World). And if you’re a JET or JETWit contributor from anywhere in the world with a story idea of your own, let us know!
Now, JQ is looking for additional help behind the scenes! Our editor (celebrating his fifth anniversary at the helm in November) is seeking a capable assistant to help with the posting, social media sharing and story assigning across all JETAA chapters. If you’re a wiz with WordPress, Facebook and Twitter, and enjoy all forms of Japanese arts, events and media, reach out to Justin. Thanks and yoroshiku!
Saturday, Sept. 28, 3:00 p.m.
Hunter College Sportsplex, 68th Street and Lexington Avenue
$30 general admission/$65 RES floor/$80 VIP ringside
Get your kicks at this annual event presented by Kyokushin Karate New York, the original and world renowned full-contact knockdown karate style founded in 1953 by Grandmaster Mas Oyama. The All American Open consistently brings the world’s best karate fighters to compete for the amateur athletic championship title. Scheduled fighters Include 2012 All American Open champion Zahari Damyanov, Women’s World Middleweight champion Julie Lamarre, and Men’s World Heavyweight champion Alejandro Navarro.
Sept. 28 & Oct. 4
Alice Tully Hall, 1941 Broadway
U.S. premiere! As part of the 51st New York Film Festival, the great Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki’s new (and reportedly final) Studio Ghibli film is based on the life of Jiro Horikoshi, the man who designed the Zero fighter operated by the Imperial Japanese Navy from 1940 to 1945. An elliptical historical narrative, The Wind Rises is also a visionary cinematic poem about the fragility of humanity, starring the voice of Neon Genesis Evangelion director Hideaki Anno! Presented in Japanese with English subtitles.
Sept. 29, 5:00 p.m.
Maid Cafe NY, 150 Centre Street
Girl group Rainbow Bubble, an international all-girl idol group based in New York, is now looking for new members who can sing in different languages and dance. This current contest (which precludes semi-finals and finals to come) offers a top prize valued at $500 and a chance to receive an exclusive artist contract! Click here for contest rules and email StarGenerationsINC@gmail.com to pre-register.
For the complete story, click here.
Now celebrating its 10th anniversary in New York City, The Joy of Sake—the world’s largest sake tasting event outside of Japan—returns to the Altman Building in Chelsea on Sept. 26, with a staggering 172 breweries serving samples of Japan’s most celebrated alcoholic beverage.
While current statistics show that sake is losing ground to beer in Japan, it continues to make inroads in the U.S., especially among drink-savvy New Yorkers with a palate for the record 384 premium labels to be offered at the event.
“In the last 10 years the amount of sake imported into New York has doubled as more and more people discover how good the premium labels can be,” says event organizer Chris Pearce. “The Joy of Sake is a celebration of the pleasures of the sake cup—and it’s also one of the best annual food and beverage events in New York.”
This popularity is bolstered by the spotlight on sake at other Manhattan events this fall, including the JFC International Sake Expo and Food Show (Sept. 14) and the New York Mutual Trading Japanese Food and Restaurant Expo (Oct. 12). These annual industry gatherings pair the freshest of Japanese cuisines with some subtle, yet powerful, selections.
If you’ve never experienced The Joy of Sake, now’s the time! For more information, visit www.joyofsake.com.
Benjamin Martin (Okinawa, 2008-13), author of the award-winning YA fantasy series Samurai Awakening (Tuttle) and blogger at MoreThingsJapanese.com, will be among the presenters at the 2013 Japan Writers Conference to be held Nov. 2-3 in Okinawa. Here’s the official description of his presentation, titled “Getting Published When You Live On An Island”:
This will be an overview of my experience getting published while living on an island with a total population of 550 people, and what I learned along the way that will help perspective authors and those still finding their way while living in Japan.
I will outline my journey into the publishing world while living on Kitadaito and Kumejima Islands in Okinawa, including the successes and pitfalls I found along the way. I will talk about the processes I used to write, the friends and resources that helped me refine my work, and things I wish I had known back then. I will touch on the predatory tactics of companies and resources for avoiding them, and also on the benefits of contests such as the ABNA. I will delve into my experience working without an agent, the pros and cons, and the opportunity I found with Tuttle Publishing, the benefits and trials of working with a smaller press. Finally, I’ll cover marketing from Japan, with ways I found to connect with the writing community. I will end with time for questions and/or discussion.
The Ha-ri- races are a yearly event on Kume Island. This year they took place on June 12 at three locations around the island. This year I stuck to the Maja area where locals and students gathered together for a day of races and fun in the water.
While the races are the primary attraction, there is also generally a ball-toss game for the nursery school children and a tug-of-war. There are numerous races from both locals and school participants. At the Maja area, students from the local Nakazato Junior High, Misaki and Nakazato elementary schools, and students from Kumeshima High School all joined together in mixed and separate races.
This year I broke out my gopro to give you a closer look at participating in the Ha-ri- races. Thanks to a few friends and students who wore the camera along the way. Of course with plenty of water a few bucket wars broke out among the high school students, and not all of the boats made it back without a little extra water. Check out the video and pictures below, then come join us next year for this great event.
For more photos and video from this special event visit MoreThingsJapanese.com