Dec 6

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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.

For Americans who have lived in Japan, some cultural experiences have a wonderful way of returning with us on the journey home.

Alexis Agliano Sanborn is a Harvard grad who spent two years teaching in rural Shimane Prefecture on the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program. As a Japan specialist, writer and filmmaker, her exposure to school lunch in Shimane served as the inspiration for a new project: “Nourishing Japan,” a documentary film currently in development about food education in Japan that aims to change how we look at what we eat.

“My specific goal is to create a documentary about how the food education workforce in Japan is changing the world for good,” Sanborn said. “We’re looking for supporters who believe learning about food is important, and are excited to support the creation of a film which has the power to change the world for the better.”

What’s so special about school lunches in Japan? Simple: The food is made from scratch. A 2013 Washington Post article explains: “Schools in Japan give their students the sort of food they’d get at home—not at a stadium, as in the United States….They’re balanced but hearty, heavy on rice and vegetables, fish and soups, and they haven’t changed much in four decades.”

Next year, Sanborn will return to Japan to begin a second round of filming. On January 5th, the “Nourishing Japan” project will launch a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign to help share the project with the world. With more than 160 likes currently on Facebook, the team is looking to double that number in December. For more information and to view the Kickstarter teaser video, visit http://nourishingjapan.com.


Nov 30

 

Written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03), WIT Life is a periodic series about aspects of Japanese culture such as film, food and language.  Stacy starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she shares some interesting tidbits and trends along with her own observations.

Last week I had the opportunity to see some amazing works from legendary avant garde Japanese poet, dramatist, writer, film director, and photographer Shuji Terayama. I hadn’t heard of him before, but many critics view him as one of the most productive and provocative creative artists to come out of Japan. He has also been cited as an influence on various Japanese filmmakers from the 1970s onward. The three films screened were Americans, who are you (アメリカ人あなたは), Laura (ローラ) and The Trial (審判).

A special treat was that Laura included the restaging of Terayama’s 1974 film performance with the original actor, Henrikku Morisaki, who was in attendance. This short film feature female strippers who are berating the audience, when all of a sudden a spectator (Morisaki) enters the film. We saw scenes of him as a young man in this role, being stripped and assaulted by the women. At the end of the film he emerged from behind the screen, this time naked and holding his torn clothes. In an interview post-screening, Morisaki told stories about his work with Terayama over the course of almost 17 years. He described Read More


Nov 3

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.

From the silver screen to the stage to J-pop, November is just as colorful as the autumn leaves drifting through the air. Add these live events to the mix and you’ve got an irresistibly epic rundown.

This month’s highlights include:

Asahi Shimbun/Getty Images

Now through Dec. 16

Yayoi Kusama: Festival of Life and Infinity Nets

David Zwirner Galleries, 525 and 533 West 19th Street and 34 East 69th Street

Free

Yayoi Kusama’s work has transcended some of the most important art movements of the second half of the twentieth century, including Pop Art and Minimalism. The exhibitions will feature sixty-six paintings from her iconic My Eternal Soul series, new large-scale flower sculptures, a polka-dotted environment, and two Infinity Mirror Rooms in the Chelsea locations, and a selection of new Infinity Nets paintings uptown. The celebrated Infinity Mirror Rooms invite the viewer to experience a sense of infinity through the play of reflections between the circular shapes of light and the surrounding mirrors. The Infinity Net paintings on view at the gallery’s uptown location are the latest works in a series begun in New York in the 1950s, when Abstract Expressionism was still the dominant style. These canvases embodied a radical departure, featuring minutely painted nets across monochrome backgrounds.

Rikyu-Enoura © Odawara Art Foundation

Nov. 3-5

Rikyu-Enoura

Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street

$95, $75 Japan Society members, seniors and students (Nov. 4-5 only)

Part of Japan Society’s NOH-NOW series, celebrating its 110th anniversary! Hiroshi Sugimoto, acclaimed visual artist and traditional Japanese arts connoisseur, offers his most recent noh piece. In this new play, the ghost of revered 16th century tea master Sen-no-Rikyu appears to tell the story of his tragic death by forced suicide. Opening a door onto medieval Japan, the program begins with a tea ceremony by Sen So’oku, direct descendent of Sen-no-Rikyu, and features Japan’s top noh actors and musicians. Performed in Japanese with English titles.

Courtesy of Chopsticksny.com

Nov. 16-Dec. 3

Rakugo: Katsura Sunshine

SoHo Playhouse, 15 Vandam Street

$30

Universally funny and yet so very Japanese. Katsura Sunshine makes his highly-anticipated off-Broadway debut! As the world’s first bilingual rakugo-ka (a traditional Japanese comic storyteller), he is an international ambassador of this 400-year tradition. Fresh off 10 smash-hit performances in London’s West End, he will have a series of performances bringing his unique yet authentic rakugo to Off Broadway—in Japanese and English!

Crunchyroll – 2017

Nov. 17-19

Anime NYC

Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, 655 West 34th Street

$35-$60; VIP passes also available

“Anime and manga have taken the world by storm. While New York City is the largest city in America, no focused event championing Japanese pop culture calls it home and with a population of eight million there’s a massive demand here,” says Peter Tatara, LeftField Media’s vice president of anime events. “Anime NYC will be a celebration of this community of fans and a platform for publishers and studios from both sides of the Pacific to be in front of the eyes of attendees, trendsetters, and people who aren’t yet familiar with the worlds of anime and manga. We’re looking forward to a vibrant, dedicated celebration of everything in Japan that’s nerdy and cool, in the media capital of the world!”

In this inaugural three-day celebration of Japanese animation powered by Crunchyroll, attendees will be able to view exclusive anime screenings and meet major guests courtesy of international animation and manga publishers; play the latest in Japanese gaming technology; chow down on Japanese delicacies and fusion cuisine; rock out to musical guests direct from Tokyo; and more! An estimated 20,000 fans are expected to attend, with special guests featuring the English-language cast of Sailor Moon Crystal for a panel screening; the U.S. premieres of the films Gundam Thunderbolt: Bandit Flower and Fullmetal Alchemist, and the NY Ramen Summit, featuring a discussion between famed ramen chefs from around the city.

Read More


Oct 18

Justin’s Japan: Manga! Manga! at New York Comic Con

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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.

New York Comic Con returned to the Jacob Javits Center October 5-8, selling a record-breaking 200,000 tickets (an 11% increase from last year) and featuring appearances from some of the contemporary manga world’s most renowned creators, including guest artists Akira Himekawa (The Legend of Zelda) and Hiro Mashima (Fairy Tail).

“New York Comic Con is always a great place to meet fans in person and talk about what titles they enjoy most,” said Tomo Tran, marketing director for New York-based Vertical, Inc., which publishes Japanese comics and novels in English. “We aim to bring titles that are not just mainstream in Japan, but that we feel can be impactful here in the U.S.”

Some of Vertical’s new fare was unveiled at a special panel, introducing the series Pop Team Epic, a comic-strip style parody of manga and pop culture, and the slapstick comedy The Delinquent Housewife!, both coming next year. In addition, Kodansha Comics celebrated its storied sci-fi library with a Q&A of the creators of a forthcoming Ghost in the Shell graphic novel, a new deluxe reissue of Battle Angel Alita, and a 35th anniversary boxed set of the classic “Akira,” which began life in print years before its release as a massively influential anime film.

As for memorable moments? “A female fan approached me and asked about volume seven of a backlisted title, Twin Spica, that we no longer printed,” Tran said. “I told her I would follow up about it, and fortunately we had a few copies at the office. When I gave her the copy at the con the next day, she was so happy with tears in her eyes, since this was one of her favorite series.”

Justin has written about Japanese arts and entertainment since 2005. For more of his stories, visit http://jetaany.org/magazine.


Oct 5

JQ Magazine: New York Comic Con, ‘Porco Rosso,’ ‘The Legend of Zelda,’ Food Porn Party

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

The Japan-centric events of the month ahead promise to be as rich and full as autumn itself—brisk and colorful, with a dash of unpredictability.

This month’s highlights include:

Volume 1—FAIRY TAIL © Hiro MASHIMA / Kodansha Ltd.; Hiro Mashima—Photo courtesy of Kodansha Ltd.; Volume 61—FAIRY TAIL © Hiro MASHIMA / Kodansha Ltd.

Thursday, Oct. 5, 6:30 p.m.

Hiro Mashima: The Magical World of Fairy Tail

Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street

$30, $25 Japan Society members, seniors and students

Award-winning manga artist Hiro Mashima, known for his bestselling series Fairy Tail, comes to Japan Society for a special talk in conjunction with New York Comic Con. The epic fantasy series, which has sold over 60 million copies worldwide, follows the rambunctious wizard’s guild Fairy Tail through adventures in a stunning variety of settings, with a mind-boggling array of colorful characters. Mashima, also renowned for his long-running series Rave Master, joins us to discuss the works that have captured the imaginations of fans around the world. Moderated by Ben Applegate, director of the Kodansha Comics publishing team at Penguin Random House, and interpreted by Misaki Kido, marketing director at Kodansha Advanced Media. One lucky guest will win a surprise gift from Mashima-sensei at the event! Followed by a reception.

Courtesy of MediaLab PR

Oct. 5-8

New York Comic Con

Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, 655 West 34th Street

Limited tickets available

With a record attendance of more than 170,000 visitors last year, the East Coast’s biggest gathering for fans of comics, film, anime and manga, New York Comic Con returns with its biggest roster of Hollywood talent to date, and features exclusive screenings, gaming, cosplay photo ops, interactive booths by manga publishers including Vertical Comics and Kodansha Comics , and special guest appearances by manga artists Hiro Mashima (Fairy Tail) and Akira Himekawa (The Legend of Zelda)!

Porco Rosso © 1992 Studio Ghibli—NN

Friday, Oct. 6, 7:00 p.m.

Porco Rosso

Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street

$13, $10 seniors and students, $5 Japan Society members

Screening in 35mm! An ace fighter pilot and ex-member of the Italian Air Force during WWI is mysteriously cursed with a pig’s face. Disillusioned with humanity, he adopts the name Porco Rosso (“Crimson Pig”) and spends his time near the Adriatic Sea, drinking at a local bar and fighting off air pirates for cash. Famous for his unsurpassable flying skills, Porco draws the envy and antagonism of an American pilot who plots to take him down with the help of the fascist Italian police. This sixth film by Hayao Miyazaki is among the master animator’s most personal and underrated, highlighting his deep love for aviation and pacifist worldview within an action-adventure story perfect for adults and children alike.

Dogwoof Ltd.

Premieres Friday, Oct. 13

The Departure

Metrograph, 7 Ludlow Street

$15

In her new documentary, Lana Wilson (After Tiller) takes us deep inside the life of another extreme altruist, Ittetsu Nemoto, a punk-rocker-turned-Buddhist priest who has worked small miracles in suicide prevention in his native Japan. Now facing the new challenge of fatherhood, as well as rapidly escalating health problems of his own, Nemoto must answer a crucial question—can he justify risking his own life to help others carry on with theirs? With astonishing access and artistry, The Departure captures one man’s wrenching decision between self-preservation and selflessness. Select screenings on Oct. 13 and 14 feature a special Q&A with the director.

© Terry Lin

Oct. 13-14, 7:30 p.m.

Left-Right-Left

Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street

$35, $30 Japan Society members

Aesthetics of the past, present, East and West meld together in Italian director/choreographer Luca Veggetti’s LeftRightLeft, which explores the point of intersection between Japan’s 14th-century noh tradition and today’s efforts in dance. With leading Japanese butoh and contemporary dancers, esteemed noh musicians and a child noh actor reciting text from noh plays Okina and Hagoromo, this production offers a lens into the microcosm of humanity. Performed in English. The Oct. 13 performance is followed by a MetLife MeettheArtists Reception. The Oct. 14 performance is followed by an artist Q&A.

© Maiko Miyagawa

Oct. 13-14, 8:00 p.m.

Kazunori Kumagai: HEAR/HERE

92nd Street Y (Buttenwieser Hall), 1395 Lexington Avenue

$15-$29

Tap dancer Kazu Kumagai, known for his “powerful athletic technique combined with a riveting clarity” (2016 Bessie Outstanding Performer Award) channels his exceptional rhythmic artistry into the intensity of HEAR/HERE. The program includes a live jazz quartet and guest tappers, including legends Ted Louis Levy and Brenda Bufalino (2016 Bessie Award for Lifetime Achievement). This Dig Dance show is Kazu’s return to 92Y after a sell-out performance last season.

Courtesy of Nipponclub.org

Wednesday, Oct. 18, 7:00 p.m.

Hana-akari Orchestra

The Nippon Club, 145 West 57th Street

$250, $200 members

A one-of-a-kind cultural experience! See Japanese Ozashiki culture in person with Geisha (Geiko and Maiko) from Nara, Japan. They will entertain visitors with their arts such as music, dance, conversations and traditional games while you enjoy Japanese food and sake. For RSVP and more info, call (212) 581-2223, or email info@nipponclub.org, attn: Mita, Uchikawa.

Andrew Craig

Friday, Oct. 20, 8:00 p.m.

The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses

United Palace Theater, 4140 Broadway  

$28.13-$120

Back by popular demand and presented by Jason Michael Paul Productions, The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses returns to New York with breathtakingly new visuals and music exploring additional chapters from the Zelda franchise as well as the beautifully orchestrated two-act 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.

Hiroshi Sugimoto (b. 1948), Teatro Olimpico, Vicenza, 2015. Gelatin silver print

Oct. 20-Nov. 17 (first rotation); Nov. 21-Jan. 7 (second rotation)

Hiroshi Sugimoto: Gates of Paradise

Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street

Single visit: $12/$10 students and seniors; both rotations: $20/$16 students and seniors;
free for Japan Society members; free admission on Fridays from 6:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m

This fall, explore one of the earliest, and largely unknown, encounters between Japan and the West in the 16th century, as seen through the eyes of artist Hiroshi Sugimoto. In celebration of Japan Society’s 110th anniversary, Hiroshi Sugimoto: Gates of Paradise charts the story of four Japanese boys, who were swept up in the tide of religion, commerce and politics during the first Global Age and sent to the princely and papal courts of Europe. Journey in their footsteps through Sugimoto’s new monumental photographs of the sites they visited, and navigate the germination of cultural exchange between East and West with classical masterpieces of visually hybrid (nanban) art from Japanese and American collections. Join guests for the Escape East @333 happy hours on Oct. 20 and Nov. 10 at 6:00 p.m.

Courtesy of USA.kinokuniya.com

Saturday, Oct. 21, 2:00 p.m.

Tatsuya Miyanishi: Tyrannosaurus series

Kinokuniya New York

1073 Sixth Avenue

Acclaimed Japanese children’s author and illustrator Tatsuya Miyanishi will visit the U.S. for the first time this month! His Tyrannosaurus series consists of 12 titles and has sold more than 3 million copies in Japan, China, Korea, Taiwan, and France. There are four titles available in English so far from Museyon. Bring your kids to a nearby Kinokuniya Book Store (other cities including Edgewater, NJ are listed in the photo here) between October 21st and 29th for a presentation and book signing! Miyanishi is an entertaining presenter who will draw, read from his books, and discuss his work. A book signing will follow each presentation.

Janus Films

Saturday, Oct. 21, 7:00 p.m.

The Food Porn Party featuring Tampopo

AMC Empire 25, 234 West 42nd Street

$95, $125 VIP (use codeRESOBOXfor 10% off tickets)

Taste what you see on the screen! The Food Film Festival specializes in creating multisensory food and film experiences. At their events, guests watch films about food and simultaneously taste the exact dishes they see on the screen…right in their seats! Hosting their “Food Porn” Party featuring the cult classic film, Tampopo. Following the film, they are inviting everyone to join their Japanese Noodle Fest! Directed by Jûzô Itami, the tale of an enigmatic band of ramen ronin who guide the widow of a noodle shop owner on her quest for the perfect recipe, Tampopo serves up a savory broth of culinary adventure seasoned with offbeat comedy sketches and the erotic exploits of a gastronome gangster. Sweet, sexy, surreal, and mouthwatering, Tampopo remains one of the most delectable examples of food on film. Following the movie, there will be a Japanese noodle feast featuring ramen and more ramen, decadent dishes, cocktails, craft beer and more! Additional Food Film Festival events include James Beard: America’s First Foodie (Oct. 19), Hometown Heros: The Legend of the Chopped Cheese (Oct. 20), and For the Love of Brunch (Oct. 22). For a complete listing, click here.

Courtesy of Eventbrite.com

Friday, Oct. 27, 11:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m.

Eat Up! Drink Up! Japan

NYC Event Spaces, 4 West 43rd Street

$35-$75

Chopsticks NY magazine presents its very first Sake and Food event, “Eat Up! Drink Up! Japan” on Oct. 27. During the event, we will divide Japan into six regional blocks and offer craft sake from each block and matching food made with the regional delicacies. Participants can appreciate sake from nationwide Japan and feel the sense of “terroir” in Japan. 18 dishes from nationwide, 3 from each block, will be served during the event. Every dish is crafted to be paired with regional sake. There will be at least one vegetarian dish in each block. Over 30 brands of sake, at least five brands for each region, will be served along with the dishes above. This event is 21 and over.

Courtesy of Symphonyspace.org

Saturday, Oct. 28, 6:30 p.m.

Ages of Enchantment: JPA Cultural Repertoires 2017

Symphony Space (Peter Jay Sharp Theater), 2537 Broadway

$30; $25 members; $18 seniors, students and children; $40 day of show

JPA returns for its first show in two years! This year’s performance consists of three categories: 1) Kimono show, 2) traditional Japanese dances, and 3) Japanese folk performing arts (from three regions). During the kimono show, five major kimono types will be shown with different craftsmanship with live models. The details of handcrafted fabric weaving, coloring, and decorating techniques will be explained, so when the audiences actually see the real kimono display, it can promote better learning experiences. After the kimono show, five pieces of traditional Japanese dance will be shown as the second section. The first piece is titled as the “Duet,” which is a rare parallel performance of Japanese traditional dance and Western ballet. The piece will display the differences between the two dance movements and the body uses by the dancers, so the audiences will be able to see the unique characteristics of Japanese dance much easier. The body use will be explained in the context of the cultural characteristics as well.

© Studio Ghibli – NDDTM

Oct. 29-Nov. 1

Spirited Away

Various locations

$12.50-$13.50

Hayao Miyazaki’s Academy Award-winning masterpiece Spirited Away was the biggest box office hit of all time in Japan and helped redefine the possibilities of animation for American audiences and a generation of new filmmakers. Chihiro thinks she is on another boring trip with her parents. But when they stop at a village that is not all that it seems, her parents undergo a mysterious transformation, and Chihiro is whisked into a world of fantastic spirits, shape-shifting dragons and a witch who never wants to see her leave. She must call on the courage she never knew she had to free herself and return her family to the outside world.

Combining Japanese mythology with Alice in Wonderland-type whimsy, Spirited Away cemented Miyazaki’s reputation as an icon of animation and storytelling. The English-dubbed cast includes the vocal talents of Daveigh Chase, Jason Marsden, Suzanne Pleshette, David Ogden Stiers, Susan Egan, Tara Strong and more! Dubbed in English on Oct. 29 and November 1 and subtitled on Oct. 30, this special threeday event will also feature GKIDS MiniFest, an ongoing festival of the best animated shorts from around the world.

Want to stay in the loop on future eventsFollow Justin on Facebook and Twitter.


Sep 30

JQ Magazine: Film Review — ‘Hayao Miyazaki: Never-Ending Man’

“This tight, 70-minute documentary does not wander. It preserves a feeling of deliberate pacing and purpose through clever editing, and possibly even some deliberate misdirection, which echo Miyazaki’s personal deliberations.” (© NHK)

 

By Greg Beck (Hiroshimaken, 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.

Receiving its East Coast premiere last night at Japan Society in New York, NHK’s new documentary on Studio Ghibli’s famed animation director Hayao Miyazaki offers a seemingly deep and undeniably personal look into the man’s current life, as well as his achievements and challenges, both artistically and—in his old age—existentially. True to Japanese-style filmmaking, we see a series of scenes as they happen, and are left to draw our own meaning. Still, this tight, 70-minute documentary does not wander. It preserves a feeling of deliberate pacing and purpose through clever editing, and possibly even some deliberate misdirection, which echo Miyazaki’s personal deliberations.

The film starts with Miyazaki’s retirement announcement at a press conference in September 2013. It then jumps forward two years, to an unseen and seldom-heard cameraman, whose perspective we take for this fly-on-the-wall documentary. Entering his gorgeous, countryside atelier, Miyazaki grumbles humbly, “What do you have a camera for? There’s nothing worth seeing. I’m retired.” He feeds birds, smokes, makes tea, and gripes about the complacency of Disney’s Frozen anthem “Let It Go,” but in no time shows that his creative drive is undiminished. Walking to a table covered in a pile of pages of new projects and material, he insists, “I’m a retired pensioner. I’m just fooling around now.” Read More


Sep 6

JQ Magazine: Nippon in New York — Collision: Brooklyn, ‘Four Nights of Dream,’ The Joy of Sake

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

As the summer winds fade into fall colors, the weeks ahead are shaping up with these exciting events, ready to be enjoyed after Labor Day.

This month’s highlights include:

Courtesy of Nipponclub.org

Friday, Sept. 8, 6:45 p.m.

Sake Social 2017

The Nippon Club, 145 West 57th Street

$70, $60 members

The Nippon Club will present “Sake Social 2017″, featuring a sake tasting with 14 different “Kuramoto” (sake brewers) from Japan, on 9/8 (Fri). From Fukui to Yamaguchi, each Kuramoto will bring 2 types of Sake to the event, so you can enjoy 28 types of Sake and Chef Yasuoka’s tasty appetizers. For RSVP and more info, call Mita-san at (212) 581-2223 or email info@nipponclub.org.

Courtesy of Residentadvisor.net

Friday, Sept. 8, 8:00 p.m.

Collision: Brooklyn

Lot 45, 411 Troutman Street (Brooklyn)

$20 advance, $30 at the door

Collision is a cross-cultural event that aims to expose Japan’s underground music and culture to cities across the globe by curating lineups of Japanese and local artists (seven acts in all). With the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics on the horizon, organizers hope to introduce Japan’s unique subcultures to the millennials of the U.S. and contribute to the attraction and brand of the country, while supporting local creatives and businesses.

Illustration by Ben Warren and David O’Nyon, copyright Japan Society

Sept. 13, 15-16, 7:30 p.m.

Four Nights of Dream

Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street

$55, $45 Japan Society members

A frustrated samurai. An unwieldy herd of pigs. A mysterious murder. A woman’s dying wish. Four surreal stories from Japanese author Natsume Soseki’s (1867-1916) Ten Nights of Dream come to life in Four Nights of Dream (2008), a contemporary chamber opera that traverses the subconscious through colorful melodies and piercing emotions. For this new production, New York vocalists and Tokyo instrumentalists come together to perform within a spellbinding and ever-morphing set. Performed in English.

Read More


Aug 9

WIT Life #315: Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema

 

Written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03), WIT Life is a periodic series about aspects of Japanese culture such as film, food and language.  Stacy starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she shares some interesting tidbits and trends along with her own observations.

Last week the inaugural Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema began, and I’ve had the chance to catch a lot of great films at the two main venues of Kew Gardens Cinema and Queens Museum. Today they screened Persona Non Grata (杉原千畝 スギハラチウネ, 2015), a film about Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara (“Japanese Schindler”) who served as a consul in Lithuania from 1939-40 and saved the lives of thousands of Jewish refugees by issuing over 2000 transit visas to Japan. He famously continuing to sign visas even as his train pulled away from the station, and is estimated to have saved over 6,000 lives from the Nazis who invaded Lithuania in 1941. However, his diplomatic career was ruined because he had defied instructions from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs not to issue the visas. Sugihara didn’t know if they had made any difference until being found years later by someone he had helped. He is now considered a hero in Japan, and those he saved have more than 40,000 descendants.

The film stars the phenomenal Toshiaki Karasawa as Sugihara and the always stellar Read More


Jul 13

WIT Life #314: New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF) 2017

 

Written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03), WIT Life is a periodic series about aspects of Japanese culture such as film, food and language.  Stacy starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she shares some interesting tidbits and trends along with her own observations.

This weekend concludes the 2017 New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF), which offered another amazing lineup of films and special guests.  This is the 16th year of its running, and it just seems to get better over time.  I saw two of the Japanese films screened at Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater, the festival’s venue, and another two I had seen on the plane during a recent business trip to Japan (In this same venue the week before the event I had the chance to see Harmonium (淵に立つ), which was not part of the festival but is another thought-provoking and upsetting Japanese film).

The two films I saw at the festival were Rage (怒り) and Double Life (二重生活).  Rage stayed with me for a while after watching it; it is not a film you can easily shake.  It is based on the mystery novel of the same name by Shuichi Yoshida, who also wrote Villain and Parade which were both made into fantastic films (the former directed by Sang-il Lee, who made Rage).  The story begins with the heinous murder of a couple in their home, with the young, male killer on the loose.

Characters from communities in three different parts of Japan (Chiba, Tokyo and Okinawa) are shaken by the appearance of three respective young men who fit the description of the wanted man.  As the manhunt unfolds, the more we find out about each suspect the more the suspense builds.  I was on the edge of my seat for the majority of the film, but once this fear dissipated the psychological terror of the Read More


Jul 12

JQ Magazine: Film Review — JAPAN CUTS 2017 at Japan Society

Neko Atsume House, starring Atsushi Ito and an army of kitties, makes its East Coast premiere at Japan Society July 16.
(Neko Atsume House © 2017 Hit-Point:Neko Atsume House Production Committee)

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By Lyle Sylvander (Yokohama-shi, 2001-02) for JQ magazine. Lyle has completed a master’s program at the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University and has been writing for the JET Alumni Association of New York since 2004. He is also the goalkeeper for FC Japan, a New York City-based soccer team.

The 11th edition of JAPAN CUTSthe Japan Society of New York’s extensive showcase of new Japanese cinema, premieres tomorrow (July 13) for 11 days of unique programming, special guests, and the chance to see exclusive North American releases. This year’s lineup—29 films in all—demonstrates the wide variety of Japan’s contemporary cinematic space. The programming runs the gamut from documentaries to shoestring independents, old classics and mainstream blockbusters. A handful of films were made available for JQ press screenings; here are some notable selections:

Neko Atsume House (July 16, 12:00 p.m.): Based on a popular smartphone game, this film deals with writer’s block in a most unique way. When the novelist-protagonist Sakumoto-san (Atsushi Ito) finds himself faced with his profession’s most dreaded dilemma, he accepts an assignment to write a series of horror novels—a major step backward for this once-celebrated author. In order to solve his predicament, he adopts the old cliché of secluding himself in a country house for creative inspiration. What follows is a thoroughly unexpected delight of a movie as he makes friends with a multitude of friendly felines with whom he bonds.

At the Terrace (July 16, 6:45 p.m.): Kenji Yamauchi adapts his play for the screen, in what can best be described as a Japanese Whos Afraid of Virginia Woolf?  This dialogue-heavy film finds a group of guests drinking into the night. As the alcohol makes its way through their systems, the characters let down their guard and inhibitions and make confrontational and incriminating accusations against one another. The veneer of civility gradually dissipates until the carnal desires and petty jealousies take over the proceedings. In the process, Yamauchi skewers the pretensions of Japan’s professional and bourgeois class.

Haruneko (July 16, 8:45 p.m.): Dealing with the Japanese fascination with death is first-time director Soro Hakimoto’s Haruneko, a tale set at a forest café where people come to die. In some ways, the setting reminds one of the infamous “suicide forest” at the base of Mt. Fuji, another place for a similar purpose. Unlike that real location, Hakimoto creates an ambience that can only be described as “melancholy mysticism” as the café manager, young boy and an old woman guide their visitors into the deep woods to dissolve into the ether. This film debut serves as a harbinger of great things to come from Hakimoto, who establishes himself as Japan’s answer to the great Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Tropical MaladyUncle Boonmee Who Can Recall his Past Lives).

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Jul 3

JQ Magazine: Nippon in New York — Ghibli Fest, JAPAN CUTS, One OK Rock

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

Before and after the outdoor fireworks, enjoy some summer events in the cool indoors, whether it’s catching one of the dozens of films premiering at Japan Society’s annual festival, or enjoying anything from interpretative theater to the latest rock sensation.

This month’s highlights include:

Courtesy of Lamama.org.jpg

June 30-July 2

In the Box 2: You and Me

The Club (La MaMa), 74A East 4th Street

$20-$100

Celebrated for her captivating work with the Martha Graham Dance Company, dancer/choreographer Miki Orihara premieres the second incarnation of her multi-media work, In the Box (ITB). Directed by theatrical visual-effects specialist Hiroyuki Nishiyama, this new experimental dance-theater piece features performances by Bessie Award winner Orihara with original music by best-selling Sony Music artist Senri Oe.

Following the 2015 Using cutting edge animations and projections from Japan, In the Box 2 (ITB2) juxtaposes three-dimensional sounds and images with the flesh and bones of a dancer and her moving shadow. ITB2 follows the 2015 premiere of ITB which explored the paradox of “Where Technology Meets the Body” inspired by Schrödinger‘s cat (quantum mechanics). ITB 2 picks up where its predecessor left off and opens the book of our lives in a paradoxical nature. “ITB2 explores human nature by mixing the human body with technology,” explains Orihara. “Audiences will experience entirely new sensations!” Using a streamlined technology of sensor system and infrared camera, audiences can enjoy the dancer’s motions and visual expressions through streamlined technology including CG, infrared cameras, and three-dimensional audio.

Courtesy of GKIDS

Wednesday, July 4-5

Ponyo

Village East Cinema, 189 Second Avenue

$15

Part of this year’s Studio Ghibli Fest! Perfect for audiences of all ages, PONYO centers on the friendship between five-year-old Sosuke and a magical goldfish name Ponyo, the young daughter of a sorcerer father and a sea-goddess mother. After a chance encounter, Ponyo yearns to become a human so she can be with Sosuke. Hayao Miyazaki’s tale is a beautiful combination of unbridled imagination, visual wonder and tender love, humor, and devotion from the emotional heart of the film. The July 4 screening will be presented in Japanese with English subtitles.

ANTI-PORNO © 2016 NIKKATSU

July 13-23

JAPAN CUTS 2017

Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street

Most films $14/$11 seniors and students, $10 members

Now in its 11th year, North America’s largest festival of new Japanese cinema returns to serve up a slice of the best and boldest titles from Japan never before seen in NYC with special guest filmmakers and stars, post-screening Q&As, parties and much more. Boasting a thrilling slate of epic blockbusters, shoestring independents, radical documentaries, mind-bending avant-garde, newly-restored classics, and breathtaking animation, JAPAN CUTS 2017 promises a bounty of cinematic discoveries for film fans and pop culture enthusiasts alike. For a list of this year’s special guests, click here.

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Jun 2

WIT Life #313: NY Japan CineFest 2017

 

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.

Last night I attended the first night of the 6th annual NY Japan CineFest 2017 at Asia Society.  This is one of my favorite cinematic events in the city, as it is a compilation of Japan-related short films.  As usual, there were many thought-provoking selections ranging from documentary to futuristic to artistic.

My favorite was Wasabi from director Bunji Sotoyama, which stars Kyoko Yoshine who you might recognize as the main character from the recently ended NHK morning drama Beppin-san.  In this film, she plays high school student Aoi who lives with her depressed father who is no longer able to maintain his sushi shop.  She is Read More


May 30

JQ Magazine: Nippon in New York — AnimeNEXT, Mr. Big, ‘My Neighbor Totoro’

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

After an unusually chilly spring, it’s finally starting to feel like summer. Enjoy some seasonal events this month that celebrate the best of both fine art and pop art.

This month’s highlights include:

Courtesy of Asiasociety.org

June 1-2, 6:30 p.m.

New York Japan CineFest 2017

Asia Society, 725 Park Avenue

$12, $10 students/seniors, $8 members

Highlighting some of the most exciting new voices in cinema, New York Japan CineFest presents two nights of short films by emerging Japanese and Japanese American filmmakers. Featuring 15 short films spanning drama, sci-fi, documentary and anime, the first night’s program is followed by a reception. Click here to check out Program 2 on Friday, June 2, 2017.

Courtesy of Bluenote.net

June 6-11

Hiromi & Edmar Castañeda Duet

Blue Note Jazz Club, 131 West 3rd Street

$30-$45

Japan has produced an impressive assemblage of jazz pianists; from Toshiko Akiyoshi and Makoto Ozone to Junko Onishi. And now, well into the change of the 21st century, the pianist/composer Hiromi Uehara is the latest in that line of amazing musicians. Ever since the 2003 release of her debut album Another Mind, Hiromi has electrified audiences and critics east and west, with a creative energy that encompasses and eclipses the boundaries of jazz, classical and pop parameters; taking improvisation and composition to new heights of complexity and sophistication. These special duet performances with Colombian harpist Edmar Castañeda are sure to inject a Latin flavor to the mix.

Courtesy of Okmusic.jp

June 9-11

AnimeNEXT

Atlantic City Convention Center, 1 Convention Boulevard

$50-$60

The largest independently organized anime convention in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area. AnimeNEXT features Japanese creators of anime and manga, voice actors, musical acts, artists, vendors and exhibits, events, panels, workshops, gaming, and cosplay. This year’s special guest is Oblivion Dust, a major label Japanese rock act, which reunited in 2007 following a six-year hiatus. Although they were originally largely influenced by early ’90s American grunge bands, since reuniting their music has become straight alternative rock. They stand out in the Japanese scene as most of their songs are written and sung in fluent English.

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May 12

JQ Magazine: Japan Society Salutes Godzilla with Concert Spectacular

 

Special guests Charan-Po-Rantan and Makigami Koichi (center) performed in Godzilla Legend — Music of Akira Ifukube at Japan Society on April 28. The concert was conceived and arranged by Makoto Inoue (far left) and performed by the band Hikashu and other special guest musicians. (Ayumi Sakamoto)

By Lyle Sylvander (Yokohamashi, 2001-02) for JQ magazine. Lyle has completed a masters program at the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University and has been writing for the JET Alumni Association of New York since 2004. He is also the goalkeeper for FC Japan, a New York Citybased soccer team.

On April 28, the Japan Society of New York hosted a delightfully unusual concert of Godzilla music. Yes, you read that correctly. The Japanese pop techno band Hikashu took the stage in a 90-minute intermission-less night of monster music from such iconic classics of the Godzilla canon as Gojira (a.k.a. Godzilla, King of the Monsters!) (1954), Rodan (1956), Mothra (1961), King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962), Ghidora, the ThreeHeaded Monster (1964), Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993) and Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995). While the colossal black-green (his color fluctuates from movie to movie) lizard never made an onstage appearance, he made his presence aurally known through Hikashu’s superb performances, with narration by founding member Makoto Inoue (who also played keyboards) and special appearances by the female pop duo Charan-Po-Rantan. Adding to the fun were aural appearances by the Big G’s nemeses, Rodan, King Ghidora, King Kong and Mothra, a gigantic butterfly-like insect who was the only monster to ultimately defeat Godzilla in battle.

Inoue’s narration did more than entertain; it also provided informative commentary on the evolution of the films. As Inoue explained, Godzilla was born out of the collective Japanese fear of both large natural disasters (earthquakes, typhoons and tsunamis) and of the atomic bomb. Produced just nine years after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and one year after the U.S. testing of a hydrogen bomb contaminated a Japanese fishing vessel, the original Japanese film is a dark and somber affair. For years, the only available version in North America was a re-edited film that mixed a new English-language narrative with the Japanese monster footage—that film starred Raymond Burr and downplayed the ominous sadness.

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May 2

WIT Life #312: The Departure

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.

Last month’s Tribeca Film Festival featured the world premiere of the documentary The Departure directed by Lana Wilson.  It profiles Ittetsu Nemoto, a Buddhist priest whose lifework is suicide prevention.  In the group sessions he holds at his temple, he introduces exercises that attempt to show attendees what ending their lives would really mean in terms of loss and even simulates the experience of dying.  Many participants come away with a renewed lease on life, and for those who don’t Nemoto makes himself available to them day and night whenever they need someone to talk to.

However, Nemoto’s devoted around-the-clock counseling takes its toll on him, both Read More


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