Oct 5

Click image to read article on page 12

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.

In recent years, New York has hosted concerts ranging from Japanese rock to symphonic game music at world-renowned venues like Madison Square Garden and Carnegie Hall. Still, the chances of a full-blown anime concert featuring a variety of the original theme song vocalists seemed remote at best.

Until now. Coming to the historic Hammerstein Ballroom on November 16-17 and running concurrently with the second annual Anime NYC convention at the Jacob Javits Center, the Anisong World Matsuri concert event will make its New York debut after acclaimed performances in Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and Shanghai.

The show will be open to anime fans and music lovers worldwide, with no Anime NYC admission required to attend. Special VIP ticket options allow fans to meet the performers at Anime NYC where multiple on-stage Q&As and autograph sessions will be held with the concert’s artists.

According to a press release, Anisong World Matsuri brings together the most popular Japanese singers whose songs span the most popular contemporary anime. High-profile acts include Hironobu Kageyama, the voice behind “Dragon Ball Z”’s “Cha-La Head-Cha-La”; Hiroshi Kitadani (“We Are!” from “One Piece”); TRUE (“Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans”); and Luna Haruna (“Sword Art Online,” “Fate/Zero,” “Monogatari”).

Closing the event is Morning Musume, one of the biggest Japanese girl groups of all time. Celebrating their 20th anniversary this year, they will appear with their current 12-member lineup to mark the final overseas performance of Haruna Iikubo, who will graduate from the group in December at Tokyo’s Nippon Budokan.

“It’s our second time performing in New York. This time we will perform at Anisong World Matsuri with the legendary artist Hironobu Kageyama,” the group announced in a special message video posted online. “We are looking forward to it so much!”

For more information and tickets, visit www.anisongmatsuri.com and www.animenyc.com.


Sep 30

JQ Magazine: Nippon in New York — New York Comic Con, ‘RWBY,’ ‘Spirited Away’

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.

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:

FUNimation

Oct. 4-7

New York Comic Con

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

$50 (for Thursday, Oct. 4)

Breaking attendance records each year, the East Coast’s biggest gathering for fans of comics, film, anime and manga returns with its biggest roster of Hollywood talent to date, featuring exclusive screenings, gaming, cosplay photo ops, and more! Enjoy interactive panels on Oct. 4-6 from publishers Vertical Comics and Kodansha Comics, and check them out at booth #2109 to pick up con-exclusive merch and pre-release titles like APOSIMZ, Battle Angel Alita and The Ghost in the Shell: Global Neural Network. Special guests this year include Masako Nozawa (discussing the upcoming film Dragon Ball Super: Broly at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden Oct. 5), Toshihiro Kawamoto (Cowboy Bebop) and Akira Himekawa (The Legend of Zelda)!

Vijay Iyer © Barbara Rigon; Nathan Davis © Sylvia Milo; Scott Johnson © Patricia Nolan

Friday, Oct. 5, 7:30 p.m.

Hidejiro Honjoh x ICE: Shamisen Evolution

Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street

$38, $30 members

Listen to Hidejiro Honjoh, young shamisen prodigy and disciple of Hidetaro Honjoh, create this traditional instrument’s 21st-century voice in an evening featuring living composers from the U.S. and Japan. Joined by members of the most sought-after contemporary music group International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), Hidejiro delivers three world premieres composed by Grammy-nominee Vijay Iyer, Nathan Davis and Yu Kuwabara. The program also includes pieces by Yuji Takahashi and Dai Fujikura, along with the U.S. premiere of the full score of Scott Johnson’s Up and Back for shamisen, electric guitar, cello and piano. Followed by a MetLife Meet-the-Artists Reception.

Courtesy of Foodcurated.com

Oct. 24-28

The Food Film Festival

Locations and prices vary

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! This year’s events include the world premiere of Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown / Lower East Side (Oct. 24), and Chikarashi: Sustainable, Chef-Driven Poke Bowl (Oct. 26), about the Manhattan-based contemporary sea-to-table eatery inspired by Japanese and Hawaiian cuisine. For a complete listing, click here.

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Sep 8

JQ Magazine: Film Review — ‘Kusama: Infinity’

“Clocking in at just 78 minutes, this documentary from director Heather Lenz is deceptively compact. Within its swift running time, viewers will be regaled with how Kusama overcame impossible odds to become the top-selling female artist in the world.” (Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures)

By Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03) for JQ magazine. Stacy is a professional Japanese writer/interpreter/translator. She starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and shares some of the interesting tidbits and trends together with her own observations in the periodic series WITLife.

I’ve always been an admirer from afar of Yayoi Kusama’s polka dotted and pumpkin themed artwork, but I have never waited hours in line to see it, as many New Yorkers did when her mirrored “Infinity Room” made it to the city last year. This lack of intimate knowledge regarding her work might be why I found the new film Kusama: Infinity about this amazing 89-year-old artist to be so revelatory. Clocking in at just 78 minutes, this documentary from director Heather Lenz is deceptively compact. Within its swift running time, viewers will be regaled with how Kusama overcame impossible odds to become the top-selling female artist in the world.

Born into a dysfunctional family in Matsumoto City in northern Nagano Prefecture, Kusama grew up during World War II. Her father was unfaithful and her mother’s reaction to this was to become angry and violent, even destroying Kusama’s artwork which she began creating at age 10 (The film suggests that this trauma is behind the maniacal energy that Kusama channels into her creations). Interestingly enough, her mother agreed to let her attend art school on the condition that she attend finishing school as well, but Kusama never set foot in the latter.

I had known that she spent time in New York, but the story of how she got here was fascinating. Kusama respected Georgia O’Keefe, and sent her a letter along with some of her works. After receiving a reply, in 1958 Kusama came to New York on a wing and a prayer. Before she left Japan she burned most of her early works, promising to make better ones in the future. During her time here she met legendary artists like Andy Warhol and Donald Judd, the former of whom she was distraught to later find had stolen her work. Kusama got caught up in the spirit of the 1960s counterculture and was involved in many “happenings,” such as body painting festivals and anti-war demonstrations. She even crashed the Venice Biennale exhibition in 1966 with an installation of 1,500 mirror balls on the lawn outside the pavilion, clad in a red leotard amongst them. Despite the double punch of sexism and racism that Kusama faced, she managed to make a name for herself.

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Sep 4

JQ Magazine: Nippon in New York — ‘Akira’ @ 30, SCANDAL from Japan, ‘Dragon Ball Z’

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.

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:

FUNimation

Now through Sept. 6

Akira: 30th anniversary

Metrograph, 7 Ludlow Street

$15

More than any single feature film, Katsuhiro Otomo (Memories, Steamboy)’s adaptation of his own manga series is the one that introduced the glories of Japanese anime to an international audience. In 2019, thirty-one years after the Japanese government nuked Tokyo as damage control for an experiment involving using ESP on children, biker Kaneda rides one of the most iconic motorcycles in cinema into the unknown, on a mission to save his friend Tetsuo from a vast and far-reaching conspiracy. A feast of imagistic imagination, climaxing in an unforgettable battle royale in the Tokyo Olympiad. Presented in Japanese with English subtitles.

Sony Music Entertainment (Japan)

Thursday, Sept. 5, 8:00 p.m.

SCANDAL from Japan

PlayStation Theater, 1515 Broadway

$45

SCANDAL is one of Japan’s most popular rock bands, epitomizing the J-rock aesthetic. The four-piece unit adeptly blends pop, rock and alternative music sensibilities with hip and contemporary fashion sensibilities and unstoppable girl star power. The band is presently in the midst of a world tour in support of its eighth record, HONEY, which was released in February and peaked at Number Three on the Japanese Oricon weekly sales charts and extended the band’s streak of being the only girl group to consecutively have each of their albums place the Oricon Top Five. The album features ten tracks including a rendition of the band’s 10th anniversary single, “Take Me Out.”

GKIDS

Sept. 6 & 10

Perfect Blue: 20th anniversary

AMC Empire 25, 234 West 42nd Street

AMC Kips Bay 15, 570 Second Avenue

Regal Union Square 14, 850 Broadway

$12.50

Perfect Blue, the groundbreaking and rarely screened first film from the legendary late director Satoshi Kon (Tokyo Godfathers, Paprika), returns to theaters for its 20th anniversary in a brand-new digital transfer. Rising pop star Mima has quit singing to pursue a career as an actress and model, but her fans aren’t ready to see her go. Encouraged by her managers, Mima takes on a recurring role on a popular TV show, when suddenly her handlers and collaborators begin turning up murdered. Harboring feelings of guilt and haunted by visions of her former self, Mima’s reality and fantasy meld into a frenzied paranoia. As her stalker closes in, in person and online, the threat he poses is more real than even Mima knows, in this iconic psychological thriller that has frequently been hailed as one of the most important animated films of all time. The September 6th screenings are presented in Japanese with English subtitles and the September 10th screenings are dubbed in English.

Read More


Aug 9

Justin’s Japan: SCANDAL from Japan

Click image to read article on page 17

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.

When Americans into J-rock think about all-female acts, it’s easy to flash back to the early ’90s when acts like Shonen Knife and Cibo Matto first made their mark on the U.S. scene.

Looking for something modern? Check out SCANDAL from Japan, a four-piece unit that blends pop, rock and alternative music sensibilities with contemporary fashion smarts. With their eighth album HONEY (released in February on Epic Records), the group is gearing up for their first North American tour in three years, which includes two shows in Mexico, kicking off September 5th at New York’s PlayStation Theater, with additional dates that month in San Francisco, Anaheim, Monterrey, Mexico City and Dallas.

Originally formed in 2006 in Osaka and taking their name from a shop sign that hung near the studio where they practiced, SCANDAL from Japan consists of Haruna (lead vocals/rhythm guitar), Mami (lead guitar/backing vocals), Tomomi (bass/lead vocals) and Rina (drums/keyboards/guitar/backing vocals), who shared a love rock bands and artists ranging from Green Day, Foo Fighters and Paramore to the pop styling of Taylor Swift and Pink. Their own music has appeared in TV and anime series, and the band has its own original fashion brand – Feedback! – that is produced and designed by all of the members.

For the new album, Haruna explains, “We focused this album around what we individually like to do as well as what we like to do as a group. We wanted to make music that represents all of us and also songs and subjects told from the standpoint of a girls’ band.  We also wanted to go all-in for the 10 -year anniversary of our debut. HONEY pays homage to that and also shows has we have continued to evolve as a group.”

For more information and tickets, visit www.scandal-4.com or the band’s Facebook page at /scandalofficial.


Jul 31

JQ Magazine: Nippon in New York — Sailor Moon, Liberty City Anime, Meg Okura

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.

In the dog days of summer, it’s best to escape the heat in a place that’s cozy and cool. For those into Japan-related cultural events, this month offers a diverse selection of film premieres and live music—all in the comfort of indoor air conditioning.

This month’s highlights include:

VIZ Media

Aug. 4, 6

Sailor Moon SuperS: The Movie

E-Walk 42nd Street 13, 247 West 42nd Street

Empire 25, 234 West 42nd Street

$12.50

Sailor Moon, the beloved Guardian of Love and Justice, returns to the big screen for a special theatrical event! In the series, Usagi Tsukino is a clumsy but kindhearted teenage girl who transforms into the powerful Sailor Moon. Meeting allies along the way who share similar fates, Usagi and her team of planetary Sailor Guardians fight to protect the universe from forces of evil and total annihilation! The classic anime’s third movie, Sailor Moon SuperS is presented along with the never-before seen in theaters short, “Ami’s First Love.” All features are presented uncut and true to the original Japanese version, with English dubbed (Aug. 4) and subtitled (Aug 6) screenings available. 

Micah Joel Photography

Aug. 11-12

Play NYC

Manhattan Center, 311 West 34th Street

$25.50-$33.00

PLAY NYC is New York City’s first and only dedicated games convention. The weekend will feature three floors of playable games for all consoles, PC, virtual reality and mobile devices from studios large and small and developers old and new. Games will include indie projects with some larger triple A titles. Get access to some of the biggest games coming later this year and discover many you’ve never even heard of. PLAY NYC celebrates every facet of gaming in a way that only the Big Apple can by uniting players, developers and industry pros at a games event like no other.

GKIDS

Aug. 12-13, 15

Grave of the Fireflies

E-Walk 42nd Street 13, 247 West 42nd Street

Empire 25, 234 West 42nd Street

$12.50

In this special 30th anniversary screening, Studio Ghibli’s Grave of the Fireflies has been universally hailed as an artistic and emotional tour de force. As the Empire of the Sun crumbles upon itself and a rain of firebombs falls upon Japan, the final death march of a nation is echoed in millions of smaller tragedies. This is the story of Seita and his younger sister Setsuko, two children forced to fend for themselves in the aftermath of fires that swept entire cities from the face of the earth. Their struggle is a tribute to the human spirit. Directed by Academy Award-nominated Isao Takahata and presented in its digitally remastered and restored format, Grave of the Fireflies is one of the rare films that truly deserves to be called a masterpiece. English dubbed (Aug. 12, 15) and subtitled (Aug. 13) showings are both available for this engagement.  Read More


Jul 2

JQ Magazine: Nippon in New York — Hatsune Miku, JAPAN CUTS, Sailor Moon

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.

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 pop sensation.

This month’s highlights include:

© 2018 Movie Inuyashiki Production Committee : Hiroya Oku : Kodansha

Now through July 15

New York Asian Film Festival 2018

SVA Theatre, 333 West 23rd Street

Walter Reade Theater, 165 West 65th Street

$15, $12 seniors and students, $10 Subway Cinema members

From vicious, life-destroying phone scams to balletic battles between equally corrupt cops and yakuza, NYAFF offers films that reflect on contemporary society while offering extreme genre pleasures. There are self-referential takes on cinematic zombies, existential date nights, and teens finding their own corners of the world despite familial and societal expectations. showcasing the most exciting comedies, dramas, thrillers, romances, horrors and arthouse films from East Asia. Features the North American premieres of Japanese films Blood of Wolves (July 2), River’s Edge (July 3), Liverleaf (July 8), Midnight Bus (July 11), One Cut of the Dead (July 13), and Inuyashiki (July 15).

GKIDS

July 3, 5, 7

Fireworks

E-Walk 42nd Street 13, 247 West 42nd Street

Empire 25, 234 West 42nd Street

$12.50

Producer Genki Kawamura follows up his mega-hit Your Name with another anime tale of star-crossed teenage lovers with a sci-fi fantasy twist. Shy Norimichi and fast-talking Yusuke are goo-goo-eyed over the same elusive classmate, Nazuna. But Nazuna, unhappy over her mother’s decision to remarry and leave their countryside town, plans to run away and has secretly chosen Norimichi to accompany her. When things don’t go as planned, Norimichi discovers that a glowing multi-color ball found in the sea has the power to reset the clock and give them a second chance to be together. But each reset adds new complications and takes them farther and farther away from the real world—until they risk losing sight of reality altogether.

Courtesy of Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda

Premieres Friday, July 6

Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda

Francesca Beale Theater, 144 West 65th Street

$15, $12 seniors and students

From his start pioneering synth pop music with Yellow Magic Orchestra, in the late ’70s to winning an Oscar for his score for The Last Emperor in 1988, Ryuichi Sakamoto quickly established himself as one of the most original and intuitive composers of his generation. But, never content to rest on his laurels, Sakamoto’s life journey eventually led him to find musical inspiration in the unlikeliest of places: the Fukushima nuclear disaster and a personal battle with cancer, both of which gave way to a late-life shift in his artistic process. With Coda, director Stephen Nomura Schible (a co-producer on Lost in Translation) crafts a portrait of the artist as an ageless man, one who can turn the worst news into the most refined and purposeful moment of productivity in an already storied career. Shot over five years, this graceful music documentary is an elegantly observed examination of the creative process, following as Sakamoto builds from nothing the album he must assume will be his swan song. Sakamoto and Schible will appear in person for the 7:00 p.m. (Q&A) and 9:30 p.m. (intro) screenings on July 6 and the 4:45 p.m. (Q&A) and 7:30 p.m. (intro) screenings on July 7. Q&As moderated by Sasha Frere-Jones.

Read More


Jun 1

JQ Magazine: Nippon in New York — The Joy of Sake, BoroughCon, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu

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.

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 6-7, 6:30 p.m.

New York Japan CineFest 2018

Asia Society, 725 Park Avenue

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

Highlighting some of the most exciting new voices in cinema, New York Japan CineFest is an annual event that features works by emerging Japanese and Japanese American filmmakers. This two-day program of short films includes Sugihara Survivors, a short documentary film about Chiune Sugihara (considered Japan’s Oskar Schindler); Hatis Noit, a glimpse into the music of the titular musician whose experimental vocals recollect memories of snowy Hokkaido; and Dolphin Dreams, a groundbreaking experimental documentary that builds on the communicative power of dance to give audiences an unprecedented visceral experience. The first night’s program is followed by a reception.

© Yow Kobayashi/Yamaha

Thursday, June 7, 7:30 p.m.

Makoto Ozone: Jazz Virtuoso

Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street

$38, $30 Japan Society members

Celebrated jazz pianist Makoto Ozone, hailed by the New York Times as “thrilling, virtuosic and unabashedly personal,” performs selections from his wide-ranging repertoire, from Gershwin and Bernstein to Piazzolla and Ravel. Known for his large concert hall performances with prestigious philharmonic orchestras and jazz legends such as Gary Burton and Chick Corea, Ozone offers an upbeat, freewheeling and fearless solo in our auditorium.

Bakuretsu Records

Friday, June 8, 7:30 p.m.

Super Chon Bros Tour 2 (featuring Tricot)

PlayStation Theater, 1515 Broadway

$20

Prog rockers Chon and Polyphia have announced a second installment of their Super Chon Bros tour, set to take off this spring with help from TTNG and Kyoto-based Tricot. Rolling Stone calls the latter quartet “adrenalized math rock sped up and given pop’s candy coating.” Their meticulously painted set—complete with shadows and amps brushed into the background—picks up on the Kyoto band’s brilliantly colored math-rock, its hooks popping into view like neon splashes against a canvas.

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May 24

Justin’s Japan: The World Belongs to Hatsune Miku

Click image to read article on page 25

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.

Pop idols are everywhere in Japan, but most of them remain there. One particular idol breaks that tradition, with a notable exception: she’s not human.

Hatsune Miku, whose name means “first sound of the future,” is a Vocaloid (machine-made vocals) digital female avatar and creation of Crypton Future Media who currently has over 100,000 unique songs in her voice, which are synthesized tracks reminiscent of Auto-Tune. In Japan, Miku is massively popular and has appeared in numerous hit video games, music videos and ad campaigns, and her appearances with major artists like Lady Gaga and Pharrell Williams has boosted her international appeal.

Miku returns to the U.S. this summer for Miku Expo 2018, her third American tour. Miku Expo consists of live concerts that feature a range of hits from across her career as well as utilizing the latest holographic projection and voice synthesizing technology to create the ultimate Hatsune Miku experience—green onion-colored glowsticks included. For this year’s edition, fans were invited to sample a 39-day trial version of Hatsune Miku V4X software in English to create a new song, with the winning entry to be performed at every show on the North American tour.

True to its name, Miku Expo also presents an exhibition of Miku fan art by artists from Japan and local areas plus workshops and other events held to complement the concert.

The six-date U.S. tour wraps at New York’s legendary Hammerstein Ballroom on July 14th. After that comes Miku’s second appearance in Mexico City, then it’s off to Europe in December for Miku’s first-ever live concerts in Paris, Cologne, and London. The Paris date is set to coincide with the wider “Japonismes 2018” project celebrating Japanese and French relations throughout the year.

For more info and tickets, visit www.mikuexpo.com.


Apr 23

JQ Magazine: Nippon in New York — Japan Day @ Central Park, Miyavi, In Praise of Natto

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 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:

© George Hirose

Sunday, May 6, 11:00 a.m.

Children’s Day Festival: Kodomo no Hi

Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street

$18, $10 Japan Society members, children ages 2 and under free

Hang the koinobori (carp streamers) and don your kabuto (samurai helmet): Children’s Day is on its way! Come join us for Japan’s national holiday where all children are stars and their happiness is celebrated. Enjoy a performance of Peach Boy (Momotaro) featuring storytelling, music, dance, taiko drumming and lots of audience participation. Continue the adventure with other authentic Kodomo no Hi activities!

Courtesy of Sonyhall.com

Sunday, May 6, 8:00 p.m.

Keiko Matsui

Sony Hall, 235 West 46th Street

$34.50, $74.50 VIP

Keiko Matsui’s music speaks to the hearts and souls of fans around the world, transcending borders and building bridges among people who share a common appreciation of honest artistry and cultural exchange. Journey to the Heart, her 27th recording as a leader, marks the 30th anniversary since her recording debut and is her boldest statement yet. On Journey to the Heart, Matsui more than delivers what she has come to be loved for breathtakingly beautiful transcendent melodies that transport the listener. A master storyteller, she crafts passionate and emotive songs with lush harmonies and global rhythms to create timeless musical anthems.

© Connie Ma

Tuesday, May 8, 6:30 p.m.

Cool Tokyo: Harajuku, Akihabara and Beyond

Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street

$14, $11 Japan Society members, seniors and students

From street fashion to street food, kawaii to cosplay, Tokyo is the epicenter of Japan’s latest trends. With so much to explore in this vibrant, fast-paced city, it can be hard to know where to start. At this talk, Sebastian Masuda, visual artist and founder of Harajuku shop 6%DokiDoki, and Abby Denson, comic book artist and author of Cool Tokyo Guide: Adventures in the City of Kawaii Fashion, Train Sushi and Godzilla, help to navigate Tokyo’s vending machines, subway etiquette, hidden treasures, and much more. Followed by a book signing reception.

Read More


Apr 10

JQ Magazine: JQ&A with Jazz Musician Meg Okura

“Japanese people are open and unafraid of owning music from other cultures. It’s a uniquely Japanese thing to embrace arts from other cultures and perform them at a high level.” (Taka Harkness)

By Allen Wan (Ishikawa-ken, 1990-92) for JQ magazine. Allen works as a foreign correspondent in Shanghai. He is also a lecturer in the executive MBA program at Jiao Tong University and currently serves as president of the Shanghai Foreign Correspondents Club. Allen would like to get in touch with other JET alumni in Shanghai who are interested in setting up a JETAA chapter.

Tokyo native Meg Okura defies convention. While forging a prolific career in music since graduating from Juilliard in the ’90s (working with the likes of Diana Krall and David Bowie to name a few), this Grammy-nominated jazz violinist continues reaching out to new audiences through her “world chamber jazz” that could mean anything from performing the erhu with her Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble or big band music from Japanese and Jewish composers.

As part of the NPO Trio, Okura recently released Live at the Stone, a collaboration with husband Sam Newsome (soprano saxophone) and Jean-Michel Pilc (piano) that creates a unique sound with hints of familiar melodies including well-known Yiddish songs and even excerpts of John Coltrane. Arriving May 13 is IMA IMA, Okura’s latest studio effort. A reflection on motherhood featuring the Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble and trumpeter Tom Harrell, this new material will be showcased in an intimate live performance at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola in New York on Aug. 20.

In this exclusive interview, Okura discusses her inspirations and also tackles taboo topics like whether the music industry needs its own #MeToo movement and the difficulty of making a living as a musical artist in the age of the internet.

You are known for your eclectic music, getting inspiration from jazz, pop, and all the way to 19th century Yiddish music. Is that a concerted effort to avoid being typecast in any particular genre?

I create music that is true to myself. Different types of music reveal themselves to me whether it sounds like Ose Shalom, J.S. Bach, Piazzolla, Coltrane or even YMO. I just welcome what comes to me. But don’t get me wrong, I am a firm proponent of straight-ahead jazz. I am a jazz musician first and foremost, but I also used to perform Brahms and Ravel, and have toured with Michael Brecker as well as many Jewish bands. So I just stay true to myself and try to accept my whole history and different life experiences.

Has being born and raised in Japan influenced your musical style? Why learn the erhu and not the shamisen, for instance?

Japanese people are open and unafraid of owning music from other cultures. For example, I am very unapologetic about learning the erhu, jazz, and Judaism—things that obviously belong to races, cultures, and traditions different from my own. It’s a uniquely Japanese thing to embrace arts from other cultures and perform them at a high level.

What got you hooked on Yiddish music, and did your husband have any influence on that?

Do you know that I have a big band called J-Orchestra? We play music by Jewish and Japanese composers including works by yours truly, who is both Jewish and Japanese. Not only am I a Jew but I have also studied German and Hebrew, so I always felt connected to the Yiddish melodies—minor melodies with major chords. I always cry every time I play “Oyfn Pripetchik.” My husband, Sam Newsome, on the other hand, is not Jewish. So he is not familiar with these melodies at all, and it works out beautifully keeping our music making fresh and unique.

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Apr 1

JQ Magazine: Nippon in New York — Sake + Rakugo, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Sakura Matsuri

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.

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:

Courtesy of Yukiko Takahashi

Thursday, April 5, 6:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.

Rakugo Event: Tozaburo Yanagiya III

Brooklyn Kura, 68 34th Street (Industry City)

Free

This special set of performances is held at the first Japanese sake brewery in New York State. Born in Tokyo, Yanagiya Tozaburo became a disciple of master Rakugo performer Yanagiya Gontaro III in 1999. He was promoted to the master Shin’uchi rank, in which he himself is certified to train disciples, in 2014. Ever since, he has performed all over Japan and appeared in the ShotenRakugo show and other television programs. During his first visit to North America this spring, he has performed at the University of Toronto, LaGuardia Community College, Hunter College, New York University, and Brooklyn Kitchen. Tozaburo was awarded the Agency for Cultural Affairs’ Arts Festival Newcomer Award in 2016. Tozaburo will share sake-inspired stories (while patrons can enjoy the real thing on the premises) along with a traditional story, “The Zoo.”

Tozaburo is also appearing at J-COLLABO’s Spring Festival in Park Slope on Saturday, April 7, at 3:00 p.m. For more information, click here.

Courtesy of Kazuo Miyagawa Family

April 12-28

Kazuo Miyagawa: Japan’s Greatest Cinematographer

The Museum of Modern Art, (April 12-29)

Japan Society, (April 13-28)

$13/$10 seniors and students, $9 Japan Society members

In celebration of the 110th anniversary of his birth, Japan Society presents an 11-film retrospective surveying the work of Kazuo Miyagawa (1908-1999), the most influential cinematographer of postwar Japanese cinema. Working intimately with directors like Yasujiro Ozu, Akira Kurosawa, Kenji Mizoguchi and Kon Ichikawa on some of their most important films, Miyagawa pushed Japanese cinema to its highest artistic peaks through his lyrical, innovative and technically flawless camerawork. This career-spanning selection displays his great versatility, including major masterpieces and rarely shown titles, screening in 35mm and new digital restorations. Co-organizer The Museum of Modern Art will host repeat screenings and additional Miyagawa retrospective titles from April 12-29. Preceding the retrospective, new 4K restorations of Mizoguchi’s A Story From Chikamatsu and Sansho the Bailiff, both shot by Miyagawa, will run at Film Forum from April 6-12.

GKIDS

April 22-23, 25

The Cat Returns

E-Walk 42nd Street 13, 247 West 42nd Street / Empire 25, 234 West 42nd Street

$12.50 all ages

Part of Studio Ghibli Fest 2018! From the legendary Studio Ghibli, creators of My Neighbor Totoro and the Academy Award-winning Spirited Away, comes a charming and magical adventure that will delight the entire family. Haru is walking home after a dreary day of school when she spies a cat with a small gift box in its mouth crossing a busy street, and she jumps in front of traffic to save the cat from an oncoming truck. To her amazement, the cat gets up on its hind legs, brushes itself off, and thanks her very politely. But things take an even stranger turn when later than night, the King of Cats shows up at her doorstep in a feline motorcade. He showers Haru with gifts, and decrees that she shall marry the Prince and come live in the Kingdom of Cats!

Courtesy of Ryuichi Sakamoto – Coda

April 25-27

Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda

Cinépolis Chelsea (4/25-26), 260 West 23rd Street

Regal Cinemas Battery Park Stadium (4/27), 102 North End Avenue

$23

From his start pioneering synth pop music with Yellow Magic Orchestra, in the late ’70s to winning an Oscar for his score for The Last Emperor in 1988, Ryuichi Sakamoto quickly established himself as one of the most original and intuitive composers of his generation. But, never content to rest on his laurels, Sakamoto’s life journey eventually led him to find musical inspiration in the unlikeliest of places: the Fukushima nuclear disaster and a personal battle with cancer, both of which gave way to a late-life shift in his artistic process. With Coda, director Stephen Nomura Schible (a co-producer on Lost in Translation) crafts a portrait of the artist as an ageless man, one who can turn the worst news into the most refined and purposeful moment of productivity in an already storied career. Shot over five years, this graceful music documentary is an elegantly observed examination of the creative process, following as Sakamoto builds from nothing the album he must assume will be his swan song. Premiere Screening features a Q&A with subject Sakamoto and Nomura Schible.

Kikuna Mishima

April 28-29, 10:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.

Sakura Matsuri 2018

Brooklyn Botanic Garden, 990 Washington Avenue

$30 adults, $25 senior and students, free for BBG members and children under 12

Billed as a dynamic two days of traditional and contemporary Japanese culture inspired by BBG’s famous collection of flowering cherry trees, organizers will once again welcome tens of thousands of visitors to its massive 52 acres, home to over 12,000 kinds of plants (and, for that weekend, nearly as many cosplayers). Enjoy food and drink, events and activities for all ages while taking in live performances from New York troupe Dancejapan with Sachiyo Ito, the BBG Parasol Society Fashion Show, NYC’s own J-pop meets jazz favorite J-MUSIC Ensemble, and the Matsuri live debuts of DJ Sashimi and Tokyo-based rock duo Bo-Peep.

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


Feb 3

JQ Magazine: Nippon in New York – Hello from Japan, Katsu Album Release, ‘Ponyo’ Turns 10

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.

Stay warm this winter with some hot local events, from live showcases that will transport you to another time and place, some new anime screenings, and a sake extravaganza you won’t want to miss.

Emily Munro

Now through May 6

Hello from Japan!

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

$14 children/adults, $11 seniors

Experience Tokyo’s vibrant culture in a new interactive exhibit! Children will have fun learning about life in present day Japan in this playful, highly immersive environment that transports families to two distinct areas of Tokyo that exist side by side: one serene and exquisite, the other, too cute for words. Kawaii Central is a streetscape inspired by Tokyo’s bustling Harajuku district, bursting with color, trendy shops and cuter than cute styles. Kids sing karaoke, smile for the photo booth camera, serve up a seasonal Japanese meal, and design adorable mascots for their families. Plus, learn more about contemporary Japan through special programs for the public, free with admission.

Courtesy of Eventbrite.com

Saturday, Feb. 3, 3:30 p.m.

Private Japanese Tea Ceremony Demonstration @ The Secret Kyoto Garden 

Urasenke Chanoyu Center of New York, 153 East 69th Street

$35 advance, $39 day of event

Experience one of Japan’s oldest traditional tea ceremonies in a secret indoor Japanese garden hidden in the Upper East Side—led by a Tea Master of Urasenke! Join New York Adventure Club for a traditional Japanese tea ceremony demonstration in the style of Urasenke, one of the main schools of Japanese tea ceremony. Established in 1967 to promote the rich cultural tea tradition of Urasenke in New York City, the UCC is a private organization that teaches its members how to master this ancient tradition over the course of 10-15 years. This event also offers an opportunity to consume the best quality sweets and matcha green tea from Kyoto, the birthplace of Urasenke.

Sunday, Feb. 18, 2:00 p.m.

Katsu: Debut Album Release Concert

National Opera Center – OPERA America, 330 Seventh Avenue

$20 suggested donation

Katsu started to perform in public about a month after he started playing the piano when he was the age of 19 by self-learning. He also started composing originals soon after the beginning of the public performances. After performing several times in Japan, He moved to New York. Then in December 2016, he debuted as a composer and a pianist at the Steinway Hall. Now, he has been performing his original tunes as a solo pianist at multiple venues. His music is described as New Age music, classical, Jazz, romantic piano, and more. This intimate performance will feature selections from his recently released debut album, Moon.

GKIDS

March 25-26, 28

Ponyo 10th Anniversary

E-Walk 42nd Street 13, 247 West 42nd Street / Empire 25, 234 West 42nd Street

$12.50 all ages

For the kickoff of Studio Ghibli Fest 2018,  From the legendary Studio Ghibli, creators of Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro, and Academy Award-winning director Hayao Miyazaki, comes a heartwarming family adventure. When Sosuke, a young boy who lives on a clifftop overlooking the sea, rescues a stranded goldfish named Ponyo, he discovers more than he bargained for. Ponyo is a curious, energetic young creature who yearns to be human, but even as she causes chaos around the house, her father, a powerful sorcerer, schemes to return Ponyo to the sea. Miyazaki’s breathtaking, imaginative world is brought to life with an all-star cast, featuring (on the March 25 and March 28 English-language screenings) the voices of Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon, Lily Tomlin, Liam Neeson, and more.

Illustration by Ben Warren © Japan Society; Hideto Iwai © Toru Hiraiwa; Sarah Hughes © Alex Tilney

Monday, March 26, 7:30 p.m.

Manhood

Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street

$15, $10 Japan Society members, seniors and students

This program is the 13th installment of Japan Society’s annual Play Reading Series, which introduces topical plays from up-and-coming playwrights in Japan to artists and audiences in the U.S. Written by Hideto Iwai, the winner of the prestigious Kishida Kunio Award for Drama, Manhood follows the twisted turns in the lives of four men as their boyish posse faces the harsh realities of adulthood and old age. Sarah Hughes, a New York local and emerging theater director, leads her gender swapped cast in this off-kilter depiction of Japanese “bro culture.” Playwright Iwai joins in a post-performance Q&A with the audience and director.

Courtesy of Lonelyplanet.com

Friday, March 30, 6:30 p.m.

Travel Japanese

The Nippon Club, 145 West 57th Street

$10 (materials included), RSVP at jpcourse@jfny.org

Are you planning a trip to Japan in the near future? If so, this workshop is for you! Please join us for our Travel Japanese workshop and learn Japanese vocabulary and basic expressions essential for travel in Japan! Japanese customs and useful travel information will also be introduced. In this workshop, you will be able to order food at a restaurant using simple terms, communicate with a store attendant while doing shopping, tell your destination to a taxi driver or station agent and ask for information, and more!

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


Jan 2

JQ Magazine: Nippon in New York — Studio Ghibli, ‘Final Fantasy’ @ 30, ‘Mary and the Witch’s Flower’

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.

Start 2018 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

Jan. 1-11

The Complete Studio Ghibli

IFC Center, 323 Sixth Avenue

$15 adults, $11 children

In collaboration with GKIDS, IFC Center is pleased to present the return of this smash-hit retrospective of Japan’s famed Studio Ghibli animation house. Don’t miss your chance to see some of the greatest films of all time on the big screen! Titles include the favorites Spirited Away, Nausicaä and My Neighbor Totoro—with select screenings on 35mm prints! All films shown prior to 6 p.m. will be screened in the English-language version; evening shows will be subtitled in English. For a list of all films and dates, click here.

Mugen Noh Othello © Takuma Uchida

Jan. 11-14

Mugen Noh Othello

Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street

$35, $30 Japan Society members

Following a sold-out run of Medea in 2011, Satoshi Miyagi and his company SPAC return to New York with another literary masterpiece, Othello. Miyagi re-tells Shakespeare’s famed tragedy through noh theater’s most distinct storytelling structure, mugen noh, or a play that features a spirit. Told from the perspective of Othello’s wife Desdemona, who returns as a ghost after her death, Miyagi’s production is replete with stunning masks and costumes as well as powerful live music and chanting. Performed in Japanese with English titles. The Friday, Jan. 12 performance is followed by an artist Q&A.

Courtesy of Ffdistantworlds.com

Saturday, Jan. 13, 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.

Distant Worlds: Music from Final Fantasy

Carnegie Hall (Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage), 881 Seventh Avenue

$28-$120

Distant Worlds brings its concert production to one of the world’s most famous orchestral venues. With composer Nobuo Uematsu in attendance, the Distant Worlds Philharmonic Orchestra and the Dessoff Choirs under the direction of Grammy Award-winner Arnie Roth celebrate the 30th anniversary of Final Fantasy. These special performances feature exclusive HD video presentations from Square Enix alongside classic scores and new premieres.

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Dec 24

JQ Magazine: Jamming After JET — Rural Island Alums Release New Albums

“Living in Japan exposes you to music you would not have heard otherwise. I owe most of my knowledge to availability of 100 yen records all over the country and the friendly record store employees that were eager to teach me about Japanese music.” (Courtesy of Eli Cohen)

 

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.

Regardless of your placement on JET, music is a constant part of the experience. Whether it is karaoke parties with friends, music festivals like Fuji Rock, “live house” local performances, or simply singing Beatles and Carpenters with your students (over and over), all of us take something musical with us from our time on JET. But what about musicians who join JET? JQ reached out to two alumni from small islands off the coast of Kyushu, who have gone on to release their own albums, and hear from them how these unique records reflect that experience.

Eli Cohen (Kagoshima-ken, 2009-2010) runs the International Admissions department at one of the City University of New York’s institutions. He is also a DJ who started a record label, Alliance Upholstery. His new album, Tokyo Nights: Female J-Pop Boogie Funk —1981 to 1988, is a collection of music that fits into this genre.

If that sounds obscure, we thought so, too. Cohen explains: “In high school I was really into Japanese punk (Teengenerate, Guitar Wolf). This is where my interest in Japan started. As I grew older, I became very interested in Japanese music from the ’80s, as well as fashion and art from the era. Japanese people refer to this style as ‘City Pop.’ Outside of Japan, the term is a little vague and people often call this Japanese Boogie. The sound reflects the attitude and excitement of the bubble, bright and full of optimism,” adding that his favorite artist is Toshiki Kadomatsu.

Cultures of Soul Records (click image for audio samples)

Many JETs can probably relate to Cohen’s experience as a JET placed on a rural, island, both in the difficulties adjusting, and the unexpected opportunities. Having spent several years before JET living in Osaka and Tokyo, Cohen was placed in Minamitane, below the southernmost tip of Kyushu, which he describes as “a tiny town of about 8,000 people on the island of Tanegashima.” Before that, he says, “I had felt very little culture shock when I first moved to Japan as I had only lived in major cities. Tanegashima was my first taste of inaka life and a very unique and challenging experience.” While he admits, “The students were great but I prefer city life and was eager to return to Tokyo,” he also shared the following: “JAXA, the Japanese space program, is based in Minamitane. There was a bar in town appropriately titled Moon Bar. I would DJ there on occasion and tried to incorporate space themes into the sets.”

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