Vol.1 July 2007
- A Day in The Park
- Leaders Hold Talks at G8 Summit
- Honors for Achievements Building Japan-US Ties
- Visit Japan - Yamagata
- Culture Connection - Japanese Anime Classic
- From the Ambassodor's Desk
- Featured Events
On June 3rd the heart of Manhattan was transformed into the Land of the Rising Sun when Japan Day @ Central Park, featuring a 4-mile Japan Run and a Festival at Rumsey Playfield, attracted 5,000 runners and 14,000 visitors to the events.
Japan Day was organized by the Japan Day @ Central Park Executive Committee with the goal of introducing Japan and Japanese culture to all New Yorkers, as a show of appreciation to the Big Apple, and as a chance to bring Japanese and Japanese-Americans closer together.
At 7:45 AM the Japan Run, coordinated by the New York Road Runners (NYRR), kicked off with a ritual lion dance. Runners dashed up 68th Street, going north along the Park’s east side and back down the west side, before crossing the finish line at 72nd Street. A kid’s run followed, and children wearing T-shirts with Japanese islands and cherry blossoms ran to the cheers of their parents and friends.
Japan Day Festival
The Festival activities on Rumsey Playfield started at 10am. With the aim of introducing both traditional and contemporary Japanese culture, fifteen tents of Japanese food, activities and cutting-edge electronics, were set-up. In addition, a variety of performances were held at Summer Stage.
Japanese Food Tents
The Festival featured separate tents for curry, gyudon (beef bowl), gyoza (fried dumplings), temaki (vegetable hand roll sushi), soba noodles, Japanese tea, and Japanese candies. The hand rolled sushi tent, where sushi chefs worked their magic in front of visitors, was the most popular by far, with a line extending all the way to the field entrance.
Like Japan during the summer matsuri season, visitors experienced traditional Japanese culture, including calligraphy, origami, Japanese toys (ken-dama, be-goma, ohajiki), and yo-yo scooping.
NY1 television’s political reporter, Sandra Endo, presided over the stage and introduced the day’s performances. The traditional Japanese program boasted taiko drumming, swordplay, karate, folk dance, and an omikoshi (portable shrine). Karaoke and anime costume (cosplay) contests brought a taste of contemporary Japanese pop culture to the audience.
Rain arrived during the last musical performances (including a concert combining jazz piano, taiko drums, and gospel singers), but most of the crowd stayed until the very end.
Also, Ms. Riyo Mori, who won the 2007 Miss Universe pageant that very week, made a surprise visit. Her striking presence and warm smile attracted the attention of the crowd -- and of their cameras.
From June 6 to 8, Prime Minister Abe attended his first Group of Eight (G8) Summit in Heiligendamm, Germany.
On June 6, the Prime Minister took part in a bilateral meeting with President Bush. Including four previous teleconferences, it marked the sixth meeting between the two leaders following their first face-to-face talks in April in Washington, where they stressed the “irreplaceable and invaluable Japan-US alliance”.
During 50 minutes of discussion at Heiligendamm, Abe stated that he would continue to hold frequent dialogue with President Bush to strengthen their alliance. And President Bush agreed that he was ready to talk, whenever and wherever with his Japanese colleague.
One of the key areas of discussion at this year's summit was global warming and Prime Minister Abe released a proposal entitled "Cool Earth 50" before the opening of the summit.
The Prime Minister’s proposal includes long-term strategies to cut global greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2050 and a vision for developing innovative technologies to build a low carbon society. In his meeting with the President, Prime Minister Abe explained his proposal and President Bush offered his initiatives on climate change, as well.
The President stressed the importance of building a framework that includes China and India and the importance of energy conservation and technological innovation. To create an effective international framework, the leaders agreed to work together to build positive results at Heiligendamm and also to aim for substantial progress at next year’s summit, which will be held in Japan at Toyako, Hokkaido.
Regarding North Korea, Prime Minister Abe indicated that the current problem was a result of North Korea's insincere response, and that the abduction issue in particular was most regrettable as North Korea had not responded with any sincerity at all. The two leaders agreed that their patience was not unlimited. President Bush reaffirmed that the United States would support Japan's position regarding abduction, including the question of removing North Korea from the list of countries designated as state sponsors of terrorism. The two leaders agreed that the summit chair's summary should deliver a strong message to North Korea, and that they will continue to work in close consultation on the North Korean issue.
Mr. Bush and Mr. Abe also discussed the fight against terrorism and the situation in Iraq. On the terrorism front, Prime Minister Abe said that Japan was considering substantially increasing its aid to Pakistan this fiscal year. Specifically, the two leaders agreed to have authorities consult on providing future cooperation in support to the FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Area) that comprises part of the boarder with Afghanistan and is the front line in the fight against terrorism. On Iraq, Prime Minister Abe shared details on a bill in the Japanese Diet that aims for a two-year extension of the Law Concerning the Special Measures on Humanitarian and Reconstruction Assistance in Iraq. President Bush expressed his appreciation.
Preparations for next year’s G8 Summit at Toyako Lake are well underway and Japan expects this important meeting of world leaders to be a great success.
Emeritus Professor Isamu Sando
April 29, 2007, Isamu Sando, Professor Emeritus of the University of Pittsburgh, was honored in Japan with The Order of the Sacred Treasure, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon for his outstanding contributions to the development of clinical otorhinolaryngology, especially in the development of diagnosing and treating patients with otological (ear) disorders.
Professor Sando moved to the U.S. in 1966, and for more than 40 years, he has deepened his research in otology, making important contributions to his field. He has focused on sharing his knowledge; Professor Sando, at the age of 78, still teaches at Pittsburgh University, where he has mentored 40 young doctors from Japan. Prof. Sando is an Honorary Member of Collegium Oto-Rhino-Laryngologicum Amicitiae Sacrum and a Fellow of The Royal Society of Medicine. He has published more than 200 scientific papers and given 300 lectures in both Japan and the U.S..
On May 9, 2007, New York’s Japan Society was honored with the Foreign Minister’s Commendation. The certificate was presented to Japan Society by Ambassador Sakurai at the Society’s Gala Dinner celebrating its centennial anniversary.
Japan Society is one of the largest Japan-US exchange organization in the United States. It attracts tens of thousands of visitors annually to its landmark building located near the United Nations. Since its foundation in 1907, Japan Society has promoted relations between the people of Japan and the United States of America by introducing Japanese culture, and fostering mutual understanding and friendship through its programs of cultural and personal exchange in fields such as politics, economics, society, culture and education in the New York area and beyond.
Between April and June, three other distinguished organizations and individuals were honored with the Consul General’s Commendation.
Friends of the Japanese House and Garden (Shofuso)
Philadelphia’s Friends of the Japanese House and Garden was honored on April 27th. A certificate was presented to the organization on the occasion of the dedication of 20 murals at Philadelphia’s Shofuso Japanese House and Garden by the famed Nihon-ga painter, Hiroshi Senju.
Shofuso (Japanese House and Garden) in Fairmont Park, Philadelphia, PA, is an authentic 17th century Japanese shoin-style house and garden that enables visitors to experience Japan first-hand. The Japanese House was built for an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1954, and was relocated to Fairmount Park in 1958. But less than 20 years after the relocation, the house was severely damaged and parts destroyed. The Friends of the Japanese House and Garden (FJHG) has been safeguarding Shofuso for the 25 years since its foundation in 1982. FJHG also offers cultural programs that foster an understanding of Japanese art and culture such as tea ceremonies, a summer festival, moon viewing, origami, kimono wearing and Japanese gardening techniques. (web-site: www.shofuso.com)
Brooklyn Botanic Garden
On May 16, 2007, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden was honored and a certificate presented at the BBG’s annual Gager Dinner.
Over the years, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden has contributed to the deepening of mutual understanding and friendship between Japan and the United States. Since the creation of the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden in 1915, and the establishment of its renowned bonsai collection, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden has introduced millions of visitors to the art and discipline of Japanese horticulture. For the past 26 years, the BBG has held Sakura Matsuri, one of the largest cherry blossom festivals in the United States. This festival not only celebrates the blooming of the cherry trees, but presents traditional Japanese culture such as Japanese dance, Taiko Drumming, Koto and Shamisen concerts and a kimono fashion show. The event attracts more than 50,000 people each year.
Mr. Shunji Sakuyama
On June 14, 2007, Mr. Shunji Sakuyama, artist and teacher at the Japanese Weekend School of New Jersey, was honored and a certificate presented during a ceremony at Ambassador Sakurai’s residence.
Mr. Sakuyama, who is a professional wood print artist, started his career as a teacher about 40 yeas ago at the former Japanese Weekend School of New York. Since then, he has devoted himself to providing Japanese children with instruction in Japanese language and traditional culture, as well as art instruction. He is widely respected by children and their parents because of his outstanding passion for teaching and his warm personality. Mr. Sakuyama is the first instructor at a Japanese weekend school to receive a Consul General’s Commendation.
Journey to the Heart of Japan: Yamagata
Oh! So you have been to Tokyo? Surely you enjoyed the urban city life of Japan -- but you will soon discover Yamagata is quite a different place.
Yamagata Prefecture is located at the northern part of Japan. It stretches from the Japan Sea and the beaches of the coastal Shonai plain in the east to the Zao mountain range in the west.
Yamagata, translated into English, means “Mountain Shape,” and as might be expected, there are many beautiful, and revered mountains, including Mt. Chokai, located in the middle of the prefecture and the three mountains of Dewa: Mt. Gassan, Mt. Haguro, and Mt. Yudono. These three peaks are held to be holy, and each has temples where pilgrims still visit. In the west, Mt. Zao, boasts hot springs, a crater, and a well-known ski resort.
Yamagata has a wide variety of hot springs (onsen), with at least one in every city, town or village. While taking a relaxing bath, you can breathe the fresh air and gaze upon beautiful scenery.
The prefecture is well known for its fruit, earning it the nickname the “Orchard Kingdom.” The vast majority of Japan’s cherries and pears are grown here, along with apples, grapes, and peaches. The area’s leading rice brand, Haenuki, is one of only four varieties awarded the top rice rating in Japan. The high-quality beef, named after the main city of Yonezawa, has been famous for over a hundred-and-fifty years.
Yamagata is an attractive destination with many things to see and experience. And what would be a trip to Japan without a “Matsuri?”
Hanagasa Matsuri (Flower Hat Festival)
This event has been held in various forms for hundreds of years since the original form appeared in Obanazawa City to the north. The dance performed is called the Hanagasa Odori, and its motions are based on those of rice farmers of old, long before the advent of machinery. In its present form, waves of dancers wearing colorful happi coats (which represent their group or organization) wield wide hats decorated with flowers. Interspersed with the dancers are floats carrying drum players and famous entertainers. As the procession moves along Yamagata's main street, participants cry out the traditional “yassho, makasho" in accompaniment to the Hanagasa Ondo (song). Visitors enjoy booths selling everything from broiled corn and squid to cotton candy and beer. At the end of the parade there's usually a chance onlookers to participate too. Hanagasa Matsuri is held in Yamagata city on August 5th, 6th and 7th and in Obanazawa city on the August 27th and 28th.
Shinjyo Matsuri (Shinjyo Festival)
After the Hanagasa Matsuri (Flower Hat Festival) this festival is the prefecture's largest parade. But in contrast to the flower hat dancers of the Hanagasa Matsuri, Shinjo's parade consists of human-drawn floats, each unique in design and decoration. The festival originated 230 years ago, when the Mogami region experienced severe famine and depopulation due to starvation. The Tozawa Clan lord at the time decided to save the people (and a vital revenue source) by praying for a good harvest and raising the spirits of the people. He established a parade of floats, whereby each float was built and entered by a different village.
Because of the splendor of the traditional floats, and because many kamoshika (a kind of antelope, Yamagata's prefectural animal) were said to have appeared that year, a "kamoshika dance" was incorporated into the festival. The Yoi Matsuri (Dusk Festival) held on the eve of the main festival is especially beautiful, with newly prepared floats lit by lanterns. Many say the Shinjo Festival is the best in Yamagata.
Shinjyo city: http://www.yamagatakanko.com/
Early Works of Japanese Film and Animation Reborn
Thanks to Digital Meme Co., Ltd., film buffs outside of Japan can now explore a treasure trove of classics from Japanese film and animation.
Ever since the French Lumiere Brothers announced the invention of their Cinematographe in 1895, moving pictures have been enthusiastically welcomed around the world. The 20th century became the age of the moving image, and in Japan, too, cinema was quickly embraced. Japan’s early silent film era, included famous directors like Kenji Mizoguchi and Yasujiro Ozu, whose later masterpieces would go on to world-wide acclaim. Japanese animation, too, saw a host of distinguished works born in the early years.
In 2000, Digital Meme began the process of digitizing and reissuing distinguished early Japanese films. First, The Life of Tsumasaburo Bando, a documentary tracing the life of one of the greatest stars of Japan’s Golden Age of cinema, was released on DVD in 2006 with Japanese and English subtitles. Following on its heals, Digital Meme recently brought out a comprehensive, four DVD collection of fifty-five Japanese anime classics produced between 1920 and 1950, the Japanese Anime Classic Collection, (with English, Chinese, Korean and Japanese subtitles). Included in the set are early animated versions of famous Japanese folk stories like “Momotaro,” “Issun-boshi,” and “Urashima Taro,” along with nostalgic manga movies, including “Norakuro” and “Boken Dankichi”. With the exploding popularity of Japanese anime all around the world, this landmark reissue will let fans explore the roots of this unique popular art form.
Of the fifty-five pieces in Japanese Anime Classic Collection, 20 include background music and narration by well-known silent film narrators like Midori Sawato, Shuichi Makino and Shunsui Matsuda. The DVD’s make it possible for viewers to experience classic, animated films of the silent era as if they were in a movie theatre on opening day. In addition, five rare, separate recorded tracks from the transition period between the silent era and the talkie era are also included, and have been digitally re-mastered.
In addition to its digital archiving of Japan’s classic films, Digital Meme is also actively searching for overseas distribution outlets and screening opportunities. Digital Meme has plans to release one hundred titles, including classics like Kenji Mizoguchi’s “Taki no Shiraito” (“White Threads of the Waterfall”) with foreign language subtitles in the next 10 years, as well as sponsoring theatrical performances in Japan and overseas featuring benshi (live narration), just like in the silent era,.
For more information, please visit Digital Meme Website: http://www.digital-meme.com/ (Japanese & English）
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Japan Day @Central Park, which was held on June 3rd, was a great success. Nearly 20,000 people participated in Japan Run and the Japan Day Festival. What most pleased and surprised me was that we had so many visitors, especially U.S. citizens, at the event. Unfortunately, that meant many participants had to wait in line to see the exhibitions and enjoy the food, but it also indicates peoples’ high level of interest in Japanese culture. We look forward to having a similar event next year. As soon as details are available we will post them in Japan Info and on the Consulate’s website. Please don’t miss it!
©Tessen-kai pictured (standing):Fumiyoshi Asahi
Enjoy a Balmy Summer Event With the Stars of Traditional Noh and Kyogen Japanese Theatre!
Noh & Kyogen in the Park
Japan Society presents Noh Now! This culture event series features a range of diverse programs, from traditional noh classics to contemporary works inspired by noh, that explore the evolution and transformation of the 600-year-old art form in both the East and West. This is an extremely rare opportunity to experience the tradition of noh and kyogen in the outdoor takigi noh (bonfire noh) style. This exceptional program includes Hojo, a forgotten play of the taikoh-noh repertoire from the late 16th century that survives only in scripts. Presented in a contemporary re-conceptualization staged by leading noh artist Umewaka Rokuro; Izutsu, is a haunting tale of enduring love from the classical noh repertoire, performed by members of Tessen-kai, and led by Kanze Tetsunojo; and Igui, is an exuberant kyogen piece about a divine hood that renders the wearer invisible, and features renowned master and film/TV star Nomura Mansai and his seven-year-old son. FREE seats will be available for all three performances. Free tickets for each performance will be released on the day of the show on a first-come, first-serve basis at Japan Society’s box office beginning at noon. Tickets must be picked up in person; no reservations, advance tickets, or tickets over the phone.
©Shinji Masakawa Pictured from left: Mansaku Nomura, Yuki Nomura, Mannosuke Nomura
On July 21, a Noh & Kyogen Workshop will be held in the Japan Society theatre. This is a rare opportunity also to immerse yourself in the centuries-old practice of noh and kyogen training. With exercises in traditional noh and kyogen movement and music, this workshop gives first-hand experience of these art forms.
- Place: Dag Hammarskjold Park (across the street from Japan Society)
- Japan Society 333 East 47th Street, NYC
- Date/Time: July 19 Thursday, 7:30pm
- July 20 Friday, 7:30pm
- July 21 Saturday, 7:30pm
- Info: Phone: 212-832-1155 Box Office: 212-715-1258
The First US - Japan Collaboration on a Japanese Anime Film: TEKKONKINKREET
July 13th to 19th
When director Michael Arias was given Taiyo Matsumoto’s manga (graphic novel) TEKKONKINKREET by a friend, he knew he had come upon a singular piece of fiction, one that touched him in a way that none other had in his life. Michael had gone back to Tokyo to comfort a friend whose wife had committed suicide. Around this time, Arias’ friend tossed him a copy of Matsumoto's manga, warning "It’s a tear-jerker." Arias was captivated from the first pages which showed “Black” (Kuro) and “White” (Shiro) perched on telephone poles surveying the wreckage of their town. To him, it felt just like what they were doing watching this old, earthy city being torn down. After reading the entire manga, it became quite clear to him that his next mission in life was to put that manga on film.
In Treasure Town, where the moon smiles and young boys can fly, life can be both gentle and brutal. This is never truer than for our heroes, Black and White, two street urchins who watch over the city, doing battle with an array of old-world Yakuza and alien assassins vying to rule the decaying metropolis. TEKKONKINKREET (An R-rated animation film) is a dynamic tale of brotherhood, love lost, and the kindness of the human heart amidst the corruption of modern society. The title, a play on the Japanese words for "concrete," "iron," and "muscle," suggest that the images of steel and concrete cities are working against the powers of the imagination. The story combines the imaginative fantasy and action elements of Japanimation with the darkness of a modern children’s story.
- Place: Quad Cinema 34 West 13th Street, (bet 5th & 6th Aves), NYC
- Date: From July 13th to 19th
- Time:1:00pm, 3:10pm, 5:30pm, 7:45pm, 10:00pm
- Info:212-255-8800, 212-255-2243
|Performing Arts & Films|
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