Vol.34 July 2010
- Prime Minister Kan Takes Charge
- Samurai in the Park: Japan Day 2010
- New York Celebrates the Anniversary of Japan-NYC Ties in Style
- Ambassador Nishimiya Visits Buffalo
- Japan Coast Guard Training Vessel "Kojima" Visits New York City Again
- Japan's Asteroid Probe Mission Successfully Returned to Earth
- Visit Japan - Exploring Authentic Japanese Food
- Culture Connection - Painter Mizue Sawano Celebrates Japan-NYC Friendship
- From the Ambassador's Desk
- Samurai are Coming to NYC
- JAPAN CUTS is Back
- Event Calendar
Cabinet Public Relations Office
aoto Kan became Japan's 94th Prime Minister on June 8th following the resignation of Yukio Hatoyama. A former civic activist, the 63-year old Kan has been a member of the House of Representatives since 1980 and he last served as Finance Minister in the Hatoyama cabinet. Kan kept key members of the cabinet in their posts, including Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada and Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa while Mr. Yoshihiko Noda was newly appointed Finance Minister.
Three days after assuming the post, Prime Minister Kan delivered his first policy speech to the 174th Session of the Diet on June 11th. In it, he cited that his greatest duty was to "return to the origins" of the previous year's change of government and to "regain the trust of the Japanese people" and presented his policy vision on government reform, the economy, and foreign policy.
Specifically, Kan promised to continue his predecessor's work of "an exhaustive clean-up of post-war government" including the review of government programs and a reform of national civil service. He also expressed his determination to bring about "a strong economy," "robust public finances" and " a strong social security system" in an integral manner to help people regain confidence in themselves and the future of the country.
Cabinet Public Relations Office
On the diplomatic front, Prime Minister Kan also called for implementing a responsible foreign policy based on "balanced pragmatism." In doing so, first and foremost, he reaffirmed that the U.S.-Japan alliance is "the cornerstone" of Japanese diplomacy, stating that it was vital not only to the defense of Japan but also to the regional stability and prosperity of Asia and the Pacific region. The Prime Minister also reiterated his commitment to follow through on the recent agreement between Japan and the U.S. on the relocation of the United States Marine Corps Air Station Futenma. In addition, Kan outlined his intention to further enhance Japan's relations with neighboring countries including China, South Korea, Russia, and the countries of ASEAN, and also to play an active role as chair of the APEC summit to be held in Yokohama this fall. Moreover, he assured that Japan will take an active role on global issues, including international climate change negotiations, endeavor to realize a "world free of nuclear weapons," reconstruction assistance to Afghanistan and development assistance to Africa.
On June 27th, Prime Minister Kan had the first bilateral meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Toronto, Canada. At the meeting, they reiterated that the Japan-U.S. alliance had been a cornerstone not only of their two nations but also for peace and prosperity throughout the Asia Pacific region. Regarding the issue of the relocation of the Futenma Air Station, Kan expressed his intention to tackle this issue seriously in line with the Japan-US agreement reached at the end of May and called for cooperation on the U.S. side to alleviate the burden of Okinawa. Both leaders agreed to continue to work together on this issue. President Obama expressed his gratitude for Japan's offer to provide equipments regarding the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. He also stated that he looked forward to visiting Japan on the occasion of the APEC summit and extended an invitation to Prime Minister Kan to visit the United States. Both leaders also discussed such issues as North Korea, Iran, and Afghanistan as well as climate change, and disarmament and non-proliferation. They reiterated their determination to closely work together on these issues.
The annual Japan Day @ Central Park festivities kicked off on Sunday, June 6th, as New York's biggest, best-loved summer Japanese festival returned to Central Park for the fourth year running.
The day began bright and early at 8 am with Japan Run, a race directed by the world-famous New York City Roadrunners. This year's race saw over 5,000 participants take part in the loop around the park. Guest runners from Japan included Olympian Yoko Shibui and Miki Ohira, holder of several records in Japan.
The rest of the day was bursting with the exciting cultural activities and performances New Yorkers have come to expect from Japan Day, and for the first time, Japan-NYC history was a featured part of the festivities as well. Summer 2010 is the 150th anniversary of the first visit to New York City by a delegation of over seventy samurai diplomats in 1860. The envoys were so popular when they arrived in lower Manhattan on June 16, 1860 that hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers are said to have packed the streets to see them.
To commemorate, Japan Day 2010 featured a recreation of the "samurai parade" with Ambassador Shinichi Nishimiya, Koichi Komatsu, President of Japan Day Inc, and Takatoshi Wako, head of the Japan Day Committee, decked out in period samurai clothing and swords. Joining dozens of others in traditional samurai costumes as well as the NYPD band, they proudly marched through the crowds to the main stage in the East Meadow. After a hearty welcome from Parks Commissioner Adriane Benepe, who also read an official proclamation from Mayor Bloomberg, Ambassador Nishimiya thanked the organizers and everyone in the crowd for coming out to explore Japanese food, culture and entertainment. The ambassador also made the surprise announcement that the Consulate-General was partnering with the Empire State Building to illuminate the iconic building in red and white, the colors of the Japanese flag, on June 16th, the exact date of the first Japanese delegation's arrival and the landmark anniversary of 150 years of Japan-NYC ties.
Japan Day continues to grow each year. In total, over 50,000 people came out to the park to enjoy the beautiful summer weather and to explore Japanese food, games and activities from calligraphy to robot battles that were hosted in tents surrounding the East Meadow. The festivities on the main stage were performed in three acts "Traditional Japan," followed by "Tokyo Now," and finally "Next Generation: Hello World." Leading the ceremonies on stage was CNN correspondent Sandra Endo who introduced the talented performers, which included martial arts acts like Samurai Soul, taiko drumming, hip-hop dance and even a fashion show. This year's featured performers from Japan were J-Pop star Minami Kizuki, well-know Japanese chanson singer Kumiko, and finally, closing out the day, was the world-renowned Japanese jazz saxophonist Sadao Watanabe, who has long been a prominent figure on the international jazz scene.
Like past years the sunny weather held out almost to the very end; the rain started falling just as the festivities were wrapping up. Again too, proceeds from Japan Day charity tee-shirts sold at the event went to the Central Park Conservancy, which will use the funds to maintain Central Park's original cherry trees that were gifted by Japan a hundred years ago, as well as to plant new ones.
Summer 2010 is the150th anniversary of the historic visit to the Big Apple by a delegation of 76 samurai in 1860. To commemorate this landmark anniversary and to celebrate the birth of Japan-NYC friendship a number of anniversary-themed events took place throughout the month of June.
As part of Japan's first delegation abroad after more than 200 years of self-imposed isolation, the Japanese envoys visited San Francisco, Washington DC, Baltimore and Philadelphia before reaching the shores of Manhattan on June 16, 1860. It was one of the biggest spectacles the city had ever witnessed, and according to some accounts, 500,000 New Yorkers jammed the streets to watch as the sword-carrying samurai paraded up Broadway. The moment was immortalized in poem by the great Walt Whitman and the city pulled out all the stops, hosting elaborate balls and parties to impress its visitors during their two-week stay. One delegation member, a young translator Tateishi Onojiro, or "Tommy" as he was nicknamed by the Americans, became the star of the New York press and a heartthrob with the American ladies.
To mark the anniversary, on June 6, the annual Japan Day @ Central Park, New York's largest Japanese summer festival, featured a reenactment of the1860 samurai parade, with Ambassador Shinichi Nishimiya and dozens of others donning traditional samurai clothing and swords and marching to the main stage in the East Meadow, as over 50,000 people took part in a day of Japanese entertainment and activities in the park.
On June 15th, Professor Naoyuki Agawa of Keio University gave a lively talk on the significance of the delegation's visit and its meaning for broader Japan-US relations. His lecture at the Museum of the City of New York set the stage for the Museum's exhibition, Samurai in New York: The First Japanese Delegation, 1860, which runs from June 25 to November 7, 2010. Featuring objects on loan from collections in America and Japan, the show is a comprehensive examination of the first cultural encounter between Japanese and New Yorkers. Accompanying it is a public program that includes a host of events from concerts to gallery tours.
On the evening of June 16th, 150 years to the day since the Japanese envoys' arrival in New York, Ambassador Nishimiya hosted a special reception at his residence to celebrate. At a press briefing that preceded the festivities, the ambassador, Professor Agawa and Dr. Sarah Henry, curator at the Museum of the City of New York, briefed members of the Japanese and American media about the Samurai in New York exhibition. The highlight of the evening which followed was a performance of "Tommy Polka," a popular musical number dating from 1860, and dedicated to the young Tateishi Onojiro. The piece was played before an audience for the first time in 150 years by the New York Symphonic Ensemble, led by Maestro Mamoru Takahara.
The evening's grand finale was Ambassador Nishimiya's announcement that the Empire State Building, one of New York's most iconic symbols, was illuminating the top of its famous 102 story spire in the Japanese colors of red and white in honor of the anniversary of Japan-NYC ties. Once again, just as a century-and-a-half before, the entire city joined together in celebration of friendship between the people of Japan and New York City.
Ambassador Nishimiya Visits Buffalo
At the end of May, Ambassador Shinichi Nishimiya made his first official visit to Western New York State, holding a reception for people promoting cooperation between Japan and the local community in the Buffalo metropolitan area. The Ambassador also met with regional political leaders and was greeted by the students at a local Japanese Saturday school.
On May 28th, Ambassador Nishimiya visited Chris Collins, Erie County Executive at his office. Erie County is located on the eastern shore of Lake Erie and Mr. Collins was proud to tell the Ambassador about the county's rich history and many sites on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Ambassador also visited City Hall and met Mayor of Buffalo, Byron Brown. Buffalo is the seat of Erie County and the second most populous city in the State of New York, after New York City. Buffalo is also a sister city of Kanazawa City in Japan. Kanazawa has strong historical ties to samurai culture; it was once the capital of the Kaga clan, Japan's wealthiest clan during the Edo period. The first lord of the clan, Toshiie Maeda, was a most famous master of the Japanese spear and the Ambassador viewed a samurai spear and armor collection given by Kanazawa City to the mayor's office. Mayor Brown and the Ambassador conversed on the emerging biotech industry in the Buffalo area.
Later that afternoon, Ambassador Nishimiya visited the Japanese Garden in Delaware Park. He was impressed by the beauty of the garden and the people who have worked hard to maintain it. The garden is features a symbolic Kotoji-Toro lantern, given by Kanazawa City as a symbol of friendship.
That evening, the Ambassador and Honorary Consul General of Japan in Buffalo Joe Koessler, hosted an event for local community leaders involved in the Japan-Buffalo partnership. Their discussion went on late into the evening.
On May 29th, Ambassador Nishimiya visited a Japanese Saturday school at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He observed all the classes from kindergarten to junior high, speaking with students, teachers and staff. At the end of the morning, Rio Higuchi, an 8th grader, thanked the Ambassador on behalf of the students.
Before leaving, Ambassador Nishimiya met with Paul Dyster, Mayor of Niagara Falls, the home of the world famous falls. Mayor Dyster spoke at length about the region's history and discussed with the Ambassador a proposed high speed rail program between his city and New York City. Since many Japanese tourists visit Niagara Falls, the Ambassador was glad to learn all about this beautiful place.
Japan Coast Guard Training Vessel "Kojima" Visits New York City Again
The Japan Coast Guard training vessel "Kojima" visited the Port of New York from June 17-22, 2010, as part of a three month deep-sea training exercise. The Kojima carries a total of 84 passengers, with 44 crew members and 40 postgraduate cadets from the Japan Coast Guard Academy. The Kojima departed from Japan on May 12 and will have visited San Francisco, New York, Napoli (Italy), and Singapore at the end of this training cruise. During the training, they will also pass through the Panama Canal and the Suez Canal.
The purpose of this exercise is not only to provide the necessary knowledge and technical training for the Japan Coast Guard personnel, but also, by visiting foreign ports, to provide the Japan Coast Guard with an opportunity to gain greater insight into international affairs and to promote international friendship.
Among the highlights of the Kojima's visit to the New York area were: a visit to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, CT; a visit to the U.S. Coast Guard Sector New York facility on Staten Island; a tour of the United Nations; and a reception on board the Kojima for distinguished local guests.
During the visit to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy (USCGA), the cadets of the Japan Coast Guard Academy participated in a cross-cultural educational program that included a small boat activity and a tour of the U.S. Coast Guard Museum, as well as a friendly softball game with the USCGA cadets.
The Kojima's cadets also visited the U.S. Coast Guard's ‘Sector New York' facility; Sector New York is a regional division mainly responsible for U.S. Coast Guard missions in the Port of New York and New Jersey. During the visit, the cadets learned about the operations of the Vessel Traffic Service Center.
The Kojima's Captain, Mr. Toru Nishikagi, also paid a courtesy call to the USCGA, Sector New York, the head quarters of the Port Authority of NY & NJ, the NYC Commission to the United Nations, Brooklyn Borough Hall, and the Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations to promote mutual friendship.
Finally, officials from the U.S. Coast Guard, the Port Authority of NY & NJ, and other relevant public organizations, as well as distinguished members of the Japanese and U.S. maritime business communities, attended a reception on board the Kojima on June 18th. Over 100 participants enjoyed the company of the guests, a beautiful night view, and the various educational and cultural activities, including demonstrations by the cadets of Kendo (Japanese fencing), a Japanese tea ceremony, and making Mochi (a traditional rice cake made by pounding steamed rice in a mortar). Many of the guests at the reception expressed their gratitude for the Kojima's outreach efforts.
The Kojima's crew and cadets were grateful for their warm reception in New York. Their visit was a valuable opportunity to deepen mutual understanding and promote cultural exchange between Japan and the U.S.
The Kojima left New York on June 22, heading for Napoli, Italy. She continues a great round-the-world training exercise.
Japan's Asteroid Probe Mission Successfully Returned to Earth
On June 13, Japan's Asteroid Explorer HAYABUSA (Japanese for "falcon") made its successful return to Earth after its remarkable seven-year space odyssey to the asteroid ITOKAWA (orbiting the Sun in an elliptic orbit between Earth and Mars). The HAYABUSA mission was planned and carried out by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and is the very first space mission to have made touched-down on an asteroid and returned to Earth.
HAYABUSA was launched in May 2003, accelerated by a "swing-by" of Earth in May 2004 and reached ITOKAWA in September 2005 after traveling 2 billion kilometers (1.25 billion miles). It completed, among other things, remote-sensing and geometry-measurement of the asteroid and made two landings to collect samples of the asteroid surface in November of that year. Its scientific achievements were featured in the June 2, 2006 issue of the science journal, Science, in its June 2 issue of 2006, with impressive photographs of the unique shape of the asteroid. The HAYABUSA project also received a "Space Pioneer Award" from the National Space Society of the United States in May 2006.
After the touch-downs on the asteroid, various technical difficulties hit HAYABUSA . It lost with its control lost and communications went dead for over seven weeks, which resulted in a considerable delay in its return to Earth. In April 2007, HAYABUSA ignited its ion engines to leave the orbit of ITOKAWA. Technical problems persisted, and only one out of its four ion engines was able to give propulsion during the final leg of its journey.
At 70,000 kilometers to Earth, HAYABUSA released its return capsule which successfully parachuted to the ground in the outback of the Woomera Prohibited Area in South Australia. JAXA scientists hope that the sample container located in the capsule contains a piece of the asteroid regolith. The recovered container was air-freighted to Japan for analysis by a team of Japanese, American and Australian scientists. Initial findings will be made public as early as July. If a sample of the asteroid surface is found, it would be the very first sample to return from any asteroid, providing clues as to how planets, including Earth, formed and other space mysteries.
The HAYABUSA mission received help from the United States and Australia. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) helped JAXA with trajectory decisions and other support and Australia provided the landing area in its territory.
Note: ITOKAWA is one of the near-earth asteroids and named after late Prof. Hideo Itokawa, "the Father of Space Development in Japan." Its size is 540m x 270m x 210m.
Exploring Authentic Japanese Food: Tokyo
© Yasufumi Nishi, JNTO
For travelers to Japan, cuisine is usually near the top of their "to-do list." It is undeniable that Japan has a great deal to offer in terms of where to go for food, regardless of what city you visit. During one's trip, an entire day may not be enough to explore all the various types of local food. One solution is to target areas that specialize in food. Here are some examples.
Tsukiji Outer Market
The most famous place for food in Tokyo is the Tsukiji Fish Market. Due to the increasing number of visitors in the market which conflicts with the time-sensitive seafood business, the market has become difficult to visit. But the outer market area is a seafood heaven with all seafood related goods where professional chefs shop for their ingredients. For non professionals, the outer market is the place to find the best of the best sushi in the world! Small restaurants serve "power meals" to those who work at the market in the early morning. Most of them serve sushi using fish fresh from the market. Since the market opens during predawn hours, the outer market thrives during breakfast hours, serving "lunch" to market workers, and exquisite sushi brunches to tourists. In addition to providing the best sushi meals for people in the industry, the narrow isles in the outer market provide endless hours of authentic Japanese culinary experience.
Tokyo Station Basement (GranSta)
Tokyoites appreciate everything "good" from all over the world, which adds a lot to the local food scene. The quickest way to sample all the varieties of food available in Tokyo is to go to Tokyo train station. It may sound awkward, but the station's basement level is dedicated to satisfying the appetite of over million people daily. This mega station food court consists of carry-out gourmet food stores for fast-paced commuters and travelers catching trains. The total of 50 stores all offer from gourmet confectionaries to prepared food and deli bars. Customers stop by for nice meal to take home or for a small gift to bring to a meeting with clients or friends. Located right under the bullet train platform, the food court never forgets train travelers. One of the popular items is bento lunch boxes which you can take on the train. Around 20 bento stores have very compact yet fully functioning kitchen, serving bento lunch boxes literally fresh from the kitchen all the time. The food court is an easy way to observe what today's Tokyoites eat, and fill yourself with quick yet high-quality delicious food.
Lately, the popularity of Japanese food has gone way beyond sushi, therefore, if visiting Japan, try something more than sushi. Izakaya, a Japanese style pub, is moving into the spotlight among international gourmands, and it is everywhere in Japan. One small neighborhood in central Tokyo recently reproduced the nostalgic alley of izakayas in Ebisu. Named as Ebisu-Yokocho (Yokocho means alley), 13 shacks line up on both sides of the alley, and each serves different specialty dishes such as skewers, casseroles, grills, tapas and, importantly, good drinks. These are almost too cliché for after-work drinking in Japan, but this is because food always go well with alcohol, and these are comfort food after a long day of hard work. In about 150 to 170 square foot counter space, customers can chat with each other or joke around with the chefs. The friendly, welcoming atmosphere is completely open to anybody who is curious about the local, seasonal and casual dining experience. This complex was born against the recent trend of city development that promotes large franchises which kill off local private businesses. Such ideas attract culinary entrepreneurs with unique menu ideas to this small space in order to revive friendly local hang-out bars with great food and drinks.
© Morris G. Simoncelli
Don't miss out on seeing cooking tools in Japan as a way to complete your culinary cultural exploration. Kappa-Bashi is known for its kitchen tool stores and wholesalers not only among professionals but even non professionals, cooking fanatics and recently, tourists looking for something Japanese to upgrade their daily life. Kappa Bashi Dori Street stretches nearly a half mile with over 150 stores selling everything for the kitchen and food business – plates, pots, cutleries, aprons, signs and you name it. It is estimated to take at least three hours if you hop in every store, but it is worth it because each store has its own specialty such as rice cooking pots, serving trays and kettles, and any other item you could imagine for the kitchen. Each item comes in various sizes, materials, quality, prices so that the customer can choose what is best for their own use. Some items are extremely expensive because of the quality of materials, but people who look for the highest level of cooking would be willing to pay no matter what.
Painter Mizue Sawano Celebrates Japan-NYC Friendship
The oil painting above, titled "Longing" and painted by Ms. Mizue Sawano in 1998, has hung in the C. V. Starr East Asian Library at Columbia University since May 21st 2010. Ms. Sawano's successful solo exhibition "Cherry Blossom" was held at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden's gallery in 2006, and she decided to donate one of her works to its library upon request from Columbia University. Because of a delay caused by the library's renovation, the unveiling ceremony was held on May 21st 2010.
Back in 1992, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden asked to use Ms. Sawano's cherry blossom paintings on the poster designs for the Garden's popular, annual "Sakura Matsuri". In order to strengthen cultural ties between Japan and the U.S., Ms. Sawano agreed to share her works and has donated photos of them ever since.
Ms. Mizue Sawano was born in Moriguchi in Osaka Prefecture. After graduating from Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music, she received a French government scholarship and studied with Maurice Brianchon at L'Ecole National Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. She later moved to New York where she is still based.
©Mizue Sawano 2010
Ms. Sawano's many prizes include a Merit scholarship from the Art Students League (New York), a silver prize at the L'Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts' exhibition (Paris) and the gold prize and "Artist of the Year" prize at the 74 Selected Emerging Artists Exhibition (Tokyo and Osaka).
Ms. Sawano has taken part in many solo and group exhibitions, especially in New York, including one held at the Gerald Peters Gallery.
You can discover more of Mizue Sawano's paintings by visiting her website: www.mizuesawano.com
It is the "summer of the samurai" in the Big Apple! The Japanese community and New Yorkers are joining together for a host of events commemorating the 150th anniversary of Japan's first samurai delegation of 1860 and the birth of Japan-NYC ties.
The festivities got underway at Japan Day @ Central Park on June 6th. Now in its fourth year, the annual celebration of friendship and culture in the heart of Manhattan continues to grow. Japan Run in the morning attracted 5,000 participants and 50,000 more took part in the day's many fun, Japanese-themed activities in the East Meadow. Once again, Japan Day featured an amazing bill of top-flight performers on the main stage, including renowned jazz musician Sadao Watanabe. The highlight of the day for me was when I donned a samurai outfit and swords and marched in a wonderful recreation of the famous "samurai parade" that fascinated New Yorkers 150 years ago.
On June 16th, the exact date of the delegation's 1860 arrival in New York, I held a press conference to launch the events in honor of the anniversary and then hosted a special reception at my residence. Maestro Mamoru Takahara and the New York Symphonic Ensemble presented a jaunty rendition of "Tommy Polka," a song from 1860 that was dedicated to the delegation's most popular member, the young Tateishi Onojiro. This was the first public performance of that long lost tune in over 150 years, it was a real treat. The New York Times reported such dream scene on June 18th. I was also delighted that our friends at the Empire State Building helped us celebrate that milestone evening in Japan-NYC ties by lighting the top of the world-famous 102-story building in red and white, the colors of the Japanese flag.
Finally, I encourage all of you to see the extraordinary, new exhibition Samurai in New York: The First Japanese Delegation, 1860 at the Museum of the City of New York. It will run until November 7, 2010 and it also includes a host of public programs, from music to talks. I was delighted to attend the exhibition's opening on June 24th. The show features objects from collections in Japan and the US, many reunited for the first time in 150 years. They include remarkable early photography from the collection of Tom Burnett, original diaries and journals, and even a samurai sword presented by the Japanese ambassadors to Captain Samuel Francis Du Pont, the head of the mission's official American escort. I was also very excited that two descendents of 1860 delegation members were able to attend the opening: Mari Okubo, a relative of one of the primary ambassadors, Norimasa Muragaki, and Kato Sowa, a relative of Kato Somo, the embassy member whose haiku and personal objects are featured in the exhibition. Viewing such an exhibition makes us feel happy as if a family reunites together after 150 years. So please join me for this exciting summer and fall as we look back and explore the rich ties of friendship shared between Japan and New York City.
Samurai are Coming to NYC
Take the subway for a trip back in time to 1860 NYC! From June 25 to November 7 visitors to the Museum of the City of New York will have the rare opportunity to travel back to the time when the first Japanese diplomats landed in New York City. Samurai in NY: The First Japanese Delegation, 1860, features photographs capturing the excitement among New Yorkers and the Japanese delegates on this inaugural visit. As the emissaries of the first Japanese trade and diplomatic mission, the Japanese diplomats wearing their samurai attire, marched on Broadway and were greeted by hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers. Extremely rare photographs of the samurai and newspapers accounts chronicling the festive occasion will be on display. Visitors will be able to relive the excitement of that time and appreciate the bold and significant mission that lead to the building of the current US-Japan relationship.
Highlighting the exhibition are a series of photographs which showcase examples of manners and dress. Individual and group portraits of the samurai include the Ambassador and a 17-year-old assistant translator, Tateishi Onojiro, who captured the heart of Americans. Rare 19th century woodblock prints, early photographs made in Japan, elegant and rare objects like silver, ceramics, and jewelry are also on display. Included as well are souvenirs and artifacts that the Japanese diplomats brought back to Japan.
It was 150 years ago when more than 70 Japanese diplomats embarked on the first Japanese voyage across the Pacific. After arriving safely in San Francisco, the delegates visited Washington D.C., Baltimore, and Philadelphia. In June of 1860, the delegates were enthusiastically welcomed to New York City by throngs of parade viewers on Broadway. Nearly half a million New Yorkers lined Broadway to witness the parade of the samurai-outfitted delegation. Among them was Walt Whitman who wrote a poem in honor of the occasion.
As the youngest member of the Japanese envoys, Tateishi Onojiro, created sensation among Americans. Nicknamed "Tommy" by Americans, he became a heartthrob, a pop star of his day, receiving love letters from admirers and constantly pursued by a "Light Female Brigade." To celebrate his fame, a German- born composer wrote a tune called "The Tommy Polka" at a time when polka music was at its peak of popularity in the US.
To kickoff this samurai exhibition, the Museum is hosting a musical concert Do Enka: East Meets West on June 25 at which Thelonius Monk, Jr. joins Yuchiro Oda for a fusion of jazz, blues, and spoken word developed in Japan. A series of lectures, discussions, workshops, and walking tours are scheduled in conjunction with Samurai in New York.
JAPAN CUTS is Back
Zero Focus © 2009 "Zero Focus" Seisaku Iinkai All Rights Reserved.
Japan Society's cutting-edge contemporary Japanese film festival, Japan CUTS is back again from July 1 to July 16, 2010 in conjunction with the New York Asian Film Festival (from June 25 to July 8). JAPAN CUTS: Festival of Contemporary Japanese Cinema will return with 25 feature films, many of which have never been seen in the US, including a special selection of films from the last decade, not previously released in this country. The only large-scale annual Japanese film festival in North America, Japan CUTS is dedicated to supporting emerging directors and their best and latest films. Working with the New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF), Japan Society will co-present eight major Japanese films from July 1 to 4.
Highlighting this year's festival are: Blood of Rebirth (dir. Toshiaki Toyoda), Dear Doctor (dir. Miwa Nishikawa), and Zero Focus (dir. Isshin Inudo). Japan CUTS also spotlights the best unreleased films of the decade and offers special Q&A's sessions with directors and actors. This year, Japan Society will host three after-screening parties: the Festival Launch Party on July 1, Sushi Tyhoon! on July 3, and Night of the Filmmakers on July 10.
Blood of Rebirth © 2009 "Blood of Rebirth" Production Committee
The festival kicks off with Confessions (Kokuhaku) followed by the Festival Lunch Party on July 1. Directed by Tetsuya Nakashima, the renowned filmmaker who won international acclaim with Memories of Matsuko four years earlier, Confessions is an award-winning masterpiece of dark psychological drama. Actress Takako Matsu gives an unforgettable performance as a teacher whose 4-year-old daughter has been murdered. Suspecting that her students are the killers, she embarks on a campaign of psychological warfare against the killers.
Memories of Matsuko (Kiraware Matsuko no Issho) will be featured as the best previously unreleased film. Unlike Confessions, this film is a cross between Moulin Rouge, Citizen Kane, and Amelie, an epic musical melodrama with singing and one-of-a-kind visuals. It is a story of a woman who is unjustly fired from her job, thrown out of her home by her parents, and her descent to the bottom of society, eventually turning to prostitution and ultimately ending up in prison.
Dear Doctor © 2009 "Dear Doctor" Production Committee
Co-presented with the NYAFF, Mutant Girls Squad (Sento Shoji: Chi no Tekkamen Densetsu) is a crazy, twisted, blood-splattered, raunchy riff off the X-Men movies. While sharing some drinks at last year's NYAFF, the directors Tak Sakaguchi, Yoshihiro Nishimura, and Noboru Iguchi decided to make a movie together. The story revolves around a quiet, sweet high school girl who is bullied in school, who morphs into a mutant after her parents are killed, and then teams up with two other girls to take revenge on her tormentors.
One of the actresses in Mutant Girls Squad, Miki Nakatani also appears in another highlighted film, Zero Focus (Zero no Shoten) directed by Isshin Inudo. A story about a newlywed who investigates the sudden disappearance of her husband, the plot follows her as she unravels the hidden truth about her husband, who had strong ties with two other women. Based on the novel by Seicho Matsumoto, this story of postwar Japan reveals the dark side of the trauma of war. Three female actresses of the moment, Ryoko Hirosue (Departures), Tae Kimura (All Around Us), and Miki Nakatani (Memories of Matsuko) give star-power performances making this one of the most touching and memorable films of the year.
CONFESSIONS © 2010 TOHO / Hakuhodo DY Media Partners / Faith Wonderworks / LICRI / Futabasha Publishers / NIPPON SHUPPAN HANBAI / Yahoo Japan / TSUTAYA Group All Rights Reserved.
Memories of Matsuko © "Memories of Matsuko" Production Committee
Mutant Girls Squad © 2010 Sushi Typhoon & Toei Video