Whirlwind of Japanese Activities in NYC

There’s no shortage of Japanese-related events in New York City, as followers of JapanCulture•NYC are aware. Saturday, June 9 was truly a Japanese day for me, as I attended several events around the city and conducted an interview.

Art and Appreciation

suiseki, Japan disaster relief, 3.11, 3/11, Jero, Japan Society, Karen Aoki, Yuko Okamoto, jazz, NYC

Suiseki artist Eiji Horie

First I went to the American Dream Japanese Network (JaNet), an NPO formed to unite New York’s Japanese community in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. JaNet Hall is serving as a space for the Miyagi Suiseki Exhibition, and I interviewed Eiji Horie, the artist whose works are on display. Horie presented me with matcha and Japanese sweets as he discussed suiseki (the art of appreciating stones shaped by nature) and his appreciation for the outpouring of support New Yorkers showed and continue to show Japan after the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster of March 11, 2011.

The Sendai-based artist’s fundraiser for Japan disaster relief ends this Friday, June 15.

suiseki, Japan disaster relief, 3.11, 3/11, Jero, Japan Society, Karen Aoki, Yuko Okamoto, jazz, NYC

Suiseki stones on display at JaNet Hall

 

Food and Drink

suiseki, Japan disaster relief, 3.11, 3/11, Jero, Japan Society, Karen Aoki, Yuko Okamoto, jazz, NYC

Tori Shin manager Chef Atsushi Kono describes chicken parts

Straight from the interview, I went to Michelin star yakitori restaurant Tori Shin for a yakitori and sake/shochu demonstration/tasting. Manager and chef Atsushi Kono deftly demonstrated how to slice up a chicken in preparation for yakitori skewers while shochu aficionado Stephen Lyman, editor of the website Kampai!, presented a lecture of different styles of the distilled beverage.

suiseki, Japan disaster relief, 3.11, 3/11, Jero, Japan Society, Karen Aoki, Yuko Okamoto, jazz, NYC

Yakitori from Tori Shin

 

Jazz

 

suiseki, Japan disaster relief, 3.11, 3/11, Jero, Japan Society, Karen Aoki, Yuko Okamoto, jazz, NYC

Yuko Okamoto (keyboards) and Leslie Marie at Taj II

 

In the early evening, Taj II, a lounge in the Flatiron/Chelsea area, hosted Karen Aoki, a popular Japanese jazz singer. Yuko Okamoto Band with Leslie Marie opened the show with a sultry set of jazz standards and an original Okamoto composition. By the time Aoki took the stage, I could see her perform only two songs because I had to race to Japan Society for Jero’s sold-out show.

suiseki, Japan disaster relief, 3.11, 3/11, Jero, Japan Society, Karen Aoki, Yuko Okamoto, jazz, NYC

Karen Aoki at Taj II

 

Enka

 

suiseki, Japan disaster relief, 3.11, 3/11, Jero, Japan Society, Karen Aoki, Yuko Okamoto, jazz, NYC

John Wheeler interviews Enka singer Jero at Japan Society

 

Pittsburgh native Jero (born Jerome Charles White Jr.), whose Japanese grandmother exposed him to enka when he was a young child, is a star in Japan, singing his own brand of the Japanese ballad, adding a subtle hip-hop nuance. Donning a blue suit and blue Pittsburgh Pirates baseball cap (“I look like a bottle of Pepsi,” he quipped), Jero made his New York debut to an adoring audience at Japan Society. His performance was preceded by an onstage interview conducted by John Wheeler, former Executive Vice President of Japan Society.

suiseki, Japan disaster relief, 3.11, 3/11, Jero, Japan Society, Karen Aoki, Yuko Okamoto, jazz, NYC

Enka sensation Jero performs onstage at Japan Society

 

The day was a whirlwind of inspired art and conversation, great food, tremendous entertainment, and new friends. The running around reminded me of the tight schedule on the anniversary of the 3/11 disaster, but this time it was much more upbeat.

This weekend provides even more events to attend, so start planning now. Check out the JapanCulture•NYC events page to learn more about the Chelsea Music Festival, Japanese Heritage Night at Citi Field, and concerts featuring shakuhachi, Japanese musicians, Japanese and Okinawan dance, and much more.