As we say goodbye to the Year of the Snake and welcome the Year of the Horse, it’s time for JapanCulture•NYC to reflect upon 2013.
It was an active year for us, and we can thank New York’s vibrant Japanese community for that. Take a stroll down memory lane with us as we review the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of another great year of Japanese culture in New York.
An Artfully Entertaining Year
We’re extremely fortunate to live in New York City, where there is no shortage of Japanese-related concerts, films, art exhibitions, and theater performances. The richness of Japanese culture was alive in the city this year – as always – with local artists and visitors from Japan educating and entertaining us. Here are some of the highlights of 2013:
- Kimono Fashion Show NYC – The dream of Takuji Omori, president of one of Japan’s leading kimono companies, Hoshoen and Libre, the Kimono Fashion Show NYC was a spectacular event at Grand Central Terminal. US Olympian Willie Banks and his wife, Hitomi, made Omori’s dream a reality, producing a fantastic fashion show featuring 120 models and fabulous kimono designs. Read about how Willie and Hitomi Banks orchestrated Kimono Fashion Show NYC here, and enjoy photos of the show here.
- Akihiro Nishino – This Japanese comedian-turned-artist was so determined to exhibit his intricate drawings and books in New York that he raised the money through crowdfunding. Nishino’s show at One Art Space was a beautiful display of his art, which is reminiscent of woodblock prints. Check out photos from the exhibition here.
- The Artist Collective three – A group of three young men from Fukushima known as three revived Japan Society’s artist residency program. Their month-long stay in New York culminated in the exhibition three is a magic number 7, in which the artists melted action figures and used QR codes to provide information to viewers. Read all about it here.
- Yukiwariso – In the most heartwarming event of the year, fifty physically and mentally challenged people from Japan performed at Carnegie Hall. The Hearts and Eyes Choir concert took place in May, and I interviewed the founder of Yukiwariso, the facility that cares for those performers, for the story, which you can read here. In November, we had the pleasure of visiting Yukiwariso during a trip to Japan. Click here to read about that visit.
- Deadly She-Wolf Assassin at Armageddon – This musical gets my vote for performance of the year. Sprung from the mind of the brilliant Fred Ho, Deadly She-Wolf is an Afro Asian manga opera expertly directed by Sonoko Kawahara with tightly timed acting by an exceptional cast that backed by a magnificent live band featuring Yumi Kurosawa on koto. Here are my interviews with Ho and Kawahara and my review.
- The Transformative Power of Butoh – Vangeline is a Butoh performer who started the Dream a Dream Project to introduce the Japanese movement art to incarcerated people. She invited me to a performance at Queensboro Correctional Facility, where I witnessed a powerful and moving work of art. Read about it here.
- Hafu – This documentary by half Japanese filmmakers Megumi Nishikura and Lara Perez Takagi had its New York premiere during the Asian American International Film Festival. Intelligent and thought provoking, Hafu explores the difficulties of growing up mixed race in Japan. Read the review here.
- Cutie and the Boxer – My favorite documentary of the year is about Ushio and Noriko Shinohara, Brooklyn-based starving artists who have been married for 40 tumultuous years. Here’s my review of this funny, yet sad, story.
Meeting People, Making Connections
The best part about running JapanCulture•NYC is attending all of those and meeting the people involved. It’s fascinating to meet the artists, politicians, and community leaders who perpetuate the beauty and tradition of Japanese culture, educate us about issues concerning Japan, and make us think about why we care about this culture so much. The people we met and interviewed are as varied as Japanese culture itself.
- Stephen Globus is a native New Yorker who loves Japanese culture so much that he built a tatami mat room that rivals any tea ceremony house in Japan. Read about his oasis in the city here.
- One of the most popular stories of the year happened just a few weeks ago, when VAMPS came to town to play Roseland Ballroom. Here’s the Q&A with Hyde and K.A.Z.
- During 2013 New York welcomed the new Consulate General of Japan to New York, Ambassador Sumio Kusaka; then-Tokyo Governor Naoki Inose, who discussed Japan’s bid for the 2020 Summer Olympics, which it eventually won; officials from Iwate Prefecture, an area affected by the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear disaster of March 11, 2011; Japanese pop star Shinji Harada, who participated in an interfaith ceremony commemorating the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; among many others.
Eating, Eating, and More Eating
One of the best things about Japan is its food culture. Washoku, the traditional Japanese cuisine, was named to the Intangible Cultural Heritage list by UNESCO in early December. That designation will undoubtedly make Japanese restaurants in New York more popular, especially the ones that earn Michelin stars.
- While vacationing in Japan, we realized how lucky we are to be New Yorkers, as the food we eat there is readily accessible here. For a list of just a few of our favorite dishes and where you can find them in NYC, please read this story.
- A proper discussion of food would not be complete without mentioning an eating championship. The 5th Annual Go! Go! Curry! Eating Championship was a fun – and a little gross – competition back in July. Read all about this take on Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest with Japanese comfort food here.
A Few Bells and Whistles
JapanCulture•NYC wants to experience Japanese culture in New York City, not simply write about it. That’s why we’re out in the community attending events and in some cases, participating in them.
- In January I had the honor of serving as emcee for a kimono show at Queens Library in Flushing. The event, produced by Emi Kikuchi of Kimono Experience, introduced the audience to different styles of kimono and the occasions at which they are worn. Read all about the show here.
- JapanCulture•NYC also participated in trivia contests with Japan Society and pianist Eunbi Kim, who turned her love of Japanese writer Haruki Murakami into a concert performance.
- 2013 marked JapanCulture•NYC’s first booth at Japan Block Fair, where we served goya champuru, a dish from Okinawa. It was a great way to connect with the Japanese community as well as non-Japanese New Yorkers who were curious about a dish that contained a crazy bumpy vegetable and SPAM. Read the recap here.
To expand our readers’ view of Japanese culture in New York, we added more video to our site in 2013. One of our favorites is from the aforementioned Japan Block Fair, a man-on-the-street introduction to goya champuru.
Another favorite video is the 2013 MTC Japanese Food and Restaurant Expo. We interviewed several participants in the yearly trade show, learning about exciting new products in the world of Japanese cuisine. Making this video with Timothy Sullivan of Urbansake.com, George Kao and Kenshiro Uki of Sun Noodle, Chef Atsushi Kono of Tori Shin, and representatives of sake breweries in Japan was a great experience.
Each October New York Comic Con is a huge event that engulfs the Javits Center for four days. We met Daiki Nakata of Tokyo Otaku Mode and interviewed him on camera.
Thanks for reading the stories on JapanCulture•NYC, liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, and checking out our photos on Instagram and Tumblr. Because of your support, 2013 was a great year for JapanCulture•NYC. We look forward to an eventful 2014!