It’s JapanCulture•NYC’s third birthday! We launched on May 20, 2011, and the experience has been tremendous and life-changing.
When I started JapanCulture•NYC, I wanted to provide tidbits of Japanese culture and information about Japanese-related events in New York. I had no idea that I would be the one who would learn so much. The events I’ve attended and the relationships I’ve formed as a result of starting this website have shaped my world in ways I could never have imagined.
As I celebrate the third birthday of my labor of love, I’d like to share three observations about All Things Japanese in New York City.
- Japanese culture is everywhere in New York
While there is no official Japantown like the ones found in San Francisco or LA, or like Chinatown and Koreatown in New York, there are pockets of Japanese-ness in neighborhoods around the city. The East Village immediately comes to mind, with clusters of restaurants from 3rd Street to 13th Street and from 4th Avenue to Avenue A. Midtown East is also a prime spot for your favorite Japanese cuisine. There are many Japanese living in Brooklyn and Queens, so more and more ramen shops and other restaurants are opening in those areas.
But it’s not just Japanese food that is readily available. The city is also filled with businesses such as nail salons, hair salons, clothing stores, travel agencies and non-profit organizations run by Japanese. Muji and Uniqlo are favorites, but take the time to patronize smaller shops like Kyotoya or Kamakura Shirts.
- Japanese culture is diverse
Food and clothing aside, once you start looking for Japanese culture in New York City, you will be overwhelmed by the amount of choices you have. There are plays, musical performances, tastings, and classes that run the gamut of Japanese culture, from ancient to contemporary. Want to see cherry blossoms? There’s a sakura matsuri for that. Want to see a movie by a famous Japanese director? There’s a film festival for that. Want to see work by a revered Japanese American artist? There’s an exhibition for that.You’ll discover new worlds by exploring the diverse Japanese culture found in New York.
I’ve gained an appreciation for Butoh, discovered how to cook with a mold called shio koji, and learned about the Japanese American experience during World War II from people who were interned in concentration camps in the West.
- The Japanese community in New York is diverse
New York is home to Japanese nationals; second-, third-, and fourth-generation Japanese Americans; and mixed-race Japanese (like myself), and each person has his or her own cause or interest. The people in this community teach traditional Japanese arts, protest the horrors war, and raise money for the victims of the March 11 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster. When we come together and share those interests, we all learn something new. And I have plenty of stories to write.
And here are three of my favorite stories I’ve written for JapanCulture•NYC.
- Fukushima City: Six Months Later
Although this story is not set in New York, I met Professor Takayuki Takahashi in New York when he attended a trade show a few short months after the 3.11 disaster. In September 2011 Professor Takahashi guided me through a few areas in Fukushima, and it had a profound impact on me.
- The Transformative Power of Butoh Reaches Correctional Facilities
I must admit that Butoh wasn’t my thing – I just didn’t get it – until I met Vangeline at an Asian American Arts Alliance Town Hall Meeting and saw her perform at Triskelion Arts. Last summer she invited me to a recital featuring three men she trained while they served time at Queensboro Correctional Facility in Long Island City. It was indeed transformative.
- Incorporating Local Ingredients, Developing New York Style at Japanese Food and Restaurant Expo
I have the great fortune to attend trade shows that give people in New York’s food and restaurant industry a look at the trends in Japanese food culture. The article also contains one of my favorite JC•NYC videos, which we love to make from time to time.
I’d like to thank all of the actors and artists, singers and musicians, dancers and choreographers, authors and playwrights, chefs and sommeliers, activists and community leaders, office workers and entrepreneurs who keep me busy writing about all of the amazing work you do here in New York. Thank you to all of JC•NYC’s readers, Facebook fans, Twitter/Instagram/Tumblr followers for all of your support. Finally, I offer a special shoutout to Marc Hamaker, my graphic artist/PR manager/photographer/videographer/YouTube video editor/best friend/husband, without whom none of this is possible.