Shuji Terayama

2017 November 30
by Stacy Smith

Written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03), WIT Life is a periodic series about aspects of Japanese culture such as film, food and language.  Stacy starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she shares some interesting tidbits and trends along with her own observations.

Last week I had the opportunity to see some amazing works from legendary avant garde Japanese poet, dramatist, writer, film director, and photographer Shuji Terayama. I hadn’t heard of him before, but many critics view him as one of the most productive and provocative creative artists to come out of Japan. He has also been cited as an influence on various Japanese filmmakers from the 1970s onward. The three films screened were Americans, who are you (アメリカ人あなたは), Laura (ローラ) and The Trial (審判).

A special treat was that Laura included the restaging of Terayama’s 1974 film performance with the original actor, Henrikku Morisaki, who was in attendance. This short film feature female strippers who are berating the audience, when all of a sudden a spectator (Morisaki) enters the film. We saw scenes of him as a young man in this role, being stripped and assaulted by the women. At the end of the film he emerged from behind the screen, this time naked and holding his torn clothes. In an interview post-screening, Morisaki told stories about his work with Terayama over the course of almost 17 years. He described himself as the go-to guy when Terayama needed someone to strip, as well as shared details about Terayama’s personal life such as that he had two turtles (an animal that often appears in his films) named Question and Answer (with Question being bigger than Answer, as there are more questions than answer). He also said that Terayama thought of himself as a “black” Japanese due to his roots in Aomori Prefectur, which affected his identity. This was interesting in light of the fact that many of the interview subjects in the 1960’s documentary Americans were African-American, but it’s unclear whether this was deliberate or not.

Screenings of several other Terayama’s films will continue through the 10th at Anthology Film Archives, so make sure to check some of them out before then!

World Series 2017

2017 October 31
by Stacy Smith

Written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03), WIT Life is a periodic series about aspects of Japanese culture such as film, food and language.  Stacy starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she shares some interesting tidbits and trends along with her own observations.

As a child I was a rabid Mets fan, but since becoming an adult I have not followed baseball nearly as much.  However, since I’m currently in LA interpreting for a group of young political leaders, I’ve been closely tuned in to the exciting World Series between the Dodgers and the Astros.  Like myself many of you probably caught the palpitation inducing game the other night, and are eagerly awaiting Game 6 tonight.

But another stressful incident occurred during Game 3 Friday night, when Astros player Yuli Gurriel made the racist gesture of stretching the sides of his eyes in the dugout after getting a home run off of Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish.  He also called Darvish a “chinito,” a derogatory term toward Asians meaning “Chinese boy.”  This ignorant behavior earned Gurriel a five-game suspension for the 2018 season, leading many to wonder why he is being allowed to still play in the series (he will lose about $321K as a result of the suspension and also has to go undergo sensitivity training).

Despite the fact that this punishment is more severe than others for similar offenses, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred was questioned as to why it wouldn’t go into effect immediately.  He said that he didn’t want to penalize the whole team at such a critical juncture, as well as that he considered Gurriel’s remorse and that he had a right to the appeals process, which would have disrupted the series.

Darvish, who is of Japanese and Iranian descent, graciously accepted Gurriel’s apology and in an official statement expressed his hope that people learn from the episode.  Gurriel had actually played for the Yokohama Bay Stars in 2014, and his explanation that “he was telling teammates that maybe Darvish though he was Japanese and that is why he gave him a good pitch to hit” was absurd.  Many Dodgers players have said they want to win for Darvish, so hopefully this episode will provide fuel for them to tie things up tonight and claim the series in Game 7.  Happy viewing and Happy Halloween!

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Teikoku Hotel

2017 September 29
by Stacy Smith

Written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03), WIT Life is a periodic series about aspects of Japanese culture such as film, food and language.  Stacy starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she shares some interesting tidbits and trends along with her own observations.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of Frank Lloyd Wright’s birth, and celebrations are taking place around the country and world.  I recently had the chance to go to MoMA’s Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive (ending October 1 so run to check it out if you haven’t already!).  This incredibly comprehensive exhibit looks at Wright’s career from 12 different perspectives, each of which has its own section.   There are around 450 works that he made from the 1890s through the 1950s on display, and each section has a video narrated by a scholar in the respective field.

I was particular interested in the section discussing the second version of the Imperial Hotel (帝国ホテル), designed by Wright and built from 1919–1923).  It survived the Great Tokyo Earthquake that September, but eventually slipped into decay over time and in 1967 it was decided to demolish the hotel and replace it with a high-rise building.  The structure was mostly destroyed, but the iconic central lobby wing and reflecting pool were disassembled and rebuilt at Meiji-mura in Nagoya, which I was lucky enough to visit during a recent business trip.

This is an amazing theme park with a variety of architecture mostly from the Meiji Era (1868-1912), and it took over 17 years to bring Wright’s hotel there!  Its destruction was finished by March 1968, and as much of the stone, tiles, and other finishing materials as possible were preserved and stored at Meiji-mura.  A reconstruction site was chosen two years later, and exterior reconstruction took two years to complete.  Interior reconstruction started in November 1983 after a seven-year gap, and it was finally completed in October 1985.  Thanks to this accomplishment, today we can experience what it was like to stay in Wright’s grand hotel even by just traversing the lobby displaying some of the original furniture.  Interestingly the hotel incorporates Mayan and other elements, and the fantastic tour guide brought the period when it was bustling back to life.

This is Wright’s most well-known structure in Japan but he actually designed 14 buildings there, only three of which remain standing.  Another is the Yodoko Guest House (ヨドコウ迎賓館) built in 1924, closed until the end of next year due to repairs.  The other is the School of the Free Spirit (自由学園) built in 1921, a girls’ school run by friends of Wright disciple Arata Endo.  Wright and Arata collaborated so closely on the design that the final plans were signed by both of them、the first time Wright had ever shared credit with someone.  It features a tall central section with soaring windows that face onto an open courtyard, with symmetrical wings on each side. A lengthy battle to save the aging structure was fought in the 1990s, with the Japanese government rewriting regulations so that the building could be used after being designated an Important Cultural Property in 1997.  It is open to the public on limited days when not in use for weddings and other events, and I highly recommend a visit as it’s conveniently located in Ikebukuro.

TOPIK Info – New York November 2017

2017 August 24
by SWIRLsite

Here are the guidelines for the TOPIK 2017 that will be held in New York in November. We received this information from the Korean Consulate of New York:

  • Application Period: August 2 ~ September 13, 2017 (Weekdays 09:00∼17:00)
  • Application mailing address: Korean Education Center in New York

(460 Park Ave. 9th Fl., New York, NY 10022)

  • The application is submitted by mail and in person, arrive it by September 13th.
  • Test fee: $20.00 (cash or check (pay to the order of KOREAN CONSULATE GENERAL)
  • Materials for the application: Application, Two ID pictures (2”x2”) and Fee
  • Score Announcement: December 21th, 2017 (The mail can be later than the estimated date)
  • Official TOPIK score report will be mailed to the address written on the application.
  • The Score report can be printed at the homepage (topik.go.kr) for free from January 1, 2017

 

  • Test Schedule
  • Date: November 18th, 2017 (SAT)
  • Locations: 4 testing locations by Korean Education Center
  • Timetable

 

 

 

 

 

  • Test Information
  • Entry Time : Please be seated 30 minutes before the test begins
  • Material for the test: Identification Slip, ID (Valid ID including a picture and personal information and not expired)
  • Note
  • Mark the answer for multiple choices with either thin or bold pen. (Pens will be distributed
  • Write the answer questions with a thin part of the pen. ((Pens will be distributed)
  • Please turn off the cell phones and submit then before the test start.

 

 

  • The testing locations (you have to choose one)
  • Allocation of test takers to test sites may differ according to the number of application.

 

<New York Area>

 

◦ Korean Language Center of New York,   Director Sun Geun Lee

 

  • 38 West 32nd St. #1112, New York, NY 10001, ☎ 212-563-5763
  • Stony Brook University, Professor Sohn

 

  • N5520 Frank Melville Library Stony Brook, NY 11794, ☎ 631-632-7311
  • Long Island Korean School, Principal Eun Ja Ko

 

  • 3224 Corporal Kennedy St, Bayside, NY 11361(Bayside High School),
  •      ☎ 917-757-6557

 

 

 

<New Jersey Area>

 

  • Palisades Park Free Public Library, Teacher Jane Cho)
  • 257 2nd St, Palisades Park, NJ 07650 ☎ 201-585-4150, 908-420-3953

 

  • If you have further or detailed questions, please email at edu@koreanconsulate.org in Korean Education Center in New York. **

Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema

2017 August 9
by Stacy Smith

Written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03), WIT Life is a periodic series about aspects of Japanese culture such as film, food and language.  Stacy starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she shares some interesting tidbits and trends along with her own observations.

Last week the inaugural Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema began, and I’ve had the chance to catch a lot of great films at the two main venues of Kew Gardens Cinema and Queens Museum. Today they screened Persona Non Grata (杉原千畝 スギハラチウネ, 2015), a film about Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara (“Japanese Schindler”) who served as a consul in Lithuania from 1939-40 and saved the lives of thousands of Jewish refugees by issuing over 2000 transit visas to Japan. He famously continuing to sign visas even as his train pulled away from the station, and is estimated to have saved over 6,000 lives from the Nazis who invaded Lithuania in 1941. However, his diplomatic career was ruined because he had defied instructions from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs not to issue the visas. Sugihara didn’t know if they had made any difference until being found years later by someone he had helped. He is now considered a hero in Japan, and those he saved have more than 40,000 descendants.

The film stars the phenomenal Toshiaki Karasawa as Sugihara and the always stellar Koyuki as his wife. It was directed by Cellin Gluck, who grew up partly in Kobe and whose mother is Japanese American and father is Jewish. Regarding the film he has commented, “It’s the classic tale of a classic hero, in the sense that extraordinary things happening to ordinary people and the way in which they react is what creates a true hero. And that was our goal. He did what he believed was right, and his actions ended up making him a hero. He didn’t set out to become a hero. It found him. He was a man that was driven by his conscience.”

New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF) 2017

2017 July 13
by Stacy Smith

Written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03), WIT Life is a periodic series about aspects of Japanese culture such as film, food and language.  Stacy starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she shares some interesting tidbits and trends along with her own observations.

This weekend concludes the 2017 New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF), which offered another amazing lineup of films and special guests.  This is the 16th year of its running, and it just seems to get better over time.  I saw two of the Japanese films screened at Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater, the festival’s venue, and another two I had seen on the plane during a recent business trip to Japan (In this same venue the week before the event I had the chance to see Harmonium (淵に立つ), which was not part of the festival but is another thought-provoking and upsetting Japanese film).

The two films I saw at the festival were Rage (怒り) and Double Life (二重生活).  Rage stayed with me for a while after watching it; it is not a film you can easily shake.  It is based on the mystery novel of the same name by Shuichi Yoshida, who also wrote Villain and Parade which were both made into fantastic films (the former directed by Sang-il Lee, who made Rage).  The story begins with the heinous murder of a couple in their home, with the young, male killer on the loose.

Characters from communities in three different parts of Japan (Chiba, Tokyo and Okinawa) are shaken by the appearance of three respective young men who fit the description of the wanted man.  As the manhunt unfolds, the more we find out about each suspect the more the suspense builds.  I was on the edge of my seat for the majority of the film, but once this fear dissipated the psychological terror of the chilling climax is what I kept replaying in my mind days after.  In addition to the gripping story, another thing making this movie a must-see is the stellar cast featuring standouts like Ken Watanabe and Satoru Tsumabuki (who won a Japan Academy Prize for Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role, beating fellow nominee from the film in the same category, Mirai Moriyama).

Double Life follows a philosophy grad student  as she embarks on a thesis project suggested by her advisor (played by the great Lily Franky): tailing a specific person for no reason.  The rule is to observe them to the greatest extent possible and to never let them realize they are being followed.  She selects her neighbor as her subject, and soon finds out that this seemingly straight-laced family man has secrets of his own (hence the film’s title).  The film clocks in at over two hours but is absorbing, dealing with existential questions such as what the meaning of human existence is.  It is director Yoshiyuki Kishi’s debut, and based on his deft handling of this multilayered subject matter it will be exciting to see how his career develops.

The two movies I missed on the big screen but saw mid-flight were Survival Family and Close Knit.  I enjoyed both but particularly recommend the latter directed by Naoko Ogigami, who was on hand during the NYAFF screening.  For those craving more Japanese film, tonight begins Japan Society’s Japan Cuts, another film festival that always showcases an outstanding lineup.  Eagerly anticipated is the attendance of actor Joe Odagiri, this year’s recipient of the CUT ABOVE Award, at the (sold-out) screening of his film Over the Fence next Thursday, July 20th!

Korean Singer-Song Writer Making His First Live Concert of 2017 In NYC!

2017 June 13
by juyeon

Eric Nam, a Korean American singer-song writer and entertainer currently based in South Korea making his first Live Concert of 2017 in New York City! He will perform on August 8th at the Gramercy Theatre in New York. Don’t miss out!


When: Tuesday, August 8 at 7 PM – 10 PM
Where: The Gramercy Theatre: 127 E 23rd St, New York, NY 10010
• Website: http://venue.thegramercytheatre.com/EventDetail?tmeventid=000052C10DA473BD&offerid=48155

NY Japan Cinefest 2017

2017 June 2
by Stacy Smith

WIT Life is a periodic series written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03). She starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she shares some of the interesting tidbits and trends along with her own observations.

Last night I attended the first night of the 6th annual NY Japan CineFest 2017 at Asia Society.  This is one of my favorite cinematic events in the city, as it is a compilation of Japan-related short films.  As usual, there were many thought-provoking selections ranging from documentary to futuristic to artistic.

My favorite was Wasabi from director Bunji Sotoyama, which stars Kyoko Yoshine who you might recognize as the main character from the recently ended NHK morning drama Beppin-san.  In this film, she plays high school student Aoi who lives with her depressed father who is no longer able to maintain his sushi shop.  She is weighing different options for her future, including succeeding her father as sushi chef to save the restaurant.

A close second was The Shining Star of Losers Everywhere, the story of racehorse Haru Urara who back in 2003 single-handedly saved a Kochi racetrack with her amazing losing streak.  Judging from the chatter at the post-screening reception, it sounded like this film might take the prized NY Japan CineFest Audience Award, decided by those in attendance voting on their favorite film from the lineup.  If this has piqued your interest, check out the CineFest’s second night of Animation & Japanese Film Festivals Program at Asia Society tonight!

The Departure

2017 May 2
by Stacy Smith

WIT Life is a periodic series written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03). She starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she shares some of the interesting tidbits and trends along with her own observations.

Last month’s Tribeca Film Festival featured the world premiere of the documentary The Departure directed by Lana Wilson.  It profiles Ittetsu Nemoto, a Buddhist priest whose lifework is suicide prevention.  In the group sessions he holds at his temple, he introduces exercises that attempt to show attendees what ending their lives would really mean in terms of loss and even simulates the experience of dying.  Many participants come away with a renewed lease on life, and for those who don’t Nemoto makes himself available to them day and night whenever they need someone to talk to.

However, Nemoto’s devoted around-the-clock counseling takes its toll on him, both emotionally in his shouldering these countless stories of grief, and physically as he is suffering from heart disease and trying to stay healthy for his wife and young son.  The film reveals how Nemoto’s own life was touched by suicide in the past, as both his uncle and two high school friends took their own lives.  Nemoto and his family were on hand for the final screening of the film, after which I interpreted for him during the Q&A.  Although Wilson doesn’t speak Japanese, both she and Nemoto said this contributed to a more relaxed shooting atmosphere, as participants felt comfortable sharing more than they would have if they were being completely understood.

THE DEPARTURE OFFICIAL WEBSITE

https://www.thedeparturefilm.com

LINK TO THE TRAILER

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JnQNXOl8Nbw

Premium Friday

2017 March 31
by Stacy Smith

WIT Life is a periodic series written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03). She starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she shares some of the interesting tidbits and trends along with her own observations.

A little over a month ago Japan began a new public-private initiative called Premium Friday (aka プレミアムフライデー or プレ金) as part of ongoing labor reform efforts from the government.  This monthly event will take place on the last Friday of each month, and its official launch was on February 24th.  The idea for Premium Friday was conceived by the Japan Business Federation, and the concept is that employers let their employees leave at 3 p.m. on the final Friday of the month.  This is not just an altruistic move the Federation is making on behalf of workers; the goal is to have shorter hours boost productivity and encourage consumer spending.  It is also a response to the suicide of a 24-year old employee at Japan’s largest advertisement agency Dentsu in December of 2015, which authorities ruled was a result of overwork.

At the start there were 130 companies that implemented Premium Friday, and 4000 have applied for the official logo (pictured above).  Of those already on board the majority are larger companies, and only 3.7 percent of Tokyo area employees took part in the inaugural event.  Statistics for the second Premium Friday which took place today have not been released yet, but considering that March 31 is the end of Japan’s fiscal year and one of its busiest days overall, it it likely that participation was not stellar.  For those who took part last month, some of the activities people engaged in were spa visits, gym workouts (with some clubs offering Premium Friday half-price services), time with family and early happy hours with friends and colleagues.  However, employees who didn’t take part gave reasons like the fact that they would just have to make up the work over the weekend, or that they had unavoidable meetings with clients during that time.

Going forward, the hope is that people will use the early work end to not only shop and enjoy leisure activities locally, but to also take trips.  The Federation is anticipating more 1.5 night stays in places like Hokkaido and Okinawa, and 2.5 night stays in nearby overseas locations such as Taiwan and Korea (in case you’re wondering how one can stay half a night, this refers to arriving around 2 a.m. and then starting the day at an early hour like 7 a.m).  If this kind of travel takes off, the expected economic effect is travel consumption increasing by 500-600 billion yen (about 4.5-5.4 billion dollars).  If it doesn’t go as well as expected, the extent of growth would likely be closer to 220-260 billion yen (about 1.8-2.3 billion dollars).

Scheduling time off is something Japan is very good at, which is revealed by its large number of three-day weekends (with the new national holiday of Mountain Day added in August of last year).  Earlier this year there was even a move to a four-day workweek in some Japanese corporations, including big names like Uniqlo and KFC.  It remains to be seen how successful these programs will be in terms of stimulating the economy, as well as improving employees’ overall well-being and companies’ bottom lines.