Inland Sea

2018 April 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.

This weekend I caught Kazuhiro Soda’s Inland Sea (港町) at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Art of the Real.  The festival’s opening film about John McEnroe whet my appetite for more documentaries, and I was looking forward to seeing the latest from Soda after enjoying his film Campaign at Japan Society several years back.  Inland Sea is set near the hometown of his wife Kiyoko Kashiwagi, who is also the film’s producer.  They were both on hand to introduce the film and take part in a post- screening Q&A.  In his introduction Soda shared that the film adheres to their Ten Commandments, which include tenets such as no research before shooting, not setting any themes or goals before editing, and paying for the production on their own (to the dismay of producer Kashiwagi).

Inland Sea takes place in the port city of Ushimado in Okayama Prefecture, population 7000.  Many of the younger residents have already left, and the documentary’s main subjects are the octagenarians Wai-chan and Kumiko, respectively a fisherman and the town crier.  They are both captivating subjects, but as a cat lover I was most entranced by the stray felines who congregate at the home of transplants to the area who have been feeding them.  I was engaged throughout the film’s two hour plus duration, but it definitely could have been cut in places, especially the long takes on the fishing boat.

During the Q&A Soda explained that the reason he chose to make a black and white film (except for the last color scene) was that he wanted to portray a world before modern times, with the cycle of catching fish, selling what you can at market and giving the rest to the cats.  Soda and Kashiwagi also revealed that their next project The Big House (which was actually shot at the same time as Inland Sea) will be a departure, as it is their first film shot in the U.S. and it profiles a football stadium in Michigan.

In other Soda related news, a recent article in a local Japanese newspaper mentioned his involvement in a lawsuit against the Japanese government demanding the restoration of voting rights for overseas Japanese.  As we look forward to his future films, that outcome will be interesting to follow as well.

Japan Week 2018

2018 March 16
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.

Japan Week 2018 is taking place through the weekend at Grand Central’s Vanderbilt Hall, and this year’s theme is 3D Trick Art.  Sponsored by the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO), the event strives to create an Instagrammable, interactive experience for visitors.  In addition to the regular array of booths from travel agencies, various regions in Japan and Japanese food and drink purveyors, there are several large backdrops into which you can insert yourself for the ultimate selfie.

My favorite was the bowl of ramen into which you can become one of the ingredients, and others include becoming a topping for sushi, helping to carry the mikoshi at a matsuri and shuttling around a sumo wrestler in a rickshaw (Fujifilm is even on hand to help you print out these funny shots after you take them!).

According to organizers, they are using these simulated experiences to try and get attendees excited about Japan so they will come visit for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.  If you visit the IACE Travel booth and sign up for their email newsletter you will be in the running for a free round-trip ticket to Japan, which would be a cool way to see the Games!

Then They Came for Me

2018 February 16
by Stacy Smith

Written by freelance Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03), WIT Life is a periodic series about aspects of Japanese culture such as language, film, business, food and politics. 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.

Sign from Japanese-run business telling customers their clothing won’t be brought to the incarceration camp

After interpreting in Manhattan Criminal Court earlier this week, I stopped for lunch in Chinatown and found myself with some time on my hands afterwards.  I decided to visit the International Center of Photography and was nicely surprised to find the exhibition Then They Came for Me: Incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII (through May 6), a comprehensive portrayal of this reprehensible period in American history.  It includes works from prominent photographers such as Dorothea Lange and Ansel Adams, letters and other personal mementos, and moving video testimonials from those who were incarcerated or have family members who had been.

From 1942-1946, thousands of Japanese Americans were forcibly relocated to incarceration camps in desert and swamp areas of the Western U.S.  The original term for this had been “internment,” but I learned from the exhibition that Japanese American organizations and scholars have developed new terminology in an effort to more accurately reflect the wrongness of what took place.

For example, what was initially referred to as “relocation centers” are now called “illegal detention centers,” and those who were detained are known as “inmates” or “prisoners” as opposed to the original “evacuees” or “internees.”  At the time “concentration camp” was used even by government officials, but due to confusion with Nazi death camps the term “incarceration camp” came to be favored (other acceptable terms include “American concentration camp,” “detention center” and “prison camp”).

Monday marks the 76th anniversary of FDR’s issuing of Executive Order 9066, which led to the forced removal of Japanese American citizens and legal Japanese residents from their homes by stating that “any and all persons could be removed from any area designated as a military zone.”  We see echoes of this discriminatory decree in current edicts against Muslims and other minorities, and fervently hope that a renewed awareness of past injustice can help prevent history from repeating itself.

Sato Sakura Gallery

2018 February 12
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 language, film, business, food and politics. 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 September, Chelsea received a great addition to its art scene in the form of the Sato Sakura Gallery. This Japan-born museum has two locations (Fukushima/Tokyo) that specialize in 日本画 (Nihon-ga or traditional Japanese painting). This term and concept was created in response to 西洋画 (Seiyou-ga or Western painting), which made its way to Japan during the Meiji Era (1868). Today the idea of Nihon-ga can refer to both purely traditional Japanese painting, as well as new styles of painting that incorporate Western painting methods while remaining faithful to traditional Japanese painting techniques.

Mt. Fuji and Cherry Blossoms (from Sato Sakura Gallery Facebook page)

The inaugural exhibit at the new Chelsea location has 桜 (sakura or cherry blossoms) as its theme, and showcases 12 different artists and their works. They range from regular-sized paintings to giant folding screens, and my favorites were from self-proclaimed “flower and cherry blossom maniac” Reiji Hiramatsu. In particular, his work “Playful Carps” piece is impressive.  Its bright colors are striking, and I enjoy the playfulness of the fish in a pond with petals filling its surface. I also really like his “Mt. Fuji and Cherry Blossoms,” of a gorgeously blue Mt. Fuji shrouded by vivid pink sakura. Weeping sakura and other iterations can be found on the screens, and all artists present their own unique sakura visions. This exhibition will be available for viewing through March 31, so make sure to check it out.

Sato Sakura Gallery is the perfect place to seek refuge during these chilly winter days. Last weekend I joined a Nihon-ga workshop held there, where participants learned about the history of this painting style. Not only did we get to create the necessary colors by mixing mineral pigments with a specific type of protein, but we were able to make a Nihon-ga of our own to take home.

The gallery is located right by the High Line, so when the weather starts warming up you can enjoy an elevated stroll after appreciating the art. For the time being while nothing is in bloom yet, check out Sato’s sakura to get yourself ready for spring’s upcoming flowers!

アケオメ!

2018 January 5
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.

明けましておめでとうございます! A happy new year of the dog to everyone. This post’s title (Ake ome!) is the abbreviated version of the official Japanese new year greeting (Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu!). Surprisingly, two of my senpai had never heard of this colloquialism before. Perhaps I’m dating myself but I remember it being popular to say during the time I lived in Japan, though I’m not so sure about now (and maybe it wasn’t around when my older colleagues spent time in Japan).

My previous post discussed the kanji of the year (北, kita or north), and I just came across an article highlighting some of Japan’s 2017 buzzwords.

One was 忖度 (sontaku), or the preemptive, placatory following of an order that has not been given. This phenomenon is seen in both government and private sectors, and according to the Financial Times it “resonates well in explaining Japan in the era of Shinzo Abe.” A 2017 term which we can expect to hear a lot of in 2018 is 働き方改革 (hatarakikata kaikaku) or work-style reform, and this reflects the issue of poor labor practices that in extreme cases can lead to 過労死 (karoushi), or working oneself to death. Effort is being made to reduce working hours and improve efficiency, but employees on the news complained that when the workload is the same they struggle to get everything done in time. This reminds me of Premium Friday, another well-intentioned initiative introduced last spring that we don’t hear much about these days. Finally, on the lighter side we have インスタ映え (Insta-bae) or Instagrammability, an essential part of enhancing one’s social media presence that doesn’t seem to be dying out anytime soon.

It will be exciting to see what new trends we find in Japan in 2018.  今年もよろしくお願いします!

今年の漢字

2017 December 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.

As we approach the end of 2017, many of us are reflecting on what was a less-than-stellar year.  This was also an anxiety-producing year in Japan, as the designation of this year’s kanji as 北 (kita or north) indicates. It came in with 7104 votes out of the total 153,594 cast, and best captures the mood in Japan amid the heightened nuclear and missile threat posed by North Korea. It has continued to pursue its nuclear weapons and missile programs despite tough new sanctions, including conducting a sixth nuclear test and launching two missiles over 北海道 (Hokkaido) in late summer.

In regard to the selection of 北, other Hokkaido connections were also referenced by respondents. The island’s poor potato crop this year led to nationwide shortages of potato chips, and there is much excitement for 二刀流 (nitouryuu or combination pitcher/slugger) Shohei Otani of Hokkaido baseball team Nippon Ham Fighters making his major league debut with the Anaheim Angels next year.

Coming in second place with 3,571 votes was 政 (sei/matsurigoto or politics). Political scandals, as well as July’s Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election and October’s House of Representatives election, dominated the news for much of the year. The third-place finisher was 不 (fu/bu), meaning negative or not. This pick was thought to reflect the 不倫 (furin or illicit affairs) among politicians and celebrities, the aforementioned 不作 (fusaku or poor harvests) impacting farmers, and 不気味 (bukimi or disturbing) crimes such as the murder and dismemberment of nine victims by a 27-year old Kanagawa man.

The list below details this year’s top 10 entries and their respective vote counts. Here’s wishing everyone a happy, healthy 2018 and 良いお年を!

1. 北 (hoku/kita) North 7,104 votes
2. 政 (sei/matsurigoto) Politics 3,571 votes
3. 不 (fu, bu) Not; negate 3,323 votes
4. 核 (kaku/sane) Core; nuclear 3,138 votes
5. 新 (shin/atarashii) New 2,958 votes
6. 選 (sen/erabu) Select 2,880 votes
7. 乱 (ran/midareru) Chaos; disturbance 2,782 votes
8. 変 (hen/kawaru) Change; strange 2,717 votes
9. 倫 (rin) Order; human relationship (used in 不倫, “illicit affair”) 2,538 votes
10. 暴 (bō, baku/abareru) Violence 1,945 votes

 

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. **