Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema

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...

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New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF) 2017

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 ...

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NY Japan Cinefest 2017

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...

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The Departure

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. 

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Premium Friday

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.

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The Beauty of Washi

This weekend I had a chance to sit in on a culture class at the Nippon Club in order to write an article in Chopsticks.  We were studying calligraphy, but specifically practicing this art on 和紙 (washi or Japanese paper).  Sensei Mori Suzuki was visiting from Japan just for this class, and in addition to guest teaching we got to enjoy an exhibition of his work and other washi delights in the 7th floor gallery...

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An Evening of Umami and Shokuiku

Last night I had the opportunity to interpret for Chef Kiyomi Mikuni at an event at Japan Society entitled “Umami and Other Japanese Culinary Secrets.” Mikuni is an entertaining speaker whose wide-ranging presentation covered everything from how important it is to develop taste buds at a young age to working with Japanese children on 食育 (shokuiku, or dietary education). Mikuni runs the gourmet French restaurant Hotel de Mikuni in Tokyo, but his culinary journey started in a fishing village ...

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Silence

Last night I attended a screening of Martin Scorsese’s new film Silence, based on the 1966 novel 沈黙 (Chinmoku) by Shusaku Endo, himself a Japanese Catholic.  It is the story of a Jesuit missionary sent to 17th century Japan, who is played with great nuance by Andrew Garfield.  He and his followers endure horrible persecution during this period when 隠れキリシタン (Kakure Kirishitan or Hidden Christians) are targeted for their beliefs.  Having lived in Kyushu I had a vague sense of what had taken ...

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The Wonderful World of Shochu

Along with ramen and sushi, sake is a part of Japanese food and drink culture that is ubiquitous here in New York.  But as someone who spent the majority of my time in Japan in Kyushu, I sometimes wonder why shochu doesn’t get its fair share of the acclaim.  Down there shochu is the go-to drink, and since 90% of domestic production takes place at distilleries in Kyushu it is known as Shochu Island.

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Happy Hour at MoMA

Back in March I didn’t have time to blog about my participation in the New Directors New Films festival held at Lincoln Center, but I had the chance to interpret for director Ryusuke Hamaguchi when his epic film Happy Hour was screened there.  With a run time of 317 minutes it is not for the meek...

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JAPAN CUTS 2016 comes to a close

This weekend marks the end of the 2016 JAPAN CUTS film festival.  Due to a business trip midway through I wasn’t around as much as I would have liked, but I was able to attend the beginning and end to see some fantastic films. Last night featured Tatsuya Mori’s FAKE, which looks at the 2014 controversy surrounding self-taught classical composer Mamoru Samuragochi...

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JAPAN CUTS 2016!

Last week kicked off the 10th year of the Japan Cuts at Japan Society, and if the initial films are any indication this year’s lineup looks as stellar as the nine previous.  The opening film was Mohican Comes Home, and was introduced by director Shuichi Okita and co-star Atsuko Maeda.  They were also both on-hand for a post-screening Q&A, where they revealed behind-the-scenes stories about filming...

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New York Japan Cinefest

Last week I had a chance to check out the 5th annual New York Japan Cinefest, whose mission is to introduce Japanese themed films and discover new talent in filmmaking.  In the past I have attended this festival hosted at Asia Society and always loved it, and this year too did not disappoint.  I made it to the first night of this two night event, which showcased six short films varying in length from 5 to 40 minutes...

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是枝監督の新作!

I seem to have a knack for timing my business trips to Japan in sync with releases of my favorite director Hirokazu Kore-eda’s films, and this time is no exception.  Last night I had the chance to check out 海よりもまだ深く (Umi yori mo mada fukaku) or After the Storm), a welcome addition to Kore-eda’s impressive body of work.  It features the familiar cast of characters who can be found throughout the rest of his films, such as Hiroshi Abe and Kirin Kiki paired once again as mother and son, and Lily Franky.

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Portlandia's Noodle Monster

Last night IFC’s Portlandia Season 6 finale featured a tsukemen ramen monster taking over the town, with potentially disastrous results.  This monster was brought to life when leftover tsukemen noodles, intended to be just dipped and not soaked, were dunked into their broth due to a lack of refrigerator space...

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人魚に会える日 (Girl of the Sea)

Last week I returned from a short business trip in Japan when Tokyo was enjoying unseasonably warm weather.  People were in t-shirts over the weekend, and with 梅 (ume, or plum blossoms) already in bloom an early 桜 (sakura, or cherry blossom) season is predicted for this year (if only I could have stuck around for a few more weeks…).  However, this morning’s Japan news reported the weather dipping back down to chillier temps...

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Kauai's Japanese lantern

I just returned from my 3-week State Department interpreting trip and subsequent mini vacation in Hawaii! While enjoying some R&R on my favorite island of Kauai, I discovered something that I hadn’t noticed in previous visits.  I was staying in Kapa’a, a centrally located area boasting a beautiful bike path that I love using for morning runs overlooking the ocean.  During a run, I happened to turn my gaze away from the ocean and a Japanese-seeming lantern in the distance caught my eye.  I was curious about its location on what looked like the edge of a playing field.

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Wonder 500 Exhibition

I arrived in DC yesterday to begin my first State Department interpreting assignment in a while.  I’m looking forward to working with my Okinawan group as we travel across the country learning about base-hosting communities in the U.S. I hope that knowing our second half will be in San Diego/Hawaii will make surviving the brutal cold awaiting us in our next stop of Omaha, Nebraska a bit easier…

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Waku Waku +NYC and Sebastian Masuda

This weekend I had the chance to visit “Waku Waku +NYC,” a new Japanese pop culture festival which took place over two days across multiple venues in Greenpoint and Williamsburg.  According to the event’s homepage, it brings together the worlds of anime, manga, music, food, film, and fashion via exhibits, panels, screenings, and interactive events.  This blend of pop culture from Japan and Brooklyn...

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