Summer gigs, 2014 -- thanks to Nobuyuki, Tsuyoshi, Marlan, Ian, Marc in LA; Peter, Nagame, Lars at Embassy of Sweden, Tokyo; Manabu and Lisa at Meiji University, Tokyo; John, Ted, Eunbi and Haruki at Kinokuniya, New York City.
Next up: Ottawa, San Diego, Los Angeles, Palo Alto, San Francisco and Berkeley.
To celebrate the release of Haruki Murakami's latest novel, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, join author Roland Kelts, who has known and interviewed Murakami for 15 years, Murakami translator Ted Goossen, and Murakami Music composer Eunbi Kim for an intimate encounter with the author's life, work and personal journey from Japan to the world.
Project Anime is proud to announce Japanamerica author Roland Kelts as a Keynote Speaker for Project Anime: Los Angeles 2014.
Roland Kelts is a half-Japanese writer, editor, scholar and cultural expert. He is the author of the bestselling Japanamerica: How Japanese Pop Culture has Invaded the U.S., and the forthcoming novel, Access. His writing on contemporary Japanese culture, art and literature is published in Japanese and English in publications such as The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, Time, Newsweek Japan, Adbusters, The Japan Times, the BBC, NPR and CNN.
In his Keynote Speech, “Re-Opening Japan,” Kelts assays the specific trans-cultural reasons behind the misunderstandings and sometimes unintended insults that occur when non-Japanese try to work, collaborate and make deals with Japanese creatives.
Summer is high season for fans of Japanese pop culture. School’s out, weather’s amenable and festivals, conventions and expos shift into top gear in Japan and across the globe.
Many in the pop-culture business are branding summer 2014 “the summer of kawaii” (Japanese uber-cute), and it’s not hard to see why. To inaugurate the season, Japan’s digital diva and holographic pop star Hatsune Miku, cute as her turquoise pigtails, hit the road in late May as the opening act for the first leg of megastar Lady Gaga’s North American tour. Miku’s makers plan to reprise her supporting role when Gaga tours Japan in August. This echoes animated band Gorillaz’s collaboration with Madonna at the 2006 Grammies — beautiful illustrations and flesh-and-blood pop icons share the stage. Expect more.
I am on an escalator located in the center of Uniqlo’s flagship store in Ginza, Tokyo, and I am rising. The twelve-story rectangle, with its floor-to-ceiling glass facade, anchors Tokyo’s most luxurious shopping zone.
I usually dread shopping for clothes. The volume of options amid mazes of racks induces nausea. But here, the tightly folded and labeled stacks convey the comfort and clarity of minimalism—even though there’s tons of stuff. “We excel in plenitude,” a staff member tells me.
I attended kindergarten in Morioka, Iwate Prefecture, when I lived with my grandparents. I revisited Iwate many times, accompanied by my mother.
Now I am here to host a documentary for NHK, Japan's national broadcaster, on the aftermath of the 2011 quake and tsunami.
Iwate is as beautiful and becalming as I remember it.
They don’t want cars or brand name handbags or luxury boots. To many of them, travel beyond the known and local is expensive and potentially dangerous. They work part-time jobs—because that is what they’ve been offered—and live at home long after they graduate. They’re not getting married or having kids. They’re not even sure if they want to be in romantic relationships. Why? Too much hassle. Oh, and too expensive.
In Japan, they’ve come to be known as satori sedai—the “enlightened generation.” In Buddhist terms: free from material desires, focused on self-awareness, finding essential truths. But another translation is grimmer: “generation resignation,” or those without ideals, ambition or hope.
They were born in the late 1980s on up, when their nation’s economic juggernaut, with its promises of lifetime employment and conspicuous celebrations of consumption, was already a spent historical force. They don’t believe the future will get better—so they make do with what they have. In one respect, they’re arch-realists. And they’re freaking their elders out.
The 11th annual Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF) kicked off May 10. As its title suggests, it’s less a fan-focused pop convention than a platform for comics and graphic novels as art, and for the artists who create them. It has also emerged over the past few years as a great friend to manga.
Toronto is often cited as one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world, and one of the safest, with crime rates far lower than in neighboring U.S. metropolises. Half of Toronto’s population were born outside of Canada, a good portion of them in Asia. When I visited the city a few months ago to take part in a week of readings and presentations at the behest of The Japan Foundation, I was surrounded by Asian cuisine and culture on nearly every block. My audiences were large, deeply engaged and multi-ethnic, looking less like a hockey team than a Benetton commercial.
“Toronto has become a great place for fans of Japanese pop culture,” says the festival’s director and co-founder, Christopher Butcher. “We’re fortunate to have a large Japanese population and other ethnic communities here. And even our French community has a great native appreciation of comics culture.”
The strange saga of the man once dubbed “Japan’s Beethoven,” Mamoru
Samuragochi, was first made public this winter, amid the Sochi Olympics
and Tokyo’s worst snowstorm in forty-five years. That was when Japanese
television networks interrupted daytime programming for a press
conference held by a slim, horse-faced man blinking morosely against the
flashbulbs. His name was Takashi Niigaki, and he was a
forty-three-year-old adjunct music professor at a Tokyo college.
Samuragochi, Niigaki announced, was neither deaf nor a composer. Over
the past eighteen years, it was he who had composed Samuragochi’s
music. Moreover, Samuragochi was not a musician and could not even write
musical notation or scores. The Olympic figure skater Daisuke Takahashi
was about to perform his short program in Sochi to Samuragochi’s
“Sonatina for Violin” in front of a global audience. Niigaki was there
before the cameras, he said, because he couldn’t stand to see an
accomplished Japanese athlete skating to a fraud.
To celebrate the the 4th issue launch, the magazine’s contributing
authors Toh EnJoe, Hideo Furukawa, Laird Hunt, Matthew Sharpe, founding
editors Motoyuki Shibata and Ted Goossen, contributing editor, Roland
Kelts will be coming to New York and have discussion events in various
locations. Please come meet us!
Saturday, May 3, 2pm- PEN World Voices Festival
Monkey Business — Japan/America: Writer’s Dialogue
Dialogues between Hideo Furukawa and Laird Hunt, and between Toh EnJoe and Matthew Sharpe
725 Park Ave. New York, NY 10021
Asia Society & PEN members, $12 Students & Seniors, $15
non-members (Ticket includes a copy of Monkey Business Issue 4.)
Tickets are available at worldvoices.pen.org
Sunday, May 4, 2pm- Reading at Kinokuniya Bookstore
by EnJoe, Furukawa, Hunt, Roland Kelts, and Sharpe
1073 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10018
AnimeJapan 2014, the rebranded and reunified annual industry trade show, exceeded organizers’ expectations last month, hosting 110,000 producers, publishers, journalists, cosplayers and public visitors. What a relief.
Since 2010, the anime industry’s political divisions meant two separate shows: one in Chiba called the Anime Contents Expo (ACE), the other in Odaiba, the original Tokyo International Anime Fair (TAF). Dashing between the two had become an annual headache. AnimeJapan brought domestic and overseas players together again under one cavernous roof at Tokyo Big Sight on March 22 and 23.
It wasn’t perfect. “AnimeJapan was a huge success as a B2C (business to consumer) event,” says Yuji Nunokawa, chairman of the Association of Japanese Animations (AJA). “From B2B (business to business) aspects, however, there were some unsatisfactory elements, such as meeting-space shortage and lack of preparation.”