Tuesday, July 08, 2014

JP "Tomorrow" on NHK BS-1, Wed. 7/9, 2 p.m.

The Japanese-language edition of "Tomorrow," the doc I host on volunteers in tsunami-damaged towns, is on NHK BS-1 in Japan today (Wed) at 2 p.m.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Hosting NHK's "Tomorrow", about post-tsunami recovery

At the following times, streaming here:
NHK WORLD TV Mon. 01:30, 07:30, 13:30, 19:30 (UTC)
NHK WORLD Premium Wed. of next week 17:00 (UTC)
(Japanese language only) Wed. 14:00 (JST)
  Sun. 04:00 (JST)

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Talkin' Anime Expo 2014 for NPR, Los Angeles

My conversation with animation critic/author Charles Solomon on Anime Expo 2014 & Project Anime in Los Angeles, on NPR/KPCC.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Off to Los Angeles for Project Anime keynote @ Anime Expo

Roland Kelts to give Keynote Presentation at Project Anime: Los Angeles 2014 

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.

Monday, June 16, 2014

On the "Summer of Kawaii" 2014, for The Japan Times

Forget Cool Japan — cute is this summer’s hot global export

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.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

On UNIQLO for M magazine and Women's Wear Daily

M: My Name Is Uniqlo

Tadashi Yanai
Photo By Courtesy Photo
Photo By Courtesy Photo
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.

Back to Iwate for NHK

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.

Monday, May 19, 2014

On Japan's 'satori sedai,' the enlightened generation, for Adbusters

The Satori Generation
A new breed of young people have outdone the tricksters of advertising.
by Roland Kelts

[photo by Ono Kei]

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.

Toronto Japanamerica report

Thursday, May 15, 2014

On manga and the Toronto Comic Arts Festival 2014 for my Japan Times column

Manga becomes a major draw at Toronto Comic Arts Festival

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.”

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

On Japan's Beethoven for The New Yorker

The Unmasking of “Japan’s Beethoven”

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.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

MONKEY BUSINESS Vol. 4 launches in NYC this weekend

Monkey Business authors are coming to NY! 

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
Asia Society
725 Park Ave. New York, NY 10021
$10 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
Kinokuniya Bookstore
1073 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10018

Friday, April 11, 2014

On AnimeJapan 2014 for my Japan Times column

Anime industry reunified at expo, satellite events

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.”

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Tilted on tour in Toronto for Japanamerica

Toronto Japanamerica tour interview, via Torja magazine.

『Japanamerica』著者、Roland Kelts氏に訊く日本と北米のマンガ・アニメ産業

Roland Keltsさん

Roland Kelts
日本のポップ・カルチャーがアメリカに及ぼした影響、そして互いに切磋琢磨しながら変革するマンガ・アニメ業界を鋭い視線で分析した『Japanamerica』の著者。他にもThe New YorkerやThe Wall Street Journalをはじめとする数多くの新聞・雑誌に記事、エッセイなどを寄稿。



Thursday, April 03, 2014

Haruki Murakami tells me about American literature

>an excerpt from my interview w/Haruki for A Public Space.

Haruki Murakami’s translations include: Raymond Carver’s short stories, Truman Capote’s short stories; F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Mikal Gilmore’s Shot in the Heart, John Irving’s Setting Free the Bears, Tim O’Brien’s The Nuclear Age, Grace Paley’s Enormous Changes at the Last Minute, J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye; and Mark Strand’s Mr. and Mrs. Baby and Other Stories.

ROLAND KELTS You and I once discussed how difficult it is to be an individual in Japan, how lonely.

HARUKI MURAKAMI It’s still very difficult, but things have changed drastically in Japan over the last ten years. You know, when I was young, we were supposed to join a company, join the office or the academy. It was a very tight society. You had to belong to someplace. I didn’t want to do that, so I became independent as soon as I left college. And it was lonely.

But not these days. People graduate and immediately become freelancers. There’s a good and bad side, but I look at the good side. It’s a chance to be free.

RK Do people need to look to America today-—or can they stay at home?

HM These days, young Japanese are also looking to Asia and Europe. America isn’t the only one any more. When I was in my teens in the sixties, America was so big—everything was shiny and bright. When I was fifteen years old, I went to see Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, in Kobe. That was my first encounter with jazz; I was so impressed. Those were very good days for American culture.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Toronto & silence

>latest column for Paper Sky magazine. 

I spend most of my time in cities – big ones.  Mostly New York and Tokyo, the biggest in their respective countries, but also Los Angeles, San Francisco and Boston, where my parents have a home. I have visited cities throughout Europe and Asia, and in Australia and South Africa. I have lived in London, San Francisco and Anchorage, Alaska.

In the 21st century, most cities share common elements: taxi and public transit systems, vast and anonymous airports, traffic jams, tall buildings, hotels, tony restaurants and cheap eateries.  I often tell friends that there is less culture shock to be had in flying between megalopolises like Tokyo and New York, London, Singapore or Shanghai, then there is in driving from any of those cities a couple hundred miles into rural environs.

My life didn’t start with cities.  Though I was born in one, I was raised in small towns in upstate New York and New England.  When I first lived in Japan as a six year-old, I stayed with my grandparents in Iwate, on the outskirts of the relatively small northern city of Morioka. My childhood memories are of countryside exploits – netting insects in summer fields and yards, ice-skating on ponds and rivers, fishing still lakes, hearing raccoons and rabbits scurry beneath porches at night, June bugs and moths fluttering into screen doors, crickets, loons, and silence.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Anime Japan 2014

The Tokyo International Anime Fair (TAF) and the Anime Contents Expo (ACE) finally reunited this past weekend in Odaiba.  It was called Anime Japan 2014, and it worked.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Fukushima and distrust

Japanamerica contributor, Eve Pearce, on the ongoing complexities of the Fukushima meltdown.

Don’t blame it all on the tsunami

The fallout from the Fukushima disaster is more than a matter of dealing with the results of the devastation caused by the tsunami, the explosion in reactor number 4 and the resulting meltdown and radioactive contamination. Amid the widespread destruction and disruption to life in the affected areas, the need to maintain economic viability has resulted in, among other emergency measures, the support of local food production by the lowering of permitted radioactivity levels, which has helped to create distrust of the government and its policies. This is not allayed by government secrecy over the results of radiation monitoring and decontamination measures, despite demands for greater openness. In these situations, where there are also conflicting reports about how long the cleanup will take and how serious and widespread the contamination will be – just as in wartime, ‘truth is the first casualty’ – in this post-disaster situation, the truth is increasingly difficult to pin down.