Friday, August 13, 2010

Examining Japanese Culture in New York

In October 2009 I wrote a little blurb about the Japan Society's exhibit featuring a textile artist and submitted it to, a website that allows writers to write about whatever they want. I created the title of New York Japanese Culture Examiner, answered a few questions about why I was the best person for the job, and waited. Within days, I was approved.

I started writing about whatever Japanese-related events were happening in New York. At first I felt as if I couldn't write about an event unless I attended it, but I quickly realized that with my travel schedule for my "real" job, that would be logistically impossible. Then I started making things work by asking for press releases and finding resources to help me write my articles. With examiner, I don't have assignments, or deadlines, or even editors. I decide what to write, when to write it, and how to write it.

Being an examiner has been a great confidence booster. People give me press passes and grant me interviews. I still have a long way to go, but I'm learning how to ask questions, and I'm becoming more comfortable with approaching complete strangers at places such as crowded after parties for movie premieres. When I meet people, I give them my business card and think of how I can write stories about them. I've created a Facebook page to garner more exposure for my writing.

This summer I've been privileged enough to attend many Japanese-related events and talk to people who share my interest in Japanese culture. Here are a few highlights:

Opening Night of JAPAN CUTS - Japan Society
Attending premieres is one of my favorite activities as a writer for The Japan Society is where I usually attend these types of events. Actually, it's where I attend the majority of New York's Japanese-related events. Anyway, the kickoff to JAPAN CUTS, the Japan Society's two-week film festival, was especially pleasing because of the two movies that were shown: "Sawako Decides" and "Confessions."

Sushi Typhoon Party - Japan Society
Oh, this party was so much fun! As part of the aforementioned film festival, the Japan Society and the New York Asian Film Festival screened two slasher movies, "Alien vs. Ninja" and "Mutant Girls Squad," then hosted a raucous party afterward. Crazy, shocking, brash, crude. And I'm talking about the directors.

Me with Masanori Mimoto of "Alien vs. Ninja"

Me with Cay Izumi of "Mutant Girls Squad"

Press Conference for "Musashi" - Lincoln Center
On this day, I felt like a journalist. I was invited by Eileen McMahon of the Lincoln Center to attend a press conference for the play "Musashi," written by Hisashi Inoue. The actors performed a scene for us, then we were granted an audience with director Yukio Ninagawa and lead actors Tatsuya Fujiwara and Ryo Katsuji. I was one of only two or three non-Japanese (or half Japanese in my case) members of the media to attend. That was cool, until I realized the interview was being conducted entirely in Japanese. My questions and Fujiwara's subsequent answers were translated.

Ryo Katsuji (left) and Tatsuya Fujiwara in "Musashi"

Crucial fight scene in "Musashi"

From left: "Musashi" director Yukio Ninagawa, Tatsuya Fujiwara, Ryo Katsuji

The Japanese media at the "Musashi" press conference

My "Otaku" Education Continues with
In my attempt to learn about all aspects of Japanese culture - even the parts I find a little confusing - I once again met with Reni Mimura, who dresses up as a maid and sings.

Reni (left) with maids at PJ Mini Pop in Harlem

Cool Japan Festival - East Village
Street fairs have been a fixture of New York summers for who knows how long, but this year, there have been several with a Japanese theme. I was able to attend one in the East Village, and it was nice to see so many people interested in - or at least curious about - Japanese culture. The street fair had great food and beautiful Japanese products and crafts, and it also gave me ideas for future stories.

Ruri Kippenbrock of Wuhao NY shows me vintage tenugui.

More otaku culture

"Katsu Curry Dog" from Go!Go!Curry!

In the few months that I've been the New York Japanese Culture Examiner, I've learned a great deal about the culture and how it's presented in New York. There will be more learning and writing to come.

Oh, one note: This post may look a bit wonky because I'm writing on my iPad using the Blog Writer app. It comes in handy when I don't have a wireless network, but I can't insert hyperlinks or change fonts to italics or bold. Or at least I haven't figured out how to do that yet.

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