Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Local Nisei veteran Sus Ito to appear in Rose Parade

Sus Ito and George Takei
The New England JACL told us a few days ago that one of our members, 95-year-old Sus Ito, will be appearing in the Rose Parade on a "Go For Broke" float sponsored by the City of Alhambra in collaboration with the Alhambra Chamber of Commerce and the Go For Broke National Education Center. He'll join Mayor Gary Yamauchi and his wife, Linda, and other 442nd and 100th Infantry Battalion veterans. The 442nd was the only all Japanese American regiment in the US army during WWII and the most decorated. "Go For Broke," Hawaiian Pidgin gambling slang for wagering it all, was their motto.

Sus has had a busy year. In February, he was among a group of seven 442nd veterans who met President Obama (video below) and in November, he met George Takei at the Somerville Theater.

Within the local Japanese American community, Sus is known for his special spam musubi! You can read about his long career and many accomplishments at his Wikipedia page and in this Harvard Crimson piece.

If you're in the Boston area, you can watch the Rose Parade on WCVB beginning at 11am. The JACL said the Go For Broke float will be third in the parade line up.

Happy New Year!

Photo credit: New England JACL

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

BAAFF bringing George Takei to Somerville! + $5 discount code!

The 6th annual Boston Asian American Film Festival is running right now and they have their most high profile Japanese American guest coming next week - George Takei! I didn't get to see it in the spring at the Boston LGBT Film Festival so I'm really excited that the BAAFF decided to include To Be Takei in this year's festival. The BAAFF has kindly offered a discount code for Japanese-American in Boston readers (see below).

To Be Takei

Monday, November 3, 2014, 7:00PM
Somerville Theatre @ 55 Davis Square, Somerville, MA 02144
Tickets: $25 (+ $1.50 transaction charge) in advance, $30 at the door (though they are likely to sell out)
Use discount code BAAFFROCKS for $5 off! (enter on second screen before you check out)
Directed by Jennifer M. Kroot
2014 | 94 mins | Documentary
George Takei was always searching for the perfect role - only to find it within himself.

Jennifer Kroot's TO BE TAKEI follows Takei and his husband Brad, capturing their day-to-day as they prepare for Takei’s dream project, ALLEGIANCE, a musical based on his harrowing childhood experiences inside a Japanese American internment camp during World War II. Intertwined with this narrative is a look into Takei's life history, from his rise to fame as helmsman Hikaru Sulu on the iconic television series, STAR TREK, to his advocacy for marriage equality and civil rights across the United States. What emerges is a portrait of an outspoken activist who utilizes wit, whimsy, grace and humor to bring attention to the sorrows of his past and the joys of love and creativity in his present.

Featuring interviews with STAR TREK’s William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Nichelle Nichols, and Walter Koenig, plus journalist Dan Savage and radio host Howard Stern, TO BE TAKEI shows Takei as he's never been seen before.

Followed by Q&A with George Takei

Co-presented by QAPA, the New England JACL, and the Boston LGBT Film Festival.

Allegiance Original Cast Mini-Album Free Today!

I'm watching a special event with George Takei promoting his upcoming musical, Allegiance, about the Japanese American incarceration during WWII. They've made a mini-album available for free on Google Play today! (Even though it's free, Google Play requires a credit card - mine wasn't current and it wouldn't let me download until I updated it. :( )

Also, I've been meaning to post that the Boston Asian American Film Festival will be screening To Be Takei next Monday at the Somerville Theater and George will be there! Discount code to follow in another post.

Friday, August 15, 2014

US Commission on Civil Rights is now one-fourth Japanese

In conversations about racism in the US, the narrative tends to focus exclusively on whites and blacks. Asian Americans are often completely absent from the narrative and even from any conversation about race issues in the US. So I was surprised to see this tweet from Michael Yaki today about the US Commission on Civil Right's letter to the DOJ re: Ferguson.

I looked up Michael Yaki and found out he is one of two Japanese American commissioners on the US Commission on Civil Rights. There are only eight commissioners so Japanese Americans make up one-fourth of the Commission. Yaki is hapa - he is also of Chinese and native Hawaiian descent and is yonsei on his father's side. Karen Narasaki (twin sister of actor/playwright Ken Narasaki) was just appointed by President Obama last month (note: she isn't listed on the Commission's website yet). Narasaki is also yonsei on her father's side (Wikipedia mistakenly identifies her dad as nisei). Both of their fathers were incarcerated by the US government during WWII in spite of being third generation US citizens, yet both men ended up working for the government Narasaki's father served in the 442nd and Yaki's father served for 30 years in the Foreign Service. Their families' experiences as both victims of US government-sanctioned racism and employees of the government played an important role in Yaki and Narasaki becoming involved with civil rights issues.

Further reading:

If you don't know about the Japanese American incarceration during WWII, you may find my introductory post helpful.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Sea of Trees seeking Japanese extras for filming in Massachusetts

Ken Watanabe at Inception premiere Photo credit: Ninha Morandini

Just got an email from a friend that a film starring Ken Watanabe is seeking Japanese extras, male & female 18+. I was surprised that a film needing Japanese extras would be filming in Massachuesetts so I did some poking around and found out Gus Van Sant's new film Sea of Trees started filming last month in Foxborough. The film is about an American man (played by Matthew McConaughey) who travels to Aokigahara, a forest at the base of Mount Fuji also known as Suicide Forest or Sea of Trees, to commit suicide. (Aokigahara is one of Japan's most popular suicide locations.) There he befriends a Japanese man (played by Watanabe) and "instead of killing themselves, the duo embark on a reflective journey through the forest together."(Hollywood Reporter) The F. Gilbert Hills State Forest will stand in for Aokigahara.

The film is expected to be released next year. Should be interesting to see how it does in the US and Japan. Japan's suicide numbers have been described as epidemic (nearly twice as many as the US - see Wikipedia) though they have been declining since 2010 since following the Japanese government's increased efforts to reduce their suicide rate.

Encore screenings of A2-B-C @ Newburyport Documentary Film Festival

Last year some I went to see A2-B-C at the Newburyport Documentary Film Festival with some Tewassa members. We just heard from filmmaker Ian Ash that they've decided to show the film twice this year. The film raises questions about whether the Japanese government and medical community are being open and transparent regarding the health of citizens, especially children, following the 2011 nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Ash doesn't have any answers, but felt it was important to help these families tell their stories. Newburyport is a little out of the way for most people but the film is definitely worth seeing.

A2-B-C @ Newburyport Documentary Film Festival
Running time: 70 minutes
Followed by audience discussion

"Synopsis: Eighteen months after the nuclear meltdown, children in Fukushima are suffering from severe nose bleeds and are developing skin rashes and thyroid cysts and nodules. Citing a lack of transparency in the official medical testing of their children and the ineffectiveness of the decontamination of their homes and schools, the childrens mothers take radiation monitoring into their own hands."

Dates & Times
Sunday, August 24, 2014
Sunday, September 7, 2014

$8 at the door. No advance sales.

This info is not up on their website yet but there is a Facebook event.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

69th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima & Nagasaki

The ruins of the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall Source: U.S. National Archives

This Wednesday and Saturday mark the 69th anniversaries of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Massachusetts Peace Action is holding events this week to mark the anniversaries. Students from Showa will perform (dance and taiko) at Wednesday's Boston Remembers Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Moving from Violence to Unity event. Video from last year is here.