Friday, March 9, 2018

2018 3.11 Events in Boston

This year marks the seventh anniversary of the tsunami, earthquake, and nuclear disaster that happened in Japan on March 11, 2011. Although the world's attention has turned to more recent natural disasters, the Tohoku region continues to struggle with rebuilding efforts as many residents  remain in temporary housing. Civil servants from around the country have been working on reconstruction in 42 municipalities but "will be scaled back by 21 percent in fiscal 2018 from the current year’s level, according to a study by The Asahi Shimbun", making the work more difficult for the remaining employees. This does not bode well for reconstruction projects which have faced delays which have contributed to the region's ongoing economic issues. Residents living in temporary housing have faced serious mental health issues, with the number of deaths of residents living alone in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima increasing dramatically in 2017 to 53 (up from one in 2013 and 14 in 2015).

Clean up at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant continues, but has faced numerous setbacks, including radiation levels so high that robots become inoperable after several hours inside the reactors.

Since 2014 I have posted an annual list of 3.11 events in the Boston area but I have learned that most events have been discontinued. As far as I know, Tewassa, a Cambridge-based volunteer organization, is the only group holding a 3.11 memorial event in the Greater Boston area this year. 

Harvard University has been hosting talks on 3.11 since the disaster. This year's talk, "Recovering Agency: The Politics of Reconstruction in Post-Tsunami Tohoku" occurred last month on February 13th and is available as a podcast. The talk was delivered by Andrew Littlejohn, postdoctoral tellow in the Program on U.S.-Japan Relations with Prof. Daniel Aldrich from Northeastern University serving as discussant. Prof. Aldrich's work on resilience in post-disaster recovery areas around the globe is really interesting and worth exploring if you have an interest in disaster recovering and building resilience even in non-disaster areas.

3.11 Memorial Event

Tewassa, a Cambridge-based volunteer group that produces "message quilts" for schools and organizations in the Tōhoku region, will be holding their annual memorial event.

Date & Time
Saturday, March 10, 2018
2:00 - 4:00pm

GrayMist Studio & Shop
364 Huron Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

Public Transit & Parking
GrayMist is accessible by the 72 and 75 buses from Harvard Square. There is free on-street parking along Huron Ave. and neighboring streets.

HOME Exhibit

Students from Tohoku University of Art and Design installed an art and friendship exhibit titled "HOME" at the Boston Children's Museum to mark the anniversary of 3.11.
"HOME” is an exhibit that explores the meaning and influence of home from the perspective of Japanese students. The exhibit will showcase artwork created by the students of the “Art Thinking” project team at Tohoku University of Art & Design (TUAD) in Japan. This is their sixth annual international friendship project bringing their art exhibition and hands-on activity programs to Boston.
Using the theme HOME, the artists encourage Museum visitors to explore how home shapes identity, a sense of belonging, and responsibility toward others. This gallery exhibition asks the visitors “What is the definition of home to you?” and “What makes your home special?”

In this gallery exhibition, located next to the Museum’s Japanese House exhibit, an authentic 100-year old house from Kyoto, Japan, the artworks will share the ideas of today’s multifaceted youth culture of Japan, and demonstrate each individual’s thoughts and narratives. Through their art expressions, they share their unique own identities and stories.

The Art Thinking project is part of TUAD’s school curricula and research to create a space for community building through art experience. Artists in this show are students from the Tohoku region of Japan, where many of them witnessed and experienced the loss of homes and hometowns during the earthquake and tsunami of 2011. Through the art, these students search for the meaning of home and welcome Museum visitors to share ideas.

Date & Time
Open through Sunday, September 30, 2018
Please see museum's website for hours.

Boston Children's Museum, Japanese House Gallery 
308 Congress St., Boston, MA 02210

Please see the museum's website for admission details.
Please note that "Adults unaccompanied by children must leave proper photo identification at the Admissions Desk. Examples: State Driver’s License or Passport."

Monday, February 19, 2018

Film: Resistance at Tule Lake @ Tufts University

The Tufts Japanese Culture Club and Tufts United for Immigrant Justice will be screening Konrad Aderer's film Resistance at Tule Lake for their annual Day of Remembrance event titled "Incarceration and Resistance". Every year Japanese Americans around the United States commemorate February 19th, the day that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, the executive order that paved the way for the unjust incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans and Japanese immigrants in a vast network of incarceration camps.

Tule Lake was the largest and most infamous of the camps. At its peak it housed nearly 19,000 prisoners and was the site of significant unrest. While the camp started out with the same status as other camps, it was eventually designated a "segregation center" where prisoners deemed disloyal by the so-called "Loyalty Questionnaire" were separated from their families and moved from other camps. (The official title of the document was "Selective Service Form 304A / Statement of United States Citizen of Japanese Ancestry".)

This is Konrad's second feature length documentary about the Japanese American incarceration. Although his family was incarcerated at other camps, he told me that he chose Tule Lake as the subject of his film because he said he's always been interested in the Japanese and Japanese Americans who resisted. Resistance at Tule Lake was last year's Centerpiece Film at the 9th annual Boston Asian American Film Festival and was screened earlier this month at the Museum of Fine Arts as part of their Boston Festival of Films From Japan.

Date & Time
Wednesday, February 21, 2018
6:00 - 8:00pm

Tufts University
Aidekman Arts Center
Alumnae Lounge
40 Talbot Ave., Medford, MA 02155
Directions & Parking


Note: Dinner will be served. Film screening followed by panel discussion with students whose families were incarcerated in Japanese American incarceration camps.


Resistance at Tule Lake

2017 | 80 mins | Documentary | Japanese-American
Directed by Konrad Aderer
Resistance at Tule Lake tells the long-suppressed story of 12,000 Japanese Americans who dared to resist the U.S. government’s program of mass incarceration during World War II. Branded as “disloyals” and re-imprisoned at Tule Lake Segregation Center, they continued to protest in the face of militarized violence, and thousands renounced their U.S. citizenship. Giving voice to experiences that have been marginalized for over 70 years, this documentary challenges the nationalist, one-sided ideal of wartime “loyalty.”
Resistance at Tule Lake premiered early 2017 and continues to screen in various film festivals, museum exhibitions, educational institutions and local community organizations. The documentary will be broadcast nationally in 2018 and made available for educational, institutional and home use as a DVD and other formats including Internet viewing.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Hold These Truths @ the Lyric Stage through 12/31

It's rare to have plays on stage in Boston with Japanese American themes and actors so I was surprised to hear that Jeanne Sakata's Hold These Truths, is on stage for the month of December at the Lyric Stage Company of Boston. Founded in 1974, the Lyric Stage is Boston's oldest professional theater. They produce "intimate, challenging and entertaining theatre" in their 234 seat theater.

The play tells the story of Gordon Hirabayashi, a nisei Japanese American who defied the US government's curfew and evacuation orders. Instead of reporting for evacuation to an "assembly center", he turned himself in to the FBI and was arrested and convicted. Hirabayashi appealed his case all the way to the Supreme Court (Hirabayashi v. United States) where the order was upheld. In the 1980s his convictions were finally overturned by the U.S. District Court in Seattle and the Federal Appeals Court after misconduct in the solicitor general's office was discovered.

Boston-based Michael Hisamoto stars as Gordon Hirabayashi. In the spring, he will be playing Mike Masaoka in SpeakEasy Stage Company's upcoming run of Allegiance (May 4 - June 2, 2018). Although Hold These Truths is ostensibly a one-person show, the play borrows the kabuki method known as kuroko (黒子, also romanized as "kurogo") which uses stage crew dressed in black who assist in set changes and moving of props during the performance and who may also play minor roles. 

The New England chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) is hosting an outing to see Hold These Truths this Sunday, December 17th at 3pm. Dr. Paul Watanabe, Director of the Institute for Asian American Studies at UMass Boston, will lead a post-show discussion as JACL members share stories of their families' experiences during WWII. There are still a few tickets available for Sunday's performance. If you can't make it this Sunday, the play runs through the end of the month.


Hold These Truths 

Directed by Benny Sato Ambush 
Choreography by Jubilith Moore
Featuring Michael Hisamoto*, with Khloe Alice Lin, Gary Thomas Ng*, Samantha Richert*
Approximately 100 minutes with no intermission

Told through flashbacks, Hirabayashi takes us through his early life, challenging the curfew and exclusion orders in 1942. In a virtuosic turn, Hisamoto portrays not only Hirabayashi, but also his parents, college friends, lawyers, military leaders, Supreme Court justices, Hopi Indians he meets in prison, and the Arizona prison boss who can't figure out why he has hitchhiked down the California coast for his own imprisonment. His storytelling is assisted by a trio of kurogo — traditional Japanese stage hands — choreographed by Jubilith Moore and directed by Benny Sato Ambush.

He may have lost his case when he was alive, but Hirabayashi, a Quaker ("God is in each heart, not in a church") and a University of Washington student who was active in the YMCA leadership training program, was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012 by President Barack Obama. Paving the way to Hirabayashi's ultimate victory, legal historian Peter Irons discovered myriad military documents, letters, and memos admitting that confining Japanese Americans to camps had not been a necessary security measure: The camps, they implied, were created out of hysteria and racism. Full of theatricality and humanity, Hold These Truths celebrates resistance and offers startling parallels for contemporary politics.

Friday, December 1 - Sunday, December 31, 2017
See website for details.

Lyric Stage Company of Boston
140 Clarendon Street, Boston, MA 02116

Tickets range from $25-$73 and if you use the coupon code BAAFF (via the Boston Asian American Film Festival) it will get you $20 off per ticket. (FYI, I've heard some reports of some people having difficulty with the code.)

Lyric Stage also offers $10 cash student rush tickets. See website for details.

Note for those who plan to be in the New York City area: The Sheen Center has a two week run of Hold These Truths through December 20th, starring Joel de la Fuente, who plays Inspector Kido in Amazon's The Man in the High Castle

Further Reading

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Pikaichi is closing... for now

It seems I’m a bit behind on Boston ramen news. I went to Pikaichi for lunch on Friday and found out that they are closing on Sunday, December 17th. 😢 They announced the closing on their Facebook page and website just before Thanksgiving. Apparently the landlord raised the rent significantly and owner Taka Akatsu decided that he could no longer stay at the Super 88 location.

"We recently received a notice of a major rent increase from the landlord. After careful consideration, we have discovered that we won’t be able to sustain our business with the increased rent."

Taka-san and his wife, Ritsuko-san, opened Pikaichi in March 2011 after selling Café Mami in Porter Square to Carlos Garcia (who now also co-owns Ittoku, Wafu-Ya, and Yume Ga Aru Kara) and buying Ken's Ramen House from Ken Kojima. Pikaichi's menu has gone through a few changes over the years but the ramen has remained largely the same and their prices have remained comparatively low for Boston ramen, making it a popular spot for college students and homesick Japanese expats. They're also the only ramenya in Boston to have free parking which has made it a lot easier for people to come from all over to the area to eat there.

In an era in which Japanese restaurants in the US have largely dispensed with yelling「 いっらしゃいませ !  」 ("irrashaimase"), the standard greeting at all businesses in Japan, Pikaichi brought that tradition back and requires all staff to learn some basic ramenya Japanese to communicate with each other about how many customers are in the house and what dishes have been ordered and entered into the POS system. Although the layout of the space is more like a restaurant than a ramenya, the friend who first recommended Pikaichi to me told me that she felt like she had stepped into Japan for the brief time she was there. Their staff are uncharacteristically welcoming and cheerful compared with the bored indifference of waitstaff at many other Boston area Asian restaurants. Long-time employees know the regular customers if not by name, then definitely by face, although they work hard to make everyone feel welcome.

Staff told me that the hope is to reopen at another location within a few months but no word on where. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a restaurant opening that went smoothly – construction and permitting issues can cause delays – so I expect it will be a while before we can have Pikaichi ramen and curry again.

Pikaichi's farewell message to customers

If you’re able to stop by before the last day, keep in mind that wait times are likely to be longer than usual. Make sure to put your name on the list that is on the clipboard just inside the door. I’ve been going for lunch at 1pm with friends for a while and we usually don’t have much of a wait but yesterday we waited for quite a while. The staff told me they have been very busy since the closing was announced. If you can afford it, please consider tipping generously. The closing was completely unexpected so many staff may not have any idea what they will be doing for work during the closure, which comes just before the holidays. Some of them are long-time employees of Pikaichi.

Pikaichi's hours for the last 2 weeks at Allston location

Pikaichi's last day will be Sunday, December 17th, serving lunch only from 11:30am - 4:00pm. You can follow them on Facebook or check their website for updates on the new location.

Related Posts

Sunday, November 26, 2017

7th Annual Boston Japan Film Festival

The 7th Annual Boston Japan Film Festival is this coming Saturday at MIT. The festival includes a range of films from or about Japan. This year's selections includes documentary (short & feature), anime, and drama. The festival is sponsored by MIT's School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, MIT's Center for International Studies, the MIT Japan Program, New York Japan CineFest, Mar Creation, Tewassa, and the Japanese Business Bureau of Boston (formerly JREX). Films are in Japanese with English subtitles. (Sorry, not all trailers have subtitles.)

Date & Time
Saturday, December 2, 2017
11:00am - 4:30pm

3:00pm Discussion with director Hideaki Ito
4:00pm Light Reception

Ray and Maria Stata Center, 32-123
32 Vassar Street, Cambridge, MA 02142


Parking around MIT is very challenging so if you can take the T you should. There are some two hour metered parking spaces on Vassar St. and nearby streets. The nearest parking garages are in Kendall Square.

[The Shining Star of Losers Everywhere] (ESPN)
Directed by Mickey Duzyj. 2016. USA. 19min.
In 2003, Japan was plunged into economic darkness, and people needed a ray of hope. They found one in Haru Urara, a racehorse with a pink Hello Kitty mask and a career-long losing streak.

Directed by Bunji Sotoyama. 2016. Japan. 29min.
Aoi is a high school student living with her father, Kazuo, who suffers from depression. Kazuo is unable to run his sushi restaurant due to his illness, leaving Aoi no choice but to succeed her father to save the restaurant. She turns to a magical baseball pitch to find her fate.

Directed by Jonathan Minard, Scott Rashap. 2016. USA. 14min.
An infant's life is transformed by a new technology.

[Complex x Complex]
Directed by Miyuki Fukuda 2015 Japan. 24min.
Eighth grader Yui longs to be a grown-up. She considers armpit hair the symbol of adulthood, so her classmate Takeo—who has the thickest underarm hair in the class—becomes her idol. Is it love? A coming-of-age story about puberty, love, and halting conversation.

[I & Myself]
Directed by Hisanori Tsukuda. 2017. Japan. 5min.
Mizuho came to Tokyo to make her dream a reality, but things have not been going well for her. She finds herself thinking, "What did I come to Tokyo for ... ?" Depressed and on her way home one day, she is stopped by a lady, who, to her astonishment, is another version of herself.

Directed by A.T.. 2015. Japan. 6min.
A girl encounters an android on the street. Unnerved by the experience, she decides to follow the android to give it a "message.”


[Post X years later]
Directed by Hideaki Ito. 2015. Japan. 86 min.
In the aftermath of WW2 the Bikini Atoll was used by the United States as a testing ground for Nuclear and Thermonuclear technology until 1957. In 1954 the largest test - the detonation of a Hydrogen bomb in Operation Castle Bravo - resulted in a significant amount of fallout that impacted inhabited areas. Among the exposed in the incident was the Japanese fishing boat Daigo Fukuryu Maru with a crew of 23, who at the time was outside of the "danger zone" declared by the US Government. While history has documented the plight of the Daigo Fukuryu Maru, the reality is many other boats also outside the "danger zone" were similarly exposed. Now 59 years later, a documentary crew in Japan revisits the incident and interviews surviving fishermen, including some from other Japanese boats in the area, to bring to light an ordeal whose full impact has been kept in the dark by both the US and Japan governments.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

All Yume Wo Katare Coverage

October 11, 2012 11:27pm
Trial run for friends & family

Yume Wo Katare turns five today!! For their fifth anniversary they opened an udon shop, Yume Ga Arukara. おめでとう! Omedetō!

I thought I'd collect all my coverage in one place for Yume fans. 😊

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

9th Annual Boston Asian American Film Festival October 19-22

The 9th annual Boston Asian American Film Festival runs from October 19th to the 22rd. Three Four films in this year's festival have Japanese American themes. I'm very excited that Japanese American filmmaker Konrad Aderer is returning to Boston for the New England premiere of Resistance at Tule Lake, this year's Centerpiece Film. The last time he was in Boston was five years ago when his first documentary, Enemy Alien, was co-presented by BAAFF at the 2012 Boston Palestine Film Festival. Check out the other films here.

Family Matters [Shorts]

Friday, October 20, 2017, 7:00pm (tickets
Bright Family Screening Room @ The Paramount Center, 559 Washington Street, Boston, MA 02111
Followed by Q&A with Daniel K. Isaac, Actor (According to My Mother), Craig Nisperos, Director (Distance), Alfonso Bui, Director, Lee Nguyen (NGUYENing - The Lee Nguyen Story).
Co-presented by Network of South Asian Professionals of Boston, BOSFilipinos, Queer Asian Pacific-Islander Alliance

It Is What It Is
2016 | 8 mins | Documentary| Japanese-Iranian
Directed by Cyrus Yoshi Tabar

It is What it Is Filmmaker Cyrus Yoshi Tabar, a first-generation Iranian-Japanese-American, has a photo of his grandparents holding him as an infant. The photo captures his first and last encounter with them. Seeking to understand the fracture in his family, Cyrus embarks on a journey into the dark and nebulous corners of family history. Fragmented and cloudy images of his family speckle his investigation as he talks to his aunt and sister, but discovers that a family’s narrative isn’t linear  and that truth’s elusive.

Life & Liberty: Resilience & Righteousness [Shorts]

Saturday, October 21, 2017, 3:15pm (tickets
Bright Family Screening Room @ The Paramount Center, 559 Washington Street, Boston, MA 02111
Followed by Q&A with various filmmakers.
Co-presented by BOSFilipinos & the New England Chapter of the Japanese American Citizen League.

Dorothy Takahashi, a Japanese American dancer born in 1917, performed under the stage name Dorothy Toy with her partner Paul Wing. During WWII, her family was incarcerated at Topaz. Dorothy escaped incarceration by going to New York with Paul. She was believed by many to be Chinese but gossip columnists outed her as Japanese, costing her film roles. Dancing Through Life tells her story.
NBC News: Dorothy Toy, the ‘Chinese Ginger Rogers,’ Found Stardom Amid World War II

Dancing Through Life: The Dorothy Toy Story
2016 | 26 mins | Documentary | Japanese-American
Directed by Rick Quan

99 year old Dorothy Toy Fong is a living dance legend. She began as a child after a vaudeville theater manager noticed her dancing in front of her parent's restaurant. During the 1930's, 40's and 50's, she teamed up with Paul Wing and would eventually become the most famous Asian American dance duo in this country's history. Known for dancing on her toes, she developed a unique, athletic style of performing. Toy and Wing were pioneers, performing on Broadway and in Hollywood films. They were also the first Asian Americans to dance at the London Palladium.​  

The Orange Story is one of five short narrative films in the Hidden Histories: The Story and Legacy of Japanese American WWII Incarceration program, although only The Orange Story is being screened at BAAFF. One of the other films, Tadaima, was shown at last year's Japan Film Festival in Boston. Tadaima can be viewed on Vimeo.
The Orange Story
2016 | 18 mins | Narrative | Japanese-American
Directed by Erika Street Hopman

Koji Oshima is the proud owner of a small corner grocery store, but he must now abandon everything and report to an assembly center. His belongings, his business – everything must be sold or left behind, except what he can carry in one large duffel bag.

Up against a wall, Koji receives only one low-ball offer for his store, which he has no choice but to accept. The lone bright spot during this turmoil is the friendship Koji develops with a precocious nine-year-old girl. On the day of his departure, however, Koji is saddened to learn that even this friendship has been tainted by the larger forces of fear and wartime hysteria.

Resistance at Tule Lake 

Saturday, October 21, 2017, 6:30pm (tickets)
Bright Family Screening Room @ The Paramount Center, 559 Washington Street, Boston, MA 02111
Followed by Q&A with director Konrad Aderer.

This is director Konrad Aderer's second feature length documentary about the Japanese American incarceration. Although Konrad's family was incarcerated at other camps, he told me that he chose Tule Lake as the subject of his film because he said he's always been interested in the Japanese and Japanese Americans who resisted.
2017 | 80 mins | Documentary | Japanese-American
Directed by Konrad Aderer

RESISTANCE AT TULE LAKE tells the long-suppressed story of 12,000 Japanese Americans who dared to resist the U.S. government's program of mass incarceration during World War II. Branded as 'disloyals' and re-imprisoned at Tule Lake Segregation Center, they continued to protest in the face of militarized violence, and thousands renounced their U.S. citizenship. Giving voice to experiences that have been marginalized for over 70 years, this documentary challenges the nationalist, one-sided ideal of wartime 'loyalty'.

See trailers for 14 films in this year's festival:

Edit History
  • 10/17/17 10:59pm: Added It Is What It Is. Not sure How I missed it!