Saturday, May 10, 2014

Photos: 2014 Sakura Matsuri @ Brookline High School

The Genki Spark

Today was the third annual Sakura Matsuri at Brookline High School. For the past two years, The Genki Spark and the Brookline High School Japanese Program have presented this small community-oriented matsuri at the high school. The first year it was two hours long. Last year Karen convinced her counterpart at BHS to make it three hours. This year was the biggest ever - four hours long with performances from five New England taiko groups (The Genki Spark, ShinDaiko, Mountain River Taiko, Odaiko New England, Boston Miyake Taiko), a dance troupe (Takahashi Minyo Kai), and shishimai (Stuart Paton of Burlington Taiko).

I have lived in New England longer than I've lived anywhere else and I can't say that I've ever really felt like I was part of the wider communities that I have lived in. I didn't realize until I worked for a summer program in California a few years ago what a huge difference it makes to see your culture reflected in the community around you. From the time I got off the plane at SFO, I was surrounded by reminders of the long history of Asian immigrants and Asian Americans in California (many of them Japanese American) from the Asian-inspired art to the names of donors on the wall at a local clinic to the restaurants to the people on the street. Although I've spent a lot of time in Hawaii and experienced the same there when visiting family, it's so different from the East Coast it often feels like visiting another country. Somehow experiencing it in California when I wasn't on vacation was a revelation. Ever since then I've been making more of an effort to connect with Japanese and Japanese Americans in Boston. Unfortunately, since we have no community center or single clearinghouse organization, it's often difficult to do.

I don't remember attending any matsuris as a child but I did go to Japanese school and camp so I learned obon dance, played Japanese children's games, and heard traditional Japanese music. I can't remember if I ever saw taiko performed live but when I hear it, it's very familiar and it's music I connect with in my bones in a way I don't connect with American folk music. Thanks to The Genki Spark and BHS, I got to put on my yukata and spend an afternoon feeling like I was part of a community.

Red bean ginger mochi
dusted with cinnamon
They had plenty of activities and games for kids (including yo-yo, origami, face painting, design your own hachimaki) and a nice range of food. Sadly Ittoku ran out of yakisoba early and then sold out of okonomiyaki but there was sushi and edamame from Hana Japan and lots of fresh mochi from Mochi Kitchen. BHS students sold onigiri and baked goods. I spoke with Chiki-san afterwards and he said Ittoku would definitely be happy to be back next year!

Tewassa table
Tewassa, The Genki Spark, and some of the other taiko groups sold new and used Japanese and Japanese-inspired goods, some of which were handmade. BHS students were also selling handmade origami earrings.

Karen Young, founder and artistic director of The Genki Spark, said in her thank yous that this matsuri is community-driven and wouldn't happen without the help of all the participating groups, organizations, and businesses and the volunteers. This year's matsuri was staged in partnership with: The Japan Society of Boston, Showa Boston, the New England chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League, and two other Brookline schools: the Amos A. Lawrence School and the William H. Lincoln School. Food vendors were: Hana Japan (Newburyport), Ittoku (Brighton), and Mochi Kitchen (Somerville). The matsuri was sponsored by the Brookline Commission for the Arts, Temple University Japan, The Japan Foundation, New York, and the Brookline High School PTO. If you're a member of a Japanese or Japanese American group and would like to participate next year or you'd just like to volunteer as an individual you should contact Karen!

Karen, Genki Spark members, Brookline High School teachers & students - otsukaresama desu!

Some photos below. Additional photos here.

Takahashi Minyo Kai

Miyano Takahashi, owner of Hana Japan, Newburport
and founder of Takahashi Minyo Kai

Right: Karen Young, founder and artistic director of The Genki Spark

Odaiko New England

Boston Miyake Taiko

Shishimai - Stuart Paton of Burlington Taiko

The Genki Spark

Finale - all groups

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Film: Vincent Who? @ Boston Public Library

I just heard about an interesting film screening next Thursday at the Boston Public Library. The Anti-Defamation League’s Asian-Jewish Roundtable will be screening Vincent Who?, a documentary about the 1982 murder of Vincent Chin, a Chinese American man whose attackers mistook him for Japanese. The film features interviews with many well-known Asian Americans, including a number of Japanese Americans. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with writer and producer, Curtis Chin (no relation).

Date & Time
Thursday, May 15, 2014
6pm - 8:30pm

Boston Public Library, Rabb Hall
700 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02116


Registration is required. Please register by Thursday, May 15th at 5pm.

Vincent Who?

Directed by Tony Lam
2009 | 40 mins | Documentary

In 1982, at the height of anti-Japanese sentiments arising from massive layoffs in the auto industry, a Chinese-American named Vincent Chin was murdered in Detroit by two white autoworkers. Chin's killers, however, got off with a $3,000 fine and 3 years probation, but no jail time. Outraged by this injustice, Asian Americans around the country united for the first time across ethnic and socioeconomic lines to form a pan-Asian identity and civil rights movement.

Among its significant outcomes, the movement led to the historic broadening of federal civil rights protection to include all people in America regardless of immigrant status or ethnicity.

VINCENT WHO? explores this important legacy through interviews with the key players at the time as well as a whole new generation of activists whose lives were impacted by Vincent Chin. It also looks at the case in relation to the larger narrative of Asian American history, in such events as Chinese Exclusion, Japanese American Internment in WWII, the 1992 L.A. Riots, anti-Asian hate crimes, and post-9/11 racial profiling.

Ultimately, VINCENT WHO? asks how far Asian Americans have come since the case and how far they have yet to go.

For in spite of Vincent Chin’s monumental significance in both the Asian American experience and the civil rights history of America, the vast majority of people today (including most Asian Americans) have little or no knowledge of him.

By sparking interest in Vincent Chin with this film, we hope to contribute toward the day when "Vincent Chin" becomes a familiar name not only among Asian Americans, but all Americans. We believe that the Vincent Chin case and the resulting Asian American civil rights movement should assume an important place in this country’s history.

via Vincent Who? - The Film
See also: Director's Statement 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Upcoming festivals

Darn, I meant to get this up much sooner. May is Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month so there's a lot going on. Unfortunately, I missed Arlington's Ottoson Middle School's Cherry Blossom Festival which was on Friday.

In addition to the Japan Festival @ the Cambridge River Festival in June, we have a number of other Japanese festivals in the next couple of weeks.

Today, Sunday, May 6th, Kaji Aso Studio in Boston is having a Japan Festival from 1 - 6pm. Admission is $10 (students and seniors $8, children $4).

On Wednesday, May 7th from 5 - 7pm, the MFA is hosting the Gion Festival in Boston, celebrating Boston and Kyoto's 55th year as sister cities. Admission to the festival is included with museum admission. On Wednesdays after 4pm, admission to the MFA is by voluntary contribution ($25 is suggested).

Next weekend on Saturday, May 10th from noon - 4pm, the Brookline High School Japanese Program and The Genki Spark present their third annual Sakura Matsuri (scroll down for event details). This is a very reasonably sized family-friendly matsuri with great entertainment (there will be six groups performing). Last year they had lots of activities for children. This year they've stepped things up in the food department. Three popular Japanese businesses will be vending - Mochi Kitchen (Somerville), Ittoku (Brighton), and Hana Japan (Newburyport). Admission is free, however, a $10-$20 donation is suggested. Food and other items will be for sale. I will be there at the Tewassa table!

Hopefully Hana Japan will have their annual Natsu Matsuri again in August, but no info on that yet.