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 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.