Thursday, April 27, 2017

2017 Spring Matsuris: Details & Tips for Japan Festival Boston & Brookline Cherry Blossom Festival

Update 5/11/17: Due to the weather forecast for Saturday, the Brookline Cherry Blossom Festival organizers decided to move the matsuri indoors to the rain location at the Schluntz Gym.

Boston's two largest Japanese festivals are coming up! In the past five years attendance at both festivals has grown around six-fold. The Japan Festival Boston started off in Copley Square with 10,000 festivalgoers in 2012. Last year 60,000 people attended the festival on the Boston Common. Attendance at the Brookline Cherry Blossom Festival has grown from around 250 people in 2012 to over 1,500 last year.

Japan Festival Boston

Japan Festival Boston is New England's largest matsuri. This year there will be 76 regular booths, 37 food booths, 50 performances on 2 stages, 50 workshops, and a Cosplay Deathmatch. Check their Facebook page for updates.

As usual there will be lots of arts organizations and businesses, many of whom have participated in past years including Tewassa, GrayMist Studio & Shop, SAORI Worcester, Kaji Aso Studio, Chikako Mukai of Chikako Designs, Julie Kohaya of Heavenly Cranes Jewelry, and amezaiku artist Candy Miyuki (listed as Candy5). There will be at least a couple of businesses selling kimono and yukata – Nomura Kimono Shop from Japan and Ohio Kimono will both be back for their second year at the festival. An interesting new vendor is NPO Reborn Kyoto which "works to nurture the independence of the women and young in developing countries through instruction of cloth fabrication and textile technology using donated Kimono from all over the Japan." See video from Kigali Today, although most of it is in Kinyarwanda, the interview with executive officer Yasuko Yamahira is in English. Another interesting new booth is a peace group called PeaceProject869. "We make opportunities to consider “What is Peace for you?” by [f]olding origami cranes for people whom we meet all over the world through our studying abroad."

The food offerings are growing more diverse and branching out from the Japanese community to include poke restaurants, fusion rice burgers, spam musubi, and more chain restaurants. This year's food vendors include a mix of independent local businesses and chains with Boston locations that are based in Japan and other places, as well as a few others.

Independent local: YumeWoKatare with 6 booths that will include dishes not usually served at the restaurant, Snappy Ramen, Oga's (listed as Kushiya), Ganko Ittetsu, Rice Burg, Yoki Express, Hana Japan, Cafe Mami, Ittoku (listed as Izakaya Ittoku), Sakanaya, Itadaki, Neponset Cafe, Big Rock Oyster, and I am guessing that Hiromoto’s Ultra Okonomiyaki & Hiromoto’s ultra candy shop will be run by Kevin Hiromoto, owner of Boston's only Japanese grocery store, Ebisuya

Chains with Boston locations: Santouka, Beard Papa's, Ogawa Coffee, Go Go Curry, Pabu (listed as Pabu Izakaya), Love Art Sushi, and Lady M.

Daiei Trading, one of the largest Japanese food importers in the US, will also have two booths.

Although the organizers have increased the number of food booths – up from 22 last year – I'm not sure that will result in shorter lines since turnout is likely to be much higher than last year. In past years, the lines have been insanely long so you should take snacks, especially if you're going with children or others who can't wait to eat. There are fast food places near the Boston Common but most are on the other side of the Common away from the festival. The festival has reduced the Fast Pass to $30 (it was $50 when they introduced it last year). This allows you to bypass the main line at a booth, although for popular booths there may still be a line for Fast Pass cardholders. It's well worth it if you're going with a family or group, but not very economical for individuals. Make sure to read carefully - there are restrictions.

See photos & video from 2016 Japan Festival Boston.
See photos from 2015 Japan Festival Boston.
See photos from 2014 Japan Festival in Boston. 

Date & Time
Sunday, April 30, 2017
11am - 6pm

Boston Common at the Beacon & Charles Street corner (near Frog Pond).
See festival map.

How you can help
The festival is not cheap to produce and JREX is crowdfunding with Indiegogo (in past years they have used GoFundMe).

There is also a 21+ benefit concert with pop musician Shinji Harada on May 1st. Tickets are $10 for students, $20 for general admission and $60 for VIP. 

Photography Note
I don't remember if this was on their website last year but I noticed this disclaimer at the bottom of the booth list. The festival is highly photographed by media, the festival organizers, and professional and amateur photographers and last year they used a drone to get footage so it's most likely impossible to avoid being photographed.
**Visitors, stage performers, and others at this festival will take videos, photos, and other media which may be posted online, in print, and in other mediums. It is possible that exhibitors’ booths may be captured in the aforementioned photos, videos, etc. Please be advised that by agreeing to participate in this festival, you are also consenting to being photographed and/or videotaped.**

Japan Festival Boston Tips

The Japan Festival Boston can be a challenging event for people with disabilities. The crowds are enormous, it's not always easy to move around, and while the booths are all set up along paved walkways, some things (food booths, stages) are set up in grassy areas. Booths are often mobbed which can make shopping difficult. While people with disabilities do attend (the Boston Higashi School always has a booth) it may be difficult for people with mobility issues and those who deal with crowd anxiety/phobia or have difficulty with loud noise. While the Boston Common is the largest location the festival has been held at the crowds are still intense. Advice I would offer to anyone, although especially those with disabilities:

  • Even if you stay for all seven hours of the festival you will not be able to do everything. Pick the things you're most interested in seeing/doing and prioritize getting to those booths/workshops/performances. Expect that everything will take longer than you think it will. It took me several hours to walk around and see all the booths last year and I wasn't stopping at all of them. I would not have been able to get food had a friend not given me her Fast Pass.
  • In past locations it has been possible to hear the performances while walking around the festival but I didn't find that to be the case last year. If you want to see/listen to a performance you will need to plan to be in the immediate vicinity of that stage.
  • If you plan to watch performances but aren't able to sit on the ground or stand for long periods, you will need to bring your own chair, although many people stand so it can be difficult to see.
  • Parking under the Boston Common tends to fill up quickly and is expensive so if you can take the T, it's a much better option. If you have to drive, consider making a reservation via a site like Parkopedia or parking in a garage in Chinatown. There is some on-street metered parking that is free on Sundays but it's very difficult to park in that area.
  • Check the weather and dress appropriately. Dress in layers if you plan to stay there all day. If you have a yukata or kimono feel free to wear it.  
  • Pack sunscreen. You may also want to pack a hat.
  • Everyone in your party should have a fully charged cell phone.
  • Pick a meeting time/location away from the main festival area if you get separated from your party. I would also recommend that if you are planning to go with small children that you consider having them carry some kind of ID with your contact info on it. Last year I saw a small child separated from his adults. It appeared that he was too young to know their phone number and may also not have been an English-speaker.
  • Unless you don't mind standing in line for over an hour, bring your own food or buy a $30 Fast Pass. 
  • Pack as large a bottle of water as you can carry.
  • There are portable toilets along Beacon and Charles Streets but if the crowds are dense it may take a while to walk there.
  • Bring cash and make sure you have a lot of small bills. I believe that all the food vendors are cash only. Some of the commercial vendors take credit cards, but not all. 
  • If you plan to do a lot of shopping, bring a bag to carry your purchases. Some vendors will provide bags, but not all do. 

Brookline Cherry Blossom Festival

The Brookline Cherry Blossom Festival is a very family-friendly community-oriented matsuri with lots of activities for kids that is produced by The Genki Spark and Brookline High School's Japanese Program and sponsored by the Brookline High School PTO and the Japan Society of Boston. Nearly all of the guest artists are returning artists who have performed in past years: Odaiko New England, Mountain River Taiko, Takahashi Minyo Kai, Stuart Paton & Burlington Taiko, and ShinDaiko. There are two new artists this year – sisters Akino Ann & Yoshino Watanabe who play koto. They perform regularly at other music events in the Boston area including the Afternoon Concerts series and the Boston Charity Concert series. They also performed at TEDxBeaconStreet this year and in 2013. See the schedule here.

Ittoku, the popular izakaya in Brighton who was the Brookline Cherry Blossom Festival's first food vendor beginning in 2014, will be back along with Itadaki, Japonaise Bakery, and Hana Japan (who host their own Natsu Matsuri every August). New vendors this year are the Japanese cream puff chain, Beard Papa's, and local fish market, Sakanaya. The food lines aren't as long as the Japan Festival Boston but if you have young children you should plan ahead. 

See photos from 2016 Brookline Cherry Blossom Festival.
See videos from 2015 Brookline Cherry Blossom Festival.
See photos from 2014 Brookline Sakura Matsuri.

Date & Time
Saturday, May 13, 2017
noon - 4pm

Brookline High School Quad (Rain Location: Schluntz Gym)
115 Greenough Street, Brookline, MA, 02445

Suggested Donation: $5 students, $10-20 families
All proceeds support the BHS Japan Exchange Program ​Scholarship Fund and promotion of the arts

Brookline Cherry Blossom Festival Tips

Brookline High School is fully handicap accessible and the courtyard where the festival is held is a small enough space that you can hear all of the performances regardless of where you are (seeing might be harder if you're on the back end of a line or crowd). The crowd ebbs and flows and most people stay for the full four hours although at peak times it could be challenging for people with crowd anxiety/phobia and definitely for those with issues with noise.
  • Parking is very limited so take the Green Line if you can. The closest stop is Brookline Hills on the D Line. If you have to drive, allow extra time to find parking. There is no parking lot - it's all on street parking (non-metered).
  • If you have sensitive hearing, bring earplugs. Taiko drums are LOUD. Hopefully it won't rain but if it does and the event is held in the gym instead of the courtyard, it will be painful. 
  • Check the weather and dress appropriately. Dress in layers if you plan to stay there all afternoon. If you have a yukata or kimono feel free to wear it. 
  • Pack sunscreen. Many parts of the courtyard are not in shade. You may also want to pack a hat. Sadly, not necessary this year. Forecast calls for rain so the matsuri will be indoors.
  • If you have seasonal allergies, medicate. I volunteered at the Tewassa booth a couple of years ago and even though I was medicated I was covered in pollen and itching when I left. There are a lot of trees and other plant life in the courtyard. 
  • The courtyard is concrete so you may want to bring your own chair or a blanket. 
  • The food lines aren't as bad at the Brookline Cherry Blossom Festival as they are at the Japan Festival Boston but there are fewer options. If you are coming with small children or finicky eaters, you should bring snacks. If you come later, there is a chance that food will be sold out. There are no restaurants within close walking distance of Brookline High School.
  • Pack a bottle of water.
  • There is access to bathrooms and water fountains inside Brookline High School.
  • Bring cash and make sure you have small bills. The food vendors are cash only and I believe the few other booths that sell or accept donations are also cash only. 

Disclosure: I would like to note that I am friends with some of the organizers of both of these festivals, however I publicize them because they are the largest Japanese cultural events in the Boston area, not just because my friends organize them. :)

Monday, February 27, 2017

2017 3.11 Events in Boston

If you are aware of a 3.11 event that I have not listed, please post a comment with a link to the event or details if the info isn't on a public webpage. I will update this post if I learn of any other events.

This year is the sixth anniversary of the tsunami, earthquake, and nuclear disaster that happened in Japan on March 11, 2011. Fukushima continues to face challenges in the massive clean up at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant which "the Japanese government estimates will take four decades and cost 8 trillion yen ($70.6 billion)". Some people in Tohoku are still living in "temporary housing". Communities have shrunk due to people moving away for jobs and housing and the likelihood of being able to repopulate grows smaller with every passing year.

Although the world's attention has moved on to other disasters, some groups in Boston continue to be involved in educating the public and supporting Japan through this crisis. If you are interested in learning more, please consider attending one of these events. Events are listed in chronological order.

I'm sorry I didn't get this post up soon enough to help publicize The Japan Society of Boston's event, Research and Reflections on Fukushima Today: Recovery Progress Since the Triple Disaster of 03.11.11, which was held on February 21, 2017.

Update 3/1/17: I just learned that MIT Japanese Tea Ceremony will not hold their annual 3.11 Japan Memorial Charity remembrance and fundraising event this year.

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 a memorial event.

Date & Time
Saturday, March 4, 2017
4:00 - 6:00pm

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.

Children of the Tsunami Screening & Fundraiser for Ashinaga

Children of the Tsunami (watch for free on vimeo)
Directed & written by Dan Reed
2012 | Japan | 59 mins | Documentary  
On March 11th 2011 Japan was hit by the greatest tsunami in a thousand years. Through compelling testimony from 7-10 year-old survivors, this film reveals how the deadly wave and the Fukushima nuclear accident have changed children's lives forever. The story unfolds at two key locations: a primary school where 74 children were killed by the tsunami; and a school close to the Fukushima nuclear plant, attended by children evacuated from the nuclear exclusion zone.

The Tufts Japanese Culture Club's event is a fundraiser to benefit Ashinaga, a Japan-based non-profit that provides financial, educational, and emotional support to children worldwide "who have lost one or both parents as a result of illness, accident/disaster, or suicide, as well as children who have a parent with a disability that prevents them from working". Since 2011, the Tufts JCC* has been very active in fundraising and educating the Tufts community on the ongoing post-3.11 challenges.

Snack Sale & Crane Folding

Stop by the Mayer Campus Center to purchase mochi, cookies and rice crackers! JCC* students will also be folding origami cranes for a senbazuru (one thousand origami cranes) which will be installed later in the Tisch Library.

Date & Time
Thursday, March 9, 2017
noon - 3:00pm

Tufts University
Mayer Campus Center
44 Professors Row, Medford, MA 02155

Children of the Tsunami Film Screening

Date & Time
Thursday, March 9, 2017

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

Free, but donations for Ashinaga gratefully accepted.

Voices from the Waves (Nami no Koe) | Shinchimachi

Screening will be followed by Q&A with Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Film Director and Reischauer Institute Resident Fellow.

Moderator: Alexander Zahlten, Associate Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University

Voices from the Waves (Nami no Koe) | Shinchimachi
Directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi & Ko Sakai
2013 | Japan | 103 mins | Documentary

From 2011 to 2013, RYUSUKE HAMAGUCHI and Ko Sakai conducted a series of interviews with residents in the Tohoku region of northern Japan, an area heavily hit by both the earthquake and tsunami of March 2011. Their research resulted in three films which have since come to be known as the Tohoku Trilogy: The Sound of the Waves (Nami no oto 2011), Voices from the Waves (Nami no koe 2013), and Storytellers (Utau hito, 2013). In Voices from the Waves, residents from the region face the camera in close-up view to deliver recollections of the earthquake and tsunami. Centering on the rich regional folk tradition of storytelling, the film explores the experience of discovery in the encounter between speaker and listener. Through Hamaguchi’s lens, Voices from the Waves poignantly showcases how a single event may live a thousand lives through the act of telling and how different voices can render that one event into similar yet unique pieces of storytelling. This interaction between speaker and listener becomes an empowering and transformative process, an affirmation of human resilience, and provides hope for recovery and a return to normalcy in the region. (Screening time: 103 minutes, Japanese with English subtitles)

Reischauer Institute Japan Forum special film presentation

Date & Time
Friday, March 10, 2017
4:00 - 6:15pm

Harvard University
Kang Room (S050), Japan Friends of Harvard Concourse, CGIS South Bldg., 1730 Cambridge St., Cambridge, MA 02138

トレイン トレイン 


Students from Tohoku University of Art and Design are coming to Boston Children's Museum for the fifth year to mark the anniversary of 3.11. For the third year the students will have an art and friendship exhibit. The public is invited to attend the exhibit opening. The exhibit is open through Monday, September 30, 2017. Children can meet the artists from Japan and engage in a hands-on activity. See photos from 2014 (here and here) when they had fun making monsters. The exhibit is brought to the museum by artist Minatsu Ariga and her “ART THINKING” project team at the university.

Exploring trains as a symbol of determination and kindness carrying HOPE to our Future!
This art exhibition “トレイン トレイン TRAIN TRAIN” invites visitors on an imaginary adventure to our future.

Trains are not quitters. They just keep moving forward every day whether in the rain, in the wind, against the summer heat, or against the winter snow. Trains often remind us of the importance of hard work, patience, tenacity, and willpower.

Trains carry many things and people, and trains help them reach to their destinations. Trains remind us of the importance of kindness, generosity, and compassion for all humanities and the earth we live in.

In this art exhibition, artists use “trains” as their storytellers and welcome us to reflect our lives through exploring those stories. Where is your train going? Between a station and a station, trains connect us together and lead us to our tomorrow with hopes and dreams.... Please also tell us your train stories. What is your train story like? Is it romantic, dynamic, soulful, gentle...?

The artworks in this exhibition are created by the members of the “ART THINKING” project team at Tohoku University of Art & Design in Japan. After the devastating earthquake and tsunami in their hometown in March 2011, they decided to use the special power of ART to make the world a better place and connect with many friends like you! So they bought this exhibition to Boston as their fourth annual international friendship making project.

Our hope is that this exhibition also brings opportunities for the visitors to peek into today’s youth culture and children’s experience in Japan. Visitors are encouraged to make connections and share their own stories. Through this cross-cultural experience in this art exhibition “トレイン トレイン TRAIN TRAIN”, we hope to engage visitors in joyful discovery of learning and foster their appreciation of the world.

Date & Time
Friday, March 10, 2017
6:00 - 8:00pm

Saturday, March 11, 2017
12:00 - 3:00pm

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."

Cranes on the Square

Cranes on the Square 2016
This year is the fifth annual Cranes on the Square event organized by local Japanese language teacher Timothy Nagaoka. Volunteers will teach people how to fold origami cranes which will form a temporary public art piece in Copley Square then be collected and delivered to people in the disaster area. See photos from last year's event here.

Date & Time
Sunday, March 12, 2017
11:30am - 4:30pm

Copley Square, Boston, MA 02116

Sunday, February 19, 2017

2017 Day of Remembrance Events in Boston

 San Francisco, California, 1942.
Exclusion Order posted at First and Front Streets directing removal of persons of
Japanese ancestry from the first San Francisco section to be effected by the evacuation.
Dorothea Lange, National Archives Identifier: 536017

Today is the 75th anniversary of the Day of Remembrance, the day President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which allowed the US government to incarcerate Americans and foreign nationals during WWII. The largest DOR event being organized in the Boston area by the New England chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League and the MIT Center for International Studies is on Saturday. There is also an event at Tufts on Thursday.

If anyone knows of any other DOR events happening later this month, please let me know and I will update this post. You can also submit events to the Never Again Facebook community that was put together by people in the national Japanese American community. The community is public but note that the Events page doesn't seem to be visible if you don't have a Facebook account.

Executive Orders - Past and Present

Please join Tufts Japanese Culture Club and Muslim Student's Association to commemorate Day of Remembrance. Together, we remember the lives affected and lost by Executive Order 9066, which President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed and authorized the forced removal of 120,000 Japanese Americans from their homes on the West Coast during World War II. Through our personal stories of family members interned and Islamophobic violence following 9/11, we strive to illuminate moments in American history in which groups are casted as “enemy alien” and disloyal. We must view today’s Executive Orders against immigration as fully connected to the past.

This evening's event will feature:

- "PILGRIMAGE", a documentary by Tad Nakamura that tells the inspiring story of how an abandoned WWII concentration camp for Japanese Americans has been transformed into a symbol of retrospection and solidarity for people of all ages, races and nationalities in our post 9/11 world.

- PERSONAL STORY SHARING about our families' experiences in internment and following 9/11. Hear from Japanese Culture Club and Muslim Student's Association members, Anna Kimura, Joseph Tsuboi, Chelsea Hayashi, Shaan Shaikh, and Nazifa Sarawat.

Light refreshments will be provided.

Co-sponsored by Tufts University Asian American Center

Date & Time
Thursday, February 23, 2017
8:00 - 9:30pm

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

Starr Forum: National Security & Civil Liberties: 1942 & 2017 

(Facebook event page)

The panel will begin with reflections on the 75th anniversary of internment of Japanese Americans, then assess and respond to issues raised by the current wave of Islamophobia and xenophobia.

Invocation: Hoda Elsharkawi, MIT Muslim Chaplain

Moderator: Kenneth Oye, MIT Political Science and NE JACL Co-President

- Paul Watanabe, Director of UMass Institute for Asian American Studies
- Margie Yamamoto, NE JACL Co-President incarcerated as a baby during WWII
- Barbara J. Dougan, Civil Rights Director of Council on American Islamic Relations of Massachusetts
- Nadeem Nazem, Cambridge City Council
- Shannon Al-Wakeel, Executive Director of Muslim Justice League and Massachusetts ACLU Board Member

Refreshments provided.

Sponsors: MIT Center for International Studies; UMass Boston Institute for Asian American Studies; Asian American Journalists Association, New England Chapter; Asian American Resource Workshop; and New England JACL

Date & Time
Saturday, Februrary 25, 2017
2:00 - 4:00pm
Panel will be streamed on the MIT Center for International Studies Facebook page

MIT Media Laboratory
Bartos Theater
20 Ames St., E15-070, Cambridge, MA 02142

Parking & Transportation
Two hour metered street parking is limited due to construction and Cambridge tickets aggressively. There are several nearby parking garages, but all are expensive.

The closest T stop is Kendall/MIT.