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!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Exhibit: Before They Were Heroes: Sus Ito’s World War II Images @ Harvard Medical School Transit Gallery

Correction 5/31/17: Someone just pointed out to me that I had written the Saturday hours were on June 2nd. Saturday is actually June 3rd.

It is really unusual to have exhibits on the WWII Japanese American experience in the Boston area. The Transit Gallery at Harvard Medical School is currently exhibiting part of a very rare collection of photos from a Japanese American soldier who served in Europe in the segregated all Japanese American 442nd Regimental Combat Team. I checked with the New England chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League and we believe this may be the first exhibit in the Boston area to focus on the 442nd. I'm not even sure if other photos like these exist.

Dr. Susumu Ito or Sus as he was known to those of us who knew him, took his 35mm Agfa Ansco to war against orders. In 2015 he told the Los Angeles Times, "I wanted to take [my camera] because we weren't allowed to. I like to break the rules."

Left & right: Japanese American soldiers in the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion
Center: Ito's family in incarceration at Rohwer War Relocation Center

Sus was 21 when he was drafted in 1940, prior to US entry into WWII. He served in a non-segregated Quartermaster truck and vehicle maintenance unit at Camp Haan near Riverside, California. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Sus was sent to Fort Sill in Oklahoma and restricted to civilian duty as a mechanic. In 1943 he was selected to join the 442nd and assigned to the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion, the artillery unit of the 442nd. While Sus was stationed at Fort Shelby in Mississippi, his family was being unjustly incarcerated at the Rohwer War Relocation Center in Arkansas. He was able to visit them once before deploying to Europe and took photos of that visit. Cameras were initially banned inside War Relocation Authority incarceration camps and although restrictions were eventually lifted in the spring of 1943, few candid photos of camp life exist.

Photograph and note to Ito from Larry Lubetski, former Dachau Concentration Camp
prisoner. Lubetski was a Lithuanian Jew who was only a teenager when the
522nd Field Artillery Battalion helped to rescue him after the liberation of Dachau.

Sus and his camera went thousands of miles all over Europe. He documented everything he saw along the way – from Nazi soldiers and their prisoners (he helped to liberate Dachau) to the daily life of his fellow Japanese American soldiers between battles. Sus was a prolific photographer, taking thousands of photos, many of which he sent to his mom to let her know he was okay. The exhibit showcases just a fraction of the collection.

Silhouettes of six German soldiers retreating westward at dawn in Germany.
Spring 1945

After the war Sus continued his education with the help of the G. I. Bill and after receiving his PhD from Case Western Reserve University became a postdoctoral fellow at Cornell Medical School in the lab of Don W. Fawcett, Chair of the Department of Anatomy. When Dr. Fawcett was appointed Chair of the Department of Anatomy at Harvard Medical School in 1960, he brought Sus along with him as an associate professor. After retiring in 1990, Sus, as an Emeritus professor, remained active in the lab until 2014, happy to assist postdocs with electron microscopy, a field that he and Dr. Fawcett pioneered.

Ito on rest and recuperation, posing with his arm around the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France.
Summer 1945

The exhibit was first displayed at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, California in the late summer of 2015. Sus passed away just a few weeks after the JANM exhibit closed. He was a beloved member of Boston's Japanese American community and of the Harvard Medical School community.

Before They Were Heroes: Sus Ito’s World War II Images

In 1994, the Japanese American National Museum received a donation of several dozen 35mm film canisters and their contents from World War II veteran Susumu "Sus" Ito. While serving in the all-Japanese American 442nd Regimental Combat Team's 552nd Field Artillery Battalion, Ito took thousands of photographs and carried them nearly five thousand miles across Italy, France, and Germany during his wartime service.

In part, Ito took these photos to send to his mother, who was incarcerated at the Rohwer War Relocation Center. The snapshots depict a previously unseen and close-up view of the Nisei soldiers and their everyday experiences. Through the lens of Ito's camera, these young men are just that–young men, away from home and family, serving their country in a time of war. While some of the images capture the soldiers' heroism, most of the photographs show the smaller, human moments of daily life.

Unseen for over seventy years, Sus Ito's thousands of photographs provide a rare window into one person's extraordinary experience of everyday life as a soldier during World War II.

Ito's collection captures the iconic moments often associated with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team–from the rescue of the Lost Battalion to the liberation of two Dachau subcamps.

But these intense moments of war are punctuated by long periods of boredom and waiting. From Ito reading a Superman comic to soldiers stomping on grapes to make wine, the photos notably depict the more routine activities of wartime life. Ito purposefully captured and sent these snapshots to his mother as a way [to] reassure her of his safety.

Today, the collection of photographs stands as a unique record of an important period in American history.

This exhibit was organized by the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, and is sponsored by the Harvard Medical School Office of Human Resources, the New England Japanese American Citizens League, Dr. James Adelstein, Atsuko Fish, and May & Tetsuo Takayanagi.

The original exhibit also contained artifacts and videos which due to space and equipment limitations are not included in the Transit Gallery's exhibit. Later this year the exhibit will travel to the Fullerton Arboretum in Fullerton, CA from September 11th to December 1st. If you are interested in booking the exhibit, please contact the Japanese American National Museum.

Open through Monday, June 26, 2017
Regular Hours: Monday-Friday, 9am - 5pm
Special hours: Saturday, June 3, 2017, 1pm - 5pm
Note: If you are not a member of the Harvard Medical School community, please contact Tania Rodriguez in advance to ensure access to Gordon Hall. 

Transit Gallery at Gordon Hall, Harvard Medical School
25 Shattuck St., Boston, MA 02115

Free and open to the public.

Directions & Parking
Getting to Gordon Hall is a bit of a challenge. Taking the Green Line is your best option. The closest T stop is Brigham Circle on the E Line. You can access Shattuck St. by walking through the courtyard behind the Countway Library of Medicine (the entrance to the courtyard is between the Countway Library and Harvard School of Public Health).

There is some 2 hour metered parking along Huntington Ave. but not a lot. Most of the nearby parking garages are attached to hospitals and I'm not sure if they are open to the public. The closest garage that I believe is open to the public is the Longwood Galleria Garage at 350 Longwood Ave. See rates here.

Related Posts

Further Reading

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.