Saturday, April 16, 2016

Japan Festival Boston & Brookline Cherry Blossom Festival celebrating five years

Boston's two largest Japanese festivals are celebrating five years this year!

Japan Festival Boston & Cosplay Matsuri


Japan Festival Boston (formerly Haru Matsuri and Japan Festival in Boston) is hoping for this year's matsuri to be twice as large as last year's when 40,000 people attended! It looks like they are also expanding the cosplay portion of the event to be a matsuri within a matsuri. Their website has been updated with much more detailed information including team bios of the folks who are organizing the festival. Also check their Facebook page where there's a lot of information posted that isn't on the website.

Weaving at SAORI Worcester booth
2015 Japan Festival Boston
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, amezaiku artist Candy Miyuki and Japanese calligraphy artist Kokin Manabe, who has been a guest artist at the Boston Children's Museum. There will be at least a couple of businesses selling kimono and yukata (Nomura Kimono Shop from Japan and Ohio Kimono).

The grill @ Oga's booth
2015 Japan Festival Boston
This year's food vendors include a mix of local, NYC-area, and Japan-based businesses. Note that lines are always insanely long so you should take snacks, especially if you have children. Last year some people ended up going to fast food places near the Boston Common because it was easier than standing in line. One of their GoFundMe perks this year is a $50 fast pass that you can use at some of the food booths, but it's unclear how that's going to work. Issues with food lines have unfortunately been a recurring problem for the festival. The food always looks oishii but I've rarely been able to eat at the food booths since I haven't had time to stand in line.

See photos from 2015 Japan Festival Boston.
See photos from 2014 Japan Festival in Boston. 

Date & Time
Sunday, April 24, 2016
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 GoFundMe again. One of the rewards is a $75 yukata rental.

They are also seeking volunteers.

Brookline Cherry Blossom Festival


The Brookline Cherry Blossom Festival (fomerly Brookline Sakura Matsuri) is also celebrating five years. This very family-friendly matsuri with lots of activities for kids is produced by The Genki Spark (also in their fifth year) and Brookline High School's Japanese Program. The festival has grown every year and while much smaller than the Japan Festival Boston, has a great community vibe and lots of taiko from The Genki Spark and guest artists from around New England: Odaiko New England, Takahashi Minyo Kai, ShinDaiko, Mountain River Taiko, and Stuart Paton & Burlington Taiko. Last year over 1,300 festivalgoers came from all over New England and as far away as Canada.

Food vendors this year are Ittoku, who has been at the festival since they added food vendors in 2014, Itadaki, Japonaise Bakery, and Hana Japan (who host their own Natsu Matsuri every August). The food lines aren't as long as the Japan Festival Boston but if you have young children you should plan ahead. There are no restaurants within walking distance of the high school.

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

Date & Time
Saturday, April 30, 2016
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

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. :)

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Temporarily Closed: Japonaise Bakery in Brookline

I was sad when I got to Japonaise Bakery yesterday and saw that the windows were papered over and they were closed. Fortunately, the closure is just temporary. I emailed them and the owner, Takeo Sakan, replied to say that he's installing some new equipment and hopes to reopen by the beginning or middle of next week. Phew! Hopefully that means their bread machine will be back up and running. It recently broke again. :( This is very sad because they're the only local source of freshly made Japanese breads in the Boston area. I'm very fond of their shoku pan (Japanese white bread).

As far as I'm aware, Japonaise Bakery is the only Japanese bakery in New England. I'm told here used to be a Japanese cake shop years ago in Belmont but they closed a long time ago. Another Japanese dessert business, Mochi Kitchen, was only open for a few years and closed last March when the owner relocated.

Japonaise Bakery was recently featured in a Harvard Magazine article about local bakeries.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Upcoming taiko performances

A couple of big taiko performances are happening in the next month!

The Genki Spark 5th Anniversary Making Women's History

The Genki Spark, the only all female, pan-Asian taiko troupe in the US, continues their year-long celebration of their 5th anniversary with two concerts later this month. Their events and performances are always high energy and positive and I love seeing them perform!

Being our 5th year we want to celebrate BIG! This year's 2 hour show is filled with some of our favorite pieces like 'Renshu', 'Kizuna', and our spoken word piece 'Who Am I? What Am I?' In addition, our brand new pieces: 'Hot Flash', 'Kachidoki', and 'Immigration Stories' feature and celebrate the diverse experiences of the women in our membership. New location, new pieces, same Genki love, joy, and passion!

This year we're thrilled to include long time friends and guest artists Tiffany Tamaribuchi (Saturday only) from Sacramento Taiko Dan (CA) and Karen Falkenstrom from Odaiko Sonora (AZ.)

As always, our show will begin with a reception with yummy treats, so bring your friends, bring your family, and come early to relax and celebrate with us.

Date & Time
Saturday, March 19, 2016
6:00pm Reception
7:00 - 9:00pm Show

Sunday, March 20, 2016
11:00am Reception
12:00 - 2:00pm Show

Hibernian Hall
184 Dudley St., Roxbury MA 02119

See the Hibernian Hall website for details.

In advance: $20 general admission, $10 student w/ ID, $8 children under 10
At the door: $25 general admission, $15 student w/ ID, $10 children under 10
Group discounts available.
Purchase tickets here.

Tamagawa Taiko & Dance

Tamagawa Taiko & Dance, a performance group from Tamagawa University in Tokyo led by professor and kabuki master Isaburo Hanayagi, is returning to the Boston area for a performance at Wellesley College. Their performance is co-presented by The Japan Society of Boston.

Join us to experience an exciting evening of high energy Taiko drumming and Japanese folkloric dancing on the beautiful campus at Wellesley College. 
The Tamagawa Taiko & Dance group has been touring the world since 1961. With a growing fan base, they have been invited to the Philadelphia Cherry Blossom Festival every year since 2003.

This group of over 40 highly talented performers are returning to the U.S. this year to share their music & dance in Philadelphia, Washington D.C., New York and Boston! Performances in New York have been sold out every year since 2010.

Date & Time
Saturday, April 9, 2016
5:00pm Doors open
6:00 - 7:30pm Performance

Wellesley College, Alumnae Hall
106 Central St., Wellesley, MA 02481


$20 general admission, $10 students (note: ticket prices are $22.09 & $11.54 with surcharge)
Purchase tickets here.

Update: A friend just pointed out that I forgot to include the March 13th performance of Yamato: The Drummers of Japan at Berklee College of Music.

See also:

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Robert J. Maeda, 1932-2016

6/16/16 Update: Robert Maeda's memorial service will be held on Saturday, June 25, 2016 at 3pm at Brandeis University in Rapaporte Treasure Hall in the Goldfarb Library, 415 South Street, Waltham, MA 02453. The service is open to the public.

I learned a couple of weeks ago that one of our local Japanese American community leaders passed away last month. Robert J. Maeda was Professor Emeritus of Fine Arts at Brandeis University where he taught for 33 years before retiring in 2000. He was the first Asian American hired by Brandeis to teach Asian Art. The Brandeis Fine Arts Department described him as "an inspiring teacher for generations of Brandeis students, a cherished colleague and friend, and a warm, re-assuring presence to all who knew him." Robert was also former president and long-time member of the board of the New England Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League.

I never met Robert, but I did meet his daughter, theatre artist Kimi Maeda, when she performed a very moving play about her father's life and his struggle with dementia at Brandeis last year. Kimi is about to start a Northeastern tour of that show and will be performing Bend in Boston from Friday, February 19th to Saturday, February 27th. I encourage people to attend and support Kimi in her journey to keep her father's memory alive. The following essay was published in the New England JACL's mid-February newsletter.

A special message from Kimi Maeda

Robert Maeda’s daughter, Kimi, is undertaking a Northeastern tour of Bend, her one-woman stage production created to honor her father’s experiences during World War II. She sent us this message.

For the past few years my father has been slowly fading away. The illness that began as a wrong turn on a familiar drive home eventually reduced him to the shallow breathing that kept us on edge by his bedside. When he died, he left an emptiness in his wake.

People ask me if it is difficult to be doing a performance about his life so soon after his death. In some ways I think it is actually comforting. I created this show during his illness as a way to cope with everything that I was feeling. Rehearsing in preparation for the tour has been similarly therapeutic. I come into the studio every day and draw my dad over and over again while I listen to recordings of his voice. I am memorizing the shape of his face and the wrinkles on his brow. He feels very present, and that is filling the emptiness.

Bend is about forgetting, but it is also about memory. The New England Chapter of the JACL and I originally intended this Day of Remembrance Tour to commemorate Roosevelt signing Executive Order 9066 which led to the incarceration of Japanese American families on the West Coast after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Now I think it is actually a fitting memorial for my father, as well.

A friend of mine whose father died recently wrote that “After the initial flurry of burial, obituary, and funeral arrangements passed, I began to think more about my dad from when he was healthy. The years of sickness have faded more, and the memories of my dad through all the years of my childhood and beyond have become stronger. It was like when my dad passed, the years of illness did too, and I was left with the times of what really mattered.” In Bend I express my fear that my father’s memory will be forgotten. However, this tour is not only allowing me to keep his memory present, it is also giving me the opportunity to share his story with so many people.

The following tribute to Robert was included in the New England JACL's mid-February newsletter.
New England JACL has lost a wonderful friend, Robert Maeda. Robert passed away on Saturday, January 30, at the age of 83. He served as our JACL president in the 1980s and was active in the Japanese American community’s successful efforts to fight for reparations for families incarcerated in American’s concentration camps during World War II. He was a long-time member of our chapter’s Board and was always available to us as a speaker on any subject we required, especially on the arts. Robert was a professor of Asian Art at Brandeis University until his retirement in 2000. During his career he was a prolific scholar and his research centered around paintings from the Sung Dynasty as well as the Japanese American artist, Isamu Noguchi. Robert is survived by his wife Nobuko of Concord, MA; his daughter Kimi of Columbia, SC; and his sister Edith of Skokie, IL. A memorial service will be held later this year. For the Concord Journal obituary, go to: [].

Robert's official obituary, which was published in The Concord Journal, can also be seen at
Robert J. Maeda passed away on Saturday, January 30 at age 83. Robert was the Robert B. and Beatrice C. Mayer Professor of Fine Arts, Emeritus at Brandeis University and was a longtime resident of Concord, MA. He is survived by his wife Nobuko, of Concord, MA, his daughter Kimi, of Columbia, SC and his sister, Edith, of Skokie, IL.

Robert was born in El Centro, CA in 1932, the seventh child of Junichi and Tetsue Maeda. In 1942, the family was sent to the Colorado River Relocation Center in Poston, AZ as one of the thousands of Japanese American families forced into incarceration during WWII. From Poston, Robert moved with his family to Chicago, IL, where he eventually graduated from Lane Tech High School in 1950. He received a B.A. in Western Art History from the University of Illinois in 1953. Beginning in 1954, he served a total of eight years in the US Army and Army Reserves achieving the rank of Specialist, 4th Class. In 1960, he received an M.A. in Asian Art History from the University of Michigan and in 1969 completed his PhD at Harvard University in Asian Art History.

In 1967, Robert was hired as the first Asian American professor to teach Asian Art at Brandeis University. He spent his entire teaching career at Brandeis, retiring in 2000. Throughout his career, Robert was the recipient of many fellowships and awards, including a Fulbright fellowship in 1964 that took him to Japan. In 1973 Robert was a member of the Chinese Archaeology Delegation, the first group of art historians from the US to visit China. A prolific scholar, Robert’s research centered around paintings from the Sung Dynasty as well as the Japanese American artist Isamu Noguchi. Among his best known works are Two Sung Texts on Chinese Painting and the Landscape Styles of the 11th and 12th Centuries, published by Garland Press and “The ‘Water” Theme in Chinese Painting,” published in Artibus Asiae, in 1971.

In addition to his scholarly work, Robert was a leader in the Japanese American community in Massachusetts, serving on the board of the New England Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) and the Nisei Student Relocation Commemorative Fund. As president of the board of the regional JACL in the 1980s, Robert was active in the organization’s successful fight for reparations for families incarcerated in relocation centers during WWII.

Following his retirement, Robert continued to serve his community by teaching art history classes at Concord Village University and volunteering at Emerson Hospital in Concord.

A memorial service for Robert will be held later this year. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in Robert’s honor to the Japanese American Citizens League, New England Chapter, P.O. Box 592, Lincoln, MA 01773 or Brandeis University, 

The above are reprinted with permission of the New England JACL and Kimi Maeda. Messages for the family can be left at the Dee Funeral Home website.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Film: Paper Lanterns

Paper Lanterns

Directed by Barry Frechette
2016 | Documentary

In 2015, as America and Japan celebrated the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, few remembered – if they ever knew – that twelve American prisoners-of-war were on the ground in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 and were killed by the atomic bomb that destroyed the city that day.
One of the Americans was Normand Brissette, a teen-age Navy flier from Lowell, Massachusetts; another was Sgt. Ralph Neal from Harrodsburg, Kentucky.

This powerful new film tells their story.

And the story of Shigeaki Mori, himself a Hiroshima survivor, who never knew the American bomb victims but who has devoted his life to finding their families and dedicating monuments to their memory.
Sponsored by The Japan Society of Boston, Connolly Partners, and Element Productions.

Date & Time
Thursday, February 25, 2016

Revere Hotel Theatre 1
200 Stuart Street Boston, MA 02116

Free. Seating is limited. Registration required.

Related links

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Exhibit: Twisted Again: The New Kumihimo @ Wedeman Gallery in The Yamawaki Art Center

Obi braided by Makiko Tada, Japan
Original obi tie method by Matsuko Levin, US
Kimono on loan from the collection of Matsuko Levin

After attending the MFA panel on Kimono Wednesdays on Sunday I dashed off to Newton to the opening reception of Twisted Again: The New Kumihimo, an exhibit of kumihimo art. Kumihimo is a Japanese textile art that traditionally involves the braiding of silk strands to make a cord. The exhibit showcases the work of six female artists from Japan, the US, the UK, and Australia who work with a variety of materials from the more traditional silk to modern materials such as monofilament. The pieces were really diverse and beautiful. It's a little out of the way for those who live in the city, but well worth the trip.

Twisted Again: The New Kumihimo

Follow the tracks of the ancient caravans and nomadic peoples throughout the world and you will find braids – fiber interlaced on the bias to make strong bands, belts, and cords needed to make everyday life possible. Using natural fibers of different shades, wonderful patterns emerged.  When traders came to a natural stopping point, like the Island of Japan, various stands to make the braids were invented and perfected making possible more and more complex braids using dozens of bobbins of many colors in multiple layers. The Japanese word for making these complex braids is “Kumihimo”.
While there is no census, and there are many braiders and ways to braid, maybe only 100 or so people in the world work at the advanced levels of Kumihimo.  In the making, there is a great sense of connection with the past and pleasure in rediscovering and perfecting the traditional patterns and working with the silk made in Japan only for work in Kumihimo.   But for some, Kumihimo is also a path for innovation and personal expression.  It becomes not just a technique but an art medium.  We celebrate this group in this show.
Our show brings together the work of six artists using the Kumihimo braiding techniques, all of whom are innovators with a unique voice. This first in the US show combines work from four continents: Australia, Japan, the UK, and the US.  When you come to the show, you will have a unique opportunity to listen in on the conversation between individuals and cultures as seen through these works.  Some follow an engineering approach – inventing new braid structures to create never-before-seen patterns and effects. Others follow a more evolutionary approach, experimenting with the process to see what will emerge as a piece grows.  While the traditional silk is still much in evidence, all of the artists experiment with different materials and fibers including paper, monofilament, and wire. Some want some functionality in their work and so have gone in the direction of fashion applications, true wearable art.  Others have left functionality and focus on art expression. But no matter the direction of exploration, these works all exude the joy and delight of discovery.

Date & Time
Open through Saturday, February 20, 2016
(Note: Some sites and materials mistakenly show the exhibit as being open through the 22nd.)
Informal conversation with curator and artist, Lyn Christiansen, on Friday, February 12, 2016, 4:00 - 6:00pm.
Please see the exhibit website for hours.

Wedeman Gallery at the Yamawaki Art and Cultural Center at Lasell College
47 Myrtle Ave., Newton, MA 02466


Flowers, Flowers, Flowers
Hiroko Ojima, Japan

Pieces by Jacqui Carey, UK

Wheel of Fortune
Lyn Christiansen, US

A nice feature of the exhibit is that there's a "Touch Table" with examples of most of the work in the exhibit. As a fiber artist I always want to touch textile arts, but it's a rarity to be able to do so. This was a great idea.

This was a completely unexpected find. Apparently Lasell College has owned this Japanese temple bell from Myokoku (outside Kyoto) since the 1800s when it was bought by Milton S. Vail, a friend of Lasell's principal, Dr. Charles C. Bragdon. This is not the only Japanese temple bell in the area. There is another Edo era Japanese temple bell in the Back Bay Fens. The Emerald Necklace Conservancy offers docent-led tours to see it.

Japanese Temple Bell
early 1800s, Edo period

Additional photos here.

Exhibit: Made in the Americas @ MFA

I had intended to write something much longer about this exhibit but I've run out of time. This is the last week of the MFA's Made in the Americas: The New World Discovers Asia. Made in the Americas showcases the work of artists from North and South America, including indigenous artists, who were influenced by goods coming in from Asia. Some of the objects in this exhibit come from the MFA's own collection and some were loaned from The Hispanic Society of America in New York and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

In some cases they copied motifs (shown with a Peruvian tapestry that included Chinese mythological creatures and was clearly copied from imported Chinese textiles) and in others, came up with new techniques to replicate the look of Asian art (as with japanning). These days many of these artists would likely be accused cultural appropriation. It was incredible to see the way Asian art had inspired them to create art that was similar but uniquely their own. If you have time to see it before it closes on Monday, February 15th, I highly recommend it.

Made in the Americas: The New World Discovers Asia

Within decades of the “discovery” of America by Spain in 1492, goods from Asia traversed the globe via Spanish and Portuguese traders. The Americas became a major destination for Asian objects and Mexico became an international hub of commerce. The impact of the importation of these goods was immediate and widespread, both among the European colonizers and the indigenous populations, who readily adapted their own artistic traditions to the new fashion for Asian imports.

“Made in the Americas” is the first large-scale, Pan-American exhibition to examine the profound influence of Asia on the arts of the colonial Americas. Featuring nearly 100 of the most extraordinary objects produced in the colonies, this exhibition explores the rich, complex story of how craftsmen throughout the hemisphere adapted Asian styles in a range of materials—from furniture to silverwork, textiles, ceramics, and painting. Exquisite objects from Mexico City, Lima, Quito, Quebec City, Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, dating from the 17th to the early 19th centuries, include blue-and-white talavera ceramics copied from imported Chinese porcelains, elaborately decorated furniture inspired by imported Japanese lacquer, and luxuriously woven textiles made to replicate fine silks and cottons imported from China and India.

The timing of the exhibition marks the 450th anniversary of the beginning of the Manila-Acapulco Galleon trade between the Philippines and Mexico, which was inaugurated in 1565 and ended in 1815, two and a half centuries later.

Date & Time
Through Monday, February 15, 2016
See MFA's website for hours.

Related talk: The Role of Religious Orders and the Introduction of Asian Arts to the Americas, Saturday, February 13, 2:00 - 3:00pm

Museum of Fine Arts, Lois B. and Michael K. Torf Gallery (Gallery 184)
465 Huntington Ave., Boston, MA 02115

The Southern Barbarians Come to Trader
Kanō Naizen

A Peruvian Cover is on display alongside a Chinese embroidered tapestry (on loan from the Metropolitan Museum of Art) that was made for export. Such tapestries have never been found in South America but were known to have been exported to Europe and the Americas. The MFA notes in the label that the Peruvian artisans "closely cop[ied] their format, style, and iconography." You can see how similar the motifs are, in particular, the mythical xieshi. The Chinese embroidery is believed to be from the Guangzhou region and was probably exported to Japan in the 17th century. It has been heavily re-embroidered, most likely in Japan in the 19th century. (Additional information provided by Pamela Parmal, Curator of Textiles and Fashion Arts.)

Left: Peruvian Cover, late 17th to early 18th century
Right: Panel with flowers, birds, and animals, 17th century

Description of Chinese motifs that were copied in Peruvian Cover

High chest of drawers, about 1730-40
Japanned butternut, maple, white pine

They also showed that the influence was not one-way, with this interesting panel by an unknown Japanese artist.

European King and Members of His Court
泰西王候図屏風 (Taisei ôkô zu byôbu)
Momoyama period 1601-14

  • 2/11/15: Added information about Panel with flowers, birds, and animals.