Justin’s Japan: Nippon in New York – A Lunar New Year Kickoff

Wakamaru, left, and Hiroshi Ota star in the short play "I, Worker," part of the Seinendan Theater Company + Osaka University Robot Theater Project at Japan Society Feb. 7-9. (Osaka University & Eager Co. Ltd.)

Wakamaru, left, and Hiroshi Ota star in the short play “I, Worker,” part of the Seinendan Theater Company + Osaka University Robot Theater Project at Japan Society Feb. 7-9. (Osaka University & Eager Co. Ltd.)

By JQ magazine editor Justin Tedaldi (CIR Kobe-shi, 2001-02) for Examiner.com. Visit his Japanese culture page here for related stories.Stay warm this winter with some hot local events, from retro anime screenings to bilingual robot plays to a J-pop infused Lunar New Year spectacular.

This month’s highlights include:

Feb. 1-15, 9:30 a.m.-4:00 p.m.

NIPPON-JIN Exhibition

 

Consulate General of Japan, 299 Park Avenue

Free

Presented by J-COLLABO, a unique social network that promotes the Japanese art scene with various collaborating artists, NIPPON-JIN (meaning “Japanese”), will be on view at the gallery of the Consulate General of Japan from Feb. 1-15. Showcasing more than 300 unique portrait photographs taken by Junichi Takahashi, NIPPON-JIN reveals what Takahashi sees as “Japanese people,” opposed to the prototype of stereotypical “Japanese” that others expect and portray. To capture the essence of what makes Japanese “Japanese,” Takahashi decided to approach this project by taking hundreds of samples over a four-year period of Japanese being themselves, letting the accumulation of the subject matter form the answer. The exhibition will go to the gallery of Narita International Airport in Japan this summer.

Sunday, Feb. 3, 3:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m.

Salon Series No. 44. Gestures, Mime and Dance

Tenri Cultural Institute, 43A West 13th Street

$15 general, $10 students/seniors

Now in its fifteenth year, the 45th performance of Sachiyo Ito & Company’s Salon Series is titled “Gestures in Japanese Dance and Mime.” From noh theater to today’s baseball heroes, the Japanese have tended to use more gestures than other peoples, particularly compared to those in the west, and in much subtle manner. Why and how we use them in daily life and see any of those are reflected in dance. Featuring guest Yass Hakoshima (who led Yass Hakoshima Movement Theater for 40 years in the USA and Europe), live demonstrations will illustrate how a mime draws gestures from daily life as a comparison and to gain further insight. Excerpts from kabuki dances choreographed by Ito as well as Hakoshima’s ever-popular comic piece, “Fisherman,” will be performed.

Feb. 7-9, 7:30 p.m.

Seinendan Theater Company + Osaka University Robot Theater Project

Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street

$28, $25 Japan Society members

Imagine a time when “robot maids” are commonly found in family households. That’s the much-anticipated setting of these two heartrending short plays by Oriza Hirata, founder of Japan’s celebrated Seinendan Theater Company. In Sayonara (android and human actors), an android is bought to console a girl suffering from a fatal illness, but when its mechanics go awry, the meaning of life and death to humans and robots comes into question. In I, Worker (robots and human actors), a husband’s struggle to cope with the loss of his child is juxtaposed with the malaise of one of his robots, which has lost all motivation to work. This double bill was developed in collaboration with Dr. Hiroshi Ishiguro, a leading international researcher on robotics and Director of the Intelligent Robotics Laboratory at Osaka University. Sayonara will be performed in English and Japanese with English subtitles. I, Worker will be performed in Japanese with English subtitles.

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