Spring has sprung in the Big Apple, and that means one thing: a new season of sounds, colors, and spectacular performing arts to match the blossoming sakura trees throughout the city.
This month’s highlights include:
Landmark Sunshine Cinema, 143 East Houston Street
Written and directed by Makoto Shinkai (5 Centimeters Per Second, Children Who Chase Lost Voices), the highest-grossing internationally released anime film in history finally comes to America! The day the stars fell, two lives changed forever. High schoolers Mitsuha and Taki are complete strangers living separate lives. But one night, they suddenly switch places. Mitsuha wakes up in Taki’s body, and he in hers. This bizarre occurrence continues to happen randomly, and the two must adjust their lives around each other. Yet, somehow, it works. They build a connection and communicate by leaving notes, messages, and more importantly, an imprint. When a dazzling comet lights up the night’s sky, something shifts, and they seek each other out wanting something more—a chance to finally meet.
Sunday, April 9, 8:00 p.m.
B.B. King Blues Club and Grill, 237 West 42nd Street
$29.50 advance, $35 day of show
A courageous, spiritually-driven and consummate artist who transcends boundaries, Keiko Matsui has worked alongside the best, including Miles Davis, Stevie Wonder, Hugh Masakela, and Bob James. Her unique melting pot of musical influences have garnered her a devout international following, as she tours relentlessly and seeks to make a genuine connection with her audience. “This music energizes me and I am overwhelmed with emotion when I listen to it. I hope people will allow themselves to go inside the music and become a part of my journey,” says the Tokyo native. In the words of Duke Ellington, Keiko Matsui is “beyond category.”
Friday, April 21, 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.
Club Bonafide, 212 East 52nd Street
Orange Pekoe is a band composed of vocalist Tomoko Nagashima and guitarist Kazuma Fujimoto. Formed in 1998, they started creating original songs and have developed a unique sound sublimating various types of music such as jazz, Latin, Brazilian and soul. Since then, Orange Pekoe has been acclaimed as a one-of-a-kind uniquely artistic band.. Their performance style varies from a duo to a band, sometimes playing alongside a 16-member big band-style orchestra, which they received renown as one of the most unique and talented artists in Japan.
April 21-23, 25
Rush seats available
Part of the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival! Director Lana Wilson follows up her award-winning documentary After Tiller with this lyrical, intimate character study of the complex figure Ittetsu Nemoto, an aimless and rebellious former punk rocker-turned-Buddhist priest. Most famously, he is renowned in Japan for saving the lives of countless suicidal men and women through his wise and compassionate counsel. But Nemoto is now approaching middle age with a wife and young boy of his own, when he learns his life is at risk from heart disease, compounded by the heavy emotional workload of supporting those who no longer want to live. When saving others takes such a toll, can he find the resiliency to save himself? The Departure is an intimate portrait of one quietly extraordinary man who has helped so many learn to live, and now must find the strength to learn from his own advice.
Brooklyn Expo Center, 79 Franklin Street
If you like your sauces atomic and your BBQ smoked, this is the event for you! Featuring the the Screaming Mi Mi Awards (the ultimate award in the hot sauce industry), this year includes an “Asian Style” category! Enjoy tastings from all of the hot sauce vendors and access to all competitions on the main stage. Check out the best food vendors serving up the spiciest creations with plenty of craft beers and the best cocktails. Did we mention the BBQ?
Sunday, April 23, 10:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.
Steinway Street between Broadway and 34th Avenue (Astoria)
The 35th installment of the Japan Fes. Street Fair will present 60 booths offering specialties, as well as the hugely popular ramen contest with tasting extravaganza. Explore an array of Japanese ramen styles hailing from New York, New Jersey, Boston and even Japan, which will go head to head to see who will be crowned the ultimate champion as voted on by attendees! Other vendors of Japanese food, drink and goods will also be on hand.
Sunday, April 23, 8:00 p.m.
Irving Plaza, 17 Irving Place
Promoted exclusively by Live Nation, the first edition of this special package tour features Miyavi from Japan, Slot Machine from Thailand, and Kiha & The Faces from Korea. These three renowned artists, who collectively have more than 4 million likes on Facebook and over 60 million individual YouTube views, are set to hit the North American shores this spring. Miyavi, the “Samurai Guitarist,” has gained recognition around the world for his unique “slap style” on the guitar and acting performances in films like Unbroken, Stray and Kong: Skull Island. He’s had five successful world tours under his belt, and released his new hits album, Day 2, this month in Japan, which consists of his past 15 years of rocking out as well as revised versions and unreleased tracks.
Monday, April 24, 8:00 p.m.
Joe’s Pub, 425 Lafayette Street
Charan–Po–Rantan are an “alternative chanson” sister unit comprised of Momo on vocals and her older sister Koharu on the accordion. Their music is an eclectic melting pot of French chanson, gypsy music, Klezmer, retro ’50s-’60s J-pop with a pinch of Russian melancholy, all mixed together with a modern twist. Lyrics are injected with wit and black humor, an exact opposite and surprising contrast to their colorful, eye-catching outfits (which are all designed by Koharu and handmade by the sisters’ mother and grandmother). Since the duo’s formation in 2009, they have performed everywhere from the legendary Nippon Budokan to SXSW and twice at Japan’s famed Fuji Rock Festival, even being named as one of the best acts of the fest. Following their debut at Joe’s Pub, Momo and Koharu will perform again later in the week as part of Godzilla Legend: Music of Akira Ifukube at Japan Society on April 28 (details below).
Tuesday, April 25, 7:00 p.m.
B.B. King Blues Club and Grill, 237 West 42nd Street
$25 advance, $30 day of show
Guitarist Akira Takasaki and late drummer Munetaka Higuchi first played together in Japan during the mid-’70s in a mainstream rock band called Lazy. Unhappy with the band’s direction, the duo split and decided to follow in the footsteps of Bow Wow (the first ever Japanese heavy metal band), forming Loudness with vocalist Minoru Niihara and bass player Masayoshi Yamashita. Combining a classic metal approach with Takasaki’s Eddie Van Halen-inspired guitar heroics, the band immediately scored local success with their first three albums, which were sung entirely in Japanese. By the time they were introduced to the West by 1985’s Thunder in the East album, Loudness was poised for their global breakthrough.
April 25-26, 7:30 p.m.
Park Avenue Armory, 643 Park Avenue
Ryuichi Sakamoto has won or been nominated for Academy, Grammy, and Golden Globe Awards for his lauded scores from films including The Last Emperor, Little Buddha, and The Revenant. But this talented Japanese renaissance man is also a musician, producer, pianist, activist, writer, actor, dancer and electronic music pioneer, with a diverse resume and fan base from having collaborated with numerous artists on projects ranging from electronic to classical and world music. For this performance, with his long-time collaborator and visual artist, Shiro Takatani, Sakamoto will present a work that mixes both sound installation and musical performance for the first time in his career.
Friday, April 28, 7:30 p.m.
Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street
$32, $28 Japan Society members
Calling all monster movie enthusiasts for an evening filled with your favorite marches, melodies, vibes and reverbs from the Japanese cult classic Godzilla! Performed by Japan’s forever-young techno-pop band Hikashu and special guest musicians including the spunky sister duo Charan-Po-Rantan, this concert (complete with cash bar) showcases the remarkable range of music composed by Akira Ifukube, who passed away last year and is known for creating some of the most memorable aural moments in cinematic history.
April 29-30, 10:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden, 990 Washington Avenue
$30 adults, $25 senior and students, free for BBG members and children under 12
Billed as a dynamic two days of traditional and contemporary Japanese culture inspired by BBG’s famous collection of flowering cherry trees, organizers will once again welcome tens of thousands of visitors to its massive 52 acres, home to over 12,000 kinds of plants (and, for that weekend, nearly as many cosplayers). Enjoy events, activities and food for all ages while taking in live performances from guests including the thunderous taiko drumming of Cobu, New York troupe Dancejapan with Sachiyo Ito, the BBG Parasol Society Fashion Show, and the Matsuri live debuts of Tokyo indie rock duo Uhnellys and NYC’s own J-pop meets jazz favorite J-MUSIC Ensemble.