JQ Magazine: Nippon in New York — Sake + Rakugo, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Sakura Matsuri

By JQ magazine editor Justin Tedaldi (CIR Kobeshi, 2001-02). Justin has written about Japanese arts and entertainment for JETAA since 2005. For more of his articles, click here.

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:

Courtesy of Yukiko Takahashi

Thursday, April 5, 6:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.

Rakugo Event: Tozaburo Yanagiya III

Brooklyn Kura, 68 34th Street (Industry City)

Free

This special set of performances is held at the first Japanese sake brewery in New York State. Born in Tokyo, Yanagiya Tozaburo became a disciple of master Rakugo performer Yanagiya Gontaro III in 1999. He was promoted to the master Shin’uchi rank, in which he himself is certified to train disciples, in 2014. Ever since, he has performed all over Japan and appeared in the ShotenRakugo show and other television programs. During his first visit to North America this spring, he has performed at the University of Toronto, LaGuardia Community College, Hunter College, New York University, and Brooklyn Kitchen. Tozaburo was awarded the Agency for Cultural Affairs’ Arts Festival Newcomer Award in 2016. Tozaburo will share sake-inspired stories (while patrons can enjoy the real thing on the premises) along with a traditional story, “The Zoo.”

Tozaburo is also appearing at J-COLLABO’s Spring Festival in Park Slope on Saturday, April 7, at 3:00 p.m. For more information, click here.

Courtesy of Kazuo Miyagawa Family

April 12-28

Kazuo Miyagawa: Japan’s Greatest Cinematographer

The Museum of Modern Art, (April 12-29)

Japan Society, (April 13-28)

$13/$10 seniors and students, $9 Japan Society members

In celebration of the 110th anniversary of his birth, Japan Society presents an 11-film retrospective surveying the work of Kazuo Miyagawa (1908-1999), the most influential cinematographer of postwar Japanese cinema. Working intimately with directors like Yasujiro Ozu, Akira Kurosawa, Kenji Mizoguchi and Kon Ichikawa on some of their most important films, Miyagawa pushed Japanese cinema to its highest artistic peaks through his lyrical, innovative and technically flawless camerawork. This career-spanning selection displays his great versatility, including major masterpieces and rarely shown titles, screening in 35mm and new digital restorations. Co-organizer The Museum of Modern Art will host repeat screenings and additional Miyagawa retrospective titles from April 12-29. Preceding the retrospective, new 4K restorations of Mizoguchi’s A Story From Chikamatsu and Sansho the Bailiff, both shot by Miyagawa, will run at Film Forum from April 6-12.

GKIDS

April 22-23, 25

The Cat Returns

E-Walk 42nd Street 13, 247 West 42nd Street / Empire 25, 234 West 42nd Street

$12.50 all ages

Part of Studio Ghibli Fest 2018! From the legendary Studio Ghibli, creators of My Neighbor Totoro and the Academy Award-winning Spirited Away, comes a charming and magical adventure that will delight the entire family. Haru is walking home after a dreary day of school when she spies a cat with a small gift box in its mouth crossing a busy street, and she jumps in front of traffic to save the cat from an oncoming truck. To her amazement, the cat gets up on its hind legs, brushes itself off, and thanks her very politely. But things take an even stranger turn when later than night, the King of Cats shows up at her doorstep in a feline motorcade. He showers Haru with gifts, and decrees that she shall marry the Prince and come live in the Kingdom of Cats!

Courtesy of Ryuichi Sakamoto – Coda

April 25-27

Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda

Cinépolis Chelsea (4/25-26), 260 West 23rd Street

Regal Cinemas Battery Park Stadium (4/27), 102 North End Avenue

$23

From his start pioneering synth pop music with Yellow Magic Orchestra, in the late ’70s to winning an Oscar for his score for The Last Emperor in 1988, Ryuichi Sakamoto quickly established himself as one of the most original and intuitive composers of his generation. But, never content to rest on his laurels, Sakamoto’s life journey eventually led him to find musical inspiration in the unlikeliest of places: the Fukushima nuclear disaster and a personal battle with cancer, both of which gave way to a late-life shift in his artistic process. With Coda, director Stephen Nomura Schible (a co-producer on Lost in Translation) crafts a portrait of the artist as an ageless man, one who can turn the worst news into the most refined and purposeful moment of productivity in an already storied career. Shot over five years, this graceful music documentary is an elegantly observed examination of the creative process, following as Sakamoto builds from nothing the album he must assume will be his swan song. Premiere Screening features a Q&A with subject Sakamoto and Nomura Schible.

Kikuna Mishima

April 28-29, 10:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.

Sakura Matsuri 2018

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 food and drink, events and activities for all ages while taking in live performances from New York troupe Dancejapan with Sachiyo Ito, the BBG Parasol Society Fashion Show, NYC’s own J-pop meets jazz favorite J-MUSIC Ensemble, and the Matsuri live debuts of DJ Sashimi and Tokyo-based rock duo Bo-Peep.

Want to stay in the loop on future eventsFollow Justin on Facebook and Twitter.