With Thanksgiving (and the hopes of sensible eating) now just a memory, we turn to colder weather, falling snow, and the new year to come. Fortunately for Japanese culture fans, December is just as busy as the holiday season itself. Whether you’re hosting guests from out of town or looking to squeeze in an event or two in between parties, we’ve got you covered.
This month’s highlights include:
Now through Jan. 1
Radio City Music Hall, 1260 Sixth Avenue
Featuring an all-new finale number (with costumes to match), the seasonal tradition of this legendary New York show, now in its 86th edition, features the Rockettes, ensemble dancers, and Santa himself, for a show guaranteed to delight all ages! Among the more than 50 dancers for this year’s performance is Tokyo native Arisa Odaka, who performed with Ken Watanabe in the Lincoln Center Theater production of The King and I in 2015.
Now through Feb. 10
Featuring exclusive works from Keichi Tanaami (SPIRAL) and Tetsuya Nomura (Kingdom Hearts), Mickey: The True Original Exhibition celebrates 90 years of Mickey Mouse’s influence on art and pop culture. This immersive, one-of-a-kind experience is inspired by Mickey’s status as a “true original” and his consistent impact on the arts and creativity in all its forms. Guests will have the chance to explore the 16,000 square-foot exhibition featuring both historic and contemporary work from renowned artists.
Friday, Dec. 7, 7:00 p.m.
Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street
$14, $11 seniors/students, $5 members
While rummaging through trash heaps on Christmas Eve, three homeless companions—a middle-aged alcoholic, a transgender ex-drag queen and a hot-tempered teen runaway—stumble upon an abandoned newborn. Determined to find the child’s mother, the trio search Tokyo’s sprawling streets, buildings and back alleys, helped along by a series of coincidental encounters that gradually reveal the truth of their traumatic pasts. Imbued with deep empathy for its down-and-out yet lively characters, this atypical holiday comedy by celebrated animation director Satoshi Kon (Perfect Blue, Paprika) highlights the redemptive power of love and family (chosen or otherwise) amidst life on the fringes of society. Presented in Japanese with English subtitles.
Saturday, Dec. 8, 8:30 p.m.
Club Bonafide, 212 East 52nd Street
Esteemed Japanese-American guitarist and composer Gene Ess is proud to announce the release of Apotheosis, the fourth album from his quintet Fractal Attraction. Featuring Thana Alexa on vocals, Sebastien Ammann on piano, Yasushi Nakamura on bass, and Clarence Penn on drums, Apotheosis speaks to the astonishing quality of the spirit and of the ability of human beings to crush adverse circumstances in life, and rise above through inner transformations. Fractal Attraction—regarded as one of the most unique, and fresh ensembles on the jazz scene today—presents the timbral and textural exploration of the guitar and female voice that Ess has so carefully envisioned. The accomplished guitarist’s arrangements blend perfectly with detailed compositional structures that contain plenty of room for improvisation.
Dec. 13, Dec. 18, 7:30 p.m.
Regal E-Walk 42nd Street 13, 247 West 43nd Street
AMC Empire 25, 234 West 42nd Street
AMC Kips Bay 15, 570 Second Avenue
In 2013, film director and animator Hayao Miyazaki suddenly announced his retirement at the age of 72. But he couldn’t shake his burning desire to create. After an encounter with young CGI animators, Miyazaki embarked on a new endeavor, his first project ever to utilize CGI. But the artist, who had been adamant about hand-drawn animation, confronted many challenges. The film even faces the danger of being cancelled. Can an old master who thinks he’s past his prime shine once again? Directed by Kaku Arakawa, intimate documentary goes behind the scenes over two years as Miyazaki overcomes struggles to create his short film using CGI. Presented in Japanese with English subtitles.
Film Forum, 209 West Houston Street
$15, $9 members
Experience an all-new 4K restoration of this film by legendary director Yasujirô Ozu (Tokyo Story, Floating Weeds)! At first glance, Shin Saburi seems the thick-headed dullard wife Michiyo Kogure likens to carp, while she seems a spoiled snob, but then the layers of character peel away, as Keiko Tsushima flees from an arranged marriage and eventual yakuza honcho Koji Tsuruta extols buying second-hand, with excursions into the delights of Japan’s nascent pachinko mania. And a resolution seems inevitable at the simple plain meal of the title. Presented in Japanese with English subtitles.