JQ Magazine: Nippon in New York — Studio Ghibli Fest, ‘Okko’s Inn,’ Sakura Matsuri

By JQ magazine editor Justin Tedaldi (CIR Kobe-shi, 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:

Eleven Arts

April 5-11

Penguin Highway

Village East Cinema, 181-189 Second Avenue

$8-$15

The acclaimed directorial debut from Hiroyasu Ishida! Budding genius Aoyama is only in the fourth grade, but already lives his life like a scientist. When penguins start appearing in his sleepy suburb hundreds of miles from the sea, Aoyama vows to solve the mystery. When he finds the source of the penguins is a woman from his dentist’s office, they team up for an unforgettable summer adventure. Presented in Japanese; select screenings are also English dubbed from April 6-11.

GKIDS

April 7-8, 10

Howl’s Moving Castle: 15th Anniversary

Regal E-Walk 42nd Street 13, 247 West 43nd Street

AMC Empire 25, 234 West 42nd Street

AMC Kips Bay 15, 570 Second Avenue

$12.50

Kicking off this year’s Studio Ghibli Fest is an Academy Award-nominated fantasy adventure for the whole family from acclaimed director Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away). Sophie, a quiet girl working in a hat shop, finds her life thrown into turmoil when she is literally swept off her feet by a handsome but mysterious wizard named Howl. The vain and vengeful Witch of the Waste, jealous of their friendship, puts a curse on Sophie and turns her into a 90-year-old woman. On a quest to break the spell, Sophie climbs aboard Howl’s magnificent moving castle and into a new life of wonder and adventure. The April 7 and 10 screenings are dubbed in English, and the April 8 screening is presented in Japanese with English subtitles.

© Julieta Cervantes; Karole Armitage © Marco Mignani

April 12-13, 7:30 p.m.

Karole Armitage’s You Took a Part of Me

Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street

$30, $25 members

You Took a Part of Me is a wired dance production with choreography by “punk ballerina” Karole Armitage for her five-member dance company Armitage Gone! Dance. Loosely based on the 15th-century noh play Nonomiya, it explores erotic entanglement, unresolved attachments and the search for harmony, all of which are hallmarks of noh drama. Set to live music by Reiko Yamada and Yuki Isami, the show embraces new technologies created by MIT Media Lab designers. The lead role, by Armitage’s longtime collaborator Megumi Eda, highlights sinuous, seductive movement executed with ferocious intensity in a dream-like state. The April 12 performance is followed by a MetLife Meet-the-Artists Reception, and the April 13, performance is followed by an artist Q&A.

GKIDS

April 22-23, 7:00 p.m.

Okko’s Inn

AMC Empire 25, 234 West 42nd Street

AMC Kips Bay 15, 570 Second Avenue

Regal Union Square 14, 850 Broadway

Regal Battery Park 11, 102 North End Avenue

$12.50

The latest feature from famed anime studio Madhouse and director Kitaro Kosaka! Okko discovers there are spirits who live there that only she can see—not scary ones, but welcoming ghosts who keep her company, play games and help her navigate her new environment. This is soon put to the test as a string of new guests challenge Okko’s ability to be a gracious host! Okko’s Inn delivers a rare ghost story that, despite several floating characters, is firmly grounded in the trials and joys of humanity. The April 22 screening is dubbed in English, and the April 23 screening is in Japanese with English subtitles.

Julie Markes

April 27-28, 10:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.

Sakura Matsuri 2019

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, Samurai Sword Soul, NYC’s own J-pop meets jazz favorite J-MUSIC Ensemble, and the Matsuri live debuts of the Molice, Twisty Bonbon, and Lust.

Courtesy of Carnegiehall.org

April 30 and May 4, 8:00 p.m.

Mitsuko Uchida

Carnegie Hall, 881 Seventh Avenue

$25-$165

The magnificent Mitsuko Uchida, praised for her “probing and magisterial” Schubert (The New York Times), continues her multi-season exploration devoted to the Austrian master. There’s melody, melancholy, and perhaps a touch of madness in the two late Schubert sonatas framing a gentle early work. The Sonata in A Minor, likely written when the composer learned of the gravity of the disease that eventually took his life, is a dark-hued journey from its disconsolate opening to jittery finale. Her recital culminates with Schubert’s last sonata, a darkly shaded masterpiece in which he contemplates his impending mortality while looking back to Beethoven in a gentle and rollicking Rondo finale.

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