JQ Magazine: Nippon in New York — Pico Iyer, Hiromi, Lincoln Center Bunraku

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.

The Japan-centric events of the month ahead promise to be as rich and full as autumn itself—brisk and colorful, with a dash of unpredictability.

This month’s highlights include:

Courtesy of Zac Zinger

Thursday, Oct. 3, 8:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m.

Zac Zinger Fulfillment Release Concert

Jazz at Kitano, 66 Park Avenue

$18 cover, call (212) 885-7119 for reservations

A four-time recipient of the ASCAP Young Jazz Composer Award, Zac Zinger is a composer and musician (whose credits includes Final Fantasy XV: Assassin’s Festival and Street Fighter V) ready to unleash his debut album. Fulfillment is a compilation of Zinger’s best compositions for small jazz ensemble over the last decade, performed on shakuhachi (Japanese bamboo flute) and saxophone with his progressive jazz quartet featuring Sharik Hasan on piano, Adam Neely on bass, and Luke Markham on drums.

Courtesy of MuSE

Sunday, Oct. 6, 2:00 p.m.

Wind of Tsugaru in New York: Bunta Satoh, Tsugarubue

Carnegie Hall (Weill Recital Hall), 881 Seventh Avenue

$25-$45 (click here for 20% discount for orchestra seats)

Flautist Bunta Satoh introduces the history and culture of Tsugarubue, a Japanese bamboo flute from the Tsugaru region of Aomori Prefecture. In addition to performing this one-of-a-kind music, he composes for the instrument and organizes workshops to inspire a new generation to uphold its tradition. He released his third album, The Wind of Tsugaru, in January 2017. Joining him for this performance are Hiro Hayashida and Sota Asano (taiko drums), Chihiro Shibayama (percussion), Stephanie Matthews (violin), Reenat Pinchas (cello), and Hsin-Ni Liu (piano).

Shochiku

Oct. 11-17, various times

Tora-san, Our Lovable Tramp (It’s Tough Being a Man)

Film Forum, 209 West Houston Street

$15, $9 members

New 50th anniversary 4K restoration! The longest-running film series starring the same actor (48 features over 27 years), with all but two directed by Yoji Yamada and every one starring Kiyoshi Atsumi as the itinerant, rough around the edges peddler Torajiro Kuruma (nicknamed Tora-san, literally “Mr. Tiger”), a comic figure as iconic in Japan as Chaplin while capable of cutting through pretentious piffle and providing serene counsel to the troubled and the lovelorn—if not always to himself. In his debut appearance, Tora-san hilariously botches the arranged marriage of his kid sister Sakura (Chieko Baisho), but later reverse-psychologizes two timid lovers into a real romance.

Courtesy of the Author and Knopf

Monday, Oct. 14, 6:30 p.m.

Pico Iyer—A Beginner’s Guide to Japan

Asia Society, 725 Park Avenue

$20, $17 students/seniors, $15 members

The quintessential global wanderer, Pico Iyer has published two books on Japan this year: Autumn Light and A Beginner’s Guide to Japan. After thirty-plus years in Japan, Iyer can use everything from anime to Oscar Wilde to show how his adopted home is both hauntingly familiar and yet remains strange. A Beginner’s Guide to Japan: Observations and Provocations is a playful and profound guidebook full of surprising, brief, incisive glimpses into Japanese culture. Iyer’s adventures and observations make for a constantly surprising series of provocations guaranteed to pique the interest and curiosity of those who don’t know Japan, and remind those who do of the complexities and surprises that create lasting memories. Followed by a book sale and signing. 

Courtesy of Odawara Art Foundation

Oct. 19-22, various times

Sugimoto Bunraku Sonezaki Shinju: The Love Suicides at Sonezaki

Rose Theater, Jazz at Lincoln Center Frederick P. Rose Hall, 10 Columbus Circle

$20-$100

Part of the opening night of Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival! At the turn of 18th century Japan, a clerk and a courtesan committed suicide in the forest of Tenjin. The Love Suicides at Sonezaki, a tragic play based upon these events, was banned after its 1703 premiere for more than two centuries. For this U.S. production premiere, renowned artist Hiroshi Sugimoto presents a bold, contemporary interpretation of the classic drama using bunraku puppet theater with music by Living National Treasure Seiji Tsurusawa and video by Tabaimo and Sugimoto. The puppets, imbued with life, captivate audiences with their lively movements rivaling the eloquence of actual human beings. Performed in Japanese with English supertitles.

Courtesy of Sonyhall.com

Oct. 19-20, 8:00 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.

Hiromi

Sony Hall, 235 West 46th Street

$40 advance, $45 day of show

Grammy-winner Hiromi Uehara first mesmerized the jazz community with her 2003 debut, Another Mind. The buzz started by her first album spread all the way back to her native Japan, where she received the Recording Industry Association of Japan’s Jazz Album of the Year Award. In 2006, Hiromi won Best Jazz Act at the Boston Music Awards and the Guinness Jazz Festival’s Rising Star Award. Subsequent collaborations with artists as diverse as Chick CoreaStanley Clarke, and Michel Camilo followed, and Hiromi continues her winning streak with Spectrum, her 11th studio album (and first solo piano release in a decade).

Courtesy of Sonyhall.com

Tuesday, Oct. 22, 8:00 p.m.

Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra

Sony Hall, 235 West 46th Street

$35 advance, $40 day of show

The musicians who gave birth to their own genre of “Tokyo Ska” is now celebrating its 30th anniversary. As the first Japanese band ever to appear at Coachella, their name is an object of admiration for ska enthusiasts around the world, such as international artists and musicians visiting record stores to feel Sakapara’s sound source when they visit Japan. Making their indie debut in 1989 and continuing to grow, there are now a total of nine members—guaranteed to get Midtown on its feet for skanking the night away.

© Takashima Toshinobu

Thursday, Oct. 24, 7:30 p.m.

Kwaidan

Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street

$30, $25 members

Japan’s scariest ghost stories are brought to life by acclaimed actor Shiro Sano through his dynamic reading of Kwaidan, a collection of Japanese folktales from writer Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904). Also known as Yakumo Koizumi, Hearn was attracted to the beauty of Japan and Shintoism, which incorporates worship of nature, spirits and ancestors. Sano’s reading, accompanied by powerful and exquisite live music by distinguished guitarist Kyoji Yamamoto, illustrates Hearn’s open-minded view of Japan and the world. Preceding the live performance, folklorist Bon Koizumi, the great-grandson of Hearn and Director of the Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Museum in the city of Matsue, will give a short lecture. Performed in Japanese with English supertitles. Followed by an ORIX Stewardship Foundation Reception.

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