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. 17
Takashi Murakami: In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow
Gagosian Gallery, 555 West 24th Street
Since the devastating Great Tōhoku Earthquake of 2011, prolific contemporary visual artist Takashi Murakami has explored Japanese art produced in response to historic natural disasters. Combining classical techniques with the latest technologies, he moves freely within an ever-expanding field of aesthetic issues and cultural inspirations. Mining religious and secular subjects favored by the so-called Japanese “eccentrics” or non-conformist artists of the Early Modern era commonly considered to be counterparts of the Western Romantic tradition, Murakami situates himself within their legacy of bold and lively individualism in a manner that is entirely his own and of his time.
Friday, Nov. 28
The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness
IFC Center, 323 Sixth Avenue
New York premiere! Granted near-unfettered access to the notoriously insular Studio Ghibli, director Mami Sunada follows the three men who are the lifeblood of Ghibli—the eminent director Hayao Miyazaki, the producer Toshio Suzuki, and the elusive and influential “other director” Isao Takahata—over the course of a year as the studio rushes to complete two films, Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises and Takahata’s The Tale of The Princess Kaguya. The result is a rare “fly on the wall” glimpse of the inner workings of one of the world’s most celebrated animation studios, and an insight into the dreams, passion and singular dedication of these remarkable creators.
Wednesday, Dec. 3, 9:00 p.m.
Midnight in the Garden of Unearthy Delights Party
Japan Society, 333 47th Street
$25/$20 Japan Society members (until Dec. 2, $30/$25 afterward)
Japan Society Gallery serves up an exclusive after-dark soirée for patrons to escape into the wildly imaginative virtual gardens of its hit exhibition, Garden of Unearthly Delights: Works by Ikeda, Tenmyouya & teamLab. Sip some wine, beer, or a signature sake cocktail concocted just for Japan Society by Chris Johnson, one of the country’s foremost experts on sake; enjoy the swinging sounds of jazz quartet The Red Birds + Francesco Ciniglio followed by the beats of DJ Aki til midnight; dig deep into the Garden with specially themed expert guided tours available all night; satisfy your sweet tooth at our dessert bar featuring tasty treats, fruits, and cheeses; and more! All food and drinks are covered by the cost of admission. Participants must be 21 years old or over.
Friday, Dec. 5, 7:00 p.m.
Village East Cinema, 189 Second Avenue
Directed by Ken Ochiai, this New York Asian Film Festival Award-winning portrait of the men behind the golden age of chanbara (sword-fighting dramas and films) goes behind the scenes of the distinctive film genre for which Japan is famous. A professional extra named Kamiyama (real-life kirare-yaku Seizo Fukumoto) has devoted 50 years of his life as a kirare-yaku in sword-fighting movies produced at Kyoto’s Uzumasa Studios. A master of the art, he lives to die—or more exactly “to be cut”—and show a beautiful, spectacular death on screen. Now an elderly man, Kamiyama lives very modestly but has earned immense respect from his peers, some of them movie stars. When the studio where he works decides to discontinue its chanbara productions, Kamiyama finds himself at a loss. Hope arrives in the form of a young girl named Satsuki (Chihiro Yamamoto), who soon becomes Kamiyama’s disciple. Will the art of dying by the sword live on?
World Amigurumi Exhibition
41-26 27th Street (Long Island City)
Amigurumi (lit. crocheted or knitted stuffed toy) is the Japanese art of knitting or crocheting small stuffed animals and anthropomorphic creatures. Amigurumi stems from animism, a philosophy in the foundations of many Japanese traditions and customs. Animism is the belief that gods belong to everything: water, food, nature, buildings and houses, even technology. In fact, Japanese people often put eyes, arms, and legs onto non-human objects and give them imaginary lives in order to feel closer to these objects and show them respect as co-existing partners in this world. This special exhibition will showcase over 3,000 amigurumi contributed by over 130 artists from 30 different countries. An opening reception will be held Friday, Dec. 12 at 7:00 p.m. RSVP to email@example.com.
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