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Thousands enjoy 2016 Japan Festival

• Japan Festival was held on June 11 and 12 at the Forest View Educational Center in Arlington Heights. This year, the Chicago Japanese American Council, which bundled 12 Japanese and Japanese American organizations, hosted the Festival. According to Manabu Yoshiike, President of Chicago Japanese Club (CJC), about 5,000 people visited it during the two days.

• In his remarks, Consul General Toshiyuki Iwado said, “This Japan Festival is always a huge thing. Here we can experience a wide variety of Japanese culture in one place.”
• Mayor Thomas Hayes of Arlington Heights welcomed the Festival and the relationship and friendship with Japanese people and the Japanese American community. He also said that the Festival was bridging culture and building friendship.

• The Festival opened with “Soran Dance” performed by the student of Futabakai Japanese Day School.
• At the Field House, iaido, aikido kendo, taiko drumming, cosplay contest, karate, and judo were performed one after another. Children carried omikoshi over their shoulders and marched in the Field House.

• In the theatre, taiko drumming, a choir of Japanese music, Okinawa taiko and dance, Japanese classical dance, Hawaiian music and dance, koto music, and string music were performed. Documentary films were also screened. New York performers Toshi Nakazawa and PESU entertained the visitors on Saturday evening.

• In the hallway, many visitors tried on yukata dresses and a suit of armor. A tea ceremony was demonstrated, and the visitors experienced a ball of tea. Ikebana and bonsai were displayed in the exhibit room.
• About 50 vendors and organizations set up tables, and the visitors could buy Japanese flavored goods or get information about the organizations’ activities.

• One of the most joyful parts of the Festival was Japanese food. The visitors enjoyed ramen noodles, takoyaki, gyoza, gyudon, curry and rice, onigiri, lunch boxes, and more. Snowball and cotton candy were the favorite of children.

• Japan Festival was started in the early 1980s by the Chicago Japanese American Association. It was one of Botanic Garden’s most popular events for long time. After the Association was closed, CJC (then Mid America Japanese Club) took over the event and moved the Festival to Arlington Heights in 2005 due to an extensive renovation in the Botanic Garden.
• For many years, CJC mainly hosted the Festival, and JCCC and some other organizations helped CJC. CJC and JCCC co-hosted the Festival in 2014 and 2015, and the Festival was held at the Arlington International Racecourse for the first time.

• This year, the Chicago Japanese American Council (CJAC) hosted the Festival for the first time. President Yoshiike of CJC said that if all the 12 organizations under CJAC came together and collaborated to host the Festival, there would be a strong entity to hold Japan Festival.
• Regarding the Festival venue, Yoshiike said that Forest View was preferred to Arlington Park by a vote of 10 to 2 because Forest View was suitable to introduce Japanese traditional culture such as ikebana, tea ceremony, and classical dance, although Arlington Park could bring new visitors to the Festival.
• Regarding the future of Japan Festival, Yoshiike said that the Festival should attract more people in general, and we should make it so that Japanese people and the JA community people look forward to coming every year. “To do so, we should come together to host the Festival. We operated it by trial and error this year. We have to persuade other organizations to cooperate as one team. I think that it takes several years,” Yoshiike commented.

Interview with a Vendor

• Jia Senghe of Chicago exhibited and sold some shakuhachi (bamboo clarinet) at the Festival. Some of them were handmade by him. He also played shakuhachi for the visitors, and his sound was subtle and profound.
• He was born in Chicago and lived in Japan for 2 years and a half with his family when he was a boy. He said, “I was impacted by the culture of Japan as a very young child just because the country was so older, clean, and the people were so polite. When I came back to America, something I didn’t quite feel like...”
• In 1984, he started to learn how to play the flute, then shakuhachi. He said, “Shakuhachi is really an unlimited instrument. Players are committed to learning and practicing how they can produce all kinds of wonderful sounds such as those from nature, water, birds, and even strong intense sounds.”
• He also composes pieces for shakuhachi. Since he doesn’t read music, he listens to shakuhachi masters’ music very closely and creates his own music. In later years, he began to make shakuhachi and bamboo flutes. He wrote some books to introduce how to play shakuhachi and its history. He said, “I’ve introduced shakuhachi to approximately 300 to 400 people in my lifetime. So I would like to introduce it and bring people into the culture.”

Toshihiko Nakazawa & PESU:
Interview with 2 Performers

• On the stage two performers, Toshihiko Nakazawa and PESU, began with an unexpected announcement: “Please feel free to take pictures and record videos; please make sure that your cell phones are turned on.” This unusual announcement, written by Nakazawa himself, symbolized what was to come during the performance by the pair. As PESU drew pictures on a large white board, Nakazawa appeared on the stage, clad with the Statue-of-Liberty costume and mask, which he took off subsequently. Underneath was a loose, metallic gold outfit, accompanied by his blond hair and shiny sneakers. “In the U.S., straightforward presentation has more impact on people,” was Nakazawa’s verdict.

Toshihiko Nakazawa

• Nakazawa learned modern dance while he was attending Daito Bunka University, where he majored in the English language. After graduating, he moved to New York where he has been living since 2010.

Q: How do you get ideas for your dance?

• Nakazawa: I get them from sounds I hear, movements I see, etc. Sometimes even from anime I see.

Q: Who has influenced you as a dancer?

• Nakazawa: The Japanese [dancers] who are performing outside Japan. Particularly, Kenichi Ebina in New York has been my inspiration.

Q: What kind of performance do you do in New York?

• Nakazawa: There is a production in New York where a performer, pretending to be a pedestrian, suddenly starts dancing on the street when the entertainment tour bus “The Ride” comes by with passengers on it. I’m a dancer of that production.

Q: What is the reaction to your performance in New York?

• Nakazawa: It’s easy to tell in New York – when the performance is good, it’s recognized as good; when it’s bad, it’s bad. Of course there are times when it doesn’t go well, but I always try to present good-quality stuff.

Q: Does it pay well?

• Nakazawa: It depends. I sometimes perform for free; other times, I get more than what I thought would be worth.

Q: You move your body quite vigorously. What do you do for physical training?

• Nakazawa: I don’t do any particular muscle training. I just focus on three-minute dance moves plus practice my own dance moves that I created again and again. Anyone who can stand on their heads is capable of dance performance.

Q: I hear that you teach [dance students] at school.

• Nakazawa: Actually I don’t teach students much, but I do lectures at schools.

Q: What is your goal going forward?

• Nakazawa: I hope to continue dancing, but beyond the boundary of a dancer, so I’ll keep searching for something I can do there. Lectures and workshops I do in Japan are part of that search. Also, I like to travel and meet someone new, and hope to develop new kinds of activities.

Q: Any advice for anyone who wants to be a dancer?

• Nakazawa: Anyone who dances for the moment [for the purpose of dancing] is a dancer, and that’s all. So you should think of a goal beyond being a dancer. For example, being a source of impact on others through dancing, encouraging the young people in Japan to have a dream, performing on Broadway, or working actively on a global basis, etc. If you have a goal beyond just being a dancer, then you won’t end there in your life.

Thank you very much.


Q: You’re pretty good. Were you good at drawing when you were a boy?

• PESU: Not really. When I was in grade school, I had a traffic accident and my right eye was badly damaged. They operated on it 13 times. In Japan, kids point fingers at you if you wear an eye patch. I was picked on by other kids and that made me hate to go to school. When I thought my life was over, I discovered the world of graffiti and was attracted to it. I began drawing graffiti using a can of spray paint at the age of 15, and it’s my form of art ever since.

Q: Why did you come to New York?

• PESU: In my home town in Shizuoka, my graffiti on the wall was quickly washed off. So I went to Tokyo where I took the entrance exam for Tokyo University of the Arts and other universities, but didn’t pass. Then I enrolled a technical college, but with my insufficient level of drawing skill, I didn’t attend classes much. In the meantime I continued to draw graffiti on the wall but they wash it off in Tokyo, too. When I was in my second year, other students began preparing for job interviews but I decided to go abroad instead, convinced that an artist isn’t supposed to be an employed worker.
• I studied English in Sacramento for three years, while I started gallery activities in Sacramento and San Francisco. After I became known among the local circles, I decided to come to New York in 2005 for further challenges.

Q: What did you think about New York?

• PESU: First, I planned to enroll in the Pratt Institute [in Brooklyn]. Just when I studied for TOEFL and was getting ready to apply, I tried my luck in Art Battles – an artists’ competition where contestants complete an art work on canvas on the spot within 1-2 hours – and I won it two years in a row.
o Those whom I beat in the competition were graduates of Pratt, so I thought there’s no use enrolling that school and decided not to apply.
o After I won the competition, various sponsors began supporting me. Things are going pretty well for me since 2005.

Q: How did you get to know Mr. Nakazawa?

• PESU: Three years ago he asked me to get on the TV show “America’s Got Talent” with him, and we performed on the show together within the one-minute time limit. That made us plan for further collaboration, but the plan was stalled when I had a stroke two years ago. I guess I was doing too much too fast. But now I’ve recovered and made a complete comeback.

Q: Any advice for those who love drawing?

• PESU: My advice would be “draw every day.” If you continue doing it for 10 years, you can absolutely become famous and make money, 100% positive. It’s only the question if you can do it every single day. Even if it’s only one line on a piece of paper, it’s art. That’s what I believe.

Thank you very much.

Consul General Toshiyuki Iwado

Mayor Thomas Hayes