Japan Festival Brings Wide Range of Japanese Culture in Chicago
• Japan Festival 2019, a large-scale celebration of Japan and its culture, was held at Millennium Park and the neighboring Chicago Cultural Center on June 16. After having been held in Arlington Heights for years, this was the first time in 23 years that the Festival moved back to downtown Chicago.
• Consul-General of Japan in Chicago Naoki Ito welcomed
attendees that packed the Chase Promenade South in Millennium Park by
asking “what comes to mind when you think about Japan?”
• Both of the venues, Millennium Park and Chicago Cultural
Center, were filled with visitors throughout the day. Mitani estimated
the total number of visitors for the day at about 25,000.
• Japanese drum performance by the Ho Etsu Taiko ensemble
opened the outdoor programs, followed by demonstrations of Japanese archery,
kendo, Okinawa music and dance, and several martial arts. Chicago-based
standup comedian Saku Yanagawa and DJ Van emceed these programs.
• The Chicago Cultural Center across from Millennium
Park was the venue for the indoor events.
• One of the special guests of Japan Festival 2019, Ai
Haruna, is a successful singer from Japan.
Q: What do you think about Chicago so far?
Haruna: It’s very nice. I’ve never been to Chicago before,
but people are so kind, and there are rainbow flags everywhere. The Rainbow
Pride Parade will be soon, right? I saw a lot of rainbow flags on trees
on my way to Schaumburg from Chicago.
Q: You chose to live as a woman long before LGTBQ movement occurred. How difficult was it?
Haruna: Well, it certainly was. But I think people [eventually]
accepted what I am as one unique individual, seeing me through the filter
of my personality. I was invited to many family-oriented TV programs.
Q: Is it a painful process for you?
Haruna: Sure, but in comparison, joy of living a free life is much bigger than any pain I might feel. I feel the bliss every single moment in my life now.
Q: Japan is not a society where women have a very high status. Do you have any regrets to have chosen to be a woman in that respect?
Haruna: I feel changes are occurring gradually toward
appreciating women’s ability and positions in the society, but there are
still some aspects of the old Japan remaining.
Q: You’ve always been interested in the world of entertainment?
Haruna: Ever since I was a child. My parents taught me how to sing enka [a form of Japanese sentimental ballad music], the old enka classics. That’s how I started, so I really thank my parents.
Q: You’ve got the musical talent on one hand and the choice to be a woman on the other. Is your current success the result of the two combined together?
Haruna: I think so. Now at the age of 47, I feel that
everything important for me have finally fallen in place and started working
as a whole. I’m really feeling it here in America.
Q: Tell me about your involvement in the LGTBQ movement.
Haruna: I am involved, but I’ve never categorized myself in that term. No one is the same in this world, with his or her own unique personality. So I want everybody - men, women, transgenders, non-binary people - to live as their unique selves, outside the categories that LGTBQ stands for.
Q: Thank you very much.
• Traditional Japanese Rakugo Comic Storyteller Katsura,
Sunshine, Native Canadian, will debut in Broadway in September. He is
going to perform not only rakugo storytelling, but also a theatrical show
with many different performers at the New World Stages, an off Broadway
theatre. Sunshine’s dream of 25 years is finally coming true with the
opening night set on September 26.
• Japanese people often use this phrase unconsciously
and never think what “Yoroshiku” means.
• He said, “I think that ‘yoroshiku’ means in English, ‘I thank you now in advance for your future kindness to me.’” His further explanation was, “Use of ‘yoroshiku’ that ties you to the future. ‘I know that in our relationship you will do some kindness to me in the future. And I’m thanking you now in advance for your future kindness,’ Beautiful words!”
• Sunshine also talked about how to say, “Thank you,” in Japanese. He said that there were 47 different ways to express gratitude in Japanese. If you go to his Broadway show, he might teach you what they are.
• Katsura, Sunshine studied classics at the University
of Toronto. He is the founder and Artistic Director of the Ancient Comic
Opera Company, and wrote a musical version of Aristophanes’ Clouds, which
ran for 14 months in Canada.
Packed visitors at the Chase Promenade South in Millennium Park
Consul General Naoki Ito speaks about Japan’s three specific features, sushi, honor, and technology.
Transgender singer Ai Haruna attracts a big crowd with her enka (Japanese sentimental ballad music.
Katsura, Sunshine performs rakugo with his furisode kimono.
Antique kimono dresses exhibited by Wahoo Club
Visitors enjoy trying on Kimono.
Koto and Japanese music are performed by fine musicians
Tea ceremony demonstrated by Urasenke Chicago
Cosplayers display their best performance.