Tag Archives: Himeji

You had me at “cherry tree”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There’s a small parking lot at the Peoria Center for the Performing Arts that’s covered with yellow blossoms these days — dropped from the Palo Verde trees that bring a splash of color to the desert each spring. I’ve taken to imagining these trees are cherry blossoms, picturing them in pink instead of yellow, because I’m still learning to love the Arizona landscape — but cherry blossoms have always tugged at my heart.

I saw the season’s first cherry tree blossom inside the Brooklyn Botanic Garden earlier this month and get wistful for Washington, D.C. each time the cherry blossoms emerge. So when I learned that a new theater work titled “Sakura no Ne” (“Root of the Cherry Tree”) included footage of trees in bloom, I knew I had to see it. Folks who feel the same have just one more opportunity (April 22 at 2pm) to see the family-friendly production being performed at Theater Works in Peoria.

“Sakura no Ne” is part multi-media production, part performance art, part morality tale and part homage to the Japanese Friendship Garden in Phoenix (along with sister city Himeji in Japan). At times it has the feel of a fine work of theater for children. Other times it reads like a Japan-inspired version of “Riverdance” or “Stomp.” Everything about it is lovely, but it may need a bit more pruning as it evolves to reach wider audiences.

Children in the audience Saturday afternoon clearly loved the humor, drumming, martial arts component and digital projections. The 80-minute show also features diverse dance elements rarely scene on Valley stages. I chatted with a couple after the show, eager to see whether a storm scene filled with lightning and a fire-breathing serpent had scared their preschool-age son. “This is the first time he’s sat through an entire show,” they told me.

“Sakura no No” is the work of playwright Soji Kashiwagi (of Grateful Crane Ensemble) and music composer Scott Nagatani.  It’s directed by Dominik Rebilas. “Sakura no Ne” is produced by Yoshi Kumagai (who also serves as art director and fight choreographer) and Ken Koshio (who also serves as music director), sponsored by the Japanese Friendship Garden in Phoenix and funded by a Sundome Performing Arts Association grant. Kumagai shared with me after the show that they’re hoping to present the work in additional Valley venues.

The show’s most dramatic element is drumming by Ken Koshio in the role of Ikazuchi (Thunder God). The cast also includes John Tang (Taro “Tama” Yamazajura), Urashima Taro, Old Man), Dale Nakagawa (Justin, Sea Turtle) and Sandy Harris (Haley, Sea Princess, Crane). Most delicate is Koshio’s title song, sung in Japanese and English with harmonica and guitar. I also enjoyed creations by Zarko Guerrero (mask and turtle outfit) and Derrick Suwaima Davis (crane feather outfit).

“Sakura no Ne” follows the adventures of two tween-age siblings — a boy rarely parted from his Nintendo and a girl attached to her cell phone. Think “I’m so bored” and “O-M-G.” They’re left one day at the Japanese Friendship Garden by parents hoping they’ll find a bit of bliss. But the pair finds something more — a renewed appreciation for nature, family and community. Even each other.

The simple storyline is punctuated by music, dance and martial arts performance. There’s traditional Japanese dance featuring Mari Kaneta (whose choreography and dance I enjoyed with daughter Lizabeth during the 1996 Arizona Opera production of “Madama Butterfly”), taiko drumming by Fushicho Daiko and Jakara, martial arts by a trio from Arizona Aikiko and dance by the ASU Japanese Student Association’s Soran Bushi Dancers. It all comes together in the service of a single message.

Only the cherry tree’s strong roots make its beautiful blossoms possible.

– Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about “Strolling in Yukata” (taking place April 28 at the Japanese Friendship Garden) and here to learn about a new musical titled “Allegiance” (which explores the World War II experiences of a Japanese-American family).

Coming up: Another tree tale, Don’t cry for me Shakespeare?

Remembering Japan

I learned a bit of Japanese and followed the adventures of John Fulton in Japan last night after my daughter Jennifer invited me to watch an episode of one of her favorite television shows — the Discovery Channel’s “Must Love Cats.”

Turns out the episode featured all sorts of cat fare in Japan — including the story of a cat called Maneki Neko thought to bring good fortune, an island where cats exposed to radiation are cared for, and several cat cafes for cat-lovers who can’t enjoy cats in their own homes.

Knowing that it’s been a year since Japan’s devastating earthquake and tsunami, Jennifer remarked that “we have our 9/11 and Japan has its 3/11.” Those eager to show solidarity with the people of Japan have several options, including donations to assist with ongoing relief and rebuilding efforts.

Also attending a “Special Anniversary Remembrance Event” being presented today by the Japanese Culture Club of Arizona. The 2pm event features the screening of a film titled “The Tsunami and Cherry Blossom,” which was nominated for a 2012 Academy Award for short subject documentary.

This Arizona premiere screening takes place in the Arizona Historical Society’s Steele Auditorium, located at 1300 N College Ave. in Tempe. A charitable donation of $10 is suggested.

The Japanese Friendship Garden in Phoenix is accepting donations at its gift shop today to benefit earthquake and tnunami victims. It’s open from 10am to 3pm, and admission is $5. Upcoming events at the garden include the following:

March 23: Anime Night at the Japanese Friendship Garden of Phoenix — presented in partnership with the Himeji Sister Cities Committee

March 24: Taiko Experience 2012 with Fushicho Daiko Dojo (includes the opportunity to learn taiko with special ticket purchase)

March 31: Children’s Day (with Valley of the Sun Koi Club) at Margaret T. Hance Park in Phoenix

April 13-22: “Sakura no Ne” production at Theatre Works/Peoria Center for the Performing Arts

April 28: Strolling in Yukata (traditional Japanese attire)

They’ll hold “The Spirit of the Garden Anime/Manga Contest” (all ages welcome, but no mature content allowed) in early May.

– Lynn

Note: Click here to learn about the Phoenix Sister Cities Program that includes Himeji, Japan.

Coming up: Celebrating National Poetry Month

Origami & beyond

I was struck by a series of hanging paper cranes during a recent visit to Poets House in New York City. Origami is the one form of art I simply can’t pass by without pausing — perhaps because it seems the perfect blend of purposeful and playful.

There’s a similar exhibit as you enter the Arizona Museum for Youth in Mesa, inside a foyer that also houses a giant hanging paper crane. Recently I visited the museum with my adult son Christopher, who’s been enjoying the museum with me since he was just knee-high.

We explored the museum’s ArtZone — which currently features an exhibit titled “One Thousand Paper Cranes.” Exhibit materials note that in Japan it’s believed that a wish comes true for the person who folds 1,000 paper origami cranes. 

A sign at the museum invites visitors to fold paper cranes in an effort to secure their wish for world peace — collecting them for shipment to Hiroshima, Japan — where they’ll hang in the Children’s Peace Monument.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Admirers of Japanese and other Asian art can always find it in the Phoenix Art Museum’s permanent Asian Collection. Its offerings, which can be viewed online, include several Japanese prints and screens.

Phoenix Art Museum holds its next “First Wednesday Asian Gallery Talk” at noon on August 3. It’s free with museum admission or membership.

The Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix presents a “Museum Encounter” with Bobby Seigetsu Avstreih and the Japanese Shakuhachi Flute at 11:30am and 2:30pm on Aug 6. It’s free with museum admission.

Through Each Others Eyes, an organization that uses photography to promote international understanding, has a photographic exchange exhibit with Japanese photographers. It’s the 17th such exchange between photographers in sister cities Phoenix and Himeji.

The Japanese Friendship Garden (Ro Ho En) in Phoenix, which closes for the summer months, is holding an “Opening Day Celebration” on Oct 1. Their annual “Moonviewing Festival” (Ot sukimi) takes place Oct. 15.

Musical theater fans are keeping an eye on the development of “Allegiance — A New American Musical,” which follows a family touched by the internment of Japanese Americans in parts of the U.S. following the attack on Pearl Harbor. “Allegiance” is described as a work about “love, loss and heroism.”

Cast members include Lea Salonga as Gloria Suzuki, George Takei as Old Sam Omura and Telly Leung as Young Sam Omura. A private workshop was held last week in New York, and the musical will enjoy a world premiere next year at the Old Globe theatre in San Diego.

If you share my love for origami, or you have yet to appreciate its wonder, check out the PBS “Independent Lens” film titled “Between the Folds.” It features the art and science of origami by exploring the work of ten powerful paper-folders.

You can learn more about the history of origami and all sorts of paper-folding resources from PBS “Independent Lens” online. But your best bet is still buying a bunch of origami paper so you and your children can learn by doing.

– Lynn

Note: Start today if your family celebrates Christmas and you’d like to decorate your tree this year with paper cranes like those shown in one of the images above. Paper cranes and other origami or kirigami (paper cutting) art also make beautiful garlands and table decorations.

Coming up: Valley studios offering acting classes

Ireland meets Japan

Famous castle in Himeji, Japan -- one of nine Phoenix sister cities, which also include Ennis, Ireland (Photo: http://www.famouswonders.com)

As wearers of the green celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, all of our hearts go out to the people of Japan. It turns out both countries have cities considered “sisters” of Phoenix, Arizona (we have nine global “sisters” in all).

Families who attend the free “WorldFEST” this weekend can enjoy all sorts of hands-on activities and exhibits in the “Sister Cities Village” — including “making fairy wreaths with Irish colors from Ennis, Ireland” and “competing in a chopstick challenge by Himeji, Japan.”

Festival guests are invited to participate with the Phoenix Sister Cities Commission as they launch a fund drive to assist relief efforts in Japan by making donations at the Himeji, Japan booth in the “Sister Cities Village.”

Other hands-on activities include “learning cattle roping from Calgary, Canada” and “making carnival masks from Catania, Italy.” Just make sure the siblings in your brood know better than to practice the roping techniques on one another.

You can even enjoy “writing your name with Chinese characters from Chengdu, China” and “face painting and pinata-breaking by Hermosillo, Mexico.” Sibs will want to avoid trying those last two on one another too — not that the little darlings would ever consider such things.

Parades are another matter. These are plenty safe to try at home assuming you don’t expect the family cat to lead the march. There’s just a single parade time for the festival so don’t miss it if your family is fond of floats and such.

This weekend’s “Sister Cities Parade” — complete with “colorful flags and festive floats” from Phoenix sister city regions — kicks off at 1pm on Sat, March 19 as part of “WorldFEST,” which takes place at Heritage and Science Park in Phoenix (home of the Arizona Science Center).

“WorldFEST” hours are Fri, March 18, 4-10pm; Sat, March 19, Noon-11pm; and Sun, March 20, Noon-5pm. It features “sights, sounds and tastes from around the world.” Think art, dance and music — plus food/drink and more.

Grown-ups can enjoy “beer sampling & pints” (not so free) and cooking demonstrations by various chefs. But the kiddos will have more interest in “KidsWORLD” — described as “an interactive, educational playground engaging children to travel over seven continents.”

I’m told there’ll be areas where children can “explore rain forests in South America,” “dodge icebergs in Antarctica,” and enjoy “a mini safari through the African jungle.” Not sure how that works — but I’m eager to find out. Let’s hope my height (or grey hair) won’t give me away…

– Lynn

Note: Heritage and Science Park is located at 115 N. 6th St. in Phoenix — near plenty of Valley attractions, including the Children’s Museum of Phoenix.

Coming up: Finding voice lessons in the Valley

Thoughts of Japan

After watching television coverage of the devastating consequences of recent natural disasters in Japan, I spent some time reflecting on challenges facing the people of Japan — and those of us around the globe who must do our part to help its people.

I headed to the Japanese Friendship Garden in central Phoenix, which features an authentic Japanese stroll garden perfect for quiet reflection. There I learned that Himeji, Japan — home of a castle hailed as a world treasure — is one of Phoenix’s “sister cities.”

During tough — and truly tragic – times, those who feel the strongest need to help are often the people who have a personal connection with those affected. Phoenix has such a connection to Japan, and our country’s strong political alliance with Japan is well known and highly regarded.

As you talk with your family, friends and fellow community members about ways to support the Japanese people in the days, months and years ahead — consider spending some time at Ro Ho En, the Japanese Friendship Garden located at Margaret T. Hance Park.

Here’s a bit of what you’ll see there — followed by news of upcoming events at the garden, and ways you can help the people of Japan rebuild their homes and their lives…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We first experienced the Japanese Friendship Garden during an elementary school field trip that included participating in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, which we began by taking off our shoes and settling into a spirit of quiet observation and profound respect.

I recalled that ceremony, with its beautiful order and tradition, as I watched footage filmed during and after Japan’s largest earthquake. A woman who struggled to replace cans in a supermarket as they fell around her amidst all the trembling. The people who remained calm and reverant rather than resorting to looting or other means of furthering the chaos wrought by nature upon them.

The Japanese Friendship Garden is a wonderful place to introduce your children to Japanese culture. In addition to the tea house and tea garden, it features more than fifty varieties of plants, flowing streams, stone footbridges and lanterns, a 12-foot waterfall and a Koi pond with more than 300 colorful fish.

During my most recent stroll through the garden, just a few other people were there — making it an especially serene and tranquil experience. I hope to return for the “Zen Garden Music & Art Festival” on April 16, when the garden will come alive with all sorts of visual and performance art.

During their season, the Japanese Friendship Garden participates in ArtLink’s “First Fridays” from 4pm to 7pm/dusk — when admission is free. Other times, the admission fee is modest — and school tours/group tours are available.

You’ll learn plenty about the Japanese Friendship Garden, and affiliates such as the Urasenke Foundation in Kyoto, by simply visiting their website — which features its own spectacular slide show with really interesting captions.

Still, a visit to the garden is the best way to get a feel here in Phoenix for all the beauty and wonder that is Japan.

– Lynn

Note: Visit the following websites to discover some of the ways you can support recovery efforts in Japan: www.doctorswithoutborders.org,  www.internationalmedicalcorps.org, www.peace-winds.org, www.redcross.org, www.salvationarmyusa.org

Coming up: Movie and theater reviews

Update: Donations for the Phoenix sister city of Himeji, Japan can be made March 18-20 at the Himeji, Japan booth in Sister Cities Village at WorldFEST. Click here to learn more about a fund drive being held by the Phoenix Sister Cities Commission to benefit disaster relief efforts — and to learn more about WorldFEST, which features family-friendly activities related to several of our sister cities throughout the world.