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Tag: Japan

Japanese films at Victoria Film Festival

Victoria Film Festival brings great selection of independent and foreign films to Victoria every year. I don’t have TV Japan at home, so this is a rare chance for me to enjoy Japanese films on the big screen. Starting one at the Vic Theatre this weekend, there are several great Japanese films available thanks to VFF – here are the details.

Miss Hokusai (Sarusuberi)

Victoria Premiere

A different perspective on the life and creative legacy of the brilliant artist Katsushika Hokusai, as told through the eyes of his daughter. Nominated for a 2017 Annie Award.

I just saw this and loved it. My review here.

The Vic Theatre

January 6, 2017 (Fri) 7:00pm

January 7, 2017 (Sat) 4:00pm

January 8, 2017(Sun) 7:00pm Last show tonight! 

Ticket $11 +Victoria Film Festival Membership ($2+GST, Valid until August)

※This is a 19+ event.

Below are all available at Victoria Film Festival (February 3-12, 2017)

They all require VFF membership if you don’t have it already.

After the Storm (Umi Yori Mo Mada Fukaku)

Ryota Shinoda was once a successful and well-regarded writer. These days he’s a lot more like his shiftless father before him – Weekdays, he works as a sketchy detective and on weekends he tries to pawn his mother’s belongings when she’s not looking. She’s widowed though and doesn’t have much to lose anyway so she happily tolerates him.

Ryota is trying to mend bridges with his estranged wife so he can spend more time with his son. And he’s also trying to mend bridges with his sister, since he may have had a hand in her failed marriage. Unfortunately, neither of these women has much patience for him any more.

Then, on the evening a typhoon is due to make landfall, Ryota’s old family finds itself forced together for one more night in his mother’s tiny apartment. What follows is not what anyone expected, but it may be just what they need to move on.

Modern master Kore-eda (Our Little Sister, Like Father Like Son) returns to VFF once again with yet another great film. His insightful eye on the modern family shares the caring and sensitivity of his spiritual predecessor Yasujirô Ozu (Tokyo Story). Free of melodrama yet always marked by tenderness, Kore-eda never tries to fix the inevitable. Instead, he shows us the best moments within it.

Koreeda is my favourite director. I have enjoyed his “Like Father, Like Son” as well as “Our Little Sister” This film’s protagonist, Hiroshi Abe used to be a trendy fashion model but he is also a good actor. And I always enjoy seeing Kirin Kiki and Lily Frankie, both great actors and regulars on Korea films. Really looking forward to this.

• Release Year: 2016

• Runtime: 117 minutes

• Directed By: Hirokazu Kore-eda

• Genre: Drama

February 10, 2017 (Fri) 2017 9:00pm The Vic Theatre

Ticket $10.48 (You need VFF membership)

Suffering of Ninko (Ninko No Junan)

Canada Premiere

Long ago in Edo-era Japan, there was a temple called Enmei-ji. At this temple was very peculiar monk named Ninko. Ninko wanted most monks anywhere in the world wanted of his want of their religious studies – to live a pure and virtuous life and be an example to others. However, Ninko suffered. A lot.

It was all because he was fantastically irresistible to any woman he met. He could not go out to beg with the other monks since women would crowd around and throw themselves at him. He could not meet outsiders who came to the temple for fear of the same. In fact, he was in fact so irresistible that he even turned the heads of some men he shared the temple with. Every man’s fantasy was Ninko’s greatest burden. And so, he set out on a journey to “purify himself”. His road was to be more bizarre and unusual than he could have imagined.

This is a film with an abundance of on-screen tease. However, it’s far from sleaze. Director Niwatsukino Norhiro has gone to great lengths to incorporate many different artistic approaches to this cautionary tale. The director’s skill in some wonderfully illustrated animated sequences, pops this beyond indie budget expectations and yet neatly ties it all together too.

Despite the fact the director is virtually unknown, this film apparently was sold out at Vancouver Film Festival and had additional screenings. Trailer looks great for an independent film. I am looking forward to this.

• Release Year: 2016

• Runtime: 70 minutes

• Directed By: Niwatsukino Norhiro

• Genre: Drama

February 3, 2017 (Fri)  9:15pm Capitol 6

February 9, 2017(Thurs) 9:45pm Odeon 5

Ticket $10.48


Tatara Samurai

Canadian Premiere

In 16th century Japan, the village of Tatara in Izumo prefecture had already long been revered for its incredible steel. Gosuke is a young man born to be the next Murage or Master Blacksmith for this legendary town. However, this was the end of Japan’s Sengoku civil war period and a man named Oda Nobunaga was about to change the map of Japan forever.

When raiders run ruin in Tatara, Gosuke heads out to find the path of the Samurai for himself. Horrified by the experience of war in Nobunaga’s army, he returns home only to find that war has followed him home. This time, it is with a heavy demand for guns to end a tyranny of swords. Through trial and loss, Gosuke may soon learn that the true qualities of a samurai come with what they make, not just what they do.

Tatara Samurai is a movie steeped in history. This may be a fictionalized but it pays tribute to a legacy of craftsmanship and some of the most amazing steel man has ever forged. It also plays well to the best aspects of the Kurosawa samurai films, deftly combining sword-slicing action, drama and humanity for a thoroughly entertaining experience.

This film is starts very popular Japanese group EXILE’s actors. It also starts some great veteran actors. Also this is being released before Japan, which is interesting.

• Release Year: 2016

• Runtime: 135 minutes

• Directed By: Yoshinari Nishikôri

• Genre: Action, Comedy, Drama, History

February 4, 2017 (Sat) 9:00pm The Vic Theatre

February 12, 2017 (Sun) 9:15pm Silvercity

Ticket $10.48


And finally, this is not a Japanese film per se, but a documentary by Japanese Canadian filmmaker Jeff Chiba Stearns.

Mixed Match

Canada is an incredibly diverse country. Multiculturalism is our watch-word and our ethnic backgrounds aren’t supposed to limit us. But sometimes they do. With the multiracial community becoming one of the fastest growing demographics in North America, being mixed race is no longer just about an identity, it can be a matter of life and death.

For any patients with blood cancer, finding a bone marrow donor match can be the key.But for mixed-race sufferers the search is even more incredibly hard and disheartening. Not only are ethnicities such as Asian or African under-represented in the available databases, mixed-race profiles are even rarer, making matches even rarer still.

There ARE happy endings. That’s because there are people making a difference by registering an increasing number of these elusive potential donors. Mixed Match is Jeff Chiba-Stearns’ own experience with some of those stories.

Mixed Match is Jeff’s follow-up to One Big Happa Family, where he looked at the cultural side of his own mixed-match family. Taking this look at the corresponding biological side, he finds once again that sharing what makes one unique can make a better world.

I’ve seen One Big Hapa Family few years ago at Victoria Film Festival and loved it. Loved it so much I bought the DVD. As a mother of “mixed-race” children, this topic is definitely close to heart. I am looking forward to seeing this.

  • Release Year: 2016
  • Runtime: 96 minutes
  • Directed By: Jeff Chiba-Stearns
  • Genre: Animation, Documentary

February 3, 2017(Fri)    6:30pm Capitol 6

February 5, 2017 (Sun)  6:30pm Capitol 6

Ticket $10.48

Of course there are more films to check out at Victoria Film Festival. Is there any film you’re looking forward to? Anything I should see? Let me know if you have any recommendations!

16th Annual Japanese Cultural Fair

2015 Final Poster Lo res 60

Japanese Cultural Fair by Victoria Nikkei Cultural Society(VNCS) is back again this year to Esquimalt Rec Center. It’s their 16th year!

It’s a free event for the whole family. Enjoy various performances such as Marshall Arts like Karate and Aiido, Taiko drums by Uminari Taiko and Koto by Satomi Edwars. New this year is Anime presentation by Tsukino-Con. Learn about Bonsai, beautiful Ikebana(flower arrangement), and Tea Ceremony. Lectures on various topics are also available for Kimono, Tea (Daniela Cubelic of Silk Road), and Organic Farming (Uminami Farm).  There will be kids activities including Kamishibai (Paper board storytelling), crafts and games.  There will be great shopping opportunities for Japanese items at Things Japanese table, as well as Silent Auction and door prizes.  Savour the wonderful tastes of Japan such as sushi, bento boxes and manju (sweet dessert). (Food almost always sell out, so get there early.)

I’ll be most likely be there all day as I’m on the board of VNCS – when you see me, come say hi 🙂

Saturday, October 24th, 2015

Esquimalt Recreation Center (527 Fraser Street)


For more info, visit VNCS website.

NAJC AGM and Hiroshima Survivor Lecture


National Association of Japanese Canadians(NAJC) is holding its AGM in Victoria this year on September 25-27. AGM portion will be done by Saturday morning, and Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning conference and also keynote speech on Saturday evening (with or without banquet) are open to the general public. Conference panels are free to attend, however, you need to register as an observer. Register by emailing Registration deadline is September 22, 2015.

Conference agenda is as follows;

Saturday, September 26: Conference Day 1

Chateau Victoria Hotel

12:00-1:45 pm

Panel: Landscapes of Injustice (LOI) (45 minutes)

Jordan Stranger-Ross, Project Director and Sherri Kajiwara, Director-Curator, Nikkei National Museum

Facilitator: Mike Abe

NAJC/LOI Hide Hyodo-Shimizu Scholarship Recipient Report (15 minutes)

Hikari Rachmat

Facilitator: Sherri Kajiwara

Landscapes of Injustice: Community Council Report (45 minutes)

Susanne Tabata, Eiko Eby, Mary Kitagawa, vivian Wakabayash Rygnestad

Facilitator: Tosh Kitagawa

1:45 – 2:25pm Preserving the Past (Documents, photographs, objects and stories)

Lisa Uyeda, Linda Reid

2:30-3:10pm Retention of Adult Volunteers and Youth

Liz Bean (Inter-Cultural Association of Victoria) and Kyla Fitzgerald

3:30-4:10pm Addressing Issues Related to Aging in the Japanese Canadian Community

Karen Kobayashi (Uvic Centre on Aging), C. Keiko Funahashi and Cathy Makihara (Nikkei Seniors Health care & Housing Society)


NAJC Banquet Saturday, September 26: Ambrosia Center (638 Fisgard Street) 

Keynote speaker: Setsuko Thurlow, Renowned Peace Activist and Hiroshima Bomb Survivor(Hibakusha)

6:00pm Doors open

Art Miki National Leadership Award presentation

Soran Bushi Dance fro Victoria Heritage Japanese Language School

VNCS Lifetime Achievement Award

Buffet dinner

Japanese music entertainment

7:45pm Doors open for lecture only attendees

Keynote Speech

Silent Auction

Banquet and keynote speech: $35 per person (register at

You may also join for the lecture portion only.

Lecture only with coffee/tea and dessert: $5 suggested donation


Sunday, September 27th: Conference Day 2

Chateau Victoria Hotel

9:00-10:00am Youth Engagement & Empowerment/JC Young Leaders Winnipeg Conference Report

Lisa Schoenhofer and Erica Isomura

10:00-10:45am Consul General Okada speech

10:45-11:30am Centre Reports from Regina, Nanaimo, Montreal

11:30am-12:15pm The Victoria Story : History of Japanese Canadians in Victoria

Ann-Lee and Gordon Switzer

12:45pm End of conference



Kimono- Japanese Culture in its Art Form at AGGV

kimono8My love affair with Kimono started about 7 years ago.

I used to belong to a local Japanese Chado (Way of Tea) circle. Although I knew NOTHING about Chado when I started, I was fascinated and truly loved the way of tea. Almost every lesson, I wanted to gush how beautiful everything was – flowers (supposed to be simple, not gaudy), Chawan (my Sensei had an exquisite collection of tea bowls), sweets (students often brought real traditional sweets from Japan, or we made them ourselves), and of course, Kimonos.

I have heard the real tea ceremony classes in Japan usually costs hundreds of dollars per month to take, and there are strict rules and traditions to follow. My Sensei, although she was a strict teacher when it comes to Chado and manners- she was very relaxed about some of the stuffy rules, and she allowed us to come to practice in regular clothes.

However, when we had the actual tea ceremony, we were required to wear kimono. It is true that in this modern day, not many people, myself included, are not familiar with kimono at all, and don’t even know how to put it on. On my first tea ceremony, I think I borrowed a kimono from a fellow tea circle member. Sensei helped me put it on. It is around this time my fascination with Kimono started. I’ve always loved it, even when I was growing up in Japan, but something about being in a different country make me appreciate it even more these days.

I always looked forward to a tea ceremony as I get to see everybody else’s kimonos. Eventually, my sensei brought me one on one of her frequent trips back to Japan. I’ve also managed to bring one kimono back to Victoria that belonged to my grandmother.

I had to quit my tea circle when I had my second child. I still see sensei and other members time to time in Japanese-culture related events. But my kimonos sat in my drawers for well over 3 years.

Last month, the Victoria Nikkei Cultural Society (VNCS), where I sit on the board, celebrated its 20th anniversary. The ticket to the banquet said “Yukatas and Kimonos Welcome” as its dress code.  (Yukata is a casual version of the kimono and usually worn in summertime.)

I thought about my kimonos that’s been sitting in my drawers. Last time I wore kimono was at Hope Love Japan fundraiser we had right after Japan’s earthquake and tsunami back in 2011.

I wanted to wear my kimono again. But I don’t know how to. What to do?

I love how opportunity presents itself when needed.
One day, I was at this social event put by VNCS and happened to talk to this lady who is also interested in kimono. She told me about this Japanese lady in Victoria who teaches how to wear kimono(Kitsuke). Immediately I asked for her contact information, and this is how I met Hitomi Harama.

Hitomi and I exchanged several emails and she agreed to help me on the day of the anniversary dinner. My friend Daniela who owns Silk Road, was receiving an honorary recognition at the banquet and she was also wearing kimono, so three of us got together at Silk Road before the banquet. Here’s the photo from that day.

Hitomi Harama

I LOVED what Hitomi was wearing that day. Isn’t it absolutely stunning?

Hitomi is the curator of Kimono: Japanese Culture in its Art Form, an exhibit currently on at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria until October. She and I had coffee the other day to talk more about her exhibit and of course, kimonos.
Hitomi’s family owns a kimono business in Nagoya, Japan, so obviously she has a keen eye for them. Kimono world is so vast and deep, which is one of the reasons I love learning about it. For example, there is a rule on as to what type of kimono is acceptable for certain occasions. If you are a family member of a bride, you are to wear Kuro Tomesode, (pictured below) in black with family crests.  Also, you are to coordinate your kimono with patterns and motifs in a season a little ahead. In June you might wear something with lighter fabric and perhaps with water motifs. In late summer you might wear something with Japanese maple, and so on. Unless you grew up in a situation like Hitomi, it is not easy to understand well the world of Kimono. I am still very much a beginner, and I have so much to learn, but it is so great to have someone like her where I can ask anything.

The AGGV is also showing From Geisha to Diva: The Kimono of Ichimaru. Ichimaru was a very well known Geisha who passed away in 1997. The world of Geisha is also something I find extremely fascinating, too. You can see an Ichimaru’s extravagant kimono collection as well as some artifacts that belonged to her. These black kimonos with design only at the hem are called Kuro-Tomesode and it’s a formal wear equivalent to Western evening dress.


What looks like dots in the photo above  on the shoulders and back of the collar are family crest called Mon.

kimono4 Kimono2


Ichimaru’s kimonos and her musical instruments. A geisha is a high class entertainer and they practice dance, singing and also different musical instruments. Ichimaru was discovered while working as a popular Geisha, and eventually became a superstar on radio, TV and films. This one below with peacocks was my favourite.


And then in the Founders Gallery you will see Kimono: Japanese Culture in its Art Form. These are traditional wedding kimonos.

This one with a flower cart dyed in Kaga Yuzen style is so beautiful. This is also Kuro Tomesode and this belongs to Hitomi’s mother.


Hitomi works as a kimono teacher and consultant, educating people about kimonos and its history. She also rents her collection out for people who wish to wear kimono but don’t own one. We are talking about “lesson and lunch” (or dinner) classes where everyone gets to learn how to wear kimono and we’d all go out for a nice meal. If any of you are interested, please let me know. You can check out her website here.

There will be a curator’s tour on Thursday, July 10th at 7pm and I plan to be there.

Both exhibit continues until October 19. For more information, check the AGGV website.

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