In order to karaoke to the Vapors' "Turning Japanese" with true authority, get schooled on everything from samurai spying to shochu-sipping hot pots.
Mon May 31 2010
This June marks the 150th year since the first Japanese delegation alighted in New York Harbor—celebrate the their 1860 arrival at the Japan Day soiree in Central Park (East Meadow, enter on 97th St and Fifth Ave; 212-398-7145, japandaynyc.org; 10am--5pm; free) this Sunday 6. At this annual fest, catch a ninja show, a traditional Bon Odori dance performance and a parade of samurai garbed in intimidating 19th-century-style warrior gear—all while sampling free miso soup, gyoza dumplings, Soka Senbei rice crackers and Sanuki udon noodles. Stick around for a performance by Japanese jazz legend and sax player Sadao Watanabe from 3:15 to 4:15pm.
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Now that you’ve honored the samurai, attempt to become one at Kyokushin Karate New York (265 Madison Ave at 39th St, fifth floor; 212-947-3334; kyokushinkarate.com; classes $10--$30). Pick up a katana sword (in this case, a bamboo one) in a beginner’s Shidogakuin kendo (full-contact fencing) class, and see if you feel brave enough to protect an emperor. “You’ll actually learn how to use the same weaponry as samurai did thousands of years ago,” said Liz Gorai, a sensei at the studio. If you’d rather not test your fighting skills, just ruminate on the warrior caste’s ethical code among Isamu Noguchi’s elemental basalt sculptures at the Noguchi Museum (9-01 33rd Rd at Vernon Blvd, Long Island City, Queens; 718-204-7088, noguchi.org; $5--$10). The serene garden is an oasis in this otherwise industrial neighborhood, and Bang on a Can, an organization devoted to experimental music, is organizing a series of concerts here starting June 13.
For a more authentic taste of Japanese cinema than Ralph Macchio’s fierce moves in Karate Kid, consider Japan Cuts (June 1--July 16; see japansociety.org for more info.), an annual festival hosted by the Japan Society. Among the 25 contemporary movies by Japanese filmmakers, don’t miss the New York premieres of Golden Slumber by Yoshihiro Nakamura, about a delivery-man-turned-murder-suspect, and Zero Focus, a Hitchcock-style mystery from Isshin Inudo, plus a screening of warrior flick Blood of Rebirth, attended by its director Toshiaki Toyoda.
Japan consists of more than 3,000 islands.