Tucked between Oscar and cherry blossom season, March offers an unmissable array of concerts, performances and exhibitions, along with a special gathering to mark the three-year anniversary of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.
This month’s highlights include:
March 1-2, 2:00 p.m.
J-LABO Brooklyn, 300-302 Seventh Street, Park Slope
Three years have now passed since the tsunami, earthquake and nuclear accident in 2011 rocked Eastern Japan, yet those who have visited since have been enchanted by the rich culture and history of Tohoku, forging relationships with local residents across generations and geographies. Now, various new projects, art works, crafts, and business from the traditional and the contemporary have emerged. Contents of the two-day event include regional progress reports; a silent auction and charity sale; an exhibition featuring a display of local crafts and a documentary film of Fukushima residents; and of course, food and sake!
Monday, March 2, 11:00 a.m./2:00 p.m./4:30 p.m.
Engleman Recital Hall at Baruch Performing Arts Center, 55 Lexington Avenue
$25 advance, $31 day of event at box office
A show for all ages, this celebration of otaku culture displays how total devotion to one’s artistry creates a truly unique and unforgettable performance. With 15 years of experience, Syan is considered one of the top balloon artists of Japan, becoming the first person ever to win the triple crown of Japanese balloon competition the year he turned pro. A graduate of Japan’s only circus school, Eisuke is an accomplished juggler, acrobat, balloon twister, and award winner best known for his ninja performance, where he showcases his artistry while clad in black.
Vanderbilt Hall at Grand Central Terminal, 89 East 42nd Street
Japan Week’s annual program highlights unique features of Japanese culture from the last 100 years to the present. Delectable regional foods, technology exhibits, and traditional arts and performances will aim to inspire greater understanding of Japan and travel to the country. There’s something for everyone, from the fresh aroma of Kyoto green tea; a new NTT DOCOMO smartphone app that translates spoken Japanese and English; an introduction to Japanese artistry including hand-blown glass house wares, wooden keyboards and USB’s, gold lacquered iPhone cases; and more. Those planning an international trip can head to the Visit Japan booth for in-person info about travel and various regions.
Thursday, March 6, 7:30 p.m.
St. Bartholomew’s Church, 325 Park Avenue
$30, $24 Japan Society and St. Bartholomew’s Church-Friends of Great Music members
One of the oldest living forms of vocal music, shomyo is believed to have originated in India before traveling along the Silk Road and eventually entering Japan in the sixth century, where it has been practiced ever since. The critically acclaimed group Shomyo no Kai–Voices of a Thousand Years, comprising priests from the Shingon and Tendai sects whose mission is to showcase the beauty of shomyo as an art form, performs the contemporary shomyo work Sonbou no Toki (Life in an Autumn), written in the aftermath of 9/11 by New York- and Tokyo-based composer Torikai, whose work has been lauded by the New York Times. A pre-performance lecture on shomyo’s history and musical form led by composer Ushio Torikai is available to ticket holders one hour prior to the concert in the St. Bart’s Chapel.
March 7-June 8
Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street
$12, $10 students and seniors/free for Japan Society members, children under 16, and Friday nights 6-9 p.m.
For the Japan Society Gallery’s newest exhibition, over two thousand years of Japan's art-making history are detailed in over 70 paintings, prints, sculptures, and decorative objects drawn from Brooklyn's renowned collection of Japanese art. The exhibition showcases the history of the collection while illuminating its particular strengths in lesser known but revelatory artifacts like delicate bark fiber robes, beaded jewelry, and wood carvings made by the indigenous Ainu people of northern Japan. Many objects are on view for the first time in decades, others for the first time ever. Works are displayed by region—north, east, west, and south—to counter the usual Tokyo/Kyoto focus of Japanese art scholarship and the myth of a homogenous Japan.
Saturday, March 8, 8:00 p.m.
Asia Society, 725 Park Avenue
$20, $17 seniors and students/$15 members
An evening of innovative new jazz from artists from New York and Japan, led by the Japanese-born, Brooklyn-based trumpeter and composer Takuya Kuroda. Performing with a blend of American and Japanese musicians, Kuroda is a powerhouse talent, whose writing has been praised as “soulful” and “modern,” “effortlessly bridging the gap between jazz and soul, between history and tomorrow.” This performance marks the release of Kuroda’s widely-anticipated Blue Note debut CD, Rising Son–a fitting title for the work of a musician on the ascent.
Tuesday, March 11, 7:30 p.m.
Starr Theater at Alice Tully Hall, 1941 Broadway
The Tokyo Philharmonic has the longest history and tradition of any orchestra in Japan, having been originally established in 1911. In the midst of planning for its centenary celebrations in 2011, a devastating earthquake and tsunami struck Japan, presenting an unprecedented crisis. Now, they begin a 100th anniversary international tour encompassing six countries on three continents under the direction of internationally renowned Japanese conductor Eiji Oue, making their U.S. debut in New York on the third anniversary of the disaster.
Friday, March 14, 7:30 p.m.
Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall, 881 Seventh Avenue
Japanese-American classical violinist Ryu Goto is a classical musician with a large and growing public in Asia, North America, and Europe. Following his sold-out Zankel Hall recital in March 2012, Goto returns to Carnegie Hall with pianist Michael Dussek in a program that includes Beethoven's "Kreutzer" Sonata, Takemitsu's Hika, and works by Franck and Wieniawski.
Sunday, March 16, 8:00 p.m.
Knitting Factory, 361 Metropolitan Avenue, Williamsburg
$10 advance, $12 at the door
The coolest Japanese indie rock, punk and obscure culture extravaganza in the world, Japan Nite is an annual showcase of Japanese bands at SXSW in Austin, which has introduced over 100 bands to the world from 1996 to present. Following SXSW, the tour visits the Eastern United States, which includes New York, Chicago (and sometimes Boston or Cambridge) then moves west to Las Vegas and California. This year’s performers include Vampilla, Jungles from Red Bacteria Vacuum, Zarigani$, HAPPY, and Starmarie.
Saturday, March 22, 6:00 p.m.
AMC Empire 25, 234 West 42nd Street
Live Viewing Japan is very pleased to share the spectacular stage presence of world-famous Japanese rock juggernaut, L’Arc~en~Ciel, with 10 major cities all over the United States, in the form of a delayed satellite broadcast of their long-awaited L’Arc~en~Ciel LIVE 2014 at National Stadium. Chosen as the venue for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics, the iconic National Stadium only played host to four most influential Japanese music bands’ performances as of 2012, with L’Arc~en~Ciel included. Being the band’s second time to play at this enormous venue as well as their very first show since the last world tour, the second day (March 22) of the two-day concert will be presented in 10 theaters across the United States as a special delayed satellite broadcast.
Saturday, March 22, 8:00 p.m.
Madison Square Garden, Two Pennsylvania Plaza
A group that has previously toured and recorded in Japan, Mayday is a Taiwanese alternative rock band that was formed in the late 1990s with five members, Ashin (A Shin) (vocalist), Monster (Guai Shou) and Stone (Shi Tou) (guitars), Masa (Ma-sha) (bass), and Guan You (Guan-You) (drums). Formerly making music under the name of So Band, they came to be known as Mayday in 1997, with the name originating from Masa's online nickname. They have gone on to sell more than one million albums and won the national Golden Melody Award for Best Band in 2001, 2004, 2009, and 2012. Now, the quintet are prepared to make history with their debut performance at the World’s Most Famous Arena.
Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, 10 Columbus Circle
$35, $20 students
Possibly one of the greatest marriages in jazz history, both musically and romantically, Toshiko Akiyoshi (piano) and Lew Tabakin (flute, saxophone) have been swinging jazz in various formats, from small groups to big bands, since the 1960s. Akiyoshi, an NEA Jazz Master, is known for challenging and textured arrangements that sometimes evoke her homeland of Japan. Back in town for two nightly sets, the March 26 performances at Jazz at Lincoln Center will celebrate Tabackin’s 74th birthday. Rounding out the quartet are Paul Gill (bass) and Aaron Kimmel (drums).
Thursday, March 27, 8:00 p.m.
Highline Ballroom, 431 West 16th Street
In his young career, Hawaii-born ukulele wizard Jake Shimabukuro has already redefined a heretofore under-the-radar instrument, been declared a musical “hero” by Rolling Stone, won accolades from the disparate likes of Eddie Vedder, Perez Hilton and Dr. Sanjay Gupta, wowed audiences on TV (Jimmy Kimmel, Conan), earned comparisons to Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis, worked with legendary producer Alan Parsons, and even performed for the Queen of England.
Want more from this Examiner? Click the “subscribe” button above for free alerts to his newly published stories, and visit his Music and Performing Arts Q&A pages here.