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Nippon in New York: Yayoi Kusama, Man with a Mission, Taro Hakase, VAMPS

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With Thanksgiving weekend (and the hopes of eating right) now just a memory, we turn to colder weather, falling snow, and the new year to come. Fortunately for Japanese culture fans, December is just as busy as the holiday season itself. Whether you’re hosting guests from out of town or looking to squeeze in an event or two in between parties, we’ve got you covered.

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This month’s highlights include:

Now through Saturday, Dec. 21

Yayoi Kusama: I Who Have Arrived in Heaven

David Zwirner Gallery, 525 West 19th Street


In case you missed last year’s retrospective at the Whitney featuring the artist’s mega-buzzed about Fireflies on the Water, this current exhibition by Yayoi Kusama features 27 new large-scale paintings and The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away, a new mirrored infinity room made especially for this exhibition and the United States debut of another infinity room, which was recently on view in Tokyo at the Mori Art Museum. Also exhibited is the artist’s video installation, entitled Manhattan Suicide Addict, that draws its title from her first semi-autobiographical novel published in 1978.

Monday, Dec. 2, 8:30 p.m.

Man with a Mission

Highline Ballroom, 431 West 16th Street


Are they human? Are they wolves? Purportedly created as the "ultimate life form" by a doctor named Jimi Hendrix (natch) and with names like Tokyo Tanaka (vocals), Kamikaze Boy (bass), Jean-Ken Johnny (guitar), DJ Santa Monica (disc jockey), and Spear Rib (drums), MWAM’s trademark feature is that all of the members wear differently designed wolf masks during both their concerts and their music videos. Since their last energetic American performance three years ago, the band returns for their sole East Coast appearance with all-new unique visuals!

Wednesday, Dec. 4, 8:00 p.m.

Three's Keys feat. Taka Kigawa

Klavierhaus Recital Hall, 211 West 58th Street


As part of its third annual festival entitled Timbre Tantrum, Composers Concordance (“Enterprising new music organization” -New York Times) presents this all-piano production featuring Taka Kigawa ("Extraordinary pianist" -New York Times), Inna Faliks ("Signature blend of grace and raw power" -Lucid Culture) and Carlton Holmes ("Inventive" -Jazziz). Each pianist will present a 20-minute solo set of their own contemporary repertoire, including music by Shchedrin, Zhurbin, Ellington, Palkowski, Monk, and Alexander. The grand finale serves up a triple-piano suite composed by Dan Cooper, Sean Hickey, Debra Kaye, Milica Paranosic, and Gene Pritsker performed on Klavierhaus' antique instruments, including a 19th century Pleyel. The concert will be followed by a brief reception.

Thursday, Dec. 5, 8:00 p.m.

Taro Hakase

Town Hall, 123 West 43rd Street


A violinist since the age of four, contemporary classical and crossover musician Taro Hakase returns to New York as part of his first-ever world tour. Entitled JAPONISM after his latest album, Hakase’s pop-infused compositions and charismatic showmanship are known to get fans dancing at his concerts. First brought to international attention following a collaboration soundtrack and a concert tour with Celine Dion in 1996, Hakase has performed before over two million people and has sold more than six million albums in Japan alone. Along with his eight piece band, Hakase brings his tour to one of New York’s most celebrated stages.

Dec. 6-8

Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie: Rebellion

Big Cinemas Manhattan, 239 East 59th Street

$15 adults, $11 children/seniors

The highly anticipated animated movie, Puella Magi Madoka Magica The Movie –Rebellion-, the third installment of the series, will be coming to theaters just in time for the holidays. Madoka Kaname has changed the world. In this new world, is what the magical girls see a world of hope… or despair? Featuring a brand new story written by Gen Urobuchi (Fate/Zero, Psycho Pass) of Nitroplus, this all new story and original animation set for the big screen will provide a new experience for both fans who have enjoyed the previous movies, and those who are just seeing it for the first time.

Saturday, Dec. 7, 12:00 p.m.

Okinawa American Association of New York Bōnenkai

American Legion 116, 1165 River Road, Edgewater, NJ

Donations and potluck welcome

The Okinawa American Association of New York exists to cultivate mutual friendships Okinawans and their families who live primarily in the five states of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, as well as the members of the American public who have an interest in Okinawan culture and heritage. Following the association’s 30th Anniversary Party last May, this year-end celebration will feature a stage show, karaoke, dance, instrumental showcases, and more! Guests are invited to surprise the audience with their hidden talents, and a special DVD set commemorating the anniversary bash will also be available for purchase.

Saturday, Dec. 7, 8:00 p.m.

Samurai Night with Sake at COFFEED

COFFEED, 37-18 Northern Boulevard, Long Island City

$10 + one minimum order of food

RESOBOX presents its very first Japanese martial arts festival, providing a rare opportunity to see various forms of traditional self defense and swordsmanship in one night. Featuring sake available at the cash bar by sponsor Ozeki, patrons will be treated to live demonstrations of nihonbuyo, (classical dance); Iaido (swordsmanship); jodo (stick fighting techniques); jujitsu (grappling and striking techniques); and kenjutsu (sword techniques).

Dec. 7-20

Sugita Koki exhibition Kototama

J-LABO, 300-302 7th Street, Brooklyn


Presented by J-COLLABO, this year-end exhibition showcases the work of the Fukuoka-based artist capturing the excitement and impulse of life that are the axis of his expression. Sugita’s works provide a glimpse of the classic style rooted in ancient times, while still figuring prominently in today’s modern society following a tumult of change. Japanese sho, or calligraphy, is thus weaved into the artist’s sense of values of Japanese ancient times and the flow of the modern, creating works that are both new and profound. An opening reception featuring live painting by the artist will be held Saturday, Dec. 7 at 2:00 p.m.

Sunday, Dec. 8, 8:00 p.m.


Roseland Ballroom, 239 West 52nd Street


Japan’s most daring rock band, VAMPS is fronted by vocalist Hyde of L’arc~en~Ciel and guitarist K.A.Z of Oblivion Dust. Now touring in support of their first greatest hits album Sex Blood Rock ’n Roll (which consists of all-English re-recordings of their popular songs), VAMPS has returned to take one last bite out of Roseland, which is shuttering in April after nearly a century of hosting some of the greatest live acts in existence. Also on the bill: Killcode and a special DJ set by Sid from Slipknot.

Wednesday, Dec. 18, 6:30 p.m.

Ramen Fever II

Asia Society, 725 Park Avenue

$15, $12 seniors/students, $10 members

With “made in New York” products like the Cronut or Keizo Shimamoto's ramen burger drumming up commentary online and bringing out hungry customers in droves, social media is coming into its own as a driver of revenue in the restaurant industry. Asian food has recently enjoyed an especially large boost from this phenomenon. With the ability to curate their audience's expectations through photos and commentary before actually serving food, chefs can encourage their customers to try innovative and adventurous cuisines. Guest speakers Shimamoto, Kenshiro Uki (of Sun Noodle) and moderator Michael McAteer will discuss ramen in this context, and its delicious ascent to the top of the social media food pyramid. The program will be followed by a tasting reception at 8:00 p.m.

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