Everything Japanese

 

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The last day of Eiga Sai Ph at the Shang Cineplex was on July 16, Sunday. And like how the film festival always starts during the first week of July, it also always concludes before or after my birthday — so the dates always include my birthday. However, this year it actually concluded on my birthday.

It kinda reminds me of how Harry Potter either premieres a new movie before or after my birthday or during November. It’s only either July or November.

I decided to skip Saturday, July 15 screening of “Anthem of the Heart” and ended up losing P100 because I already have a ticket but then again, if I went I would have lost more money than just P100 because I would have to spend more.

So I opted to watch something on the last day instead. Initially, I was looking at watching Naomi Kawase’s “Sweet Bean” despite having doubts about it for having read negative reviews when it premiered at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.

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Then again, I couldn’t watch it because I was again late and so I ended up watching the documentary “Tsukiji Wonderland.” The docu is part of my shortlist but not really a high priority but I must say, it’s a better choice to have watched the docu instead.

I may have missed seeing inside the Tsukiji Fish Market last year, I only saw it from the outside on my late night walk; seeing the documentary makes me feel like I had ventured into every corner of the fish market in reality. And because I love fish, it was a sight how the Japanese put so much high regard with the fresh seafood culture and how they both have fun and in-depth knowledge about what they do and take pride in it.

 

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A lime torte cake that I was able to buy on a last-minute decision from Starbucks because it’s the only one that’s open when I went out of Shang. 
I haven’t had a cake since Ryuchan’s birthday last May 9th. I say it like I was actually there on his birthday. Delusional me.

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Eiga Sai Ph 2017: 20 Years of Japanese Cinema.

 

Despite failing to get a ticket last Saturday for the last Shang Cineplex screening of opening film, “Her Love Boils Bathwater,” I still have a chance to see it sans the director’s talk and not on the big screen but probably via projector since it will be playing on August 19 at the UP Film Institute for free.

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Atsuko Maeda is one lucky girl — she got to work with both of the Matsuda brothers — Ryuhei and Shota but she co-starred with Shota first in “Initiation Love” (2015). 
Even Akira Emoto, who plays Ryuhei’s dad in this film has co-starred with both brothers, first with Shota in “Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit” (2008). I love Ryuchan’s mom here, Masako Motai. She is simply adorable, she’s a darling. There’s something with her smile and her face that gives me the warm feeling inside. 
Yudai Chiba, as Koji, the younger brother is cute and funny but his hair is terrible. I know him from “Ao Haru Ride” as Toma Kikuchi.

On the other hand, I was successful this past Wednesday at catching my other priority film — “The Mohican Comes Home,” a dramedy about an ailing father and his long-absentee struggling punk musician son and their unusual family. Starring Ryuhei Matsuda, Atsuko Maeda, Yudai Chiba, Akira Emoto, and Masako Motai.

One of the greatest pleasures of my fangirl life is being able to watch a high-bias actor on the big screen. That extreme euphoria of seeing Ryuhei again on the big screen, like he’s larger than life and that I have a maximum of 2 hours to ogle at him. I first saw him on the big screen at the 2015 Eiga Sai in “Tada’s Do-It-All House: Disconcerto.”

The Mohican Comes Home easily becomes one of my favorite Japanese movies now, and of course one of my favorite Ryuhei movies.There’s so much about this film that I can relate to, except the idea of being a punk rocker and the pregnant girlfriend.

Some of the subtle real-life moments of the film that I find really touching and relatable:

  • When Eikichi (Ryuhei Matsuda) takes over the conducting duties from his Dad Osamu (Akira Emoto) for the practice of the local school’s brass band of middle school students, in which Eikichi changes the tune that they usually play by taking the cue from the student drummer — he finds himself enjoying with the school band and ends up laughing altogether resulting to his Dad’s annoyance as he hears them over the phone;
  • When Eikichi asks his Dad to write his last wishes so that he can see if he can do something about them;
  • When Eikichi dresses up as Eikichi Yazawa, his Dad’s idol and Hiroshima’s Elvis because his Dad wrote he wants Yazawa to visit him;
  • When Eikichi simply walks behind his Dad not knowing where his Dad is going until they reach the graveyard;
  • When Eikichi tries his best to find that same pizza his Dad ate on his 60th birthday by ordering all kinds of pizza from (3) pizza chains and asking them to have it delivered to their place in Tobi Island, Hiroshima;
  • And the beach scene — that quiet conversation between Eikichi and his Dad and when he finds himself crying while trying to stop it in the middle of eating ‘onigiri.’

And this is why Eiga Sai is such a blessing because Japanese films are harder to find and if I do find them, there are no available English subs online. Even DVDs with subs are hard to come by.

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Since I’m still sad about missing last year’s Eiga Sai and my favorite “The Great Passage” (due to an overseas personal trip), I hope next year, I’d get to see another Ryuhei film, perhaps “My Uncle” which also premiered in Japan last November and crossing my fingers, “Before We Vanish” that had its international premiere at the Un Certain Regard section of the 2017 Cannes Film Festival and will premiere in Japan this September 9th.

It would also be nice if they’d (The Japan Foundation, Manila) get to include more old films and maybe stage a Studio Ghibli film festival because other countries are bringing back Ghibli films to the big screen like a film festival or at least include some Ghibli films next year.

Among the films, I’ve seen “Departures” before already and saw “In This Corner of the World” at a regular screening last week. I’m still looking to watch Sweet Bean on Sunday, closing day of Eiga Sai at Shang Cineplex and If Cats Disappeared From The World on August 17 – UP Film Institute.

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This year, there are 20 films to celebrate the 20 years of Japanese cinema in the Philippines, and will also make the rounds this August until the 29th at the UP Film Institute, CCP, Cebu, Davao, Baguio, Bacolod, and Iloilo.

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The line-up this year includes (3) 20th anniversary features:

*Departures / Memories of You / Sting of Death

Besides Her Love Boils Bathwater and The Mohican Comes Home, other award-winning and critically-acclaimed contemporary films include:

*In This Corner of the World (In connection Manga Hokusai Manga Exhibit)

*Sweet Bean

*The Long Excuse

*The Magnificent Nine

*Creepy

*Chihayafuru Part I/II

*What A Wonderful Family

*If Cats Disappeared From The World

*Bakuman

*The Anthem of the Heart

*Tsukiji Wonderland

*Asian Three-fold Mirror 2016: Reflections

*Poolsideman

*Sadako vs Kayako

For screening schedules, check Eiga Sai Ph official Facebook. 

Year of the Sheep: Bright Lights, Bright Beginnings

It was indeed bright lights and bright beginnings for everyone, including Filipinos who may or may not have Chinese blood or lineage. I was at the Lucky Chinatown Mall recently to join in the fun of welcoming the Year of the Sheep in my usual solo demeanor.

Chinese lanterns light up the night at Lucky Chinatown Walk. I love these, they're one of my most favorite things. It just simply makes me smile whenever I see them.

Chinese lanterns light up the night at Lucky Chinatown Walk. I love these, they’re one of my most favorite things. It just simply makes me smile whenever I see them.

I’ve always liked this place ever since I found out that there’s this new mall in Divisoria. It has this different vibe when I see the facade of the mall buildings – the colors and structure, something that makes me feel like I’m in Macau.

Every year, feng shui experts give out predictions for the year, including some information about the fate of the different 12 animal signs. It doesn’t really matter whether they will come true or not, rather like what they always say, treat it as a guide. So it doesn’t really harm that many Filipinos like to follow the practices or traditions that are believed to be lucky for the year.

Despite having Chinese lineage, I wasn’t brought up in a family following the usual Chinese traditions like the Chinese New Year but I’ve always recognized the Chinese part of myself, which is probably why I love HongKong. I wanted to get in touch with my Chinese ancestry, so joining in the celebration is one great way to do so even on my own.

And just like how the Catholics pray to God for their wishes, the Chinese have the Buddha to pray to and guide them in their everyday life, accompanied by a range of lucky charms and practices that are believed to ward evil and negative vibes and bring luck and prosperity.

One of the most popular attractions was the Prosperity Tree, which was the first thing that welcomes you when you approach the mall entrance. The Lucky Chinatown Walk became a sensation last February 18, where mall goers and visitors can take photos and take part in the (8) Lucky Rituals.

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It is strongly believed that anyone aspiring luck and prosperity should make a wish by tossing a coin at the Prosperity Pond beneath the Prosperity Tree. As seen in the second photo, the pond comes with a stronger fortune vibe because of the presence of the Dragon Tortoise statue. In Chinese tradition, the dragon tortoise combines two of the four celestial animals in the Feng Shui practice, combining the qualities of both the dragon for perseverance and valiancy and tortoise for its stability and steadfastness. In simpler terms, this mythical figure is the epitome example of wisdom and ambition and believed to bring good fortune in business and career.

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That is me taken this Saturday, Feb. 28 trying out the toss coin wish. My friend Anna took the picture.

Most people are familiar with the Maneki Neko Cat, which is often seen in entrances of Chinese shops. They say, the cat’s moving paw is seemingly inviting visitors to the store therefore bringing and attracting wealth, fortune and opportunities. The belief is that you rub the cat so its good luck charm can rub off on you as well.

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The catch for this one though is that it’s the big version, so the paw is not actually moving

Gongs are frequently seen in Chinese temples. It has always been associated to meditation with its sound that aids in the relaxation of the mind and soul, therefore giving serenity. It’s also believed that if you whip the Good Luck Gong, you are banishing evil spirits and negativity not just in yourself but in your surroundings.

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Kids posing with the Good Luck Gong

And there’s also the wishing crane. I’m not so familiar with this one though, which is why I wanted to try it so bad. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to fold a crane and just ended up getting already-folded cranes from the booth.

Cranes symbolize long life and luck. Japanese legends also tell that folding a thousand origami cranes is to make someone’s wish come true.

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The yellow one at the bottom photo is my very own crane. So I’m hoping, my wishes would come true.

Fu (Happiness), Lu (Prosperity) and Shou (Longevity) are called the Three Stars. They are are the gods of happiness, prosperity and longevity, which are the three essential attributes of a having good life. It is often found in ancestral shrines and Chinese homes. It can be likened to an altar in Filipino homes, where families say a prayer.

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The Three Stars

According to Buddhists, an incense signifies morality and immaculacy. In Chinese culture, lighting the first incense of the year grants a person’s New Year wish.

I remember everytime it’s All Soul’s Day, I light a number of incense and place them in a sand jar in front of the graves of my paternal grandparents and my father’s.

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The Buddha Shrine

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I forgot what this is called, but it’s also one of the popular lucky charms with coins in it often seen in Chinese shops.

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I was able to take photos in front of the Prosperity Tree and the Chinese ricksaw because it isn’t crowded anymore, as these were taken on Saturday, Feb. 28, and with the help of Anna.

There were also performances at the Lucky Chinatown Atrium, with singing acts including Kiss Jane, Silent Sanctuary, Hotdog, Cathy Go, James Reid & Nadine Lustre and Anne Curtis and hosted by Candy Pangilinan.

At 11:55pm, visitors were treated to a lion and dragon dance performance at the Lucky Chinatown Walk, an acrobat performance, forecast of the Year of the Sheep by Johnson Chua and the lighting of the first incense ritual.

Hua Mulan: A Children’s Musical from Kids Act Phils. were also performed on Sunday, Feb. 22. The children’s favorite story of Hua Mulan centers on family, sacrifice and courage.

The night ended with a grand fireworks display.

Other activities included in the succeeding days were Shin Lian Chinese orchestra performance, Chinese Opera, Feng Shui talk with Hanz Chua, Shaun – The Sheep Meet & Greet, Chinese school performance, Philippine Ling Namn High Pole Dance; and performances from Sitti Navarro, Sabrina, Myk Perez, Brad Go, Sheila Valderama, Richard Poon and Jose Mari Chan.

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The band Hotdog performing disco classics

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Silent Sanctuary playing their hits

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Kiss Jane performs “Lagi Na Lang”

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James Reid and Nadine Lustre bring in the “kilig” for the Chinese New Year celebration

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Anne Curtis performing in red

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Food for the day wasn’t Chinese though, but still with Chinese influences. Since the Chinese New Year countdown fell on the same day as Ash Wednesday, which means eating meat is prohibited. I ordered Shrimp & Tofu from ThaiCoon, which I hope would have more branches in SM Malls as I always have to go to Lucky Chinatown for Thai food.