Film Festival Circuit III: The Tale of the Princess Kaguya in Cinemalaya Film Fest

When I heard about “The Tale of the Princess Kaguya” being screened for this year’s Cinemalaya Film Festival under the Independents: Asian Showcase section, I told myself I had to take the opportunity cause it’ll never have a regular screening in cinemas here so this is the only chance I got. I managed to tagged along my college friend Anna to watch it with me on August 9, one of the only two screenings for the Isao Takahata gem at the CCP Main Theater.

At first though, I was a little put off by the animation style of the film. It reminded me of the style of another Isao Takahata film, “My Neighbors The Yamadas,” although I haven’t really seen this one fully, partly because I wasn’t so interested. But fortunately, I went ahead to watching Princess Kaguya and I was definitely proven wrong on my apprehension regarding the animation. The film is Isao Takahata’s final film. The director is best known for “Grave of the Fireflies,” which I have seen and really brought me utter sadness and tears. I still find it hard to watch it again.

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The film is based on a 10th century folktale called “The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter” and is considered the very first Japanese prose narrative from the Tokugawa period. It centers around the bamboo cutter Okina (Takeo Chii) and his discovery of a little child inside a bamboo shoot. He brings her home to his wife Ona (Nobuko Miyamoto), but when she carries the child she suddenly grows into a normal looking baby.

The couple decided to raise the child and naming her Kaguya (Aki Asakura), which means “radiant night” in Japanese. There was a shining light coming out of the bamboo shoot to where Okina found her, thus the name that means radiant night. The little Kaguya becomes friends with the local children and they also noticed how she strangely grows too fast like a bamboo, so they started calling her “takenoko” or little bamboo and developing a special friendship with Sutemaru (Kengo Kora).

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But the mysteries didn’t end with her discovery, Okina found gold coins and elegant silk robes inside the very same bamboo, and he was convinced that Kaguya is a gift from heaven and is destined for nobility. With this Kaguya’s life is changed entirely, from the suburbs to the city to learn the ways and principles of a noble lady fit for the high society.

The news of her elegant beauty has quickly spread, eliciting attentions from noblemen to the emperor. But on the day she was solemnized as Kaguya-hime (Princess Kaguya), she realized how most people only cared about her physical looks and that she’s only being named a princess due to her father’s wealth.

Despite her bold disobedience at times to her father and mentor Lady Sagami (Atsuko Takahata), she still yearns to please her father in the best of her abilities but upon hearing how people deride even her father makes her start to realize that all the things about her nobility is unworthy.

One of my favorite scenes in the film. Just look at that. 

One of the strong themes tackled in the film is how women of nobility are stripped of their free will, thrown into situations other people have decided for them without consideration to their opinions and feelings. Another is how women are merely treated as possessions and status symbols and how they are lured by men with money, flamboyant words and promises.

And yes not to forget the animation itself that initially turned me off. I have to say it really is majestic. The hand-drawn or brush-stroke style makes every scene feel and look like its being sketch as it happens on screen. The whole film is a masterpiece painting that comes alive before the audience. It can also  be likened to traditional Japanese painting such as The Great Wave off Kanagawa.

And of course, a Ghibli film is not complete without its accompaniment of musical score from perennial genius and Ghibli collaborator Joe Hisaishi that complements each and every moment of the film, from the joyful discovery of Kaguya, her early experiences as a human, to saying goodbyes, to good memories of friendship, and new beginnings and challenges as a princess.

Infinitely beautiful, truly one of the very best animated films ever made.

Film Festival Circuit II: Eiga Sai 2015 and the introduction to Ryuhei Matsuda

Watching Eiga Sai has been an addictive habit and if I could turn back, I would have wanted to have attended the very first edition of Eiga Sai. But I think when it started I was still in college, so it would have been a little difficult to spend almost the whole day to queue just to ensure a seat. Nevertheless, I’m still happy that it’s my third year attending it and I have my former then current work to thank for it because it opened more doors for me to discover my Japanese addiction.

The recent Eiga Sai was also attended by director Yuya Ishii and producer Takuro Nagai of the opening feature “Our Family” (2014) starring Satoshi Tsumabuki, Sosuke Ikematsu, Kyozo Nagatsuka and Mieko Harada about a family in the midst of breaking apart but a sudden news of their mother being diagnosed with cancer brings them back together.

It is based on Kazumasa Hayami’s same-titled novel and Ishii’s follow-up project to the commercial and critical success “The Great Passage” (2013) starring Ryuhei Matsuda. Ishii shared that he made the film because he understands some issues and situations the Wakana family is going through and can be likened to his own family.

This year’s line-up also includes contemporary films “Parasyte,” “Wood Job,” “Thermae Romae II” and “Princess Jellyfish.” And under the savory Japan category are “It’s A Beautiful Life – Irodori,” “A Tale of Samurai Cooking – A True Love Story,” “Patisserie Coin de Rue,” and two documentaries “The God of Ramen” and “Wa-shoku – Beyond Sushi.”

The Road to Ryuhei Matsuda

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It seriously makes me happy everytime I get to see one of my favorite actors at the big screen, even more so when it’s free, which is why I always make an effort to watch their film when it’s included in either the Eiga Sai or Korean Film Festival.

Just like 2013’s Eiga Sai where I first watched Kenichi Matsuyama at the big screen, who of course happens to be one of my favorite actors, this time, I was able to watch an actor who’s also very talented and popular for the first time who just became one of my favorites after seeing him in “Mahoro Ekimae Kyousoukyoko” (Tada’s Do-It-All House: Disconcerto).

The Great Passage opens the door 

Co-starring Aoi Miyazaki, Joe Odagiri

Unlike Kenichi Matsuyama, who I started following since I watched the first Death Note film back in 2006 or 2007, I have only seen or heard about Ryuhei Matsuda on Screen Red some weeks before the Eiga Sai started in Edsa Shangri-La Mall. I happened to chance upon his award-winning film “Fune Wo Amu” (The Great Passage) and Japan’s representative at the 2014 Academy Awards best foreign language film. But I wasn’t able to start the film so I ended up not watching it the first time. I saw it again few days after on TV, but again it already started.

And when the line-up for this year’s Eiga Sai came out, I saw his name in one of the films, and just like I always do I read each and every film’s synopsis and check out their trailers to make a shortlist. Fortunately, I ended up having the film on my shortlist because I like the trailer and the plot. So that’s the story of how Ryuhei Matsuda became one of my most favorite actors, next to Kang Dong-won who’s always been my top bias for the longest time, which means he already has pushed down some of my other favorite actors on the list who I have known longer than him. That’s how strong his effect on me.

Shota Matsuda in Hana Yori Dango 

Shota is the one in blue coat, first from right

But there is something else that totally sent me off the roof. That’s when I found out Shota Matsuda is his little brother. I’ve known Shota since the first Hana Yori Dango in 2005 but I think I saw the drama a year later, as I was motivated to watch the Japanese version of Meteor Garden that I so love. It just so happens that my favorite character is Hua Ze Lei in the Taiwanese version, who is Rui Hanazawa in the Japanese one that was portrayed by Shun Oguri. But in all honesty, I think Shota is the best looking among the four and and he’s perfect for Soujiro Nishikado’s playboy demeanor. Well that’s when until recently, I came to know about his beloved onii-chan.

I did kinda notice the similar surname but I didn’t pay much attention, and initially thought they just have the same surname but no relation. Finding out the real connection between them was a huge surprise, not that they don’t resemble each other, they do when you look closely, but more on the idea that they’re both very handsome and the fact that they’re even brothers – they share the same parents, same blood, growing up together makes it something close to a miracle. It’s not everyday, even in celebrity siblings that you get two brothers or two sisters who are both equally handsome and very talented. It was like my mind wasn’t very ready to take the awesome fact, totally blew my mind.

But then things took a different turn and I came to adore Ryuhei more than Shota. The very first thing I noticed about him is his tender cat eyes, they just look so mysterious and somewhat sad. His eyes speak volumes of things and stories in the most mysterious ways. And I love it when he smiles because I get to see his dimples and his silly laugh in the Mahoro series all got me. I find his features different from Shota despite having a resemblance to each other, because Shota is more of the conventional kind of a good looking guy and Ryuhei is not, which is why my vote goes to Ryuhei.

Mahoro Films and Series 

Mahoro Ekimae Tada Benriken, the first film

I started with Ryuhei at the recent Eiga Sai through the second film titled Tada’s Do-It-All House: Disconcerto and third installment of the Mahoro series, one of the most popular and most successful series of film and TV adaptations from the the Naoki Prize-winning series of novels by Shion Miura.

Mahoro Ekimae Bangaichi – the series

In this second film, Gyoten (Ryuhei) has been staying with Tada (Eita) in running his benri-ya (handyman business) in Mahoro, a fictional laidback place in Japan for two or three years since the events from the first film (2011) and the series (2013). They accept almost all kinds of odd jobs, from cleaning, organizing, walking pets, driving and more. And most of the time, the two get involved with their clients more than they should. Tada and Gyoten are both divorcees, with past stories they want to forget and run away from.

Mahoro Ekimae Kyousoukyoko – the second film

This time, the two buddies are tasked by the local gang leader Hoshi (Kengo Kora) to investigate a mysterious cult group that produces and sells organic vegetables. Things get more messy when Nagiko, Gyoten’s former wife with whom he has a young daughter named Haruka is placed in the care of Tada while she’s away overseas. Tada is scared of what Gyoten might do, especially since he knows Gyoten doesn’t like kids and even more so when he finds out the little girl is his daughter.

Scenes from the series

What I love about the duo of Ryuhei and Eita is that they really complement each other, this one of a kind chemistry I haven’t seen in male actors before. And because of their amazing combination, I feel as an audience that Tada and Gyoten would be at lost without the other.

At the time Gyoten met Tada again in years at the bus station from the first film, it was the right moment for the both of them. Tada, then still couldn’t moved on from the passing of his son that led to his divorce, while Gyoten was on his way to kill his parents because they keep asking Nagiko to see Haruka. I know these all now because I’ve already finished the first film and the series after seeing the second film of course.

It’s also a unique story of two former classmates who find themselves face to face with each other again and becoming best buddies in the process, helping each other out when one needs the other. I have never seen such a story in any of the dramas I’ve seen before.

It’s also very unpredictable and highly enjoyable, I could never guess what adventure would the two be involved with in the next episode. Well-acted, mainly from Ryuhei and Eita who carry the direction of the film and series, picturesque cinematography and fun-loaded, naturally funny story and episodes.

And because of everything, Gyoten Haruhiko has become one of my most favorite fictional characters ever.

I’m also very delighted to know that The Great Passage, in which he won a number of best actor awards will be out in English edition next fall by Amazon Crossing as I was told by a caring staff from Kobunsha, its original publisher when I asked a sample English translation of the novel.

‘The Taiko Effect: Drums of Change’ – An Immersion to Japanese Traditional Arts

Photo from Taiko Concert Facebook page

Traditional Music Instruments 

In my previous post titled “Balik Tugtog,” I attended a music event organized by students of Arts Management from De La Salle St. Benilde and I got to experience hearing well-known OPM music with a different touch due to the addition of traditional instruments such as kulintang, nose flute, among others. This time around, I got to attend a Japanese traditional arts performance featuring the Taiko drums, a traditional Japanese drums called “The Taiko Effect: Drums of Change.”

MT. Fuji Taiko Symphony Orchestra and Arahan

MT. Fuji Taiko Symphony Orchestra and Arahan

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According to my research, the Taiko drums have long been part of the Japanese way of life since the old times. The unique and loud sound of the Taiko drums is believed to have some kind of power and connection to different gods and goddesses, and is mostly used in religious ceremonies back in the days. It was also used to signal the start and end of important activities in communities in Japan, as well as to signal the coming of a storm or a good weather. At present, it remains an important aspect in Japanese folk performances, classical music performances, theatrical musicals and stage plays.

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I consider being able to see and experience things like this as the best part of this work. Ever since I started with this work two years ago, it really opened me to more opportunities of attending cultural events, which are most of the time free, specifically the ones organized by the Japanese Foundation – Manila. It’s also the reason why I started veering more into anything that’s Japanese, although my love for anything Japanese has been there even before I started working for the publication but I’d have to say this ignited the love more.

Benefit Concert for Philippine Cultural Sites 

Anyway, the concert is a benefit concert for the restoration of cultural sites in Bohol that were damaged by calamities. It was held this April 11 – 12, (Sat. & Sun.) at the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater) of the Cultural Center of the Philippines. It featured main performances from Taiko groups – Mt. Fuji Taiko Symphony Orchestra and Arahan, Hasegawa Karate, as well as opening performances from Japanese OPM artist Aisaku Yokogawa, Koto artist Yu Miyoshi and flautist Mariko Saito.

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Japanese-OPM artist Aisaku Yokogawa

Aisaku Yokogawa opened the show with his perfect Filipino speaking skills and wonderful vocals with his rendition of some popular OPM songs with Japanese influences such as, Ted Ito’s “Ikaw Pa Rin” and “Ikaw.” He also acted as the emcee and I like how he naturally blends with the audience in a cleaver and humorous way.  I wanted to take a picture with him after the show, but I just couldn’t as I was alone and it’s really hard to be taking a selfie as I’m no expert. My favorite performance of him had to be Ikaw with a dreamy accompaniment of the traditional stringed instrument “Koto” from Yu Miyoshi.

Aisaku and Koto artist Yu Miyoshi

Aisaku and Koto artist Yu Miyoshi

The stringed instrument Koto is a traditional instrument that is made of wood with 13 strings. China, Mongolia, Vietnam and Korea have a similar kind of stringed instrument as well.

Another of my favorite part too is the combination of the Koto and flute from Yu Miyoshi and Mariko Saito, who are known as Tinsel Tone in their performances of “Haru no Umi” (The Sea in Spring) and “Matsuri no Taiko” (Taiko Festival). The sound from the two instruments gives off that enchanting feel, as if it’s bringing you to a fantasy like place dimension.

Yu Miyoshi with flautist Mariko Saito

Yu Miyoshi with flautist Mariko Saito

If the opening performances were deeply enchanting and dreamy, the moment Mt. Fuji Taiko Symphony Orchestra and Arahan started beating the Taiko drums, the atmosphere immediately got pumped up as if the big, bold and loud harmony of drums are pulling you from a slump.

Hasegawa Karate's demonstration to the music of the Taiko drums

Hasegawa Karate’s demonstration to the music of the Taiko drums

From the choreography, posture and the harmonious flow and rhythm of their hands beating the drums with the delightful accompaniment of the flute and infused with karate demonstrations from Hasegawa Karate in their performances of “Yama Hensou Jokyoku” (Mountain Variation Overture), “Karako” (A boy dressed in ancient Chinese clothing), “Shindo” (Imperial Wrath), “San-ban” (Third), “Yama” (Mountain), “Oni” (Demon), and “Beat of Drum Motion,” they create a music that’s unique and can only be heard from the Taiko as it sparks the life and emotions in you.

The Performer Backgrounds 

Mt. Fuji Taiko Symphony Orchestra was formerly known as Yamanashi Japanese Drum Symphony Orchestra. The group hails from Yamanashi prefecture where Mt. Fuji is located. The orchestra aims to impart to the world the unique and distinct beauty of traditional Japanese arts.

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Arahan is also another Taiko group from Yamanashi prefecture and is a frequent collaborator of Mt. Fuji Taiko Symphony Orchestra. Arahan is also part of Yamanashi Artistic and Cultural Association. The late well-known composer Sen Amano led the orchestra before his passing.

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Hasegawa Karate also performed their karate demostration and gave a different but harmonious combination with the music of the Taiko orchestra groups. It was built by a couple who are both Karate masters, six-time World Karate Champion Shinichi Hasegawa and two-time World Champion Yumi Hasegawa.

They teach their students karate, a form of martial arts as a method to educate the youth and strengthen their physical and mental health. At present, there are already five karate schools established by the couple in Yamanashi prefecture. Their teachings have already reached the Philippines where they have 1,000 students of Shitoryu Karate.

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Koto artist Yu Miyoshi was a former chairman of Kyoto Traditional Music Association and studied under the tutelage of Mikka Danno. Flautist Mariko Saito on the other hand started playing the flute when she was 12. She’s been a part of Isahaya Symphony Orchestra, Nagasaki University Orchestra and “Wind Ensemble.”

The concert is part of the continuing friendship and cooperation between Japan and the Philippines through cultural exchange programs. It was headed by Hiromi Ishioka, chairman of ASEAN Exchange Committee and chief executive officer of Akafuji Daiko, and supported by Japan Foundation – Manila and Embassy of the Philippines – Tokyo.

After the show 

After the show members of the audience were able to take photos with Mt. Fuji Taiko Symphony Orchestra, Arahan and Hasegawa Karate, as well as autograph signing of the Taiko Effect: Drums of Change poster.

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Aisaku with an audience member

Aisaku with an audience member

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My ticket, camera pass and program info

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My autograph poster

DANCE DANCE ASIA: Crossing the Movements

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I remember when I used to dance back in high school, it was one of those things I really love to do then. I haven’t been dancing since high school but I would still like to do it, but it’ll take awhile to get used to again. I don’t really consider myself to be that of a really good dancer, I have a friend who was also a member of the school’s dance troupe who’s a better dancer. She’s one of those popular ones when one mentions the subject of the dance troupe.

In the same manner to dancing, I like to attend events; I mean free events like this one from the Japan Foundation Manila. It’s the first-ever cultural exchange project by street dancers in Asia spearheaded by JFM’s new special unit Asia Center and Dance Dance Asia.

I found myself really active for the past two years or so attending events by the Japan Foundation, since I got into my previous job as an associate editor/writer for a community newspaper for Filipino communities in Japan. I specifically like it when it’s July, as it’s the month when they hold the Japan-Philippines Friendship month; so they hold more events during this month such as the Eiga Sai and the toy exhibit.

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I initially wanted to attend this event with two of my college friends, unfortunately one of them couldn’t decide. Eventually, I invited JC, who’s two of my friends’ younger sibling and happens to share the same educational degree as mine. I guess that’s one thing that makes us blend well.

It was my first time ever seeing a full dance show and so was he, so it makes the experience a lot more momentous for both of us. I’ve been to K-pop concerts with singing and dancing performed at the same time, so I’m quite exposed to how K-pop concerts go. I have yet to attend concerts of vocal artists like 4Men, Brown Eyed Soul, Urban Zakapa or LYn. It would be really such an experience to see them live. And like I said this was the first dance show ever for me, so I was really excited. I have to praise myself for deciding to go.

Part of the thrill for this was I didn’t know any of the performers, apart from they were Japanese dancers. That feeling that I didn’t know what to expect added to the total experience I had. It featured three amazing dancing groups of different genres:  TAPDANCERIZE,TOKYO GEGEGAY and s**t kingz.

The members of TAPDANCERIZE

The members of TAPDANCERIZE during the closing greetings: Satomi Toma, Jun’ichi Sunayama (bass), Gunjo, Takeru Yamazaki (piano), Shinsuke Sada and Yuji Uragami.

The first group performer was TAPDANCERIZE, composed of three dancers: Yuji Uragami (Leader) | Gunjo | Satomi Toma and musicians: Shinsuke Sada (Gt) | Takeru Yamazaki (Key) | Yozo (Sax) | Jun’ichi Sunayama (Bass). The group is a dance percussion group with stimulating steps.

I was totally impressed with them being the opening act. It was another first to see a real tap dance performance live, so I just couldn’t help but be amazed with their combination of tap plus jazz dance, break dance, soul dance and ballet; and accompanied by live music of sax, bass, guitar and piano. I really admire the smooth harmony with their performances, specially with different dance genres combined. Aside from the tap sounds from their shoes, I’m simply blown away how it blends so naturally with the live music. The tap sounds aren’t just simple sounds, they come with a melody and different movements create different sounds.

And just the fact that they explored rhythm-tap dance style that’s originally from black folk culture is already a feat. Tap dancing is the finer kind from the three performers, as it’s more intricate – something like ballet that focuses heavily on the strength, agility and movement of the legs than the upper body. I consider it an unconventional choice of dance genre for professional dancers.

And according to my research, two major variations of tap dancing are Broadway tap that is widely performed in musical theater and focuses on dance, and rhythm (jazz) tap that focuses on musicality and considered as part of the Jazz tradition. In dance, musicality is the matching of movement and form to the rhythm, melody, and mood of the music being played. Like I said, it’s the finer kind, the one that belongs to an elegant category as it’s predominantly used in musical theater. For TAPDANCERIZE, they performed both variations in defining ways and had the audience experience both a musical theater and a jazz performance.

JC and me with Yuji Uragami and with Gunjo (top right)

JC and me with Yuji Uragami and with Gunjo (top right)

My favorite performer’s got to be Gunjo, who I was able to take a photo with after the show. He’s got this natural humoristic persona on stage while performing, although it wasn’t just him but also Yuji; whereas the only girl from the group was the most expressive one. And they’re really interactive with the audience as well. In regular concerts, artists usually interact with the audience when they take breaks from the performances; but with them they have incorporated that unique and humorous style of interacting with the audience while dancing. I think that takes an uncommon talent.

The group’s website is http://uragamiyuji.com/. They perform in live music clubs, on film, TV commercials, and are active in many other scenes.

The members of TOKYO GEGEGAY

TOKYO GEGEGAY members: Yuyu, Bow, Marie, Miku and MIKEY (in no chronological order)

TOKYO GEGEGAY is lead by MIKEY, who has worked as both a choreographer and back-up dancer for Miliyah Kato, BoA, Crystal Kay and MISIA to name a few. According to their profile, the group was formed to participate at the 5th season of Dance@Hero, a dance contest in Japan in which they took the title.

The group’s set of performances is something I’d consider the closest to the predominant dance style in K-pop, but they’re definitely more creative. Well, that doesn’t come as a surprise when one of them has actually worked as a choreographer for someone like BoA. Their performances were like watching a real and live music video, without the fluff of CG effects and other embellishments. It’s of that quality, although without the singing of course. Their choreography and the execution is something I’ve never seen in K-pop, which is really becoming generic by the days with idol groups coming out with dancing songs one after the other, that I couldn’t distinguish who’s who anymore.

Photos during the closing greetings

Photos during the closing greetings

Their set-up was at a classroom with MIKEY as the teacher and the other four as students while they learn English, science, math, arts and home economics. Each performance’ theme is based on each subject, except for the last one. I particularly like best the science dance. The science performance was like watching straight out of a film, with two of them wearing gas masks and lab clothes – the one scientists wear to protect themselves and then breaking into a dance sequence. It evoked this freak out feeling with the smoke as if they’re going into a place like the Fukushima Nuclear Plant.

Another would be the arts dance. They came out clad in silky long black skirts that are attached to all five of them. It looked like a long elegant table clothed wrapped to their waists. Some of them were standing on chairs, arranged in an elevated way to form a triangle. And then there’s the four members’ heads covered with black handbags. It was kinda creepy, in a good way creepy but creative and cool. The performance had this goth appeal to it.

But among their performance, I have to say I love it best when they danced to Utada Hikaru’s Goodbye Happiness. I totally flipped when I heard it, but it looked like I was the only person who actually know the song from the audience. And there’s always a favorite member for me, it’s the second girl from the right. She’s so bubbly, cute and perky.

The group’s website: http://tokyogegegay.com/

The members of s**t kingz: Shoji, Kazuki, NOPPO and Oguri (in no chronological order)

The members of s**t kingz: Noppo,Oguri, Shoji and Kazuki (in no chronological order)

s**t kingz was formed on October 2007 and was the winner of the dance contest Body Rock in California for two years in a row. They’ve worked as both choreographers and back-up dancers for artists such as Daichi Miura, Mariah Carey, SHINee and EXO among others. They also hold dance workshop tour.

Just like TAPDANCERIZE, I consider s**t kingz’ style more of the street dance kind than that of TOKYO GEGEGAY. They danced with chairs for their first performance, wearing simple white long sleeve shirts and chino pants. And right that moment, I was mesmerized. I always love a choreography that involves the use of chairs, I guess ever since Shinhwa’s chair dance with Wild Eyes. I have to say the song really got me too, unfortunately I don’t know the title of the song. ( I’m hoping JC could get the set list from JFM or we’ll just try to ask the group directly).

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What I like about them best is that watching them perform feels like watching a stage musical. They don’t need flamboyant props or costumes, but they get through you with their flawless interpretation of the songs through their movements. They’re telling you their version of the songs’ story and it just adds to the total atmosphere of the performances, as well as my reaction to the message of the song. It’s just like when a singer has to interpret a song in her own way, but I think dancing gives a different kind of feeling to the audience and how it affects your impression of a song; especially because you’re watching it and not listening to it. In this case, dancing is more expressive than singing.

For the group performances, I specifically love when they danced to Bruno Mars’ Locked Out of Heaven. Watching it made me feel like wanting to learn the choreography myself. It makes you really want to move and dance along. I particularly like the moves that perfectly capture the climactic part of the song. There were some funny moments too, as when the chorus hits, they had this funny expressions while they’re singing along to the song. I couldn’t help but laugh. NOPPO, the tallest one was the funniest from the very start, from their first performance.

Here’s a video of them performing the same set, since video/photo taking during the show weren’t allowed.

My favorite solo performances were from the second guy from the right who danced to Michael Jackson’s Leave Me Alone and the guy first from right, with the mic, who performed to Justin Timberlake’s Strawberry Bubblegum; the guy’s super and he effortlessly brings out the JT charm with his own dance moves.

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Thank you from the wonderful performers

Honorable mention would be Oguri’s performance to Ms. Seductive by Jeff Bernat. I have the group to thank, specifically him for introducing me to this beautiful song. And this is such an expressive song and I was able to see how he’s really feeling the song, like he’s the guy in the song who fell for this girl but couldn’t find a way to do something with the butterflies she gives him. He could be a wonderful actor.

The group’s website is http://shitkingz.jp/

Among the three groups, I like TAPDANCERIZE and s**t kingz best, I did enjoy TOKYO GEGEGAY a lot as well.

We really enjoyed (2) hours of purely breathtaking, awesome, one of a kind, high-class showcase of great dancing talent of the Japanese. It was a great show of sensational dance performances of different genres.

Thank you JFM and Dance Dance Asia!

Check out JFM and Dance Dance Asia to know more about JFM’s programs and Dance Dance Asia tour.

Some videos during the closing greetings. They taught us some dance moves as we danced along to them to the music of Mark Ronson’s Uptown Funk.

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DANCE DANCE ASIA: Crossing the Movements is a project of The Japan Foundation Manila – Asia Center to support the exchange and collaboration of Asian regional dance companies/dancers that are based on street dance, including not only hip-hop but a variety of genres such as jazz dance and contemporary dance.

The Manila 2-day event is the introductory performance and the first-ever cultural exchange project by street dancers in Asia. It features three amazing dance groups from Japan: TAPDANCERIZE,TOKYO GEGEGAY and s**t kingz. Held at Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Makati, Ph.

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So there goes a wonderful night, and ends with a cup of Raspberry Truffle Mocha.

So there goes a wonderful night, and ends with a cup of Raspberry Truffle Mocha.

 

 

 

The Gift of Books, Itachi and Sasuke Goodies

I’m writing this post at 11:15pm, Dec. 31st just before everything starts over again.

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I’m thankful for these great gifts of experience, adventure and knowing great people who are like real friends to me; although they’re fictional people. Most of the time, these people are the kind of people I’d really like to meet and be friends with. They’re the kind who are not so easy to find in the human world, so I’m really grateful for these wonderful stories of life, of love, of friendship, and everything else in between.

The most memorable character for me this year is Tsukuru Tazaki. He’s so close to who I am and I feel so connected with his story, despite not exactly having the same dilemma and ordeal he had to go through.

At present, I’m reading my first non-fiction book and travel related  one but still so Japanese. I’m enjoying it a lot, having to know more about the country I hold so dearly – my favorite country Japan.

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I also thank my Uncle Luvin from the States, who paved the way for me to be able to get Haruki Murakami’s latest release – The Strange Library; as well as this very beautiful (Naruto) Itachi messenger bag and this bad-ass looking Sasuke’s Eternal Mangekyou Sharingan necklace. But of course, before Uncle Luvin; it is God I have to thank for all these.

This year might not have been the best with an unfortunate event, but I’m looking forward to starting over again. I do not want to promise, instead I will keep on trying and learning from mistakes everyday; and hoping my Christmas wish that I always prayed for during the nine-day Misa de Gallo mass will be awarded to me by God this new year.

Happy New Year everyone and God bless!

Updating this post with some photos earlier during the New Year’s Eve dinner or media noche. Well, I don’t usually post photos of myself but it won’t hurt to do once in a while. I had to take the photos myself and I’m not so good with taking selcas; as I’m not with any family member, but it’s still good. And since I’m not photogenic, I had to take a couple of shots to finally capture some decent ones.

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I suddenly noticed earlier that my glasses and my shirt are the same color. That was not intentional.

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The only ones I personally prepared are the macaroni salad and the ham. The apple crumble, chicken and pancit malabon were take-out orders.

The candles, they’re called prosperity candles. I’m not sure if this tradition is done elsewhere too, but the practice is you light all (7) candles: red (health), blue (peace), yellow (intelligence), violet (spiritual growth), pink (love), green (money), and orange (career) at 11:30pm and put them out at 12 midnight. The smallest candle or the one that melted the quickest symbolizes the good fortune that the new year will bring you first, followed by the rest.

It’s really hard though to decipher which one is the smallest since the candles got a little mixed up when they melted. But I think orange is the smallest, then pink, blue, green, red, violet and yellow.

Orange is for career, hurray! I think this one got me a little excited, crossing my fingers and praying it will be. Pink for love, but not so much a priority. Blue for peace, oh yes peace of mind. Green for money, so I could travel more and buy more books; and Naruto manga and some goodies, and save more. Red for health, good health is always a blessings. Violet for spiritual growth, guidance from God. And last but not the least, yellow for intelligence; to learn new things and new experiences for the mind, body and soul intellect.

5 Centimeters Per Second: Of Distance and Time

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“Hey. They say it’s five centimeters per second…the speed of falling cherry blossom petals is five centimeters per second…” – Akari

I was greeted by this very phrase from the first few minutes of the movie. I haven’t seen any real cherry blossoms but it made me wonder if they really do fall at the speed of five centimeters per second. I find it a lovely backdrop and a perfect catalyst to start the story of love of Tohno Takaki and Shinohara Akari, who started as little kids who grew closer during elementary school.

It was recommended to me by a work colleague but I had only gotten around to watch it recently. It was like a new venture for me to take on a Japanese animated film that is non-Ghibli and non-Hayao Miyazaki made; so I didn’t really know what to expect. In one of these past few days, I just had this sudden urge to see it and other Japanese films that were recommended to me.

The movie is divided into three acts: The Chosen Cherry Blossoms, Cosmonaut and 5 Centimeters Per Second. The style is a new take in my opinion in tackling an animated romantic drama. I specifically like how the different stages of Takaki and Akari’s life are depicted in three sections, but definitely with more focus on Takaki’s perspective. The style makes it highly introspective and allows a deep exploration to the characters, especially Takaki. But I must agree at some point that the story runs a little slow. But since I’m the kind of person who likes introspection, so I take the introspective part a positive one.

Act 1: The Chosen Cherry Blossoms

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In act one, this is where I see them as little kids who seem to be a bit out of the ordinary. Sharing similar interests and almost the same personality, they instantly became the subject of tease among their classmates for always being together. Back to the first scene, Takaki and Akari are watching the cherry blossoms fall when she suddenly runs to the  other side of a train crossing. After the train has passed, Akari tells him that she hopes they could watch the cherry blossoms once again. And that is the beginning of real life for them.

The animation from this very scene alone is simply indescribably beautiful for me.

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Akari had to transfer school and that’s when Takaki is left behind. They were kids, they didn’t make their own choices back then and it struck Takaki as he couldn’t do anything for her, knowing that she didn’t want it to happen either. When it was time for Takaki to transfer, they decided to finally see each other. Now 13, it was the first time for Takaki to be travelling so far to a place he’d never been to just to see Akari.

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When they had set the date, March 4; it was supposed to be Spring and Akari was looking forward to seeing Takaki and hoping that the cherry blossoms would fall on that day. However, just as life had started for them when they were kids, it’s nature this time that’s somehow hindering them. It rained then it snowed hard, and when that happens, one should know what to expect. But despite the worry that she might have gone home, there was no going back for Takaki.

It felt so nerve-wracking to see Takaki as he waits for every extended train stop due to the weather, as if every passing hour is killing him. His mind filled with thoughts of losing the chance to ever see Akari again.

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It was like against all odds. I was half expecting that she wouldn’t be there for what seemed like forever waiting for Takaki to appear. This is by far, one of the best moments and one of my favorite scenes. It made me happy that they were able to share this moment with each other, after that separation and their deep longing to see each other again.

“In that moment, I felt like I knew where eternity, our hearts and our souls all lay. I felt as though we had shared all the experiences of my 13 years. And then in the next moment, I was suddenly filled with an insufferable sadness. Akari’s warmth and her soul… How could I take them in, and where could I bring them? I felt that sad because I didn’t have those answers. I clearly knew from that point on, we wouldn’t be together forever. The overwhelming weight of our lives to come and the uncertainty of time hung over us.” – Takaki 

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From the very start, everything was just so scenically beautiful for me. The cherry blossoms, the bullet train, and the snow. But then again, despite how everything seems to be beautiful; life knocks you over back to reality.

Act 2 – Cosmonaut

The dream

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“It must really be a lonelier journey that anyone could imagine. To just press forward through the true pitch darkness. Barely encountering even a single hydrogen atom. Wholeheartedly believing you’ll come closer to discovering the secrets of the universe within the unfathomable abyss of space. I wonder how far we should go. How far can we go?” – Takaki 

The cosmonaut

The cosmonaut

In act two, there was no presence of Akari at all in Takaki’s life, not even those exchange of letters. Instead, Sumida Kanae, a surfer girl who’s in the same class as Takaki is often seen with him after school. Despite how noticeable that Kanae has feelings for Takaki, she even waits for him so they can go home together; Takaki remains oblivious about her feelings.

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There were scenes in the film that Takaki was seen writing messages. I instantly assumed that since it’s the era of the mobile phones, communication between them has become easier. But there’s always a catch to it, he never actually sends them to anyone. He writes on his mobile a brief story about a dream he had with a girl in another planet walking in a field, but he says he can’t make out her face. Of course, that’s how dreams are but as a viewer, I clearly know that it was a dream with Akari. And the fact the even in his subconscious, Akari’s presence is largely everywhere; it tells me that he’s been stuck there. He may have been doing things in life normally but inside him ever since that day, everything had no real weight for him anymore. He stopped having strong emotions, no special memories, no happiness neither sorrow, not even scars.

This stage of Takaki’s life reminds me of Tsukuru from Haruki Murakami’s Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. Like him, Tsukuru had been distraught by a rejection he suffered from four of his best friends, to the point that he deliberately started wandering from life. And while Takaki and Tsukuru’s experiences are not in the exact manner, they share one thing: the shadows of the past. For both Takaki and Tsukuru, it’s those mixed memories of the past that’s been bogging them down, affecting their relationships with other people without them even having to say it.

Act 3 – 5 Centimeters Per Second

“Then one day I realized that my heart was withering, and in it there was nothing but pain.” – Takaki

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On a day when cherry blossoms start to fall, Takaki was walking at a train crossing and passes by a girl. He looks back to see if it was Akari just when the train passes by, stopping them to confirm each other’s identity.

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In this final act, it shows how different the lives Takaki and Akari pursued. At first glance, it could be said that Akari had very well moved on and seemed to be content with her life. It is heartbreaking to see how there will always be that one person who had moved on, who seemed to have found that line where life and love get along well. Although still having those memories, she carries it with her as only things that remind her of a blissful past that will no longer affect her present.

Between Takaki and Akari, for me it was more difficult for Takaki. Having to bear and feeling helpless with the growing distance between them that’s setting them apart, and eventually having to go on with his path with those feelings from when they were kids still clinging to him like a shadow.

Despite having promised to write to each other, at some point one of them got tired and stopped writing letters or rather both of them had been weakened in the process; by then the ever growing distance and life’s unpredictability had caught up to break them.

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But then again, had they gathered up their courage to say what they wanted before saying goodbye here; things could have been different. And the letters that were meant to be read with words they wanted to tell each other were forever left in the past.

FotorCreatedThe film is something for people looking for introspective realism in animated films, without the fluff and common romantic drama themes. I highly recognize the creative use of metaphors, with the train that connects people but also sets them apart, the cosmonaut that Takaki indirectly likens to people’s lives and at how life can be so indefinite and unpredictable, and the cherry blossoms that represent the impermanence of people’s relationships; at how humans often come together and slowly drift apart and the sluggishness of life.

But then again, I would have wanted them to have experienced all those memories as adults rather than as kids.

 

Book Love – A Geek in Japan

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I’m finally able to snap my very first travel related book acquisition after not seeing my camera for (4) months.

I missed you Canon, you’ve been away for (4) months without me, at least one of us got to go away this year and had a really long vacation. I’m so envious, you got to see places I didn’t see. 

I bought the camera last January and been looking forward for another trip by myself this year and having to use this camera, unfortunately I wasn’t able to do so this time. It’s a promise I made to  myself but having failed for the first time ever since I started it, I just feel bad about it.

In any case, I’m loving this book. On An Extremely Brief History of Japan (page 10,chapter 1), it says that Japan was born of the love between two deities: Izanagi and Izanami. These two deities had a daughter named Amaterasu, and the long dynasty of Japanese emperors descends from her.

When I read the names Izanagi, Izanami and Amaterasu; I was like “Oh my, Naruto!” Kishimoto Masashi must have taken inspiration from Japanese history to create the Uchiha clan’s signature Izanami, Izanagi and Amaterasu jutsu.

When I got into Naruto years ago, I heard that tailed beasts like Kurama for instance came from Japanese folklore. But I didn’t know much about it other than that basic information, so when I read the chapter about visiting shrines and temples in Japan, I found out that sacred foxes or “kitsune” in Japanese is a common sight in Shinto shrines. They are believed to be messengers of Inari – the god of fertility. A sacred fox’ power can be determined by the number of its tails, the more tails it has means the more powerful it is. When it has nine tails, the highest number of tails it can have; it means it is of the most powerful kind.  I instantly thought of Kurama and nothing else. This just shows how Naruto is so attached and faithful to its Japanese heritage and history.

A Geek in Japan is definitely a great buy. It’s like a one-stop shop of everything Japanese, an efficient way of learning about the basics on culture and people without being seriously academic.