Thursday, July 12, 2012

Pop Goes Japan: Celebrating the Friendship Between Japan and the Philippines

On Philippine-Japanese relationship, many Filipinos think of the Japanese occupation of the Philippines, which was short—from 1942 to 1945—and the atrocities associated with it. But the diplomatic relationship and benevolent friendship between the two countries prove to be longer.  Many say it even dates back to as early as the 16th century, before Spanish colonization, with Japanese merchants and traders settling in Luzon. After the war, diplomatic relations were re-established in 1956. Today, we are the Philippines-Japan Friendship Month in July.
According to Maki Mizusawa, Second Secretary of the Embassy of Japan in the Philippines, the Philippines-Japan Friendship Month started with golden jubilee celebration of the diplomatic relationship between the two countries in 2006. July 23 is designated as Philippines-Japan Friendship Day, whose celebration eventually became more substantial over the years that it necessitates a month of implementation.
            For its fifth year of celebration this year, the Embassy of Japan in the Philippines and the Japan Foundation, Manila (JFM), with partner organizations, present an interesting and admirable lineup of cultural festivities. Japanese culture is one of the most unique and influential in the world. Many Filipinos have been enamored by it. Thus, this year’s festivities will delight lovers of Japanese culture.
The activities include a Japanese film festival, an art exhibit, a J-pop singing contest and concerts. Most them are about contemporary and popular Japanese culture.
The Philippines-Japan Friendship Month this year has also expanded its geographical scope. Aside from activities in the National Capital Region, there will also be activities in Baguio City and Cebu City.
The Japanese film festival
            Now on its 15th year, the Eiga Sai Japanese Film Festival remains to be the most popular event in the celebration. For this year, Eiga Sai will go University of the Philippines Film Institute, Baguio, Cebu and Davao, aside from its main screening at the Shangri-La Plaza Mall, in Mandaluyong City, with 10 contemporary films—Lee Sang-il’s Villain, Osamu Katayama’s PEAK –The Rescuers, Yoshinari Nishikori’s Railways, Shinobu Yaguchi’s Happy Flight, Fumihiko Sori’s Tomorrow’s Joe, Yoshihiro Fukagawa’s In His Chart, Keichi Hara’s Colorful, Yoshimitsu Morita’s Abacus and Sword, Daihachi Yoshida’s Permanent Nobara, and Takashi Miike’s Ninja Kids.
The Eiga Sai Japanese Film Festival 2012 was held at the Cinema 4, Shangri-La Plaza Mall, Mandaluyong City, from July 5 to 15, 2012. It will be shown at the University of the Philippines Film Institute in Diliman, Quezon City, from Aug. 15 to 21; at the Gaisano South Citimall in Davao City from July 20 to 22; and at Cinema 4, Ayala Center, Cebu City, from  Aug. 7 to 12. For the detailed list of films and film screening schedules, visit or call the Japan Foundation, Manila at 811-61-55 to 58.

The concerts of Aki and Kuniko, and Le Velvets
            The musical duo of Aki and Kuniko (Hiroaki Sasaki and Kuniko Obina) also performs in Metro Manila, Baguio and Cebu. This one is a very interesting event. They combine the acoustic guitar and the Japanese traditional instrument koto to create soulful music. They performed at the Abelardo Hall of the UP College of Music, Diliman Quezon City, on July 13;  Conspiracy Garden Café in Quezon City on July 14; and at the University of the Cordilleras Theater in Baguio City on July 16. They will also perform at the 2Jazz ‘n Bluz Bar and Restaurant in Cebu City on July 20; and at the Ayala Center in Cebu City on July 21.
            Japan’s hottest pop-opera, all-male group will also be coming to the Philippines. Le Velvets will sing opera, classic and contemporary pop songs at The Atrium of SM Mall of Asia, Pasay City, on July 22, 7 p.m.

Honoring Toshusai Sharaku
            Perhaps the most intriguing event in the celebration is the exhibit “Sharaku Interpreted by Japan’s Contemporary Artists” which runs from July 10 to Sept. 9 at the Ayala Museum’s Ground Floor Gallery in Makati City.
Toshusai Sharaku is considered as one of the greatest masters of Japanese woodblock printing called ukiyo-e. Ukiyo-e is said to have influenced artists of the Impressionist and Art Nouveau movements when Japanese woodblock designs became popular in Europe in the mid-19th century. In late 18th century, Sharaku appeared and produced 140 works from May 1794 to February 1795, then vanished as suddenly as he appeared. In 1910, German scholar Julius Kurth published a book on Sharaku, which eventually resulted in a re-evaluation of the artist.  Sharaku was then firmly established as an outstanding ukiyo-e artist both in and out of Japan, but no one can identify who really was.   
In 1996, a traveling exhibition was put up and has gained an international following. It is now in Metro Manila. More than 80 works of art are on view, made by contemporary graphic designers and visual artists with Sharaku as inspiration. The exhibition is divided into three sections, “Reproductions of Sharaku,” “Sharaku in Graphic Art” and “Homage to Sharaku.” Included in the exhibition are reprints of 28 of his bust portraits, produced by the Adachi Institute of Woodblock Prints, and works by Takashi Murakami, known for his celebrated collaboration with Louis Vuitton in 2002. The exhibit shows the avant-garde quality and appeal of Sharaku and demonstrates the striking resonance between ukiyo-e, graphic design, and contemporary art.
Special programs aligned with the exhibit will be held during its run, including an ukiyo-e printmaking demonstration with guest lecturers from the Adachi Institute of Woodcut Prints.

Japan Day
Filipinos will get a taste and have an opportunity to appreciate contemporary Japanese pop culture at the event called Japan Day, with the theme “Japan Endless Discovery,” which will be held on July 21 and 22 at the SM Mall of Asia.
 Japan Day is a showcase of Japanese music, film and arts, including the 2012 J-Pop Anime Singing Contest, a mini cosplay event and screening of two anime films,
Ten Filipino finalists, out of 78 entries, will battle it out in the J-Pop Anime Singing Contest, now on its fourth year, at the Music Hall of SM Mall of Asia on July 21, 1 to 5 p.m. The attendant mini cosplay event will have 15 finalists displaying their most creative costumes and imitating the signature moves of their favorite anime characters.
            Additional entertainment will be provided by No Plan Band, composed of employees of the Embassy of Japan. There will also be an anime-making demonstration by Toei Animation Philippines, a meet-and-greet session with Doraemon and Nobita, and a Japanese food tasting session by Yashinoya.
            After the J-Pop Anime Singing Contest grand finale, there will be free screening of Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos (July 21, 7 p.m.)and Detective Conan: The Lost Ship in the Sky (July 22, 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.) at the Cinema 6.

 The Philippines-Japan Friendship Month in Baguio
            Baguio City has a substantial Japanese population. Thus, it has its own celebration of the Philippines-Japan Friendship Month. Now on its third year, the Japanese Tanabata Festival is held in cooperation with the Japanese Association of Northern Luzon, with the themes “Prayer to the Stars” and “Overcoming Disaster” and a set of cultural activities.
            After Metro Manila, Aki and Kuniko will also perform (July 16, 5 p.m.) and conduct a workshop (July 17, 10 a.m.) at the University of Cordilleras Theater. A Philippines-Japan Friendship Day ceremony and cultural exchange will happen at the Baguio City National High School on July 21. The Traditional Dances and Cultural Exchange Program will feature students from universities in Kyoto and the Benguet State University on July 23.

 From Aug. 5 to 28, a photo exhibit called “Overcoming the Disaster” and a cosplay/anime/art Exhibit will be mounted at the Baguio Museum. It will feature photos about the Tanabata Festival and include an origami workshop and cosplay and anime activity.
Two documentaries — “Can You See the Lights?: First Film Festival after the Tsunami” and “Setting Sail from the Ruins” — about the Great East Japan Earthquake recovery headline films lined up for a film festival. Other featured films screened are Fukushima Hula Girls, Wanko: The Story of Me, My Family and My Dog, Éclair, Haru’s Journey, and Quartet. These are screened in different venues —July 2 and 3 at the University of Baguio; July 5 and 6 at the Benguet State University; July 7 and 8 at the Baguio Cinematheque; July 11 and 12 at the University of the Cordilleras; July 14 and 15 at the Baguio Cinematheque; July 26 and 27 at the UP Baguio; Aug. 3 and 4 at the Saint Louis University; and Aug. 7 to 12 at the Baguio Museum.
For more information, contact Hidenobu Oguni, president of the Japanese Association of Northern Luzon, at 0910-4113306 and Gemma Estolas (444-7541) of Baguio Museum.

The Philippines-Japan Friendship Month in Cebu
            For the first time, the Philippines-Japan Friendship Month celebration will be brought to Cebu. Aside from the Eiga Sai, there will be a performance of the Wakodaiko Drum Club from Saitama, headlining the festivities, at the Ayala Activity Center in Cebu City on Aug. 11 and 12. Japanese and Filipino dancers will also perform the tradional Awa Odori.
A karaoke sing-along competition features Japanese and Filipino participants. Additionally, there will be a karate show, cosplay, and sushi and japanese noodles eating contest. For more Information, call 231-7321 to 7323.

For more information on the Philippines-Japan Friendship Month, log on to the Embassy of Japan Web site at or at the Japan Foundation, Manila Web site at Call the Embassy of Japan at 551-5710 loc 2318 or send an e-mail to

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