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Astro Boy Headlines at Japanese Culture Fest
Kim Honey, The Globe and Mail, September 22, 2000
A scene from the anime children’s feature film, Princess Mononoke: The kind of work that can be experienced at Access Japan 2000.

In addition to films, Toronto’s Access Japan 2000 will feature a kimono fashion show as well as demonstrations of martial arts and flower arranging.

More over digital monsters, Astro Boy is coming to town.

The cartoon character, created by Japanese animation pioneer Osamu Tezuka, is proving to be a big draw for the Japanese Anime Film Festival in Toronto.

That’s because Astro Boy is well-known to Westerners who watched his antics on black-and-white televisions sets in the 1960s, and film festival organizer Sunhan Eren.

Callers have also expressed interest in seeing Tezuka’ Jungle Emperor Leo, widely believed to be the inspiration for the animated Disney hit The Lion King, Leo opens the film festival tomorrow at the Royal Ontario Museum.

“We’re showing a good mix for people who are interested in anime,” Eren said. “In a way, they’re the best ones.”

The film festival is just one of 33 events planned as part of Access Japan 2000, an extravaganza of Japanese culture which begins in Toronto Sept. 23 and runs to Nov. 5.

He likened the link between anime (pronounced ah-knee-may) and Japanese culture to the far reaching influence of Hollywood on North American culture.

For example, anime character Sailor Moon made school uniforms fashionable.

“It became in vogue to wear your uniform on the street,” said Eren. “Even people 18 and 19 who had graduated and didn’t need to wear them were buying them.”

Anime is just one small part of Access Japan 2000, the brainchild of Satoshi Hara, Japan’s consul general in Toronto.

When he arrived here 18 months ago to take up his post, the consul general was told by journalist that there hasn’t been a festival of Japanese culture since 1995 at Harbourfront.

“Since then the face of Japan has been missing. What have you been doing?” Hara said, recalling the conversation. “I was shocked.”

For the past year, Hara has relied on 30 organizations – from Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre to the Association of Japanese Canadian Businesses – and corporate sponsors to help plan a six-week bash that will sate appetites for everything Japanese.

One of the biggest attractions is expected to be the kimono fashion show, which is being mounted by collector Teruno Miyake. It will feature 70 pieces of hand woven silk, including a kimono worth $70,000 designed just for the Canadian show.

An authentic Japanese gown is so expensive, Hara said, that most young Japanese women can’t afford to own even one. For special occasions, they can rent one much like a groom might rent a tuxedo in North American.

He also singled out jazz artist Sadao Watanabe’s concert on Oct. 6 as an event not to be missed, as well as a performance by Kaze at Glenn Gould Studio on Oct. 20 and 21. The group plays a delicate, three-string traditional instrument known as Tsugaru-shamisen which produces a sound that is said to evoke the harsh winters of the northern region of Tsugaru.

Kids can learn origami, the art of paper folding, or how to make a Japanese kite at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre in Don Mills. There will be lectures on the history of sake and martial-arts exposition, not to mention exhibitions of brush paintings known as sumi-e, miniature trees known as bonsai and the intricate art of flower arranging known as ikebana.

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