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Japanese Culture on Display
The Toronto Star, September 21, 2000
Anime: Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke.

Access Japan 2000 Fest to Run 6 Weeks

When you think of Japanese music, jazz isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. But a performance by saxophonist Sadao Watanbe is one of the high-profile events in Access Japan 2000, a six-week long festival to celebrate Japanese culture set to begin this weekend.

Watanbe, who was born in Japan and learning to play the saxophone in the United States, has recently been travelling in Africa, where he has picked up influences from African traditional music.

“It transcends the parameters of jazz,” says organizer Hara Satoshi, Japan’s consul general in Toronto. “African music is full of beat and rhythm, and Sadao has been trying to create a new music is full of beat and rhythm, and Sadao has been trying to create a new music using the element of jazz, and the element of African beat music.”

Like Japanese culture itself, Watanabe, who will perform Oct. 6 at the Winter Garden Theatre, has managed to assimilate other cultures into his work.

In fact, assimilation is a theme that runs throughout the 32 events that make up the festival, explains Hara. “Japan is a country of tradition, but at the same time it has so many modern productions,” says Hara.

“If you look at Japanese history over the last 2,000 or 3,000 years, we had our own indigenous culture. Then other cultures came (such as) China and Korea.”

Animation, or anime, as it is known, is another adopted aspect of Japanese life. Though Walk Disney is the true grandfather of animated cartoon films, a Japanese doctor, Osamu Tezuka, was inspired by Disney’s work in the 1940’s, creating such seminal films as Jungle Emperor Leo (which some believe inspired Disney’s The Lion King) and the television series Astroboy.

Those titles will be included in a three-week anime film festival, part of the Access 2000 event, at the Royal Ontario Museum. Screenings begin Saturday, with proceeds going to the Hospital For Sick Children.

Other titles will include Ghost in The Shell, Dragon Ball Z, Kiki’s Delivery Service and Princess Mononoke, directed by the renowned Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki.

Also on the agenda:

A Kimono fashion show in bright colours and rare fabrics, some valued at more than $10,000. Expert Teruno Miyake will present the collection on Nov. 1 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre (870-8000).

A performance by Kaze, an ensemble of tsugaru-shamisen players will feature a unique type of indigenous music. “Usually Japanese traditional music is slow, and some would say rather tiring,” says Hara. “But this is different,” he explains. The group will perform Oct. 17 at the Ontario Club, and Oct. 20 and 21 at Glenn Gould Studio (205-5555).

The First Annual Martial Arts Expo will take place in the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre’s new training space for martial arts, called a dojo. There will be demonstrations of judo, kendo, aikido and other martial arts, as well as holistic medicine. The expo is part of an autumn festival, or Aki Matsuri, set to take place Oct. 14 and 15 from noon to 5 p.m. at the cultural centre (441-2345).

A children’s museum will feature hands-on activities that will reveal a child’s life in Japan. Origami, kite-making, interactive exhibits of toys, clothes, stories and crafts will be on display at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre from Sept. 23 to Nov. 5 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free. Material costs apply for kite-making and origami workshops, which must be booked ahead (441-2345).

A business seminar will examine such topics as understanding the Japanese way of thinking and behaving, the prospect of Japanese economy and how to achieve business success there. Pre-register for the free seminar on Oct. 4 from 1:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at Metro Toronto Convention Centre (363-7038).

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