THE EVOLUTION OF G YAMAZAWA: From Buddhism in the South, spoken word to hip-hop

Poet and rapper George Yamazawa, Jr. — known by his stage name G Yamazawa — performed at the Nichi Bei Foundation’s seventh annual Northern California Soy and Tofu Festival in San Francisco June 17. Prior to his performance, the 26-year-old native of Durham, N.C. took a few moments to talk about his life and work. […]

Ukulele master dedicated to narrowing Japan-U.S. culture gap

TOKYO — If any barriers are hindering Japan and the United States from achieving ultimate social harmony, Jake Shimabukuro hopes that his music can break the ice. Born and raised in Hawai‘i, the Japanese American ukulele virtuoso gets the best of both worlds with a ‘Wa’ on the outside and ‘Aloha’ on the inside. “I […]

Japanese pop group SMAP pledge to continue as group

TOKYO — SMAP, one of the most popular and longest-lived Japanese pop groups, pledged to continue as a group Jan. 18, days after media reports that they were on the verge of breaking up, as grieving fans in Japan and other Asian countries apparently moved them. At the outset of their TV variety show “SMAP […]

Shirley Muramoto’s ‘Hidden Legacy’ to explore arts in the wartime camps

Each year, more and more stories from the World War II American concentration camps are shared, broadening the public’s awareness about the long-term effects mass incarceration has had on the Japanese American community. Stories about people like Fred Korematsu, the Heart Mountain draft resisters and the “No-Nos” are esteemed within the community for their strong […]

Seiichi Tanaka, the father of American taiko

Surrounded by members of the San Francisco Taru Mikoshi Ren in the city’s 1968 Cherry Blossom Festival, Seiichi Tanaka pounded on a taiko borrowed from the recently opened Suehiro Restaurant in the newly opened Japan Center Malls, then called the Japanese Cultural and Trade Center. He was the sole drummer that year, but in the […]

BEATING OUT A NEW PATH: The proliferation of taiko in America

The art of taiko drumming has had a presence in the United States for just under half a century. Several pioneers fostered and drove the art from its cultural roots to what is now an internationally recognized form of performance art featured in mainstream movies, television and music. Taiko Takes Root in the U.S. In […]

Former student, now pop star in Japan, recounts story

Reprint by permission of Palo Alto Weekly/ The article was originally published at By CHRIS KENRICK Palo Alto Online A school-sponsored trip to Japan sparked a love for all things Japanese in Chris Hart, a 13-year-old African American teenager from Palo Alto, Calif. That was in 1998. Today at 28, Hart lives in Tokyo […]

THE SOUND OF THE SOUL: Self-expression through shakuhachi

Six musicians gather in a semi-circle in a cavernous East Bay performance space. The room is quiet until they lift their shakuhachi (Japanese bamboo flute). With the first notes, their heads rock from side to side, cheeks puffing, eyebrows darting upward along with particularly dramatic notes. The sounds reverberate against the walls, long wavering notes […]

Allure of taiko drums resonating across Pacific

KANAZAWA, Japan — With a dream of raising traditional Japanese taiko drumming to worldwide prominence, a centuries-old maker of the instruments used in the culturally significant music form is creating a business foothold in Los Angeles. Asano Taiko Co. has been preparing to open a Los Angeles shop and launch a taiko lesson course in […]

Gangnam Style video upends crossover success myths

Anthropologists and linguists no doubt are having a field day trying to chronicle and dissect how, in the early autumn of 2012, “Gangnam Style” became an American idiomatic expression. It stands for something along the lines of a brash, flamboyant way of doing things, clownishness, or an act of in-your-face spoofing that is both original […]

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