Thursday, February 11, 2010

Not So Different

Colorful Dancers by plushcattech.

I recently went to the Little Tokyo Korea Japan Festival at the Aratani Theatre in the JACCC Plaza and, not-surprisingly, thoroughly enjoyed myself. Hey! It's Little Tokyo - a little taste of Japan, but much closer to home. I say a little taste because unlike the homogenous Tokyo, Little Tokyo is diversifying... which happened to be the icing on my cake (the cherry on top was being able to see James Kyson Lee of "Heroes" fame as one of the MCs for the event!).

I went to the film festival with my cup full with knowledge of Japanese language and customs, but completely empty on Korean language, culture and customs. While watching a great action movie, Rough Cut in Korean, I realized that the two cultures are not so different, as it was easy for me to immerse myself in the movie's plot.

After the film was a documentary on the changing culture of Little Tokyo and its residents. The documentary, I felt, hit on a much needed discussion of bringing the two cultures, separated by years of history, together. I know that it is difficult for the Japanese to speak about unpleasant subjects. I've been a part of a discussion with WWII POWs kept in the very city I stayed in for three years and saw this difficulty. This festival really helped ease through to bring people together. Especially with great performances from the Taiko Project and Korean Dance Academy.

One of my big motivations for going to this event was the bento lunch. I love bento lunches with are the different little tastes in one neat package. Unfortunately, I waited to watch the outdoor performance by the Korean Dance Academy, that all the bento lunches were gone. (They must've been delicious!) But no matter! I decided to stop by Spitz to get a Doner Kebab and a sangria. Not very Japanese, but every since I had a taste of their garlic aioli sauce, I've been craving it. (Plus, I planned to go shopping for japanese groceries to take home later.)

I got back to the Aratani Theater to see the Japanese film Sanjuro, a remake of Akira Kurosawa's Tsubaki Sanjuro. For being a hard-core Japanese fan, I actually have not seen any of Kurosawa's films (I know... shame! shame!) except for snippets here and there which were quite somber. (I usually prefer the craziness of Japanese anime.) When I heard it was a remake, I prepared myself for a serious samurai tale. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this was a light-hearted tale about a wise-cracking lone ronin and a group of young and inexperienced samurai planning to rescue their clan counselor from the corrupt Inspector General. I especially loved seeing the funny Tamao Nakamura as the counselor's wife.

I ended my day with a trip to the Yamazaki bakery and stocking up on Japanese goodies for my cupboard, but also stocking up on new interests in the Korean culture for my mind and a renewed love of Los Angeles for my heart.

Here are a few video clips of Taiko Project and Korean Dance Academy for you to enjoy:

-Tiina Vuorenmaa

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