My experience with the GVJCI was very rewarding, not only gaining experience as the
social media intern in expanding the GVJCI’s online presence on social media platforms, but
also learning more about my Japanese roots. I gained a lot of friends working at the GVJCI and
even picked up on learning some Japanese! My most memorable experience at the GVJCI was
the 2019 Matsuri. I had just recently moved to Torrance and had never been to the annual
Matsuri before. There was so much culture and tradition and it was very special to be a part of.
There were a lot of games, great food and plenty of entertainment. It made me feel as though
the Japanese community of Gardena/Torrance is a lot closer than I knew. I was so sad to hear
that this years Matsuri was cancelled due to the Coronavirus, but I am so happy that the Matsuri
will be taking place virtually and there is still a platform where the Japanese community can still
interact and give back to one another.
By: Kellen Tomiyama, former Social Media & Community Outreach Intern
Hello my name is Kellen Tomiyama. Last spring, I had the opportunity to work at the Gardena Valley Japanese Cultural Institute (GVJCI) as the Social Media & Community Outreach Intern. Growing up as a Japanese American in a city in Orange County that does not have a large Japanese American community or presence, it was a culturally eye-opening experience to get to interact with the members of the GVJCI. Also, moving to Torrance, CA introduced me to many other Japanese Americans that I got to know and interact with. It was refreshing to be able to speak with Japanese Americans my age who grew up with a strong connection to their Japanese roots. Not to mention all the great Japanese food in Torrance - especially my favorite Japanese restaurant Azuma!
I am so thankful for the people/experiences I have gained through my time at the GVJCI. I look forward to attending the annual Matsuri every year. When I start my family, I will be able to take them to the Matsuri and pass down the tradition. Growing up in a community where Japanese Americans are not common, I am so grateful for my time here at the GVJCI and how close it has brought me to my Japanese roots.
By Alyssa Makishima, GVJCI Social Media & Community Outreach Intern
Art museums all over the world to educate and inspire the population through pieces made with traditional mediums such as paint, clay, graphite, etc. Nowadays, with the advancement of technology, art museums are evolving and becoming more immersive than ever before. A couple of museums in Japan utilize modern-day technology to offer elevated experiences to their viewers.
The Mori Building Digital Art Museum: teamLab Borderless is an art museum currently located in the capital of Japan, Tokyo. At this digital art museum, 520 computers and 470 projectors work to create art to stimulate all five senses. It is a great installation to go to if you want to spice up your Instagram, as the exhibits are very aesthetically pleasing. On top of it being beautiful, it also offers a new way to look at pre-modern cultural Japanese art. In Ancient Japanese scenery paintings, the landscapes were painted to look very flat and unrealistic to real space. TeamLab Borderless revamped this style of art and with a scientific approach, created “Ultrasubjective space.” Through this, they generate a new viewing experience that raises questions about how modern viewpoints differ from ones from the past. This exploration of space was made possible by recent scientific technology; more specifically, computer programs which allow the user to create and maneuver 3D objects in a 3D space.
Japanese art is heavily influenced by the cultural characteristics. This was showcased at TeamLab Borderless as artwork often depicted Samurais, Geishas, etc; very iconic symbols of Japanese culture. The most preferred artistic expression to this day in Japan would be painting. Even in ancient times, brushes were used for writing instead of pen or pencil. This brought an aesthetic element to the artwork. Traditionally, calligraphy lettering is done on paper. But at this museum, artists thought outside of the box and gave it a 21st century style twist. I noticed that the letters projected onto the walls were in a brush-style stoke.
I believe that this museum did a good job of showcasing traditional Japanese artwork in a new and exciting way. The modernization aspect definitely attracted a wide range of people that may have not been initially interested in viewing traditional Japanese artwork. This type of museum is more enticing to me and, I’m assuming, younger children. I was able to visit the museum during my time in Japan and got to experience the art in real life. It was interesting to see traditional Japanese artwork digitized and animated; my mom and I spent 4 hours looking at everything! There were multiple beautiful photo opportunities so guests constantly had their phones and cameras out to capture the artwork.
This museum is especially popular on Instagram; if you look at their location tag, you can scroll through thousands of pictures of the exhibits and people posing in front of the exhibits. Their official instagram (@teamlab_borderless) has 161k followers, and they upload pictures frequently, some being of celebrities who visited the museum such as Kim Kardashian and Justin Bieber. On top of being an art museum, teamLab borderless has become a recognizable spot for cool Instagram portrait photo backdrops. When I went to the museum, I definitely saw multiple photoshoots happening at every exhibit. The artwork is very trendy and “Instagram worthy,” which is why visitors (including me) are so tempted to take photos non-stop at teamLab.
I highly recommend the Mori Building Digital Art Museum: teamLab Borderless to anyone interested in seeing something new and fun. It was a very engaging museum that I was glad to be able to experience. I rarely get the opportunity to go to art museums in Japan since they usually bore my family, but this one was different and exciting!
Shohei Ohtani, one of Major League Baseball’s exciting new players, has created buzz all around the league with his play on the field so far. A humble Japanese baseball player who has caused a fan frenzy among the Japanese American community here in the states. Many Japanese Americans are filled with pride watching Ohtani succeed as a pitcher and designated hitter for the Los Angeles Angels. If he continues at a high level, Ohtani could have a greater impact on how Japanese baseball, and in some ways Japan itself, is perceived than even pitcher Hideo Nomo did during his time with the Los Angeles Dodgers in the mid-90s.
People can’t stop talking about him. Ohtani is not the first Japanese baseball player to come to the states and cause buzz with their on the field play. Nomo, Ichiro (Suzuki), (Hideki) Matsui all got a lot of attention. (Daisuke) Matsuzaka too. But, Ohtani may be the most hyped and talked about Japanese player of them all. As far as respect as a player, the respect that Americans will give to a Japanese player, it certainly looks like Ohtani will be the most respected when all is said and done.
Ichiro has over 3,000 hits and combined hit record if you count Japan, but he’s good at hitting ground balls to second base and running them out. This is something different. This is an entirely new category. What else can you say but Babe Ruth?
Baseball may be the American pastime, but Japan has taken it and shaped it in its own image. When NPB was viewed from afar as little more than a minor league, Nomo, Ichiro and the rest proved that was a myth.
This is the same with Ohtani, who was met in Spring Training with doubters who said his high level of play in the NPB couldn’t translate to the MLB. But those doubters were quickly silenced once the season started. Born, bred and molded in Japan, Ohtani has the potential to change the way Japanese ballplayers are regarded in terms of their own skill and the skill of the players they compete against before heading to MLB.
Ohtani’s success represents something bigger than just the game of baseball. He is playing for the respect of Japan.
By: Nicole Sato, GVJCI Program Manager
On March 31st, the name for the upcoming era in Japan was announced. Reiwa (Or Leiwa...apparently that's up for debate as well). Getting it's name from Manyoshu, the oldest collection of Japanese poetry, roughly translates to "beautiful harmony", but is not a direct translation.
Gengou, or the name of the era, it's length defined by the ruling of each Emperor. Up until April 30, 2019, was Heisei, ruled by Emperor Akihito, before that Showa, which went until 1989 under Emperor Hirohito. In 2016, Emperor Akihito announced his request to step down, creating a wave of commotion in Japan, since traditionally, an Emperor is an Emperor until his death. However, a ruling was decided for an exception to be made to let Emperor Hirohito step down, and for the Crown Prince Naruhito to take the throne, officially changing the gengou from Heisei to Reiwa.
Being Japanese or living in Japan, you're acquainted to the gengou. You're often asked "What year in Showa were you born?" or "This brings an end to the Heisei Year 30 (Heisei 30-Nen) school year." A tradition that's deep-rooted in Imperial Japan, even with the Imperial Family holding no power, per say, anymore, the tradition of gengou has continued to this day.
Japan celebrated the start of Reiwa a little earlier than us. And boy, did it come with celebration. There were countdowns around the country, products such a Coke bottles, cakes, and keychains were being sold with Reiwa printed on them, and overall was a marketing opportunity for companies, as well as, an excuse for citizens to bask in the joyous mood. The transition from Showa to Heisei back in 1989, when Showa Tenno (Emperor Hirohito) passed, came with a less celebratory mood, as the country mourned the loss of an emperor. The beginning of Heisei came with sudden anxiousness riddled with the relief of the end of an era that was painted with war.
Many Japanese citizens have an identity attached to the gengou they were born in. While it's "just a year" any other day, parting with something you've gotten used to has become a bittersweet thing for many Heisei born folks. It's almost how Americans are proud to be a "90s baby", attributing an era of culture and history to when they were born.
Even with Reiwa beginning almost halfway through the year, many Japanese folks celebrated the "new year" as if it's the traditional new year in January by eating toshikoshi soba, or (roughly translated) New Year's Eve soba -- treating this gengou start as a new year, a chance to restart, both for the citizens and for Japan.