|U. S. -
J A P A N
E X P O 2 0 0 1
largest Japanese Cultural
event in North America
and text by Mark Vallen ©
US Japan Expo is held at the Los Angeles Convention
Center. The following report and photographs are about
the 2001 Expo.
22nd Annual US Japan Expo was held on Nov. 24-25, 2001 at the
Los Angeles Convention Center. Thousands jammed the convention
hall during those two remarkable days for the largest Japanese
cultural event of its kind anywhere in North America. The crowds
indulged in the talents and wares of many Japanese artists,
performers, merchants, and entrepreneurs who came all the way
to Los Angeles to participate in the event! On stage one could
see artists ranging from the YOKO AWAYA KAI (a music
conservatory that gives classical koto performance),
to the internationally famous Jazz band, HIROSHIMA.
Those who attended the Expo
were presented with a fantastic array of contemporary and
traditional Japanese culture. There were
presentations of ikebana
(flower arrangement), live
demonstrations of Aikido performed by the
students of The Dojo (a local martial arts training
center), and over 200
exhibitors offering everything from handcrafted tatami
and ceramics to the latest in Japanese Motor Cars.
A large part of the hall was devoted to the hottest new imports
from Mazda, Honda, Isuzu, Nissan,
Toyota, and other giants of the Japanese automotive
entertainment enthusiasts also had the opportunity to check
out the very latest in game technologies from Japan.
SQUARESOFT had a small pavilion where dozens of new
and exciting digital games were premiered, but it was FINAL
FANTASY X that had everyone's attention. The characters
and environments in this newest game are unbelievably realistic!
me, one of the most exciting moments of the Expo came with
a performance by the ODORI KAI (Dance Society). Founded
by master choreographer Kansei
troupe featured many wonderful dancers like the one pictured
the highlight of the presentation was a kabuki style
dance featuring two dancers dressed as magnificent
Lions. The duo, one dressed in white and the other in red
(pictured at left), mesmerized the crowd with their regal
appearance, stunning costumes, and obvious professionalism.
SONY had on display
it's "digital companion"... AIBO, the robotic
dog. AIBO is not a toy but a sophisticated computer on legs
possessing the ability to interact with those around it. The
digital dog comes with stereo microphone ears and voice recognition
programing that allows it to hear and follow commands of "sit"
"shake hands" and "dance" (AIBO recognizes
75 different words). Not only that, but Aibo has LED eyes
that express emotions, a digital camera in it's nose that
allows it to see the world (and snap pictures for it's master),
and touch sensors on it's head, chin, back, and paws that
respond to when petted. The mechanical mutt can even be programmed
to read your e-mail (I'm not kidding!) AIBO costs around $2000,
and already over 100,000 units have been sold worldwide! Future
AIBO models will be even more sophisticated.
Part of the hall was set
up as the Little Asakusa Marketplace. Asakusa,
an ancient center of culture and business just outside of
Tokyo, is still today renown for it's amazing traditional
arts and crafts. 24
different shops and food vendors
from Asakusa were on hand representing the Asakusa Specialized
Shop Association. Vendors
from Asakusa were peddling everything from regional bettara-zuke
(pickles), nori (a type of seaweed harvested in Asakusa
since 1300 A.D.), and kintaro-ame (candy imprinted
with the faces of famous characters both modern and ancient).
Ryusho is a candy shop that makes bekkou-ame,
sculptural 3D creations that have earned them the title
of art candymakers! Ryusho's lollypop-like creations
feature portraits of Sailormoon, Ultraman,
Pokemon, Doraemon, and others!
refined and sophisticated ningyo (dolls) of master
dollmaker, Tamaoki Kazuko were on display and I couldn't
help but take a picture of one of her most gorgeous creations...
a doll dressed in traditional Shinto Wedding kimono (pictured
Edoya offered an incredible variety of craft items,
from hand painted tako (paper kites) to the fanciful
hand carved wood masks pictured at right.
was so much to see and hear at the Expo that I can't begin
to describe it all. No matter what your interest there was
something there to intrigue you. Surely this is one of L.A.'s
greatest cultural events, and you better not miss the next
US - Japan Expo! See you there!
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