Hapa Japan Festival Celebrates Mixed-Race and Mixed-Roots Japanese People and Culture

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With a mission to celebrate mixed-race and mixed-roots Japanese people and culture, the Hapa Japan Festival 2017 will take place in Los Angeles from Feb. 22 to 26.

Duncan Williams

Founded in 2011 by Professor Duncan Williams, who currently serves as director of the Shinso Ito Center for Japanese Religions and Culture at the University of Southern California, the five-day festival showcases an eclectic group of artists, chefs, performers, scholars, and film directors of mixed-race Japanese heritage, all curated by Williams.

“Growing up as a half-Japanese person in Japan during my childhood, then in England during my teenage years, I felt I wasn’t Japanese enough for one culture but didn’t relate completely to my classmates in the U.K.,” Williams says. “In my years as a professor, I heard similar stories from other mixed-race Japanese and was compelled to create a movement to understand and celebrate our mixed-race backgrounds and encourage a sense of belonging.”

The Hapa Japan Festival 2017 features several film screenings, including “Mixed Match,” a new documentary by Emmy-nominated film director Jeff Chiba Stearns that explores the complexities multiethnic people with rare blood diseases face when trying to find bone marrow donors; a discussion with fashion model Marie Nakagawa, Japan’s representative on the TV show “Asia’s Next Top Model”; and a performance by singer-songwriter and YouTube star Kina Grannis.

This year’s festival will be held in conjunction with the Critical Mixed Race Studies Conference (Feb. 24-26) at the USC campus, which features over 50 academic sessions.

Although most festival events are free, tickets must be reserved in advance. Visit http://dornsife.usc.edu/cjrc/hapa-japan-festival-2017/ to reserve your ticket.

The Hapa Japan Festival 2017 will take place at the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo and the USC Campus; for a complete list of events, as well as the most up-to-date information on location, times and schedule, visit the website.

“Rising Sun, Rising Soul” (2017) and “Fall Seven Times, Get Up Eight: The Japanese War Brides” (2015) will be screened on Thursday, Feb. 23, from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Japanese American National Museum’s Tateuchi Democracy Forum, 100 N. Central Ave. in Little Tokyo, followed by a panel discussion with “Rising Sun, Rising Soul’s” producer Monique Yamaguchi and screenwriter Velina Hasu Houston (left), USC distinguished professor; associate dean of Faculty, School of Dramatic Arts, and “Fall Seven Times, Get Up Eight’s” co-director Kathryn Tolbert (center), a Washington Post editor, and producer Megumi Nishikura (right), a Hapa Japan board member and film director of “Hafu: The Mixed-Race Experience in Japan.”

Festival highlights:

Wednesday-Thursday, Feb. 22-23

Film screenings of “Born With It” (2014), “Rising Sun, Rising Soul” (2017), and “Fall Seven Times, Get Up Eight: The Japanese War Brides” (2015)

Musical jam sessions with Kat McDowell, the Yano Brothers, Kris Roche, and Meiko

Reception catered by food artist Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik

Friday, Feb. 24

Mixed Roots Stories live performance featuring a collection of live performances by mixed-roots artists, including “Eat to Japanese” by Fred Sasaki from Poetry Magazine

Saturday, Feb. 25

Hapa Japan Concert featuring Kina Grannis, Marié Digby, Kris Roche, Andy Suzuki & the Method

Sunday, Feb. 26

“Mixed Match,” a film by Jeff Chiba Stearns

About the festival organizer:

Duncan Ryuken Williams was born in Tokyo to a Japanese mother and British father. After growing up in Japan and England until age 17, he moved to the U.S. to attend college (Reed College) and graduate school (Harvard University, where he received a Ph.D. in religion). He is currently an associate professor of religion and East Asian languages and cultures as well as director of the USC Shinso Ito Center for Japanese Religions and Culture. He also served as executive vice president of Japan House/LA.

Williams is the author of “The Other Side of Zen: A Social History of Soto Zen Buddhism in Tokugawa Japan” (Princeton University Press, 2005), a forthcoming monograph, “Camp Dharma: Buddhism and the Japanese American Incarceration During World War II” (UC Press), and six edited volumes, include the two-volume “Hapa Japan: Vol. 1 – History; Vol. 2 Identities and Representations” (Kaya Press/Ito Center, 2017). He is the founder of the Hapa Japan Project and serves on its board.

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