As part of the Japan Society’s 2019-2020 Performing Arts Season, the Society proudly presents a dynamic performance of Japan’s Scariest Ghost Stories from Kwaidan, a collection of Japanese folk tales by writer Lafcadio Hearn. During this one-night-only event, acclaimed actor Shiro Sano brings selections from Hearn’s tales to life, accompanied by visuals as well as powerful live music from distinguished guitarist Kyoji Yamamoto, sharing with the audience a glimpse of Hearn’s open-minded view of Japan and the world. Beginning the live show, folklorist Bon Koizumi, Hearn’s great-grandson and director of the Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Museum in Matsue, Japan, will give a short lecture on the writer’s relevance today. Kwaidan-Call of Salvation Heard from the Depths of Fear will take place on Thursday, October 24 at 7:30 p.m. at the Japan Society (333 East 47th Street).
During his lifetime, Hearn assumed the role of storyteller, popularizing and committing to print some of Japan’s most beloved folk tales, passed down for generations. His famous collection of Kwaidan prints represents this tradition and an impulse of his work. This live performance by actor Shiro Sano features a range of haunting tales from Hearn’s Kwaidan Collection, as well as bizarre tales from some of Hearn’s lesser-known works. The pieces presented, selected and performed by Sano, include five stories that depict the awesome power of nature, the ghost of a decapitated criminal, an unlucky falconer and a noble woman on her deathbed, culminating in a chilling lesson on the karma and mortality. Each story embodies Hearn’s inner world, offering insight into the subtlety of his sensitive mind, which has fascinated Japan for over a century.
Writer Lafcadio Hearn, also known by the Japanese name Yakumo Koizumi (born 1850), was a Greek-Irish writer who immigrated to New York alone from Ireland in 1869, marking the 150th anniversary of his arrival this year. in the USA. . He worked as a journalist and folklorist, first in Cincinnati and then in New Orleans. He has published writings and travelogues about his experiences with Creole culture in Louisiana and Martinique. It was with this open-minded worldview that Hearn became interested in Japan at the New Orleans World’s Fair of 1884. Also around this time, he read Kojiki, the oldest extant chronicle of the Japan which tells myths linking the Japanese gods to the first emperor. , which further motivated him to travel the country. In 1890 he traveled to Japan with a commission from the newspaper he was working for at the time. He remained in Japan as a teacher, first in Matsue, where he met and married Setsu Koizumi, the daughter of a local samurai family, eventually becoming a naturalized Japanese citizen. Although the couple eventually left Matsue, the city continues to commemorate Hearn through several sites, including the Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Museum. Hearn was deeply inspired by Japanese folk tales rooted in Shintoism and wrote extensively about the culture. Kwaidan, his most influential work, preserved the traditional folk stories that remain the inspiration for Japanese horror films, children’s shows, stage art productions, etc., which would otherwise have been lost to the modern world.
This program is the second of Japan Society Performing Arts’ fall 2019 theme season titled Emperor Series. To celebrate Japanese Emperor Naruhito’s ascension to the Chrysanthemum Throne, the Fall 2019 lineup is packed with Emperor-themed programs.
Shiro Sano is an actor from Matsue City, Shimane Prefecture. In 1975, he participated in the creation of the theater company Shakespeare Theatre. In 1980, he joined the experimental theater group Jokyo Gekijo, led by Juro Kara. After leaving the group, he made his film debut in a leading role in To Sleep So As To Dream (1986), directed by Kaizo Hayashi. In 1992, he played the role of Fuyuhiko, a character who is a “mother’s boy”, in the television drama Zutto Anata ga Suki datta (TBS). This role has become a social phenomenon. In 1999, he made his directorial debut with the film Karaoke. In 2006, he directed Tsuyu no Hito-shizuku, a work featuring a montage of photographs by Shoji Ueda (DVD, 2006, Toei Animation). He has also appeared in films overseas, including The Sun, directed by Alexander Sokurov, and My Way, directed by Kang Je-gyu. He is listed as a producer for Yuki Onna, a story by Hearn, directed by Czech director Jiri Barta. Sano and Kyoji Yamamoto were classmates at Matsue Minami High School.
Kyoji Yamamoto is a musician from Matsue City, Shimane Prefecture. He started playing guitar at the age of 15 and entered Yamaha/Nemu Music Academy. Around this time, he was hailed as a genius guitarist, and while still a student was selected as the lead guitarist and lead vocalist of BOW WOW. Shortly after their debut, BOW WOW gained a lot of attention when they opened for Aerosmith and KISS while those bands were touring Japan. Yamamoto has consistently led the Japanese rock scene with his dynamic and powerful guitar sound and technique. He then formed the band VOW WOW, based in London and active in Europe and the United States for around four years. The group was highly rated overseas and had a chart entry in the UK. He was also a big influence on famous British rock musicians like John Wetton of King Crimson and Neil Murray. In addition to activities with the group, Yamamoto released an instrumental guitar album, hosted sessions with jazz fusion musicians, and sang and performed acoustically. In recent years, he has been responsible for the music for the performance of Reading with Shiro Sano, and has produced other artists. Thanks to his extensive musical experience, he plays an active role on the world music scene.
Japan Society Performing Arts Program As announced, the 2019-2020 Japan Society Performing Arts Season features works by visionary artists in dance, music, and theater. The current season kicks off with the traditional concert Reigakusha: Gagaku & Bugaku by the distinguished Reigakusha ensemble (September 21). After this performance of Kwaidan-Call of Salvation Heard from the Depth of Fear, the season continues with Composing for the Sun: A Conversation with Philip Glass in conjunction with the Metropolitan Opera’s presentation of a new production of Akhnaton (6 November) ; a modern Noh piece Taiten, accompanied by Kagyu, one of the most popular pieces in the traditional Kyogen repertoire (November 14-16); a solo dance-theatre piece The Unknown Dancer in the Neighborhood by Suguru Yamamoto (January 10 – 14); Fruits born out of rust, a solo dance performance directed by visual artist Tabaimo and choreographed by Maki Morishita, featuring the artist’s own designs and set to live music (March 6 and 7); the annual Play Reading Series: Contemporary Japanese Plays in English Translation, which this year features Shoko Matsumura’s Cooking Up, directed by Jordana De La Cruz, co-director of OBIE Award-winning performance venue JACK in Brooklyn (March 30); the contemporary theatrical presentation Control Officers and the world premiere of a new accompanying piece by Oriza Hirata and her company Seinendan (8 – 10 May); and a contemporary dance residency by Min Tanaka throughout June, culminating in a world premiere on the Society Stage at the end of that month.