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Film - Paper Lanterns


Paper Lanterns is a documentary film about Shigeaki Mori, an atomic bomb survivor who spent over 40 years investigating the 12 American prisoners who died in the atomic bombing in Hiroshima, Japan. 

The Japan Society of Boston supported making this film under the direction of Barry Frechette and producer Peter Grilli (President Emeritus, Japan Society of Boston).

Tōrō nagashi (灯籠流し) or "lantern floating" is a ceremony practiced in Japan in which participants float paper lanterns down rivers, representing the safe passing of loved ones into the next life. The ceremony is performed in many places and on many dates, but notably it happens yearly at Hiroshima, to commemorate those who perished in the atomic bombing.

Paper Lanterns is a documentary film about Shigeaki Mori, an atomic bomb survivor who has spent over 40 years investigating the 12 American prisoners who died in the atomic bombing in Hiroshima, Japan. Brought to nationwide attention when President Barack Obama gave him a hug during his 2016 visit to Hiroshima, Mr. Mori has become a symbol of the friendship between the U.S. and Japan. The film depicts Mr. Mori's journey to recognize the American POWs, and highlights the sadness of losing one’s precious family, regardless of country, as well as the friendships made by sharing the sorrow and hope for world peace. The Japan Society of Boston supported making this film under the direction of Barry Frechette and producer Peter Grilli.

In May, 2018, Mr. Mori visited the United States for the first time, and came to Boston for a screening and discussion event at the MFA, supported in part by the JSB. We thankfully acknowledge Shigeaki Mori and Paper Lanterns for being a bridge between the US and Japan, in order to not let the memory of this tragedy fade away.


Find out more, and follow Mr. Mori's visit to America, on the Paper Lanterns website.



The Japan Times
When Japan Strikes the Right Cord
By Roland Kelts, June 2, 2019

The Harvard Press
‘Paper Lanterns’: The back story of a World War II documentary
By Carlene Phillips, January 31, 2019
The Japanese Historian Honoring Hiroshima’s American Dead
By Julian Ryall, May 20, 2016

NHK World - Japan
Atomic-bomb survivor calls for nuclear abolition
June 1, 2018

A Hiroshima Survivor's Unusual Quest Reaches Lowell
By Adam Reilly, May 29, 2018

NBC Boston
Lowell Honors Man Who Memorialized 12 American POWs Killed in Hiroshima
By Alysha Palumbo, May 28, 2018


Performance - Puppetry

March 5, 2019

Photo courtesy of Michael Costello

The Japan Society of Boston presented traditional Japanese puppetry by the Hachioji Kuruma Ningyo Puppet Theater.

The group, led by fifth grand master Koryu Nishikawa V, presented female-centered stories from classical Japanese literature. The show was accompanied by vocal master Koshiko Takemoto. The audience enjoyed the rare opportunity to experience a full-scale production of kuruma ningyo puppetry with chanting and live shamisen music from premier performers of the kuruma ningyo and gidayu traditions. 

Featured in The Boston Globe
Japanese Puppet Master Holds a Family Tradition in His Hands
By Jenni Todd, March 4, 2019

Slideshow photos thanks to Shinsaburo.

About Kuruma Ningyo Puppetry

The Hachioji Kuruma Ningyo Puppet theater group has been in the family of the founder of the kuruma ningyo style of puppetry since its invention. Kuruma ningyo is a unique style of puppetry, which developed in Japan in the 19th century in the Hachioji area of Tokyo. Artists perform, while sitting on a small wooden box with wheels (or, rokuro kuruma). Unlike the more widely known style of Japanese puppetry known as bunraku, which requires three standing puppeteers to manipulate a single puppet, the use of the rokuro kuruma allows a single puppeteer to manage one puppet. This innovation allows for more dynamic performances, as the performer can move flexibly and in unison with the puppet.


Photos courtesy of Michael Costello

Background on Gidayu Narrative Style

Master of vocal performance, Takemoto Koshiko, will accompany the puppetry with live gidayu music, named after Takemoto Gidayu (1651 – 1714) who created the style. Takemoto Koshiko will provide the voices of the protagonists as well as the narrator’s voice. Gidayu narration long played an integral part in Japanese all-male bunraku puppet performances with female performers collaborating with kuruma ningyo groups starting in the 1950’s. Among narrative styles, gidayu stands out as one of the most famous and perhaps most demanding as the narrator plays all parts of the play. Gidayu calls for such a vocally taxing range of tone and expression that performers often switch halfway through a scene. 


Photos courtesy of Michael Costello

Nishikawa Koryu V – Puppet Master 

Born and raised into the world of traditional Japanese puppetry, Nishikawa Koryu V began studying kuruma ningyo when he was thirteen years old. Carrying on the name of the late-19th century performer who developed this innovative style of puppetry, Nishikawa Koryu V is the fifth-generation headmaster of the Hachioji Kuruma Ningyo Puppet Theater group. In 1996, the group was designated an Intangible Folk Custom Cultural Asset by the Japanese government. 

Takemoto Koshiko - Chanter 

Takemoto Koshiko apprenticed under Koshimichi Takemoto, who now serves as chairman of the Gidayu Bushi Preservation Association, the main professional gidayu organization in Japan. She made her debut performance at Ueno Honmokutei, a theater in Japan which is regarded by many as a monument to traditional performing arts in Japan. She received the Geidankyo New-face Encouragement Award in 1976. She helped organize a joruri music concert in France, one of the first times that this kind of concert was held abroad. In 2000, she was designated an Important Intangible Cultural Property for gidayu-bushi by the government of Japan.

The North American tour of Hachioji Kuruma Ningyo Puppet Theater is produced and organized by Japan Society, Inc. Hachioji Kuruma Ningyo Puppet Theater is supported by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, Government of Japan in the fiscal year 2018, The JEC Fund, and The Jim Henson Foundation.


Japanese Theater Group "CALL" Makes Its U.S. Debut

November 2018

The Japan Society of Boston supported the Japanese theater group CALL in coming to Boston to make its American performance debut.

The group consists of working Japanese mothers. The group conducted performances around Boston of its original play "Three Lucky Charms," an adaptation of a Japanese folktale written by Julia Yermakov.

The Japan Society of Boston helped bring the theater group CALL to Boston to make its American performance debut. The group, founded 23 years ago, consists of working Japanese mothers, 20 altogether. From November 6th to 10th the group conducted performances of their original play "Three Lucky Charms," an adaptation of a Japanese folktale written by Julia Yermakov. In Boston, CALL performed at the Buckingham Browne & Nichols Upper School, the Boys and Girls Club of Boston, Arlington public schools, and the Boston Japanese Language School. 

The play "Three Lucky Charms" was presented using colorful and humorous puppets, some standing over 3 feet in height. The voices for the puppets, as well as sound effects, were all produced in front of the audience, allowing the audience members to enjoy the raw emotions and expressions of the voice actors. Plus, audience members could get an inside glimpse into the voices and sound effects were produced. The play was accompanied by live keyboard music to help create the atmosphere of Japan. Throughout the show, audience members were invited to sing along with the characters and guided in chanting Japanese expressions. The Boston production also included a special prologue, introducing the Japanese folding fan and its use in traditional Japanese performance arts like kabuki.  


Julia Yermakov, Writer  

“Three Lucky Charms” is an original adaptation of a Japanese folktale written by Julia Yermakov who was born in San Francisco, brought up in Tokyo, and educated at the International School of the Sacred Heart, Tokyo. Her acting career began at Tokyo Disneyland as opening cast, and since then she has starred in plays and musicals in the Tokyo area. In 1984 she was a bilingual reporter for NTV Japanese TV network reporting the summer Olympics from LA, and subsequently reported from around the world with different TV programs using her bilingual skills. She became a freelance narrator and voice actor in 1992. Since 2003 she has become a member of Theater Group CALL, writing, directing, designing props and acting in their plays.  

Jun Takahashi, Producer  

The producer is Junichi Takahashi, born and raised in Osaka and China. Studied Kabuki, Shakespeare and Comedia del Arte at Waseda and attended UCLA Film School on Fulbright scholarship. Produced over 200 theatrical and television movies in 10 yearsat Daiei Movie Studio as a line producer.  Then he became an independent produce-casting director to work for foreign films shot in Japan and for domestic movies and TV films as well as casting, directing and producing for domestic/International films for over three decades. In the past 10 years he’s enjoyed acting for children as an amateur.


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