I suspect I first became aware of JSB sometime in 2000, through some event or other. But I am chagrined to say I have no idea what that might have been. My first solid recollection comes from 2001, when I had a long chat with President (now Emeritus) Peter Grilli about Japanese cinema (which I had become utterly obsessed by).
[Patty and I eating sakuramochi under the ume blossoms at Domyoji Tenmangu Shrine in Osaka, February 2019. Seeing ume blossoms was a primary goal on this trip (limited to the Kansai region) -- and we got to see lots of them.]
At that time, I asked if the JSB would be doing anything to celebrate the 100th birthday of Yasujiro Ozu in 2002 – and he assured me that he was working on something. I promised him that if he managed to get lots of Ozu movies shown the next year, I would sign up with JSB. Peter (along with the Harvard Film Archive and many others) delivered fully – with a tremendous retrospective. One of the highlight was a special showing of Tokyo Story – which we got into thanks to the help of the vice-president of Shochiku Films. (Details available on request) ;-) Accordingly, our family duly signed up as members – and have remained members ever since.
[On our visit to Osakasayama (and many other places) in 2016, we also attended the Spring Festival (Sanno Matsuri) in Takayama, Gifu. It was an amazing experience. We stayed in the countryside, at a lovely inn for four days, with a few other people. One group was from Chicago -- and we till have occasional reunions with them when we visit family there.]
Over the years, we have participated in so many JSB activities – only some of which were movie-related. Highlights were the annual Oshogatsu parties (usually at the Children’s Museum) and cultural events (Noh, Kyogen, Kabuki, Bunraku, and traditional music). One one occasion, we went on a (very long) day trip to New York City for a matinee Kabuki performance. My wife and I also got to participate in the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Kyoto-Boston sister city relationship (and getting to go behind the scenes at the Children’s Museum and see the Mayor of Kyoto). In more recent times, I’ve been an (unofficial) staff photographer (among other things, taking photos at Japan Festival Boston: http://www.japanfestivalboston.org/2019-album/michael/), and attending brown bag lunch discussions and book group discussions. Most recently, I have finally broken down and started taking online language lessons (after 20 years of piddling around on my own).
The only other similar organization our family is involved with is the Boston/Strasbourg Sister City Association. But I confess I am only tangentially involved with this. So I can’t really compare it to the JSB.
[In September 2018, we visited Ise with our Osasayama "family". While there we got to see a kagura performance, Apparently these performances are given for only a few days in April and September. So we felt very fortunate.]
Our family's other closest Japanese ties are to Osakasayama (where we have personal friends -- thanks to an email friendship that started back to 2008) and the Tokyo area (primarily due to the many students we have made friends with from Showa Boston). My wife Patricia and I have visited Japan three times so far, for a total of 14 weeks (enjoying every day spent there).
Japanese cinema (old and new) and anime, and Japanese literature are major passions. However, these need to compete with my first love – music (classical, opera, musical theater, and folk music). Other major passions are old Hollywood movies, an idiosyncratic selection of world cinema, travel (not only to Japan), photography, and art (as a museum goer). Since 2000, I have also taken a great interest in Buddhism. As to what I’m like? Sort of an introvert – but one who likes socializing in small group settings. And an enthusiast – I get obsessed with new things from time to time, but usually retain residual interest even after the first burst wears off.
[Our last evening of our first trip to Japan, we partied with geisha (both a maiko and geiko). It was a lovely evening. The cost of the event was a secret from my wife until we got the receipt. At least, we had a discount coupon (it was a slow tourist season at that point).]
[Celebrating the 1400th birthday of Sayama Ike with our friends in Osakasayama. A very interesting visit, culminating with a group karaoke session with our friends, a delegation from Osaksayama's sister city in Oregon, and the mayor and his family. Many people felt my performance of The Blue Hearts' "Linda Linda" was a highlight of that karaoke party.]
[By October 2018, we had made it from Kyushu to Aomori. We had many incredible experiences in Tohoku, including a visit to an onsen at Hakkoda-san. However, the most impressive day was probably our visit to Takayama Inari Shrine in Tsugaru. This required two trains, a bus, and a two mile walk at the end. It was worth it. Almost no one was there in mid-week. Luckily a young couple with a child reached the top when we did -- and I took their photo and they took ours.]