Why You Should Be in Love With This Totally Underrated NYC Museum

OK, the Japan Society is not exactly a museum, it’s a cultural center. But we’re still obsessed.

Photo courtesy of the Japan Society/Facebook

Have you ever visited the Japan Society? You know, the Japanese arts and culture center housed in a beautiful landmarked building on the far East Side (get it?) of Manhattan, next to the U.N.?

Yeah, that’s what we thought. But you should!

Alongside the Asia Society and the Rubin Museum, the Japan Society is one of New York’s (nay, America’s!) great Eastern culture torchbearers. Stepping inside is like stepping into a serene indoor garden with a reflecting pool and waterfall…because, well, that’s what it literally is. The incredible interior design aside, the Japan Society hosts fascinating events year-round, including a highly regarded roster of art exhibitions, an excellent summer film festivallanguage programs, and special events focused on Japanese food, business, literature, and culture. Its curation is among the best and most uniquely considered in the city. We’ve tasted whiskeys, sampled natto (that probiotic superfood that smells disturbingly similar to stinky feet), seen taiko drum performances, and learned to brew the perfect pot of green tea there.

The Society just released its 2018/19 arts calendar, and we’re psyched to see that it promises to be just as interesting and diverse. On October 5, we’ll be at the Hidejiro Honjoh shamisen concert. A three-stringed traditional instrument, consider the shamisen the banjo of Japan. Later in October, we’ll be sipping Japanese craft beers at a tasting/talk with Homebrew World author Joshua M. Bernstein and Japan Eats! host Akiko Katayama. (Really, we don’t know any other museum or high-culture center that incorporates as much booze into its programming as the Japan Society. Take note, Metropolitan Museum of Art!)

Japan Society
Photo by Koh Okabe

Then there’s an out-there performance by prolific jazz pianist Akiko Yano and up-and-coming electronic producer Seiho that will incorporate jazz, pop music, and ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging (yep, performative flower arranging!). How can you miss it? Throw in some traditional Japanese puppetry, modern dance, and an embroidery workshop, and you’ve got quite an eclectic few months of activities.

So we’ll see you there, right? Right?

Japan Society
Photo by Takao Iwasawa

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