Journey through Japanese arts in O.C.

COSTA MESA — Get ready for a journey to explore the Japanese and Japanese American cultures through a medium that can connect all people: the arts.

The JapanOC festival opens Saturday at the Orange County Performing Arts Center, the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, and various Southern California artistic venues, where the diversity of the Japanese culture and arts will take center stage through April. An opening ceremony took place Thursday at South Coast Plaza, one of JapanOC's presenting sponsors.

Dean Corey, president of the Orange County Philharmonic Society, which is launching the festival in partnership with New York's Carnegie Hall and the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, promised an "intoxicating" journey through the Japanese culture and arts.

"We will be featuring every kind of music, from sacred court compositions to today's pop, classical and avant-garde," he said. "We'll have traditional and contemporary dance and theater, the visual arts, a New Year family festival, and more."

JapanOC is the second festival staged by the three institutions. It was made possible through a partnership between two friends: Henry Segerstrom, the managing partner of C.J. Segerstrom & Sons who donated the land on which the performing arts stands, and Clive Gillinson, the executive and artistic director of New York's Carnegie Hall.

After discovering a mutual belief in the arts' purpose in society, Gillinson and Segerstrom began talking about collaborating to put on a bicoastal festival. Last year's Ancient Paths, Modern Voices festival, which showcased Chinese arts and culture, marked the first time in 120 years that Carnegie Hall worked with an outside organization to put on a festival.

The two promised more to come.

Segerstrom said JapanOC is Southern California's way of recognizing the Japanese Americans' investments and contributions.

"We just wanted to say 'thank you,'" he said.

Junichi Ihara, the Japanese consul general in Los Angeles, said he was impressed with the variety of performances that will be presented and the new friendships and partnerships between Japan and the United States that the festival will foster.

Saturday night's "Hibiki – Resonance from Far Away" is a modern Japanese Butoh dance that will be presented by Japanese Butoh troupe Sankai Juku at the Irvine Barclay Theater.

Jazz, modern, pop and classical music will not be the only genres featured during the festival. On Nov. 2, the Orange County Film Society plans to present "Japanese Film Spotlight" at the Regency South Coast Village theater, which is on the Santa Ana side of Sunflower Avenue.

There will also be a special tribute to the 20th century composer Toru Takemitsu.

"You'll hear guitarist Kazumi Watanabe, and our very own Los Angeles Philharmonic with Gustavo Dudamel for his Orange County debut as music director of the L.A. Phil," Corey told the audience on Thursday.

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