A pictures of the zen training area at the Japanese Culture Center in Chicago.

Estunengieko (越年 稽古) – Ringing out the year with practice!

A pictures of the zen training area at the Japanese Culture Center in Chicago.

Zendo (zen hall) at the Japanese Culture Center in Chicago on New Years Eve.

Every year on New Years Eve at the Japanese Culture Center in Chicago, JCC members participate in Estsunengieko (crossing over to the new year practice).  The evening begins with a through cleaning of the Center from top to bottom ((大掃除 – oosoji).  This symbolizes the idea of starting the next year purified and fresh, which would be very similar to the idea of Spring Cleaning.

This year following the cleaning, was the actual estunengieko (end of the year practice - 越年 稽古).  The practice began with entering the zendo (zen hall) and everyone participating in misogi (禊) breathing practice, which is another form of purification in Japanese culture.   With clear minds and spirits, everyone then sat zazen ( 坐禅 – seated meditation) to calm and center themselves.  An aikido (合気道) class followed the sit and everyone practices with full intention and sincerity.

Pictured are yakisoba, oden, and mochi. There are traditional Japanese foods eaten for New Years.

A traditional Japanese meal was prepared for New Years.

Finally, following aikido came the bonenkai (忘年会 - celebration) which involved eating lots of rice cake (mochi - 餅), traditional Japanese New Years soup (oden - おでん), and noodles (soba - そば).  The eating of soba noodles is a custom of passing into the new year, as the noodles break easily, and hope  symbolize good fortune and health.

We hope you enjoyed your New Year’s Eve, however, you were celebrating.

Happy New Years (謹賀新年) !

Promotion photo of Mozawa's Fallen

Fallen Exclusive with Mozawa’s Artistic Director Matthew Ozawa

Picture of Mozawa founder and artistic director of Matthew Ozawa.

Matthew Ozawa, Founder and Artistic Director of Mozawa talk with Brian Knall of the Japanese Culture Center.

I went to meet with Mozawa’s Artistic direct, Matthew Ozawa, about the upcoming production of Fallen running this Halloween weekend. I entered through a black door with white polka dots that was sandwiched between two businesses. After climbing up two flights of stairs, I was cordially greeted by Fallen’s Stage Manager who let me into the rehearsal room.

Ozawa was in the midst of leading the cast through a Suzuki exercise, but he kindly stepped aside to introduce himself to me and introduce me to the cast. After finishing the exercises they set up for the prologue. During the set up I met Mozawa’s executive director and Fallen’s producer Jodi Gage who encouraged me to sit in one of the audience chairs rather than watch from afar.

I was blown away by the movement work of the cast. The elements of Japanese culture embedded in the movements, combined with their great ensemble work kept me wanting to see more. Even though the prologue did not have text I have high hopes based off the work I’ve seen. But the best part may have been Ozawa’s directing style. He clearly had a strong relationship with his cast members, evident by the jokes and stories he shared. He danced with members to work out choreography, and he drew comparisons to help visualize the movement, including a parallel to a baseball pitcher and batter. He also named movements, one of which was so popular it evolved into a chant as the actors repeated the movement again and again.

Over the break I was able to briefly speak with some of the cast members. Everyone seemed to be having a great time and had a playful sense of humor. Even Fallen’s oldest cast member who, if my patchwork math is correct, isn’t even 30 yet!

Promotion photo of Mozawa's Fallen

Fallen incorporates an adaptation of Japanese writer Akutagawa’s short story, “In A Grove”

Next I sat down with Ozawa himself and began to learn more about the inner workings of the production. The tale of Fallen, which was popularized by the Japanese writer Ryūnosuke Akutagawa’s short story “In a grove” and adapted to the film “Rashomon” dates back as far as 300BC, yet the story still resonates with today’s audiences. Depicting seven people’s experiences with a single event, this tale illuminates the different facets of people. Each angle reveals a new perspective that complicates how you previously viewed them. This is particularly relevant to anyone who engages with social media where they project a certain image of themselves or interpret a particular image of others. Furthermore, Fallen’s soundscape engrosses audiences with selections by an electronic sound artist, live music by a koto performer, and sounds made with the body innate to human nature.

Mozawa’s unique combination of theatre, dance, and music works to blur the boundaries between these forms. Ozawa has travelled around the world studying various art forms, but being unable to find a space where they merged together successfully, he created his own. Fallen is the show where everything comes together and I encourage everyone to go see it! I know I will!

-Brian Knall

Demonstration Information about Demonstration at the Japanese Culture Center in Chicago, Aikido Capoeira Chanoyu (Tea Ceremony) Iaido (Sword Drawing) Ikebana (Flower Arrangement) JKA Karate Shorinji Kempo Taiko Zen Meditation/Breath Work/Stretching

Cultural and Martial Arts Demonstration Open House at the Japanese Culture Center in Chicago 10/11/14

Demonstration Information about Demonstration at the Japanese Culture Center in Chicago, Aikido Capoeira Chanoyu (Tea Ceremony) Iaido (Sword Drawing) Ikebana (Flower Arrangement) JKA Karate Shorinji Kempo Taiko Zen Meditation/Breath Work/Stretching

Some of the traditional and tenured Japanese Cultural and Martial Arts in Chicago will be featured!

We would like to invite your group to our annual Open House event this upcoming October 11th (Saturday) from 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm.  The Open House will have demonstrations from several martial and cultural arts, such as:
Chanoyu (Tea Ceremony)

We will also have origami, tea tasting, and other cultural activities.

Iaido (sword drawing) Sensei demonstrated samurai martial art.

Ken Pitchford Sensei demonstrates iaido (Japanese samurai sword drawing).

There will also be a fundraising raffle for the Aikido International Foundation (AIF).  The AIF is a 501(c)-3 not-for-profit organization and with your generous donations, we can continue to help others in our local, national, and global communities.  These contributions are tax deductible.

For more information about AIF, please click here.

The raffle drawing will include items generously presented by the

following donors:



Chicago Athletic Clubs

Chicago Comics

Cassiopeis Jewelry

Crosell & Co (Home Goods)

Dark Matter Coffee

Davids Tea

Japanese Culture Center

JKA Chicago

Itto Sushi

Origami Only

Pastorelli Foods

Sunshine Cafe

Roto Fugi

Uni Sushi

Vosges Chocolates

Yolanda Lorente, Ltd.

Other Donors To Be Added!

Aikido International Foundation Logo (Enzo Surrounding an image of the Globe)

Aikido International Foundation (AIF) s a tax-exempt, not-for-profit educational organization as described in section 501(c)3.


Each raffle ticket is a $10.00 donation, 3 tickets are $25.00. Tickets can be acquired via the JCC Office or the AIF Webpage:


*Please note, please acquiring tickets via the webpage should put Raffle Ticket in the Comments Box.

Thank you again for your support and we hope to see you at the Open House!

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.