Monthly Archives: May 2018

HOT Ticket Giveaway!: Toronto Japanese Film Festival June 7 – 29, 2018


Now in its seventh year, the Toronto Japanese Film Festival showcases the finest Japanese films that have been recognized for excellence by Japanese audiences and critics, international film festival audiences and the Japanese Film Academy. Programming addresses popular genres such as historical (samurai) jidaigeki, contemporary dramas, comedies and action, literary adaptations, children’s, art-house and anime films. All films shown are North American, Canadian, or Toronto premieres.

The Toronto Japanese Film Festival’s mandate has been carefully aligned with that of the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre. In the 55 years since the opening of the JCCC, film has been an important tool in creating friendship, understanding, and exchange between the Japanese and broader Canadian communities. Ticket sales from the festival also help to drive our heritage programming which shares the important lessons of cultural acceptance and human rights, implicit in the Japanese Canadian experience with all Canadians.

The festival continues to attract large crowds representing a broad demographic and generates much positive reaction with exit surveys consistently indicating that audiences genuinely enjoy and feel challenged by the films. With lectures, receptions, gallery exhibitions, and performances that were part of the two-week festival, our visitors numbered in the tens of thousands.

Thank you to the Toronto Japanese Film Festival for gifting my readers with pairs of tickets to the following screenings! Tell me which one of the film you are interested and why for a chance to win tickets!


Runtime: 117 min / 2017
Director: Akiko Ohku
Starring: Mayu Matsuoka, Daichi Watanabe, Anna Ishibashi, Takumi Kitamura
Canadian Premiere
“Matsuoka succeeds brilliantly. On camera in nearly every scene,
she brings Yoshika to life with originality, charm and never a false note.” – Japan Times
Based on Risa Wataya’s best-selling novel and winner of the Tokyo international Film Festival’s Audience Choice Award, Akiko Ohku’s film is a tender and very funny study of romantic obsession and social isolation. Yoshika is a social awkward 24-year-old obsessed with fossils and a boy from her middle school days. When an earnest co-worker confesses his feelings for her she struggles to set her obsessions aside. Mayu Matusoka’s hilarious and heartfelt central performance, a witty script and breakneck pacing make it one of 2017’s best films
Official Website and Trailer (In Japanese):


Runtime: 128 min / 2018
Director: Norihiro Koizumi
Starring: Suzu Hirose, Shuhei Nomura, Mackenyu Arata, Mone Kamishiraishi, Mayu Matsuoka
North American Premiere
The third installment in the hit Chihayafuru trilogy takes place two years after the showdown between Chihaya and Shinobu at the National Karuta Competion. Chihaya is now a high school senior and, together with her friends Taichi and Arata, enters the Master/Queen Competition to face yet another battle against Shinobu. In the meanwhile, Chihaya learns their master Hideo Harada has been humiliated in defeat by Suo, the most skilled Karuta player in history. The friends decide to challenge Suo to a revenge match…
A fast-paced, exciting film filled with friendship, determination and beautiful kimono.
Official Website and Trailer (in Japanese):


Runtime: 126 min / 2018
Director: Daihachi Yoshida
Starring: Ryo Nishikido, Ryuhei Matsuda, Fumino Kimura, Mikako Ichikawa, Kazuki Kitamura, Min Tanaka, Shingo Mizusawa
North American Premiere
Suffering from population decline, the small seaside town decides to welcome six strangers into the community. A malevolent fishing boat operator, a sexy caregiver, a frightening launderer, a timid barber, a methodical cleaning woman, and a simple-minded deliveryman are all brought together by this mysterious government-sponsored program. Only Tsukisue, the young city official, is privy to their secret: they are participants in a covert project set up to re-socialize paroled murderers. Tensions are already high and when a murder victim surfaces – upsetting both the townspeople and the local ancestral spirit – everything begins to unravel. A whimsical mix of dark humour, suspense, romance and drama along with adrenaline-driven moments culminating in a thrilling climax.
Official Website and Trailer (in Japanese):


Runtime: 127 min / 2017
Director: Daihachi Yoshida
Starring: Lily Franky, Kazuya Kamenashi, Ai Hashimoto
Toronto Premiere
A dark and surreal comedy based loosely on a 1962 novel by Yukio Mishima.
A placid TV weather forecaster Osugi is overwhelmed by a strange solar phenomenon and wakes up hours later believing he is an emissary from the League of Solar Planets. His weather broadcasts soon turn into apocalyptic rants that prophesize the impending doom that is climate change. Before long, each family member takes their own conflicting positions on the fate of planet Earth—until a human tragedy pulls them together.
Director Yoshida (Pale Moon, The Kirishima Thing) creates a surreal but relatable narrative combining themes of delusion and desire, set against a backdrop of climate change and sinister politics. A thoughtful and unforgettable film.
Official Website and Trailer (In Japanese):


Runtime: 149 min / 2017
Director: Masato Harada
Starring: Junichi Okada, Koji Yakusho, Kasumi Arimura, Takehiro Hira, Masahiro Higashide
Canadian Premiere
Masato Harada (Kakekomi, The Emperor in August) returns with this samurai battle epic based on Ryotaro Shiba’s literary account.
The very name Sekigahara is evocative for anyone who knows anything about Japanese history. It is the site of Japan’s most famous — and most decisive — battle, a watershed event that saw the advent of 250 years of peace and stability. On October 21, 1600, the famous Battle of Sekigahara took place between the Western Army, led by Mitsunari Ishida and the Eastern Army, led Ieyasu Tokugawa. Its outcome would end the Warring States Period (Sengoku Jidai) and determine a ruler for the new era.
A major critical and box-office hit with spectacular battles, byzantine plotting and a cast featuring many of Japanese top actors. Nominated for 10 Japanese Academy Awards including Best Film, Director, Actor and Supporting Actor.
Official Website and Trailer (in Japanese):


Runtime: 104 min / 1953
Director: Hideo Sekigawa
Starring: Eiji Okada, Yumeji Tsukioka, Takashi Kanda, Isuzu Yamada
Based on Children of the Atom Bomb, a book of testimonies by children who experienced the bombing of Hiroshima, this harrowing drama details the destruction and suffering left in the wake of the A-bomb for a group of students, teachers and their families. A direct indictment against nuclear war and the mistreatment of Hiroshima’s stigmatized survivors, this independently produced and distributed film was funded by the Japan Teachers Union in an effort to “preserve peace” and utilized tens of thousands of Hiroshima citizens as extras, including many survivors. Recently rediscovered after decades of obscurity, Hiroshima is a major work of anti-war cinema and a chilling reminder of the consequences of nuclear warfare.
Setsuko Thurlow, Hiroshima survivor and recipient the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize 2017 on behalf of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) will introduce the film and take audience questions following.

Check out the screening dates and the guests that will be in attendance:
Saturday, June 9
Daihachi Yoshida, Director – Scythian Lamb
Sunday, June 10
Daihachi Yoshida, Director – A Beautiful Star
Tuesday, June 12
Mayu Matsuoka, Lead Actor – Tremble All You Want
Wednesday, June 13
Mayu Matsuoka, Lead Actor – Chihayafuru Part 3
Saturday, June 16
Masato Harada, Director – Sekigahara
Sunday, June 17
Setsuko Thurlow, co-recipient 2017 Nobel Peace Prize (Hiroshima screening)

What are the rules when entering the Thirty Four Flavours and Toronto Japanese Film Festival Ticket Giveaway?
Simple! Please sign up to Thirty Four Flavours Facebook, Twitter, or email subscription to enter the draw. When you have signed up please send me a Facebook message, a tweet or email ( telling me what you are excited to see at Toronto Japanese Film Festival and why by June 5, 2018.
Good luck!

HOT Ticket Giveaway: #FNLROM Friday June 1, June 8, June 15, June 22 and June 29, 2018 Dates

The Royal Ontario Museum’s (ROM) Friday Night Live (#FNLROM) series, presented by Ford Motor Company of Canada, Ltd., delivers Toronto’s best Friday night destination with the hottest DJs, live performances, food and drink, and an opportunity to experience the Museum like never before.

Thank you to the ROM for gifting my readers with fabulous FNLROM tickets this summer! Tell me which of the following nights you are interested in and why.

I will hook winners up in the weeks ahead! Let’s do this!

#FNLROM: Techno Fashion – Friday, June 1, 2018

Complementing Iris van Herpen: Transforming Fashion is the immersive installation Philip Beesley: Transforming Space. Together, they take you on a captivating exploration into design, fashion, technology and the world around us.

Look beyond fashion and explore the endless possibilities that come from interweaving design, art, and technology in Iris van Herpen: Transforming Fashion. Featuring original designs by Dutch designer and couturier, Iris van Herpen, this exhibition explores her 2008-2015 collections that push the boundaries of traditional fashion and craftsmanship.

With designs that have earned international acclaim, van Herpen’s bold creations have been at the forefront of experimentation and collaboration. From metal umbrella ribs and magnets to working with leading architects, engineers and scientists, van Herpen creates extraordinary new shapes using innovative materials and inventive technologies such as 3D printing, to create stunning, mystifying haute couture.

Past collaborations include her work with one of Canada’s most forward-thinking architects, Philip Beesley. Sharing a mutual fascination for materials and structures, van Herpen and Beesley have influenced and contributed to one another’s work to push the boundaries of design and how we think about it.

#FNLROM: Indigenous Now – Friday, June 8, 2018

DJ Classic Roots

Classic Roots brings the sexy heartbeat of the boreal north to life with his unique brand of electronica and pow wow techno. The Thunder Bay native is an award winning producer and DJ who is impacting the music community with his fresh sound and meaningful collaborations with diverse artists.

#FNLROM: Colour ROM Proud – Friday, June 15, 2018


Don’t Call Me Cupcake

Delicious treats, made with simple ingredients, baked from scratch daily.


Modern asian food, inspired by traditional asian street food and home cooking. Vegetarian and vegan options.

Phancy Food

Your favourite childhood dishes dressed up with a modern twist using from-scratch recipes and locally sourced ingredients. Vegetarian options.

HotBunzz Street Cuizine

Meet the Toronto version of the traditional Asian bao, a creative artisan bun stuffed with international street food flavours baked into an on-the-go format.

Mustache Cheezery

The cheesery world on the go, featuring incredible grilled cheese and more! Vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options.

Foodies on Foot

A creative menu will set your tastebuds on fire while your feet set the dance floor on fire!


Asian fusion, bringing the taste of travel to the streets of Toronto. Vegetarian & vegan options.

Rachel’s Gourmet Gone Wild

All-natural, fresh, & delicious! A wide range of nutritional artisan entrées. Veggie and vegan options.

Ice Volcano Ice Cream

Freshly made ice cream using liquid nitrogen with smoking Ice Volcano presentation.

Gushi Chicken

Delicious Japanese fried chicken.

#FNLROM: Jazz Club – Friday, June 22, 2018

Clairmont The Second

Fresh out of high school, he already has a body of compelling work that is well beyond his years. With his most intriguing release yet, “Quest For Milk And Honey (Black Edition)” has put the Toronto community on notice that their new international star is on his way. Having toured with SonReal and performed alongside Goldlink, Lil Yachty and HARRISON, Clairmont is ready to show the music industry why he deserves the top spot in rap-royalty.

DJ Misty

DJ Misty Rock n’ Roll is a woman who lives up to her name. Voted Runner Up in NOW Magazine’s 2015 and 2014 Reader’s Choice Awards for best DJ, she’s spent the last decade selecting the best in rock n’ roll, soul, vintage R&B, punk, alt. rock and everything in between at bars, clubs and across the airwaves in Toronto.

DJ John Kong

DJ John Kong’s selections for the dancefloor echo his work as a label boss with Toronto-based Do Right! Music, a record label that has introduced some of Canada’s finest independent artists to global audiences. His sets are a genre-bending mix of soul-jazz, funk, disco, tropicalia, house, and hip-hop — the only common denominator being one great groove after another.

DJ Medicineman

Following an extended teaching journey in Europe, he joined the studio of CIUT radio in the heart of downtown Toronto. For the past 19 years, DJ Medicineman has hosted NO MAN’S LAND and has earned a reputation among a loyal audience for unique, groove-driven explorations into the evolution of world music & global electronica.

Holla Jazz

Through their soulful and funky approach to vernacular jazz dance, Holla Jazz presents engaging and entertaining performances, intriguing choreography, and dynamite collaborations. Established in 2016 by Artistic Director Natasha Powell, Holla Jazz was founded as a forum for developing and presenting artists that work and improvise together, to create harmonious and transformative experiences.

#FNLROM: Arachnophile – Friday, June 29, 2018

Spiders: Fear & Fascination

From spinning webs, dancing, swimming, to even losing a limb and growing it back, spiders are one of the most amazing animals on the planet! Spiders: Fear & Fascination will bring you face-to-face with over 200 live and preserved specimens, interactive and augmented reality experiences, and even a live venom-milking lab. Ignite your curiosity, conquer your fear, and see spiders in a whole new light.

What are the rules when entering the Thirty Four Flavours and Friday Night Live (#FNLROM) Ticket Giveaway?

Simple! Please sign up to Thirty Four Flavours Facebook, Twitter, or email subscription to enter the draw. When you have signed up please send me a Facebook message, a tweet or email ( telling me what you are excited to see at #FNLROM by Friday, June 27, 2018.

Good luck!


The Canadian Opera Company presents “Anna Bolena” (performances from April 28, May 3, 5, 8, 11, 16, 20, 24, 26, 2018)


Toronto – Opera’s reigning queen of bel canto, Canadian-American soprano Sondra Radvanovsky, returns to the Canadian Opera Company this spring to close its 2017/2018 season with Donizetti’s Tudor drama, Anna Bolena. Last performed at the COC in 1984, the opera captures the tumultuous final days of Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn, as she fights for her honour and her life. Anna Bolena runs for nine performances on April 28, May 3, 5, 8, 11, 16, 20, 24, 26, 2018.

With this sumptuous new production from acclaimed British director Stephen Lawless, the COC completes its Donizetti Tudor Trilogy, which began with Maria Stuarda in 2010 and continued with Roberto Devereux in 2014, where Radvanovsky earned raves for her portrayal of Elisabetta. Queen Elizabeth I is a common presence across all three works; Lawless and his team made sure she was not only seen on stage but felt through the many Elizabethan references that include set design inspired by Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and lavish period costumes that were popular during her reign.

Anna Bolena is a showpiece for an extraordinary soprano. In fact, despite the enduring cultural fascination with the queen’s untimely end and the opera’s immediate popularity upon its premiere, it was rarely performed in the early 20th century due to the difficulty of casting the vocally demanding title role. Having mastered the bel canto repertoire, Radvanovsky returns to the COC as Anna Bolena on the heels of her much-heralded portrayal all three Donizetti queens in a single season at the Metropolitan Opera. The New York Times praised her “wondrous command of subtle shadings and vibrato. Making every word matter, she infuses each phrase with urgency and emotion. In bursts of defiance, she can unleash her voice with thrilling power, slicing through the orchestra and chorus with silvery top notes.”

Radvanovsky is joined by an all-star cast. American soprano Keri Alkema lends her voice, with its “appealing brew of dark and creamy colors” (New York Times), to the role of Giovanna Seymour, while American bassbaritone Christian Van Horn, winner of the 2018 Richard Tucker Award, makes his role debut as Enrico VIII. American Bruce Sledge, one of the world’s most in-demand bel canto tenors, is Lord Riccardo Percy, and Canadian mezzo-soprano and Ensemble Studio graduate Allyson McHardy, who has been described as having a spellbinding presence that is radiant and noble, sings the role of Smeton, the musician secretly in love with the queen.

Considered Donizetti’s first major hit, Anna Bolena is known for its dramatic arias and ensembles. Italian maestro Corrado Rovaris leads the COC Orchestra and Chorus through the exquisite score, rich in emotion. The opera is sung in Italian and presented by the COC with English SURTITLESTM.




As we are coming out of a short spring and early summer – it’s time to get stuck into the Canadian Opera Company’s ‘Anna Bolena’ and breathe a sigh of relief.  A shake up is indeed in order.

Anna Bolena (Anne Boleyn) catches the audience up to the third (and final) of our trilogy of Donizetti’s Tudor operas.

The Canadian Opera Company consistently brings the audience into the staging.  ‘Anna Bolena’s’ staging is determined to leave you breathless and eager to ruminate over as the opera performance washes over you.  The audience was in for treat when we were greeted with the framework of a Globe Theatre setting which emanated a sinister edge and a foreboding paternalism during the performance.

As per Stephen Lawless’ director’s notes, “Of course it would be wrong to think of the characters in Anna Bolena (and indeed Donizetti’s other two Tudor operas) as in any way historical. They are works of fiction. The Giovanna (Jane) Seymour of Donizetti’s opera is a long way from how Tudor propagandists sought to present the historical Jane Seymour, Henry VIII’s (Enrico’s) third wife. Jane was portrayed as almost saint-like, martyred on the altar of providing Henry with his much longed-for male heir. Her fictionalized counterpart is radically different. Giovanna is a woman attracted to the flame of power who comes to empathise with the plight of her rival (Anna) and who ultimately pays the price for her ambition. Enrico, in the opera, conforms to the stereotype of  Holbein’s famous portrait, a vastly bloated and resplendent tyrant, whereas the historical Henry (at the time of his marriage to Anne Boleyn) was still slim, relatively young and handsome. Lord Riccardo (Henry) Percy reflects the prevailing early 19th-century idea of the Byronic hero rather than any 16thcentury actuality (indeed, the historical Percy was in fact a judge at Anna’s trial rather than her suitor). Donizetti and Romani toy with history by fictionalizing what they don’t know between the facts that they do (much in the same way that the series The Crown does today).”

Canadian-American soprano Sondra Radvanovsky  drives home the theme that Anna refuses to be victimized.  Radvanovsky’s beautiful yet jaw dropping arias are enough to leave you wincing in your seat.  Radvanovsky is the reason you need to leave your home for the night and immerse  yourself in her top shelf talent that is beyond exquisite and expansive.

Keri Alkema as Giovanna Seymour will elevate the mood and Christian Van Horn as Enrico VIII will make you want to turn inward.   American Bruce Sledge as Lord Riccardo Percy and Canadian Allyson McHardy as Smeton will provide you with that extra dramatic edge that keeps “Anna Bolena” pressing forward.

Be sure to catch “Anna Bolena” before the Canadian Opera Company closes shop for the summer.  A truly reflective piece of work that will be sure to keep you satiated during the performance and wanting more upon its conclusion.