Japanese culture has been a huge part of Los Angeles and Hollywood for decades now, culminating in the grand opening of our very own Japan House at The Hollywood & Highland Center, which can be found on both the 2nd and 5th floors of the shopping and entertainment center. Surprisingly, Asian Junkie was invited to the event’s gala, and so I headed out to see what it had to offer.
The gala itself was held in the top floor ballroom, fully equipped with a red carpet, dining, full bar, and an amazing night of entertainment and speakers that I don’t think anything can top at this point in my life. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I will say this, I never thought I’d be this excited at the grand opening of anything!
The very exciting and ever articulate George Takei walked in, posed for pictures, and spoke briefly about the deep appreciation he felt for the opening of Japan House. He talked about the importance of visibility and representation in Hollywood for Asians and Asian-Americans, specifically those of Japanese descent. With the recent boom in visibility for Asians in America, this was the perfect event for him to enjoy the fruits of his decades of labor in giving the Japanese community a voice in entertainment.
As if the red carpet couldn’t get any better after that, Yoshiki stepped out, and boy did he make an impression. In black leather pants hugging his very being, soft satin crepe black tuxedo jacket, silk scarf, and ass-kickin black knee high boots, he smiled sweetly at the cameras. He threw up the X Japan symbol and I had to fight to not return the gesture. He was composed and gentlemanly as he responded to every voice that desperately called for his attention.
As we shot picture after picture, another body stepped up on the carpet and everyone paused. Josh Groban, the ever magical-bearded pianist wrapped Yoshiki in a warm embrace in front of the cameras, posed for a few pictures, greeted Yoshiki with a cute “I’ll see you inside!” and disappeared into the venue.
Suddenly a massive amount of security stepped in and we were greeted by the Foreign Minister Of Japan, Kono Taro. He, along with the president of Japan House, Kaifu Yuko, also posed with Yoshiki.
After the red carpet, we entered into the ballroom and found ourselves standing at the edge of a sea of diplomats, artists, stars, and notable members of the community, all happily mingling. Press mixed in with the likes of Masi Oka and Miyavi. We were given up-front access as the lights dimmed and the show started.
George Takei was the MC of the night, sharing beautiful stories of the history of Japanese culture in Los Angeles. He talked about his time as a young child in the Japanese internment camps, and how people found ways to continue their traditions, culture, and life in such a detrimental situation as well as how it inspired him in his future endeavors. He regaled the audience with a tour of the history of Japan House and what was to come here in Hollywood, from exhibits to the new restaurant that will be opening later this month.
We also met Pepper, the most lifelike android in the world.
Elevenplay took to the stage and gave a stunning visual performance with light manipulation and dance. They beautifully encompassed the massive stage, bare footed as they moved with the direction of Rhizomatics stage production. It was riveting to see these women create such beautiful art with such complex movements in an almost pitch black room.
Eric Garcetti, mayor of Los Angeles, spoke about his time as a youth in Japan, spoke perfect Japanese and cracked Dodgers jokes. He spoke about unity and inclusiveness, and there was a feeling of acceptance and welcoming throughout the entire night.
And finally … Yoshiki took to the stage.
With a string quartet and an opera singer, Yoshiki sat at his crystal clear piano and played the song “Miracle“. Japan House had welcomed a group of lucky fans who had won an online contest Yoshiki himself had run through his social media. He then performed “Anniversary“, the song he composed in honor of Emperor Akihito.
Midway, he took up the mic and stood at his piano. He spoke about living in LA going on 20 years, and how he was proud to be a part of this event showcasing some of Japan’s best in the arts. He then shocked everyone and played “The Star-Spangled Banner” on piano.
It took everyone’s breath away. He took the mic again and joked with the crowd, thanked Japan House, everyone who attended, and the fans who were lucky enough to see his performance at the event. And then he sat down at the keys and played “Endless Rain“.
Fans sung along, which caught his attention. Me? I sat on my knees in the front, dead center, clearly visible to him, at the feet of Japanese diplomats and military brass, and tried my damnedest to hide the tears that rolled down my cheeks behind my camera. This … nothing will ever touch this.
And with that, he bid his farewells, the lights went up and dinner was served. The real party had started in earnest and everyone ate and mingled. I headed out into the warm summer night and stood at the outside bar on the top floor of The Hollywood & Highland Center, completely floored at what I’d just witnessed.
If you ever venture into the Los Angeles area, definitely check out Japan House. It’s absolutely beautiful! LA is only one of four locations; the others being Sao Paulo, London, and of course Tokyo. We count ourselves very lucky to have Japan House here.
Thank you to Japan House for allowing Asian Junkie to attend this auspicious occasion!