Suite J-Town Official Press Release: [PDF download]
published March 12, 2015 • updated March 30, 2015

(Scroll down for text version)

California Arts Council Creative California Communities:
Grant Press Release:
published June 26, 2014




 Brenda Wong Aoki, Artistic Director | (415) 221-0601

Suite J-Town Explores the Art of Resilience in a Site-Specific Series of Visual Art and Performance Events Celebrating the History of Japantown

APRIL 9 – MAY 16, 2015 
Opening Reception: Thursday April 9, 2015, 5–8pm, FREE 
Gallery & Community Hours: Saturday and Sunday, 1–6pm & by appointment, FREE

Japan Center, East Mall, 22 Peace Plaza, Suite 525 
San Francisco, CA 94115
(directly above Daiso Japantown location)

San Francisco, CA—Critically acclaimed San Francisco artists Brenda Wong Aoki and Mark Izu team up to produce Suite J-Town, a multidisciplinary, intercultural, intergenerational, series of events celebrating the 110–year history of San Francisco’s Japantown as it faces a future of transformation and change.

The geographic center of Japantown has been sold to developers and there is a very real possibility, in the current tumultuous San Francisco landscape, that within a few years, Japantown –as it currently stands– will be no more. Through Suite J-Town, a multimedia arts incubation project, Brenda Wong Aoki and Mark Izu of First Voice, and a cadre of new culture bearers are igniting the soul of a community in transition. They've gathered stories, collected images, talked to elders and created art for the Japantown Mandala with children, youth and grandparents. Suite J-Town replaces the question "What do we have to lose?" with "What do we cherish?" The answer will be found in a festival of art: music, dance, visual art, story, sound collage, video, and a site-specific installation.

“Creative synergy focused with the proper intent, can turn turmoil into transformation.  This is the art of resilience. ” said Brenda Wong Aoki.

Suite J-Town, seeks to deepen and expand community engagement, mentor next generation artists, and celebrate one of San Francisco’s essential historic neighborhoods. Suite J-Town will draw upon the stories of everyday people who are the heart and soul of the community.



Japantown Mandala and Multimedia Arts Installation  
April 9 – May 16, 2015 
Opening Reception: Thursday April 9, 2015, 5–8pm
Gallery & Community Hours: Saturday & Sunday 1–6pm
Film Series: April 11, 12, 18 & 19  6:30-9pm

What is the soul of a place? The Japantown Mandala is an arts and media installation that visually represents the resilience and beauty of a deeply rooted San Francisco community facing transformation. Critically acclaimed artist Nancy Hom will create an impermanent interchangeable work of art shaped in concentric circles, in collaboration with community members, that will transform a collection of personal experiences into an integrated whole. The Japantown Mandala, like a single drop of rain will create concentric circles of effervescence that will emanate beyond the artwork itself reaching throughout the community and beyond.

The multimedia arts installation showcases visual art, sound, video, and performance, featuring emerging Bay Area artists Marissa Bergmann, Charlene Kelley, Junho Kim, Eryn Kimura, Yuki Maruyama, Elena Nielsen, Celi Tamayo-Lee, Ayana Yonesaka. These artists explore intercultural intersections across space and time, generations, cultures. Kevin King is creating a pagoda sculpture that mirrors the landmark SF Japantown Peace Pagoda, a gift of the City of Osaka in 1968. Audience members are invited to contribute their responses and have it displayed on the pagoda.

Cultures of Resilience
April 25, 2015
4–6 pm
RSVP: (Space is limited)

What are cultures of place? How do we create synergy to revitalize our communities during these times of transformation? Former Poet Laureates of San Francisco devorah major and Janice Mirikitani with writer/storyteller Brenda Wong Aoki share insight into the Afro-Asian cultural dynamic of J-town through story, poetry, and community dialogue. Next generation poet/dancers Kai Kane Aoki Izu and Javonte Holloway perform hip hop and rap and share reflections on growing up in the Fillmore neighborhood with arts activist Eryn Kimura.

A Walk Through Time
May 10, 2015
2 performance tours, beginning at 1 pm and 3 pm
Ticket Price: $15
RSVP: (Space is limited)
Location: Suite J-Town Gallery, 22 Peace Plaza, Suite 525, San Francisco, CA 94115 (inside Japan Center East Mall, directly above Daiso)

Join us for an interactive adventure through space and time as we explore J-Town history through music, dance and storytelling performances. This  site-specific performance in San Francisco Japantown features: Brenda Wong Aoki, Storyteller/Performer; Marina Fukushima, Performer/Dancer; Masaru Koga, Performer/Flute; Moy Eng, Vocalist; Mark Izu, Composer/Bass & sho; Shoko Hikage, Koto; Kenny Endo, Taiko; John-Carlos Perea, Vocals and Bass; and Ayana Yonesaka, Dancer.



First Voice’s mission is to create and develop the stories and music of people living between worlds. Critical to this mission is “personal experience” or “voice” as essential to authentic contemporary world culture. First Voice creates, produces, and presents interdisciplinary work that interprets the pluralistic nature of the American experience from a unique Japanese-American and Asian American cultural perspective.  Through its pursuit of this distinctive purpose, First Voice has played a central role in the evolution of the Bay Area’s arts community.



WHO     Suite J-Town

WHAT    A multidisciplinary, intercultural, multigenerational and site specific series of visual art and performance events celebrating the history of Japantown

WHEN    April 9 - May 16

WHERE   Japantown, Various Locations

WHY       To explore and reveal the stories of everyday people who are are heart and soul of Japantown, through art and the artistic process

URL         For more information:



For hi-resolution images and more information, contact: Marissa Bergmann, Marketing Manager, (415) 221-0601.