BENKYODO: The Last Manju Shop in J-TownDirected by Akira Boch, Tadashi Nakamura
Ricky and Bobby Okamura, the current owners of Benkyodo mochi shop, established in 1906, make a difficult decision to close their family business. The Japanese pastry shop, a landmark for Japanese/Asian Americans in the Bay Area, is one of two mochi shops currently open in the San Francisco-Bay Area. Currently 115 years old, the business has endured the anti-Asian laws of the early 20th century, Japanese internment, Redevelopment of the 1960s and continues to weather San Francisco’s notorious high costs of living. The unsurmountable economic pressure, coupled with the two brother’s desire to preserve their Japanese heritage, family business and community space, create an age-old conflict many children of diaspora face–between the laborious preservation of culture or the submission to the economic forces of racial capitalism.
Directed by Akira Boch and Tadashi Nakamura
Produced by Eryn Kimura
Directors’ Bios: Akira Boch grew up in San Juan Bautista, California, right next door to the renowned Chicano theater company, El Teatro Campesino. He has been making shorts, documentaries, and music videos since high school, and earned an MFA in Directing from UCLA Film School. His Emmy-Winning documentary, “Masters of Modern Design”, is available on PBS. His award-winning first feature, The Crumbles, is available on Amazon Prime Video. He currently splits his time between Japan and California.
Emmy-winning filmmaker Tadashi Nakamura was named one of CNN’s “Young People Who Rock” for being the youngest filmmaker at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival and listed as one of the “Top Rising Asian American Directors” on IMDb. The fourth-generation Japanese American recently completed Mele Murals, a documentary on the transformative power of modern graffiti art and ancient Hawaiian culture for a new generation of Native Hawaiians. Mele Murals was broadcast on PBS and Al Jazeera, and was nominated for an Emmy in 2018. His previous film Jake Shimabukuro: Life on Four Strings was broadcast nationally on PBS and went on to win the 2013 Gotham Independent Film Audience Award, which was in competition with 12 Years a Slave and Fruitvale Station.
The threads of our lineages weave together to tell the story of the present day. It is often complicated and messy. Some threads are stronger than others, and sometimes we have to choose what we carry with us and what to leave behind. This showcase explores different lineages—from parent to child to cultural practices being passed down to the next generation—and what it means to tug upon them as we walk into the future.