Vol.16 November 2008
- Literary Scholar Donald Keene Awarded the Order of Culture
- Four Japanese Scientists Receive Nobel Prizes
- Hiroshima Tourism Fair Held at the Ambassador’s Residence
- Japan Info X-tra - The International MANGA Award 2009
- Culture Connection -Preserving History - Looking Back on 40 Years as a Conservator
- From the Ambassador's Desk
- Monthly Classics Best of Tora-san
- The Consulate Gallery
- Event Calendar
Photo Courtesy of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports & Technology, Japan
In recognition of his profound impact on the study and understanding of Japanese literature around the world, renowned scholar Donald Lawrence Keene (86), Professor Emeritus at Columbia University, was awarded the Order of Culture by the Japanese government. The award was presented at a ceremony held at the Imperial Palace on November 3rd. Professor Keene is among the very few non-Japanese to receive the Order of Culture, the only previous recipients being the crew of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
In 2002, Dr. Keene was designated a Person of Cultural Merit by the Japanese Government. Now his achievements are further acknowledged with this prestigious new honor. Dr. Keene has devoted his life to the study of Japanese literature. He has published numerous books in English and in Japanese, and his translations range from ancient to modern texts. Dr. Keene’s prominent translations include "Tsurezuregusa", which he translated as "Essays in Idleness". The book was written in the early 14th century by Yoshida Kenko, a Buddhist priest, scholar, and poet who spent much of his life in seclusion. In the collection of essays, Kenko reflects on Japanese life and aesthetics of 700 years ago with wit and wisdom.
In an interview with the Asahi Shimbun, Dr. Keene said, "I believe that I received this award not as an individual, but rather, Japan is recognizing the efforts made by foreign scholars of Japanese literature; I am just fortunate to be the one honored."
Ambassador Sakurai conveyed his congratulations in a letter addressed to Dr. Keene. He expressed his "heartfelt admiration for your long-term, profound scholarship that has made such a lasting contribution to the advancement of Japanese literature. Your influential research, your many books, and your seminal translations of Japanese classical and contemporary works have opened the door for people worldwide, helping them to better understand Japan’s culture, history, and people."
Other recipients of the Order of Culture for 2008 are: Kiyoshi Ito (93), mathematician; Seiji Ozawa (73), conductor; Makoto Kobayashi (64), particle physicist; Osamu Shimomura (80), marine biologist; Seiko Tanabe (80), novelist; Hironoshin Furuhashi (80), former president of the Japanese Olympic Committee; and Toshihide Masukawa (68), particle physicist.
Photo by Lloyd DeGrane
On October 7 the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced that it will award the 2008 Nobel Prize in Physics to three scientists: Yoichiro Nambu (87), professor emeritus at the University of Chicago; Makoto Kobayashi (64), a professor emeritus at the High Energy Accelerator Research Organization based in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture; and Toshihide Masukawa (68), a professor at Kyoto Sangyo University. On the following day, October 8, the academy further announced that it awarded the 2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry to Osamu Shimomura (80), professor emeritus at Boston University, and two other American researchers. This means that four Japanese (Nambu is a naturalized US citizen, but he was born and raised in Japan) will receive Nobel Prizes this year and that Japanese have been doubly recognized in the fields of both physics and chemistry, as happened also in 2002. Amid continuing gloomy headlines dominated by the slump in share prices and a succession of heinous crimes, the Japanese people cheered the achievements of these four scientists as the first good tidings for quite a while.
© Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, All rights reserved
The three scientists who have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics are recognized as having proposed leading theories in research on basic particles that give shape to matter and having laid the foundations of modern particle physics. Nambu has received the award "for the discovery of the mechanism of spontaneous broken symmetry in subatomic physics," and Kobayashi and Masukawa have received the award "for the discovery of the origin of the broken symmetry which predicts the existence of at least three families [six types] of quarks in nature." It is the first time for two Japanese to be awarded the Nobel Prize for joint research.
Since Dr. Hideki Yukawa became the first Japanese Nobel laureate in 1949, Japanese particle research has been at the top level in the world, but this year’s simultaneous award to three Japanese scientists opens yet another chapter in that history. Following Yukawa, Shinichiro Tomonaga (1965), Reona Esaki (1973), and Masatoshi Koshiba (2002), the number of Japanese who have received the Nobel Prize in Physics now totals seven.
Photo by Cabinet Office, Government of Japan
Shimomura receives the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, together with two American researchers, for his discovery of green fluorescent protein (GFP) in a type of jellyfish called Aequorea victoria, also known as the crystal jelly, which glows in the sea. In present-day medicine, GFP now plays an essential role in investigating the development of nerve cells in the brain and the spread of cancer cells; it is recognized as having revolutionized modern life science research. Shimomura is the fifth Japanese to receive the Nobel Prize in Chemistry following the late Kenichi Fukui (1981), Hideki Shirakawa (2000), Ryoji Noyori (2001), and Koichi Tanaka (2002).
Photo by Tom Kleindinst, © Marine Biological Laboratory
As a result, the number of Japanese Nobel laureates in the natural science fields is now 12, and the total number is 16. The others were former Prime Minister Eisaku Sato (1974, peace), Yasunari Kawabata (1968, literature), Kenzaburo Oe (1994, literature), and Susumu Tonegawa (1987, physiology and medicine).
In its Science and Technology Basic Plan, the Japanese government has set the numerical target of aiming to produce 30 Nobel laureates in the natural science fields in the first half of this century. Commenting on the awards, Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology Ryu Shionoya said, "The high level of Japanese research has been shown both domestically and internationally. From now on, as well as the promotion of science, I hope that the Nobel Prize effect can be utilized in a wide range of fields, including education, where a drift away from science has been noted."
This article is extracted from Japan Brief October 9, Foreign Press Center, Japan.
On October 27th, the Consulate General of Japan in New York co-hosted a fair at the Ambassador’s official residence promoting the City of Hiroshima as a destination for international conferences and other types of tourism. This event was also co-hosted by the Hiroshima Convention & Visitors Bureau (HCVB), with support from the Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO) New York Office.
The fair was divided into two sessions. The first was a presentation by the Mayor of Hiroshima, Mr. Tadatoshi Akiba, Ph.D., and this was followed by a networking reception for guests from the New York area and Hiroshima. There were more than 90 attendees, including a number of representatives from universities and other educational institutions as well as a wide variety of businesspeople, many of whom were involved in tourism and international conference planning.
As the basis of a comprehensive effort to promote tourism in Japan, the Japanese government in 2003 launched the Visit Japan Campaign with the goal of bringing 10 million visitors to Japan annually by 2010. In fact, a new body, the Japan Tourism Agency, was created on October 1, 2008 to oversee the government’s tourism-promotion activities. The Consulate itself has also taken new steps to promote tourism, such as hosting more cultural and educational functions at the Ambassador’s residence.
The JNTO is the leading organization in New York promoting tourism to Japan, and the JNTO invited New York-area meeting planners that specialize in international conference management to attend this occasion. The HCVB used this event to promote Hiroshima’s attractions as well as the International Conference Center Hiroshima, which was the site of the G8 parliamentary ‘Speakers’ Meeting’ in September.
During his presentation, Mayor Akiba spoke enthusiastically about Hiroshima’s cultural assets, history and traditions, natural beauty, and tourism resources, with particular emphasis on its appeal as a location for international conferences. He explained that Hiroshima was designated as one of the 200 most attractive cities in the world by The Cities Book, published by Lonely Planet Publications. Tokyo and Kyoto were the other Japanese cities given that distinction, and Mayor Akiba mentioned the book’s quip that Tokyo has something new, Kyoto has something traditional, and Hiroshima has a combination of both. Mayor Akiba also explained that it was an honor for the city to host the G8 meeting in September, and he noted that the event gave Hiroshima’s tourism professionals valuable experience in managing a major international conference.
Many attendees said they were impressed by Mayor Akiba’s remarks and indicated that they would like to visit Hiroshima as a result.
The second session was kicked off by welcome remarks by Mr. Shuichi Kameyama, Executive Director of the JNTO New York Office. In addition to networking, guests had a chance at the reception to learn more about Hiroshima’s attributes and tourist infrastructure - as well as its well known products - from Hiroshima experts. Indeed, many of the city’s notable destinations and consumer goods were highlighted at this event by representatives of organizations that belong to the HCVB.
Guests especially enjoyed the opportunity to taste Hiroshima-style cuisine and locally produced sake. They sampled some of the city’s famous oyster preparations as well as okonomiyaki (a popular dish that might be described as a Japanese-style fried pancake containing cabbage, scallions, eggs, flour, and slices of pork). In fact, the okonomiyaki was freshly cooked by a chef from Hiroshima-based Otafuku Foods, which bottles a special sauce made specifically for this dish.
The Consulate hopes to host more receptions of this nature in cooperation with local governments in Japan in order to introduce Japan’s diverse regional cultures, attractions, foods, and other products to people in the New York area.
The International MANGA Award 2009
The Third International MANGA Award Executive Committee will begin accepting entries for its competition in late December 2008. Guidelines for the application will be available shortly at: http://www.manga-award.jp/. Everyone is welcome to apply!
Here is some background information about the award.
As part of the active use of pop culture in public diplomacy, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs decided to establish the International MANGA Award in 2007, to honor manga artists who contribute to the promotion of manga overseas. The Committee gives the International MANGA Award to the best cartoon entry. In addition, the Encouragement Award ("Shorei" Award) goes to three other distinguished works, along with commendation certificates and trophies.
©TERUHISA TAJIMA, GENTOSHA
Then foreign minister, Mr. Taro Aso, who came up with the idea for the contest, issued a message at the inception of the award. He said, "Manga is about love. Manga is about friendship. Manga is about growing-up. Manga is about everything-it knows absolutely no boundaries. Manga, in a word, is the most universal unifier of the hearts and minds that are young or young at heart".
As a result of screening 146 entries from 26 countries and regions all over the world (including 5 entries from the U.S.), the First International MANGA Award went to Lee Chi Ching, China (Hong Kong), for his work entitled, "Sun Zi’s tactics". Three runners-up received the "Shorei" Award.
In 2008, the Second International MANGA Award received 368 entries from 46 countries and regions (25 entries from the U.S.). The winner of the second International MANGA Award was Lau Wan Kit, China (Hong Kong) for his work entitled, "Feel 100%". Again, three excellent runners-up received the "Shorei" Award.
Both years, the Japan Foundation invited the winners to Japan for a 10-day visit which included the award presentation ceremony, meetings with Japanese manga artists, and other activities.
We hope that everyone who enters aims high in order to receive the honor of being the winner of the Third International MANGA Award 2009! Gambatte (Good Luck)!
Preserving History - Looking Back on 40 Years as a Conservator
From 1968 to 2008, Mr. Shinichi Doi served in the Conservation Department of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In the following interview, Mr. Doi reflects on his four decades at the Met, and tells us about the essence of conservation as well as the keys to understanding Japanese art.
JIC (Japan Information Center): It must have been difficult to start a career 40 years ago in a relatively exclusive profession like a museum conservator. How did you begin your career and what inspired you to pursue it?
Mr. Doi: I am also an artist. I went to art school and studied drawing. I found fascinating commonalities between the basic sketching skills I was practicing and the Greek/Roman style of expression that you find in the sharp lines of the human body, for instance, drawn on a terracotta vase with one-stroke. I instantly knew that these were the models I wanted to learn from. With an aspiration to study more from antiquities, I took the technical exam to join the Met, and became the fourth staff member of the Conservation Department. Back then, the department was like a small repair shop with only a few personnel.
It is true that working at a museum did not pay well, since it was more or less considered to be an aristocratic occupation for those who did not need to earn a living. Even so, I never thought I was having a difficult time. Conservation is a very enjoyable process. Chemists, curators and conservator bring their respective expertise together; we discuss what the original state was likely to have been, and how the item can best be preserved and displayed. I enjoyed every moment of that collaborative work of turning pieces into an object that people can enjoy. That is the work that I consider meaningful.
JIC: What aspect of conservation do you find most challenging or rewarding?
Mr. Doi: I believe that the mission of an art museum is to show visitors beauty as it is and as it was. So, for instance, when you patch two pieces together to repair a vase, you should not hide the crack with paint but simply connect them. If the crack is too distracting for viewers, then you may cover it in a neutral color in the smallest possible way. In this sense, our challenge is to stay as close as possible to the original. Collectors often try to disguise the damage to make an object look complete and unflawed - damage affect the price - but the role of the museum is simply to show the original, unspoiled beauty, and not to artificially or arbitrarily reproduce it. In order to build trust between the viewers and the works of art, the Met maintains this policy and we strictly follow it. We at the Met often describe art as the star performer; the curators are backstage, and the conservators work even further behind the scenes supporting the curators.
One of the most memorable experience of my career was the restoration of a cracked slate chalkboard from the FDNY’s Engine Company 22 and Ladder Company 13. The board had the names of thirteen firefighters hastily written down the morning of September 11th. Nine did not return. The chalkboard underwent conservation at my laboratory and it was temporarily put on public display at the Met, which was quite unusual for the museum to do. I was truly proud of being part of that project. It was indeed an unforgettable experience.
JIC: Compared to 48 years ago when you first came to the U.S., do you see any changes in Americans’ understanding of Japanese art?
Mr. Doi: More and more American people enjoy Japanese art, especially crafts like modern pottery which are increasingly popular compared to paintings and sculptures. Nonetheless, there is still only a limited opportunity for American people to see top-grade works of Japanese art with their own eyes. I would be happy if Japanese museums actively provided Americans with an opportunity to see their collections. I believe that art is our common asset which should be shared regardless of where we live.
JIC: What would you tell Americans who are interested in knowing more about Japanese art?
Mr. Doi: Japanese art is subtle and delicate. Generally speaking, while European art has overwhelming power and leaves a strong impact, Japanese art may not instantly stir your emotions. Nothing comes to surface from itself; it is for you to approach it.
This may be partly because Japanese art is deeply intertwined with nature. For example, in kare-san-sui style gardens (a dry garden with rocks and sand representing mountains and rivers) or even in Japanese landscape paintings, there is one contained world. Only when you immerse yourself in that world and gain a perspective from inside it, will things come into your sight and you will feel as if the work speaks to you. So you need to make a bit of a conscious effort to appreciate Japanese art.
JIC: Thank you very much.
Born in 1933 in Toyama, Japan, Mr. Shinichi Doi is based in New York and works as a conservator in the Conservation Department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He is expected to retire at the end of this year, completing a 40 year career at the Met. As an artist, Mr. Doi held individual shows in 1969, exhibiting his own works of oil paintings in 10 cities across the US. In 2004, Mr. Doi received a commendation from the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan for his pioneering and dedicated work as a conservator at the Met and for his contributions that furthered Japan-US exchange in art. In
On November 4th, election excitement filled the United States. I have experienced five presidential elections here since 1980. But this time, with a campaign that lasted almost two years, enthusiasm ran higher than ever. It made me realize once again how strongly involved people were in this election and politics in general. I was impressed by the devotion of volunteers on both sides, as well.
One remarkable aspect of the 2008 election was its bipartisanship; in the past, issues such as gun control, abortion and gay rights sharply divided Democrats and Republicans. During this election, however, unlike before, most major issues were actively debated in a non-partisan way.
A historically high voter turnout was reported; I was especially struck by the numbers of young people that showed up at the polls to cast their ballots. This resurgence of youth participation was impressive for me to witness.
As for Japan-U.S. relations, I think that generally speaking the goals and basic ideas upheld by the Democratic Party can be shared by many Japanese. For instance, in Japan, gun control is widely supported. Japanese people are very concerned about income gaps and the resulting social disparity in healthcare and welfare. Some media argue that Republican administrations are more advantageous for Japan. But from my viewpoint the Japanese people’s fundamental way of thinking is not so different from the Democrats. Under the leadership of President-elect Barack Obama, I expect that cooperation between Japan and the US will be further deepened.
By the way, while we have all tended to pay attention to difficult challenges such as the financial crisis over the past month, we had some encouraging news in the fields of culture and academia. In early October, it was announced that four Japanese scientists (including Mr. Yoichiro Nambu, who was born and raised in Japan and acquired US citizenship) were awarded Nobel Prizes. Also, in Japan, November 3rd is a national holiday called "Culture Day". On this day, each year, the Japanese government confers commendations to people in various fields like art, culture and sports to honor their achievements. From New York, Dr.Donald Keene, Professor Emeritus at Columbia University and an eminent scholar of Japanese literature, was awarded the Order of Culture. In sports, Ms. Rena ‘Rusty’ Kanokogi received the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette, for her outstanding contributions promoting judo internationally. I express my congratulations to both and wish them good health and continued fruitful work. I hope that younger generations will be inspired by their examples and will follow in their footsteps to achieve their best in their respective fields, too.
©1969 Shochiku Co., Ltd
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Japanese beloved film icon Tora-san (Kiyoshi Atsumi), and the year of Atsumi’s 80th birthday, the movie director Yoji Yamada ("Twilight Samurai") has hand selected eight of his famous Tora-san films for the Monthly Classics series at Japan Society which is taking place now through May 2009.
For those not familiar with the films, Tora-san is the featured character in the series, "Otoko wa Tsuraiyo" (It's tough to be a man) the first of which was released in 1969. Tora-san is a kind-hearted traveling salesman who is always unlucky in finding love. His comedic anti-hero character emerged at a time when macho yakuza-style characters had dominated the screen for nearly 25 years. One of the longest running movie series in the world spanning 48 installments (1969 to 1995), all but two of its episodes were directed by Yoji Yamada.
The plot line for the series follows a familiar pattern. Each starts with Tora-san visiting a small town in his territory where he always meets a local woman "Madonna", telling her to look him up whenever she is in Tokyo. After his return home, the woman inevitably shows up on his doorstep. He falls in love with her, but then his soft heart takes over, and he helps bring her together with a former boyfriend or another man that she loves, leaving him with broken heart.
In an exceptional episode, "Hearts and Flowers for Tora-san" (Friday, April 17, 7:30) there is an unusual twist where he is actually the one being pursued by the Madonna, Kagari who has been left broken-hearted by her fiance. As Tora-san consoles her, she falls in love with him, and tries to seduce him. As he is accustomed to being the pursuer, this turnabout creates an awkward and confusing dilemma for Tora-san.
In addition to providing a comprehensive, thoroughly scenic tour of Japan, the Tora-san series offers an insight into the light-hearted side of Japanese popular culture during the period of time when the nation was experiencing its transition from post-war re-development into one of the world's foremost economic powers.
©1969 Shochiku Co., Ltd.
©1972 Shochiku Co., Ltd.
©1975 Shochiku Co., Ltd.
The Consulate Gallery (at the Consulate General of Japan in New York) is hosting four art exhibitions now through March 2009. The focus of the series, featuring artists working in New York, is on promoting Japanese culture and art forms that use a variety of mediums, ranging from calligraphy to abstract painting.
The Consulate Gallery is located in the Consulate General of Japan office on Park Avenue between 48th and 49th Street. The Gallery normally attracts people who are visitors seeking consular service or applying for visas. But, after discovering its wide variety of exhibitions when visiting the Consulate, visitors often return to the Gallery to enjoy works by children, Japanese artists, and artists who are passionate about the Japanese aesthetic.
From November 3rd to 30th, the Art of Calligraphy by The Seiko Group, a collection of designs by a Japanese calligraphy class established by Seiko Takao in 1985, is exhibiting works by 20 different artists including both beginners and veteran calligraphers. Spanning classical to modern Japanese calligraphy, they will display interpretations that emulate their spirit and soul on paper.
( , )comma, which will appear December 5th to 19th, will display about 15 works by five Japanese artists: Aki Hayashi, Yuzuru Kobayashi, So Kondo, Ayako Wakui, and Midori Katakura. ( , ) comma is neither a beginning nor an ending. It is a punctuation mark which symbolizes an interval or a break. These five artists interpret their reflections on this theme in the mediums of drawings, mix media, photographs, and paintings.
From February 2 to 27th the Gallery will offer an exhibition of ink and wash paintings known as sumi-e in Japanese. Lead by Michiko Hoshi who pioneered sumi-e of the New York City landscape, this collection will introduce visitors to the distinctive beauty of Japanese paper (washi) and brush painting. Unique to this exhibition are 3-D paintings by Yuko Kubota, and American-born Kathy Gulrich, who learned sumi-e after her 50th birthday.
Terra Incognita, by three Japanese abstract artists, will appear from March 2 to March 30th. The collection of works by the artists, Noriko Yano, Koji Moriya, and Christ Blyth, is an exhibition of twelve nature-inspired mono-prints, drawings, and encaustic paintings, also known as hot wax paintings. Using three techniques and concentrating on descriptions of nature, Terra Incognita examines nature from different perspectives. Ms. Yano's work reminds of us of the dynamic and grandeur of the planet on which we live. In contrast, Mr. Moriya's drawings show us the smallness of our existence in comparison to nature. Mr. Blyth examines the expansive aspects of nature that surround us.