Vol.3 September 2007
- Report from Puerto Rico (August ’07)
- Cranes for Peace
- American Educators Visit Japan
- Visit Japan - Saitama City
- Culture Connection - Healing with Origami
- From the Ambassodor's Desk : Change is in the Air
- The 3rd Biennial New York Butoh Festival
- Kiku: The Art of the Japanese Chrysanthemum
Two Japan-related events were held in August, in the land of everlasting summer - Puerto Rico. Mr. Jiro Okuyama, Director of the Japan Information Center, was in attendance for both events as a representative of the Consulate General of Japan in New York.
The World Children's Baseball Festival
The 18th World Children’s Baseball Festival (WCBF) was held from July 29th to August 5th in Puerto Rico. The event is organized annually by the World Children's Baseball Foundation, which was founded by two famous baseball players, Sadaharu Oh from Japan and Hank Aaron from the U.S. Oh, who is the manager of the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks and a former member of the Yomiuri Giants, holds the world record for career home runs, 868. Aaron, who played for the Milwaukee Braves, Atlanta Braves and Milwaukee Brewers, held the MLB record for career home runs,755, for 33 years, until the record was broken by Barry Bonds in August 2007.
Every summer since 1990, the World Children's Baseball Foundation holds a baseball training-camp-style event and invites children from all over the world to the festival in order to promote international exchange among kids. The Festival was held in Puerto Rico for the first time, with a total of 170 children in attendance. The participants included 80 Puerto Ricans, 15 Americans, 20 Japanese and 55 kids from 11 other countries, such as Australia, Brazil, Cameroon, France, and the Czech Republic. For the event, children did not need to have any experience playing baseball but under the guidance of their coaches, would learn to play. The most unique aspect of the Foundation is that traveling and hotel expenses for all the children are provided, as well as all baseball gear. Travel expenses were paid by sponsoring Japanese corporations and the gear was supplied by Mizuno, a Japanese sports equipment and sportswear company and Descente, a sportswear company. Specially made baseballs, which are softer than regular balls, were provided by Nagase-Kenko Corporation.
On the second day of the Festival, Hank Aaron came to coach the children and share in the cultural exchange. NHK covered the Festival as part of a featured program.
Consul General’s Commendation
A Consul General’s Commendation Ceremony took place in San Juan on August 4th in honor of Mr. and Mrs. Isao and Setsuko Kuwabara. They were presented with a citation and a silver cup by Mr. Jiro Okuyama, the Director of the Japan Information Center in New York. In addition to running a private corporation, for 35 years, Mr. and Mrs. Kuwabara have helped Japanese people when they face problems, accidents, or illnesses. Since founding the Japanese Association in Puerto Rico in 1972, they tried to strengthen relations between the Japanese and Japanese-American communities in Puerto Rico and remain dedicated to the Association’s operation and maintenance. During the ceremony, Mr. Isao Kuwabara said, “Those people who visited Puerto Rico and unfortunately encountered accidents or became ill were not helped only by us, but by Japanese business people stationed in Puerto Rico. However, we should also not forget that so many people in Puerto Rico helped us as well.” The Honorable Manuel Morales, Honorary Consul General of Japan, also attended the ceremony, to share in the happiness of the celebration with Mr. and Mrs. Kuwabara.
When victims of 9/11 were mourned recently at a memorial service at Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan, a visitor from Japan offered Japanese paper cranes instead of flowers. The following day, a historic single crane was donated to the Tribute WTC Visitor Center.
Courtesy of Peace Promotion Division, Hiroshima City
The cranes were gifts of Mr. Masahiko Sasaki, the brother of Sadako Sasaki, who is known around the world for folding one thousand origami cranes while critically ill from the long-term effects of the bombing of Hiroshima. Sadako was only two when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. According to Japanese legend, anyone who folds one thousand paper cranes will be granted a wish, and Sadako set about folding paper cranes hoping to prolong her life and as a wish for peace and a world without nuclear weapons. She passed away in 1955 at the age of twelve. Her tale continues to inspire and shape American and Japanese memories of the atomic bomb. A statue in Hiroshima Peace Park commemorates Sadako’s story, and today a chain of paper cranes is recognized the world over as a symbol of peace.
As many will recall, after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, small chains of cranes appeared in spontaneous tribute at Ground Zero. They are now on permanent display at the recently opened Tribute WTC Visitor Center, along with a chain of 10,000 cranes, made by families and colleagues of Japanese September 11th victims.
To these moving objects is now added another: one of the original cranes folded by Sadako Sasaki in the 1950s. While most of her paper cranes were donated to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum in Japan, the Sasaki family kept five of them. And now, as a call for international peace, Mr. Sasaki is donating one crane to each of the five continents. On September 13th, a ceremony was held at the Center. In attendance were families of 9/11 victims from Japan and the U.S., representatives of the UN Office of Disarmament Affairs, Ambassador Sakurai, and the President of Japan Society, Richard Wood.
Mr. Sasaki, said he hopes “people from all over the world will see the crane that Sadako folded, and will desire peace” explaining, “I decided to present the crane to the WTC site in North America, because it is a place where people gather from around the world to pray for peace.”
During his stay in New York City, Mr. Sasaki met with families of 9/11 victims from Japan, visited Stuyvesant High School and the United Nations, and spoke about his memories of his sister and his own experience as a survivor of the atomic bombing during a talk hosted by Japan Society.
In July, the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of New York, Inc. completed its 19th Annual U.S. Educators Program study tour of Japan. Started in 1989, in response to the growing number of Japanese students enrolling in tri-state area schools, its mission is to facilitate the transition of Japanese students into the American education system and to show gratitude to the educators who play such an important role in this process.
This summer fourteen teachers, superintendents, and principals along with ten accompanying family members embarked on a two-week tour of Japan, which provided an introduction to the Japanese education system, government, history, and cultural traditions. Their itinerary covered a large geographic area, originating in Osaka and included stays in Kyoto, Kanazawa, Gifu, Hakone, and Tokyo.
In an effort to understand the Japanese education system, the educators visited learning facilities for all grade levels, including Gakugeidai Fuzoku Elementary School, which is designed specifically for Japanese students returning from time spent living abroad. The educators gained a unique perspective into the rigors of the Japanese education system, teaching methods, learning styles, and the challenges facing students in foreign countries and upon re-entering their own culture. One participant, an ESL teacher, expressed great enthusiasm for applying the “whole-child approach”, emphasizing character building with her students at home. The American educators gained greater sensitivity to Japan’s educational structure and many felt better equipped to understand the needs and expectations of Japanese students in the United States.
The cultural itinerary covered a myriad of important sites, both of historical and modern significance. The ancient capital of Kyoto provided a perfect setting for exploring traditional Japanese elements such as Zen meditation, temple visits, indigo yuzen dying, and a dinner at a tea house with geisha and maiko. The educators were also given a peek into Japanese home life as guests of local families during a one night home-stay in Sakai City. In Hakone, the group stayed at a traditional Japanese inn and had the opportunity to soak in the hot springs, which the Japanese have been enjoying for centuries. Contemporary Japan was experienced through a ride on the bullet train, and visits to Sharp Electonics and Panasonic headquarters to learn about the latest innovations in green technology. The group also enjoyed a night out in Tokyo’s ultra modern Roppongi Hills.
The 19th U.S. Educators program was sponsored by the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science & Technology, along with prefectural and city governments, chambers of commerce, and major Japanese corporations. To date, 258 educators and a total of 392 people have participated in the program. In 2008 the program will celebrate its 20th year with a participant reunion and memorial publication. The relationships and connections created through the program continue to strengthen with the passing years and its success is evident in the scores of Japanese students thriving in the U.S. Education system.
A Dynamic City in Eastern Japan: Saitama City
By Satoru Kimura
Assistant Director of Japan Local Government Center
Saitama City is located in the southeastern part of Saitama prefecture, adjacent to Tokyo. It is a very new city. In fact, Saitama City was only founded on May 1, 2001, a result of the merger of three cities, Urawa, Omiya and Yono. An additional merger with Iwatsuki City on April 1, 2005, has swelled Saitama City’s population to approximately 1.2 million, making it a major urban center in the Kanto region.
Historically, the city developed as a railroad town following the old Nakasendo Road. Today, Saitama City is one of the major railway junctions in eastern Japan. As you would expect, the city boasts an excellent transportation system. It is served by five shinkansen (bullet train) lines, the JR Railway, as well as private railroads. You can easily reach Saitama City from Tokyo in about half an hour, with convenient access to neighboring sightseeing resorts as well. Saitama City boasts several major convention centers, including the Saitama Super Arena, which features one of the world’s largest movable stage systems, creating four different venues.
Saitama City is a great sports city. Its three stadiums are home to three highly respected soccer teams: the Urawa Red Diamonds, Omiya Ardija and Urawa Reds Ladies -- with the Urawa Red Diamonds winners of the J-League and Emperor’s Cup tournaments in the Asia Championship League. Saitama City was showcased to the world when Saitama Stadium hosted the 2002 Soccer World Cup championship games.
Saitama is rich in culture, too. Bonsai, the art of dwarfing trees or plants by growing and training them in containers according to prescribed techniques, was introduced to Japan during the Kamakura period (1185-1333). After the Great Kanto earthquake, bonsai suppliers in Tokyo moved to other locations, and a Bonsai Village was established in the environs that are now part of Saitama City. Currently, bonsai in the Village gardens are over 500-years-old and they have been declared a national treasure. Bonsai lovers from all over the world visit to enjoy this rich Mecca for enthusiasts!
Saitama’s culture extends to its many museums. It is home to the Tougyoku Doll Museum, the John Lennon Museum, and the new Railway Museum that will open this October. The Tougyoku Doll Museum in Iwatsuki Ward exhibits a wide variety of dolls and while there visitors can experience traditional doll making firsthand.
Saitama City is at the forefront in improvements in welfare, education, and social services, and it offers residents and visitors alike a comfortable and attractive urban space. A close neighbor to Tokyo, many commute to the Japanese capital and call Saitama City home. Looking to the future, the city is working hard to balance economic development with environmental interests. In Saitama’s City’s center are the Minuma Tanbo rice fields and the city’s green riverbanks are home to a variety of plants and animals.
Young Saitama City is a comfortable, exciting and forward-looking urban center with something for everyone.
For more information: http://www.city.saitama.jp/en/index.html
Healing with Origami
By Toshiko Kobayashi
When I trace my memories back to my first encounter with origami it is with a warm feeling of amazement and contentment. I remember being surrounded by families and friends, a group of people who enjoyed origami in their daily lives and who admired the creativity of folded paper. However, I also remember experiencing frustration, anxiety, shame, and envy, during the process of completing origami. Origami provided the ups and downs of my childhood.
When I decided to study art therapy in New York, I knew I wanted to use origami as therapy. It was no coincidence; I was looking for a place to crystallize my early experiences of origami. In fact, all my experiences -- teaching Japanese to foreigners, raising my children, visiting and living in different countries -- made me realize the possibilities of origami as a therapeutic tool. I folded origami whenever and wherever I could, even while I was moving from one place to another.
I now live in New York, a salad bowl of different cultures. I work as an art therapist at a New York State psychiatric hospital promoting origami as “Enrichment Origami Art Therapy.” Luckily, in addition to this work, I have had many other opportunities to share the pleasures of origami with others.
This past June was Japan Day @ Central Park. Being a part of the Japanese community in New York, it was an honor for me to organize an origami booth for the event. We enjoyed more than 1000 visits and used around 2000 sheets of paper that day. We planned the teaching table carefully based on my theories, and eventually it like a kind of mass therapy for all of us, including teachers and students.
There was another memorable event at the hospital where I work. It was just after the annual convention Origami USA, when, unexpectedly, the hospital received a large origami artwork titled “Life is Beautiful” by Mr. Yami Yamauchi. He said, “Origami healed me from my sorrow of losing my son. I hope my art encourages people who are suffering from trauma and mental illness.” A once empty wall near the entrance of an auditorium at the rehabilitation center is now decorated by his artwork. His firework-like composition is a rainbow bridge to the future. It has gained the admiration of the entire hospital community, including patients and staff members.
At the beginning of September, I had a chance to visit Cambridge in the UK, to present my origami art therapy work at the British Origami Society’s 40th Anniversary Convention. It was amazing to see so many origami works and to view new models from people all over the world. I was warmly received by fellow origamist when I presented my ideas on therapeutic origami, and it was also especially exciting to meet the many origami authors who I previously knew only through their books.
My life as an art therapist and an origami specialist (I hope nobody minds if I call myself this), has no dull moments. I was invited to present an origami workshop at a conference of the New York State’s Crime Victims Board this October, and I will be flying out West to Albuquerque to attend the Annual Conference of the American Art Therapy Association, where I will be facilitating an origami workshop for the second time. There will be an origami holiday tree lit up at the American Museum of Natural History and decorated by members of Origami USA before the Christmas season. I also just received another email inviting me to give a presentation at another conference.
My dream is to find ways to connect people through origami. Origami has a long history and is deeply embedded in Japanese culture -- but I am sure the potential of origami is universal. Origami helped me, and it helps me to help others. I fold origami for who I am, was and will be.
For more information about origami, please visit the following websites,
- Origami Club:
- Origami USA:
- NIPPONIA magazine No. 41 :
Toshiko Kobayashi is a Board Certified Art Therapist of the American Art Therapy Association and a New York State Licensed Creative Arts Therapist.
Change is in the Air
Labor Day weekend is over and fall is finally here. With the change of season in mind, and people freshly back to school and work, what better time to try some new ideas at the Consulate, as well.
Therefore, in response to the many requests we have had from our Japanese visitors, the windows at the Consulate’s Consular Section and the Japan Information Center will now be open to the public during lunchtime on Wednesdays this September on a trial basis.
We are exploring other ways to make the Consulate more accessible too. For example, we would like to make the Consul General’s residence available for public organizations and groups, so that they can hold events introducing Japanese culture, brands, technology, tourism, etc., as well as gatherings that promote exchange between Japanese and Americans.
On September 8th, as a part of this new effort, a seminar took place at my residence on the subject of women’s health maintenance and the early detection of breast cancer. This was the fourth event of its kind opened to the public. Seventy-five Japanese and Japanese Americans took part in the seminar, which was very informative. In addition, I hear everyone in attendance enjoyed the cake and tea prepared by our residence’s chef.
I look forward to seeing more of you at events like this in the future. Until then, please enjoy the first days of autumn.
Ko Murobushi © Miro Ito
Performances, Workshops, Films, and Lectures Will be Held at Various Locations in NYC and the Outer Boroughs
The CAVE New York Butoh Festival once again celebrates the origins and international evolution of butoh with a month of performances by internationally renowned artists, along with workshops, films and lectures. The 2007 CAVE New York Butoh Festival is held in conjunction with Japan Society's Kazuo Ohno 101: Three-Week Butoh Parade, which celebrates the 101st birthday of the legendary co-founder of the butoh movement. This will consist of 4 different events: Kochuten + Akaji Maro, Eiko & Koma With Margaret Leng Tan, Akira Kasai's Butoh America, and U.S. Butoh Marathon curated by CAVE + Yoshito Ohno. The CAVE Butoh Festival builds upon the successes of the prior two sold-out festivals, and features three weeks of activities. The highlights include four weeks of performances at Japan Society, The Noguchi Museum, Theater for the New City, PS 122, and CAVE; Photo exhibits at the New York Public Library for the SAFE-T-GALLERY in Brooklyn's Dumbo; and Performing Arts and Educational programming, including rare butoh films at Anthology Film Archives and the CUNY Graduate Center. There will also be lectures at the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center/CUNY Graduate Center hosted by prominent artists and dance critics, Master Artists Talks at CAVE, as well as master butoh workshops at Dance Theatre Workshop, Movement Research, Noguchi Museum, and Fordham and Yale Universities.
Atsushi Takenouchi © Femerling
Considered one of Japan's major contributions to the performing arts of the 20th century, BUTOH is an avant-garde dance form that originated in the late 1950s and evolved in the turmoil of Japan's postwar landscape. Over the past few decades, butoh as an art form has evolved to include individual artists and groups devoted to teaching and performing not only in Japan, but throughout the world. Butoh defies easy definition and embraces paradox. It fuses the traditional with the avant-garde, complex choreography with improvisation, and wild physicality with meditative stillness, which is getting the acclaim and interest of the international dance scene. The CAVE New York Butoh Festival is dedicated to exposing audiences to the diversity of this potent contemporary art form that challenges conventional definitions of dance and theater.
Info: 212-561-9539, 718-388-6780 or www.caveartspace.org
Photo by Raimund Koch
October 20 to November 18, 2007
The New York Botanical Garden’s Autumn Flower Show and Exhibition
Celebrates a Japanese Cultural Icon
Kiku: The Art of the Japanese Chrysanthemum is the most elaborate flower show and cultural exhibition ever presented by The New York Botanical Garden. Visitors will discover the exquisite beauty of kiku - meticulously cultivated chrysanthemums, a traditional Japanese art never before seen on this scale outside of Japan. For more than 1500 years, the chrysanthemum (菊 kiku in Japanese) has been revered throughout Japan, where it is carefully cultivated and expertly shaped into codified forms through floricultural techniques. Cultivating kiku is exceptionally difficult, requiring expertise and constant attention throughout a 12-month growing period, during which time the plants are vigilantly watered, pinched, staked, and tied to grow in a variety of highly specialized shapes.
Photo by Joshua Lieberman
Photo by Joshua Lieberman
The kiku’s exotic styles will be on display in The New York Botanical Garden's Conservatory Courtyards. Marvel at what appears to be a massive flowerbed but is in fact a single plant producing hundreds of simultaneous blossoms. Be impressed by dramatic compositions of single-stemmed plants, each reaching six feet tall with one perfect flower balanced on top and wonder at bizarre waterfall-like plants bursting with hundreds of blossoms that cascade downward from their stems. This Garden-wide exhibition also includes exquisite arrangements of bonsai, ikebana, Japanese maples, and bamboo sculptures. "Plants of Japan in Illustrated Books and Prints" will be on display in the LuEsther T. Mertz Library gallery along with a wide variety of kiku-themed programs for children and adults, including home gardening demonstrations.
Photo by Joshua Lieberman
Celebrating Japanese art, life and culture, this exhibition represents the culmination of an exclusive multi-year international collaboration between Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden in Tokyo and The New York Botanical Garden, blending East and West through the flawless beauty and honored tradition of kiku. Also, starting on September 11th until November 18, visitors can celebrate kiku at the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden and delight in the culture of Japan with their families.
- Place: The New York Botanical Garden
- 200th Street and Kazimiroff Boulevard
Bronx, NY 10458-5126
- Phone: 718.817.8700
|Films / Performance||Exhibitions|