Vol.4 October 2007
- New Fukuda Cabinet Inaugurated, Komura to become Foreign Minister
- Stronger Ties between West Virginia and Japanese Corporations
- JAA Marks a Century of Service with Gala and “Senior Week”
- Japan Info X-tra - Local Centenarians Honored by Japanese Government
- Culture Connection - The World of Japanese Crafts in New York
- From the Ambassador's Desk
- Making a Home: Japanese Contemporary Artists in New York
- Contemporary Japan through the Eyes of Two Women
Photo courtesy of the Cabinet Public Relations Office
On September 25th, the Diet designated former Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda as Japan’s new prime minister. He succeeds Shinzo Abe, who abruptly announced his resignation on September 12th.
While the Diet’s lower house, the House of Representatives, picked Fukuda, its upper house, the House of Councillors, chose Ichiro Ozawa, president of the opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ). (Ozawa’s party has controlled the upper house since elections in July.) Japan’s constitution stipulates that if the two houses disagree on a candidate and agreement is not reached through a joint committee, the decision of the House of Representatives takes precedence. Therefore, Fukuda was appointed prime minister. However, the close result suggests that his administration may face difficulty managing its political affairs going forward. Japan’s media and political observers generally agreed that Fukuda was victorious because his abilities as a consensus builder are widely recognized. Fukuda previously served as chief cabinet secretary in the administrations of Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori and Junichiro Koizumi, and he holds the record as Japan’s longest-serving chief cabinet secretary, 1,289 days.
When he formed his cabinet on the evening of September 25th, Fukuda retained almost all of his predecessor’s members, with 15 of the 17 ministers having served in the Abe cabinet. Japanese newspapers commented that this decision reflects a priority on stability rather than hasty change.
As he assumes office, Prime Minister Fukuda faces many important challenges. On the domestic front, Japan has seen a widening gap develop between rich and poor, which is widely seen as the dark side of structural reform; there is anxiety about the social security system, and the impoverishment of Japan’s provinces as well. On the international front, whether to continue Maritime Self-Defense Force refueling activities for ships of other nations, including the United States, remains a hotly contested issue. In addition there is the question of Japan’s policy toward North Korea and the abduction problem. Editorials in many of Japan’s newspapers urged Prime Minister Fukuda to adopt concrete steps to address these urgent issues.
The main focus in the current session of the Diet is the maritime refueling activities in the Indian Ocean. The DPJ is maintaining its opposition. Prime Minister Fukuda in a policy speech on October 1 expressed his intention to do his utmost to continue them, saying, “The support activities based on the Anti-Terrorism Special Measures Law are part of the international community’s joint efforts to prevent the proliferation of terrorists. They serve the national interests of Japan which depends on maritime transportation for much of its natural resources, and also constitute the responsibilities that Japan should fulfill in the international community”.
Among Prime Minister Fukuda’s cabinet picks was Mr. Masahiko Komura, who was appointed as the Foreign Minister. Komura was born in 1942, and this is his second appointment as Foreign Minister. He was also the Defense Minister under the second Abe Cabinet. Former Foreign Minister Machimura became the new Chief Cabinet Secretary. The new Foreign Minister made his first official trip to Washington DC and New York and met with Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice on September 27. He also attended the United Nations General Assembly where he addressed the world body.
This article is extracted from Japan Brief (Foreign Press Center, Japan) and a Policy Speech by PM Fukuda.
On October 9th, Ambassador Motoatsu Sakurai invited Governor Joe Manchin ? and other senior officials from West Virginia, along with top executives from leading Japanese corporations headquartered in New York and New Jersey, to a luncheon meeting at the official residence in order to further develop the growing relations between the Mountain State and the Japanese business community.
It marked the second effort of this kind to give State Governors in our Consulate’s jurisdiction and top executives of Japanese corporations an opportunity to speak directly to each other. The first event was a meeting between Governor Jon Corzine of New Jersey and Japanese executives this February.
Ambassador Sakurai hailed West Virginia’s slogan, “Open for Business”, as a sign of Governor Manchin’s commitment to attracting outside investment to West Virginia, and lauded his tireless work to promote the interest of his state nationally and internationally. He also pointed out that ongoing efforts by its dedicated staff to make state government a better business partner means that West Virginia is a good match for Japanese investors. As a former head of a major Japanese company, Ambassador Sakurai also suggested that although Japanese corporations take their time before deciding to invest abroad, their commitment, once made, is well thought-out, and it produces successful, quality investments and partnerships.
Governor Manchin recalled his visit to Japan with Senator Jay Rockefeller in 2005 in support of AICHI EXPO 2005, and he named Japan as a “home away from home”. He stressed West Virginia’s central location, loyal and productive workforce, and low cost of doing business as some of its advantages, and said Japanese corporations including Toyota have enjoyed great success through expansions of operations there. He also emphasized the ability of his administration to make state government more business-friendly, such as through privatization of workers’ compensation, tax cuts, and the reduction of long-term debts. Governor Manchin, who also has a business background, saw the government as an impediment rather than a facilitator of business activities and took pride in his team’s success in modernizing the state government.
Mr. Shinichi Goto, Toyota Motor North America’s SVP, commented that the company owed its success in West Virginia, through five different expansions, to the skill and hard work of its employees and the support from state and local government and community leaders.
Mr. Goto and thirteen other top executives from Japanese companies, including Mitsubishi International Corporation, NTT Docomo, and the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, were assigned to one of four groups so that each group had an opportunity to sit at the main table with Governor Manchin.
They discussed various business issues, such as coal-related developments, structural change away from coal-centered industry, environmentally sustainable commerce, factors behind the lower cost of doing business in West Virginia, availability of a skilled workforce, relations with labor unions, and state government’s support for training.
After the meeting, Governor Manchin expressed gratitude to Ambassador Sakurai for organizing the event. Ambassador Sakurai promised to follow up on relations with Japanese corporations, and thanked all attendees for joining the meeting.
The Japanese American Association of New York, Inc. (JAA) is celebrating its 100th Anniversary this year. It recently held a Centennial Gala fundraiser on September 29, 2007 at Jazz at Lincoln Center.
The sold out event was attended by 400 people dressed in black tie, evening wear, and Japanese kimono. Guests entered the amphitheater to the sound of dramatic drumming by taiko group Soh Daiko. They were also entertained by musicians from Asian Artists in Concert, Inc., The Young People’s Chorus, and the evening’s main performer, jazz great Toshiko Akiyoshi.
Special guests included United States Senator Daniel K. Inouye, Japan’s ambassador to the United States, Ryozo Kato, Ambassador and Consul General Motoatsu Sakurai, Ms. Irene Hirano (President, Japanese American National Musuem), Dr. Richard Wood (President, Japan Society) and New York City Councilman John C. Liu. The night’s program was emceed by Fred Katayama (Reuters) and Kaoriko Kuge (Fujisankei Communications).
During dinner, a video of JAA’s long history and the history of the Japanese in the New York area was shown. Much of the commitment and energy within JAA today can be traced back to its founder Dr. Toyohiko Takami. Twenty-six members of the Takami family attended the Gala, including grandson, Dr. Tadataka Yamada who was recently knighted by the Queen of England. Past JAA presidents were also present.
JAA’s current President Susan J. Onuma emphasized the need for Japanese and Japanese Americans to work together and the role of JAA as a bridge between the two groups. A special Certificate of Commendation from the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan was presented to JAA by Ambassador Motoatsu Sakurai in recognition of the organization’s many achievements over the last 100 years.
In addition, Ambassador Kato and Senator Inouye were presented with the JAA Centennial Leadership Award for their dedication to public service and for their work building mutual understanding between Japanese and the Japanese American community.
The backbone of any not-for-profit organization is its volunteers. During the evening, five individuals were presented with the JAA Centennial Volunteer Award in recognition of their many years of service - George Yuzawa, Sanko Kajihara, Dr. Seiichi Shimomura, Dr. Robert K. Emy and Seiko Oshima. Also, Ms. Michiyo Noda, JAA’s only full time employee was recognized for her twenty years of service.
The evening was topped off with a performance by renowned Jazz pianist Toshiko Akiyoshi. In a surprise appearance, saxophonist Lew Tabackin joined her on stage.
JAA hopes that more people will take the time to get to know the organization, participate in its programs and visit the office so that they can come to appreciate the breadth and depth of the services and activities JAA provides to the community.
In addition, President Onuma sincerely thanks everyone for their support as JAA commences a new century of community service.
Also, in connection with JAA’s 100th Anniversary, the first “Senior Week” was held from September 13 through September 23, 2007.
The New York area Japanese/Japanese American community has evolved over the years. Most are now first generation (issei) Japanese who immigrated after World War II. They reside in the New York area along with second, third, fourth and fifth generation Japanese Americans. Many in this “shin” - issei population are now in their 60’s to 80’s. While most have lived here for years, Japanese language and culture are still very much ingrained in their make up. The older they get, the harder it is for some to deal with medical and legal issues in English.
In 2005, the Committee on Aging Issues was established. Under the umbrella of the JAA this is a collaborative effort among several organizations, professionals and concerned individuals seeking to improve the social welfare of elderly Japanese and Japanese Americans. The Committee is tasked with research and information sharing regarding matters such as senior housing, home care, medical insurance and estate planning among other issues.
In 2006, an awareness survey was conducted. Results showed seniors are hungry for information relating to issues of aging. They want to remain independent and able to enjoy their golden years for as long as possible.
This year the Committee sponsored an event showcasing available professional and social services that meet the needs of the senior community. And so “Senior Week” was born.
During Senior Week, luncheons were held at JAA with over 100 seniors attending. Each day, workshops and seminars were provided on a wide range of topics by academics, social workers, doctors, mental health professionals and attorneys including insurance, assisted care living, stress therapy, medical and dental information and estate planning among many others. In addition, fun activities were available such as free haircuts, massage, and make-up sessions, movies, art therapy, a chorus, handicrafts and dance lessons with children.
One of the most popular programs was a chance for Japanese and Japanese Americans who had experienced World War II to speak about their respective experiences. In addition to the seniors, school children participated. At the end, there were so many questions and experiences to share that people did not want to leave.
Senior Week was attended by over 800 people and was a great success. JAA President Susan Onuma said she was very pleased they were able to come together and work for the benefit of our community, and she says they look forward to holding more such collaborative events in the future.
Local Centenarians Honored by Japanese Government
In Japan, the third Monday in September is called “Respect for the Aged Day” and the Japanese show their appreciation for seniors who have contributed to society and celebrate their longevity on this day. Every year, Japanese government commends those people who reach the century mark (100 years). The commendation targets residents of Japan and those who live abroad, so the Consulate General of Japan in New York tries to recognize new centenarians who live in the Consulate jurisdiction every year. This September, two people, turned 100 years old. They both reside in New Jersey, one in Bridgeston and the other in Pittsgrove. 17,732 elderly people in Japan celebrated their centennial and 46 abroad received the honor as well this year.
On September 19, the Director of the Consulate’s Consular Section, Mr. Tomio Tatsuki, visited the two recipients and presented them with citations and silver cups on behalf of Ambassador Sakurai. The two awardees were Ms. Asae Yamamoto, who is from Wakayama Prefecture, and her neighbor Ms. Kazuyo Nakao, who is from Hiroshima Prefecture. These two women have very similar personal histories by chance. They were both born in Japan in 1907, and at age 17, both moved to California. There, they married Japanese men. Before the war, they worked on a plantation, and during the war, they were sent to an internment camp. After the end of hostilities in 1945, they moved to New Jersey to begin working in a frozen vegetable factory called the Seabrook Farms Company. Currently, they both have American citizenship and reside close to the factory.
Charles Seabrook, the founder of Seabrook Farms, provided jobs and places to live for many Japanese evacuees. For that reason, the local Japanese Americans respect and call him “Ojiisan” (grandpa). After the war, 2500 Japanese evacuees from 10 internment camps in California were accepted by his factory. In addition to residential facilities, there are schools, and a Japanese market on the premises. To this day, approximately 300 Japanese Americans reside around the Seabrook factory area. There is a Buddhist temple nearby, and an annual Bon festival dance event is held every summer. In 1994, a museum called the Seabrook Educational and Cultural Center was founded for the purpose of conveying the history of Japanese Americans to the next generation.
Ms. Yamamoto and Ms. Nakao’s 100 year milestones were brought to light by Ms. Yamamoto’s grandchild who contacted the Consulate. The commendation ceremony was held at Ms. Yamamoto’s residence, and Ms. Nakao, who lives at a nursing home, attended with her family. The two were pleased to receive the honor. However, it was their families that seemed to be most delighted about the event. Both women have children, grandchildren, and even many great-grandchildren, and they both enjoy Chinese and Japanese poem recitation.
The World of Japanese Crafts in New York
New York’s bustling metropolis is known as a center for cutting-edge contemporary trends -- but it is also a haven for traditions and cultures from around the world. The arts and crafts of Japan are just waiting to be discovered right here in the Big Apple. Here are a few places to find them:
- Wajima Lacquerware Gallery
- 551 Laguardia Place, New York, NY 10012 (bet. Bleecker & W.3rd Sts), Tel: 212-982-3450
Ishikawa prefecture is a rich source of Japan’s artisanal traditions. The city of Wajima is a famed manufacturing center for Japanese lacquerware, and the prefecture also boasts outstanding arts and crafts like Kaga Yuzen (dyed silk kimono fabric) and Kutani glazed porcelain.
The Wajima Lacquerware Gallery in the West Village was opened by the Wajima Chamber of Commerce, local merchants, and Wajima City government in order to introduce the city’s master lacquerware techniques and traditional products from Ishikawa Prefecture. The staff is always happy to share more about the history and techniques of this unique Japanese craft with visitors. A corner of the gallery houses a small exhibition space explaining the lacquer manufacturing process. Elaborate example of Wajima lacquerware can be expensive, but small products like chopsticks and hair barrettes are more affordable and popular among customers.
- Kiteya SoHo
- 464 Broome Street, New York, NY 10013 (bet. Mercer & Green Sts.), Tel: 212-219-7505 http://www.kiteyany.com
- 23 W 19th Street, New York, NY 10011 (bet 5th & 6th Aves), Tel: 212-414-0720 http://www.kyotoyany.com
Manhattan has two shops that will transport you to historic Kyoto. Kiteya, which just opened this spring in SoHo, was jointly set-up by five wholesalers from Japan’s ancient capital. It features fancy goods and crafts from Kyoto, Japanese washi craft paper, nishijin- brocade and yuzen- dyed kimono fabrics, clothes and goods. Kiteya has workshops for origami and furoshiki, a square piece of cloth that can be used to wrap and carry items instead of bags. The environmental advantages of furoshiki -- which can take the place of plastic bags -- are appreciated in Japan as consciousness about global warming grows. Kiteya is looking at ways to accommodate Japanese crafts into American life and recently gave a wine bottle furoshiki wrapping lesson that was a big success.
Kyotoya in Chelsea is another store that stocks goods from Kyoto. Vintage kimonos and kimono related goods, various fancy crafts, Noh masks, and decorative figurine can all be found there. The store also has vintage kimono that are relatively inexpensive. They are popular as room decoration or for wearing with party dresses.
- Kimono House
- 131 Thompson St, New York, NY 10012 Phone: (212) 505-0232
Speaking of kimono, SoHo’s Kimono House specializes in the traditional Japanese dress and has the greatest assortment of kimono and kimono accessories in New York. Many Japanese who engage in traditional arts like the tea ceremony, dance, and music shop there. Kimono House also provides lessons on properly wearing your kimono.
- Precious Pieces (office)
- 5 Tudor City Pl. #102, New York, NY 10017 Tel: 212-682-8505 http://www.precious-piece.com/
Precious Pieces is a dealer of superior Japanese washi paper for interiors. The paper used is a pure, hand-made and produced from Japanese wood milled by skilled Japanese craftsmen. Ornamental papers are ordered directly from notable paper production regions like Mino (Gifu), Echizen (Fukui) and Tosa (Kochi) for customers who use them for custom- made lamp shades, tapestries and other interior decoration. The washi production process has not changed for 500 years and the paper contains no chemicals, making it environmentally friendly. Its texture and softness are comforting and therapeutic and washi also has properties that maintain humidity and deodorize. Being 100% handmade, you can order custom pieces of washi in any size.
- Miya Shoji
- 109 West 17th Street, New York, NY 10011 (bet 6th & 7th Aves) Tel: 212-243-6774 http://www.miyashoji.com/
A love of nature is an important part of Japanese life and aesthetics. Miya Shoji, which specializes in Japanese interiors, brings this idea to Japanese furnishings. The store sells paper sliding doors, tatami mats, chairs, tables, beds, closets and lamps. All are created from North American wood, but assembled with Japanese traditional framing methods and techniques that do not use nails. Using wood that can take 10-15 years until completely dry, the unique growth rings and grain in the wood produce one-of-a-kind furniture with natural characteristics that are lovely in any home.
As we head further into fall, I have several exciting events and developments to report to our readers.
Five year’s of planning and cooperation between horticulturalists at Shinjuku Gyoen and the New York Botanical Garden bring us Kiku: The Art of the Japanese Chrysanthemum. I had the opportunity to attend the exhibition’s opening ceremony on October 18 at the garden in the Bronx. The cherry blossom is widely known as Japan’s national symbol, however, the tradition of the chrysanthemum, or kiku -- also a national symbol of Japan -- is much less appreciated abroad. This show is a chance to enjoy many kinds of beautiful chrysanthemum -- all on display using techniques rarely seen outside of Japan. There are also programs for adults and children introducing Japanese arts and culture. It is our privilege to welcome this very special cultural exchange to New York.
Back to the Consulate, our trial opening during lunch hours was well received by visitors. Therefore, I am pleased to announce that we will be open at lunch time every day starting in November. We are happy to be able to meet this long-time request from our customers. Also, according to our data, nearly 100,000 Japanese nationals reside in our jurisdiction. For the convenience of our customers, we offer “One-Day Consulate” services every spring and fall, including this fall in Philadelphia, Buffalo, and Pittsburgh.
Finally, in this month’s Japan Info you will learn about a get-together I hosted with West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin III and representatives of leading Japanese corporations. Governor Manchin was pleased to visit New York and to meet members of the Japanese corporate community. I hope face-to-face meetings like this will strengthen the relationship between Japanese companies and the jurisdiction.
Photo: ON megumi Akiyoshi
New York is a place that attracts artists. From Japan, many artists have come with a passion to work in the arts and now call New York City home. This exhibition includes a broad range of media - from painting, sculpture, photography, architecture, to fashion and sound art. It also reflects diverse age groups, identities, experiences, and styles, in which Japanese contemporary art has developed and flourished in the city, from the 1960’s to right now. All of the artists in this exhibition who call the city their home over the decades and came to New York for various reasons include some who pursued more exposure in the international art world, some who escaped from the restrictions in Japan, while others who found something different and a new challenge in New York. However, there seems to be something that all of the artists who came from Japan to New York City have in common. They transcended the confines of their country to gain international recognition by creating new aesthetic forms bridging Japan and New York and the bigger world.
Date : October 5, 2007 to January 13, 2008
Location : Japan Society 333 East 47th St. NYC
Info : 212-832-1155 or www.japansociety.org
The traditional and historic aspects of Japanese culture have been introduced in the United States many times over in the past, through theatre, plays, exhibitions, and museums. Lately, contemporary Japanese cultural phenomena like manga, anime, graphic design, and film are making their mark, and getting more and more attention. However, there have been few theatrical productions, which portray modern Japanese society and lifestyles. This fall, in New York City, the play called “I and Me & You and I” is being presented as one of these rare examples. The story is about two women who would not be expected to meet since their lifestyles are totally different. One is a middle-aged, snobbish banker and the other is a young sweet-natured stripper. Under extraordinary circumstances, they are doomed to encounter each other, creating a comical but touching tale that exposes telling generation gaps and other cultural issues in Japan today. The actresses, Michi Yamamura (plays Yoko and is also the author of the show) and Emi Ikehata (plays Potan), are both residents of New York. The producer is Mahayana Landowne. This is the first time that this fascinating play is being performed in English, at the Off-Broadway theatre complex.
- November 8th (Preview), 9th, 10th 8:00 PM
November 11th 3:00 PM
November 15th, 16th , 17th 8:00 PM
November 18th 8:00 PM
- The Theatres at 45 Bleecker Street
On the north side of Bleecker Street (between Lafayette & Mott Streets)
- Momoko Watanabe / Gorgeous Entertainment