Vol.9 March 2008
- Japan Society's 100 Years Marked at Gala Dinner in Tokyo
- Fine Kaga Cuisine from Ishikawa Prefecture
- Japanese JIZAKE ~ Artisan Sake Tasting at the Ambassador's Residence ~
- Visit Japan - Sakai City
- Visit Japan - Visit Japan Campaign Night
- Culture Connection - Japanese Resources at the New York Public Library
- From the Ambassador's Desk
- Made of Lacquer: The Innovative Art of Shibata Zeshin
- Takashi Murakami: Blurring the Lines of Art and Pop Culture
- Spring Means It’s Cherry Blossom Season!
- Event Calendar
In celebration of its landmark 100th anniversary, New York’s venerable Japan Society was honored with a centennial gala dinner at the Hotel Okura in Tokyo on March 4. Present for the historic occasion were Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress of Japan.
Also attending were Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary, Nobutaka Machimura; Masahiko Koumura, Minister for Foreign Affairs; J. Thomas Schieffer, U.S. Ambassador to Japan; and Ambassador Motoatsu Sakurai, Consul General of Japan in New York. Other prominent guests included distinguished representatives from the worlds of politics, business and culture. These included former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, Dr. Shoichiro Toyoda, honorary chairman of Toyota Motor Corporation, Justin Rockefeller (son of Senator John D. Rockefeller IV), as well as fashion designer Hanae Mori, architect Yoshio Taniguchi, and theater & film director Julie Taymor.
The night’s festivities began with welcoming remarks by James McDonald, Japan Society’s chairman. He praised the foresight of the founders of the Society in 1907, calling them “remarkable in their vision of a future relationship between Japan and the United States that would be important to the entire globe.” Following him, Foreign Minister Koumura called intellectual exchange, grassroots exchange, and promotion of Japanese language imperatives for maintaining strong cross-cultural Japan-U.S. ties and he praised Japan Society as a longtime leader at the vanguard of these efforts. In his greeting, U.S. Ambassador Schieffer pointed to the radical changes in the two countries over a century and marveled at how such different cultures and peoples now share similar values.
After a hearty toast by Japan’s Minister of State and Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura, a special solo kyogen drama performance was presented by Mansaku Nomura, a Living National Treasure of Japan. It was followed by the actor Mansai Nomura and Mansaku-no-Kai’s performance of The Kyogen of Errors, a contemporary kyogen piece based on Shakespeare’s A Comedy of Errors.
This event celebrating the past ended by looking to the future: Richard Wood, President of Japan Society, stressed that his organization would continue to play an important role in its second century by strengthening the Japan-U.S. partnership in the broader context of East Asia.
Japan Society was founded in New York in 1907 by a group of New York business leaders and philanthropists with the aim of building ties with Japan. After the onset of WWII, Japan Society remained dormant until it was re-founded in 1952 with the support and leadership of philanthropist John D. Rockefeller 3rd who was committed to rebuilding the Society as an organization aimed at fostering wider understanding between Japan and the United States. Today, Japan Society is one of the world’s leading institutions promoting Japan-related exchange and culture, arts, and education from its home in Manhattan.
On February 20th, Ambassador Sakurai’s official residence was transformed into a top-tier restaurant for a night when the Consulate General of Japan co-hosted a special tasting event with the Ishikawa Prefectural Government. It featured a gathering of some of the most famous names from the New York restaurant world. The purpose of the dinner was to introduce Ishikawa's fine Kaga cuisine - already renowned in Japan -- to America, and to help the region’s tourism industry which was damaged by a severe 6.8 magnitude earthquake last year.
Greeting his guests with a hearty “itadakimasu,” Ambassador Sakurai pointed to the enormous boom in popularity of Japanese cuisine in New York -- now the top Asian cuisine in the city. This he said makes it the perfect time to “go to the next level” and introduce some of Japan’s lesser known regional traditions and specialties to American palates.
Gathered at the Ambassador’s table was a virtual who’s who of New York gastronomy, World-renowned restaurant owners, including Chef Michael Romano, Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Chef Eric Ripert, joined the co-founders of the Zagat Survey, Tim and Nina Zagat, and food editors from The New York Times and Fortune Magazine. The evening’s meal of kaiseki-style cuisine was prepared by Chef Shinichiro Takagi, owner and executive chef of Kanazawa’s “Zeniya” restaurant, who flew to New York especially for the event.
The spectacular ten-course menu included: Sakiduke: Seasoned mibuna, scallop, carrot, and daikon; Wanmori: kani-shinjo, yuzu; Tsukuri: Flounder-Usudukuri, noto salt, ponzu; Hashiyasume: stone-roasted squid & abalone and ishiri seasoning; Hasshun: Aona-gomaae (green vegetables with ground sesame), mackerel-sushi, gisei-tofu, dried mullet roe, boiled tiger prawn, atsuyaki-tamago (a grilled mixture of fish paste and egg yolks), Noto-san-Hikuchiko (sun-dried sea-cucumber ovaries), Yakimono: king salmon, yubeshi, Takiawase: jibuni (Ishikawa’s famous duck plate), Gohan: mushi-zushi, soup, ko-no-mono, Kudamono: seasonal fruit, Kashi: dried Noto persimmon.
The dishes were accompanied by examples of the region’s fine local sakes. And all the courses were served on Kutani pottery, and Wajima lacquerware, Ishikawa’s beautiful, artisanal tableware. The guests enjoyed their sakes and finely prepared dishes, and were especially interested in the great variety of ingredients used. Ishikawa prefecture is situated between the sea and the mountains, making it famous for its bountiful seafood, hearty vegetables and fine rice, as well as sakes produced from clear mountain streams.
At the end of the dinner, Chef Takagi was introduced to the guests and answered their questions. Mr. Zagat declared Chef Takagi’s creations deserving no less than 31 points -- higher than the top 30 point score that is awarded by his survey. Chef Takagi said he was very proud to have the opportunity to introduce his traditional Kaga cuisine to his fellow chefs and respected individuals. Hopefully, elements of Kaga cuisine will find their way onto more tables in the New York area, and will inspire more New Yorkers to journey to Ishikawa to discover the bounties of Kaga cuisine for themselves.
A sake event, “Japanese JIZAKE ~Artisan Sake Tasting at the Ambassador’s Residence~,” which included seminars and sake tasting, was held on March 3rd. This event was co-sponsored by the Conference of Japanese Food Distributors in New York, the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) New York, and the Consulate General of Japan in New York.
The Conference of Japanese Food Distributors in New York consists of 6 New York-based corporations. It was founded last year for the purpose of promoting mutual friendship and exchanging information. Five of those corporations, which distribute alcoholic merchandise, participated in this event.
This event was held for professionals that deal with alcoholic drinks, such as food critics and representatives from restaurants and liquor shops in the US, to promote further understanding of sake. More than 100 professionals enjoyed the afternoon at the Ambassador’s residence.
With Mr. Michael Simkin serving as a lecturer, two sake seminars took place in the afternoon. Mr. Simkin is an expert in alcoholic drinks with experience as a chief sommelier in famous restaurants. He became interested in sake when he met a Japanese woman, who later became his wife. He has visited Japan 40 times over the past 23 years. During that time, he visited more than 50 sake breweries and gained a profound knowledge of sake.
Mr. Simkin began the seminars describing the cultivation of rice and rice polishing, he explained manufacturing processes, including steaming, malted rice making, compression, and bottling, with visual aids such as slides.
Participants listened attentively while he lectured on the basics knowledge of sake, such as classification based on the degree of rice-polishing and whether distilled alcohol was added or not.
Eighty carefully selected brands of sake, mainly those locally brewed sake, were served at the sake tasting. The convenient fact about these brands is that they all can be obtained in New York. If participants found sake which they liked, they could buy them from the participating distributors and sell them at their shops.
Each booth was packed with people looking to try a variety of sake. The distributors explained in detail about tastes, scents, ways to serve, and production sites and areas. With the knowledge they gained from the seminars, the participants asked technical questions, such as “Which rice is used for this sake?” “Why does this daiginjo-shu (sake made from rice weight polished to 40% or less) have body similar to junmai-shu (“pure-sake”)?” Those questions are very complicated, even for native Japanese, and the distributors had a hard time responding.
The participants found the afternoon very fulfilling and educational, and the event ended with great success, receiving favorable comments, such as "We have a deeper understanding of sake."
Invitation to Sakai
Sakai City has a population of 830,000 and in April 2006 it became the 15th ordinance to be designated as a city in Japan along with Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe cities in the Kansai Region. Sakai City is located in the central part of Osaka Prefecture, facing Osaka Bay, and enjoys a mild climate.
Sakai has a long history and many traditions that demonstrate its prosperity and development. During the Kofun period (3rd to 7th century), Nintoku-ryo Tumulus was constructed. The Mozu Tumulus Cluster is comprised of 47 tumuli of various shapes and sizes that were built beginning at the end of the 4th century to the 6th century. The most notable is the Nintoku-ryo Tumulus, which with a length of 486m and a height of 35m, is one of the world’s largest tombs along with King Khufu’s pyramid in Egypt and the Shing-huang-ti mausoleum in China. Sakai City is making great efforts to get the Mozu and Furuichi Tumulus Clusters registered together as a World Heritage site due to their historical and geographical importance.
In the medieval era, Sakai prospered through overseas trade and was peacefully self-governed by wealthy merchants. During that time, Sakai was known to Europeans as the “Venice of the Orient”. Blades, bicycles, kelp processing, incenses, carpets, Wazarashi cottons and Chusen dying all required advanced skills and techniques which have been passed down through the generations.
Sakai is home to a number of important historical and cultural figures, such as the Grand Tea Master, Sen-no-Rikyu. Sen-no-Rikyu brought the tea ceremony to its perfection and developed the philosophical concept of Wabi-Sabi, which seeks to find beauty in simplicity. Yosano Akiko, who is known as a poet of passion, had great influence on Japanese modern literature.
Provided by Bunka Gakuin
At the Sakai City Cultural Hall, people can enjoy Akiko’s poems and the masterpieces of Alphonse Mucha, a great painter of Art Nouveau. Every year, the Sakai City Opera is held with the cooperation of the residents and the city. Sakai City tries to provide its residents with opportunities to enjoy high quality culture and art while helping them create new cultural works.
Business is also an important feature of Sakai. A number of competitive and eco-friendly companies which use cutting-edge technology have accumulated in the city. With the opening of the world famous Sharp Corporation plant, it is expected that Sakai will enjoy an increased flow of people and technology from around Japan and overseas.
Visit Japan Campaign Night
On January 14th, a dinner reception in honor of Mr. Tadatoshi Mamiya, President of the Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO), was held at Ambassador Motoatsu Sakurai’s residence. This event, called “Visit Japan Campaign Night,” was attended by almost 100 guests, including many distinguished representatives from the tourism industry and other Japanese and American leaders from the business community.
After Ambassador Sakurai delivered his opening remarks, Mr. Mamiya spoke about current trends and new plans for tourism in Japan. Specifically, in order to increase the number of visitors from the North America, he explained that JNTO would like to increase seat capacity on flights, promote off-peak (winter) vacations, and attract more business visitors (especially M.I.C.E.- related: Meeting, Incentive, Convention/Congress, Event/Exhibition).
Mr. Hitoshi Kimura, Vice Minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, added further remarks about encouraging people to visit Japan. Ms. Hanya Yanagihara, Features Editor, Conde Nast Traveller, proposed the evening’s toast. Other activities included a presentation of a short video called “Yokoso Japan” (meaning “Welcome to Japan”), which promoted the highlights of each of the four seasons in Japan.
The Japanese government launched the “Visit Japan Campaign” in 2003, and is now taking steps to achieve the official target of attracting 10 million foreign tourists to Japan by the year 2010. The goal is to double the number of the foreign tourists who visit Japan from the 5 million who visited in 2003.
We appreciate your interest in Japan and your help in promoting Japan’s cultural attractions. For those who reside in North America, please see the JNTO’s North America homepage at http://www.japantravelinfo.com for further information.
Japanese Resources at the New York Public Library
The New York Public Library (NYPL) offers diverse materials to readers with interest in Japanese topics from culture and literature to history, language, and art. These resources are scattered throughout the 85 branches and four Research Libraries which make up the NYPL system.
To search for resources held in the four Research Libraries, you can visit the online catalog CATNYP: (http://catnyp.nypl.org/). Items held within the Research Libraries do not circulate; they can only be viewed on site. When searching for books or other materials to borrow, please search LEO: (http://leopac.nypl.org/#focus).
Japanese language materials are housed primarily within the Asian and Middle Eastern Division in the Humanities and Social Sciences Library at 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue. The collections strengths include Japanese history, art, archaeology and religion, especially Buddhism. The Division also holds specialized materials such as rare books, old Japanese photographs, and postcards. For example, the History of Japan, written by Engelbert Kaempfer and published in London in 1727, is housed in the Division. This volume includes many significant maps and engravings of Japanese life and customs of the time and was one of the earliest attempts by a European to describe Japan.
The Art and Architecture Division of the Library holds a large collection of materials on Japanese art and architecture. Moreover, the Spencer Collection, a specialized division, holds one of the richest collections of Japanese illustrated books in the world. Some of the treasures of the Spencer Collection were recently displayed at the Library in the Ehon exhibition. The curator, Roger S. Keyes, organized the exhibition to highlight various facets of ehon, or “picture books” from the period covering 764 to the present. The accompanying exhibit book, Ehon: the artist and the book in Japan is available at the Library, as well as the online collection guide.
One can also view the resources of the Library online by visiting the NYPL Digital Gallery (http://digitalgallery.nypl.org/nypldigital/index.cfm) as well as Google Book (http://books.google.com/). Many resources have been digitized to make them available for convenient viewing over the Web. Some of the Japanese treasures from the Library can be viewed at the NYPL Digital Gallery. These include Genji Monogatari emaki (Handscrolls of the Tale of Genji), Hokusai Manga (Hokusai Sketchbooks), Shiohi no tsuto (Gifts of the Ebb Tide), and Tsuki hyakushi (100 Aspects of the Moon), among others.
A recent addition to the electronic resources menu is the Japan Knowledge database. Japan Knowledge is in Japanese only and requires a Japanese-capable browser for viewing. (Available exclusively in English, Kodansha Encyclopedia of Japan proves an exception to the Japanese-language-only rule.) This database cannot be accessed from home but is accessible from any of the four research libraries. Japan Knowledge is a database of reference sources such as Nihon jinmei daijiten, Nihon daihyakka zensho, Japanese-English dictionaries, Jitsu, and other fully searchable sound and visual databases.
This introduction represents merely a fraction of what is available at the New York Public Library. We hope you’ll more fully explore the wealth of the Library, either by visiting one of the Libraries in person or via the web.
Ambassador Sakurai joins the Main table at the Gala Dinner, talks with Mrs. Koumura (left)
I recently returned to Japan for the first time in two years. During my stay, I had talks with Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura, Minister for Foreign Affairs Masahiko Koumura, and leaders of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I also exchanged opinions with leaders in politics and finance.
The hot topics in Tokyo are the two very important international conferences that will take place this year in Japan: the Fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD IV), which will be held in Yokohama in May and the G8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit in July.
At the Toyako Summit, leaders from eight countries will address global environmental issues, focusing on strategies for reducing the effects of global warming associated with green house gas emissions. Because Japan has been a leading nation when it comes to environmental preservation, it is concerned about the United States’ failure to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. In any case, having only a few months left before both conferences, I could feel the tension amongst those who are busily involved with the planning.
The biggest event of my stay was the Japan Society’s Centennial Gala Dinner in Japan. I was honored to be part of this special celebration that was attended by Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress. Other important participants included the Chief Cabinet Secretary, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, U.S. Ambassador to Japan, and an array of leaders from the worlds of politics, economics and culture. The event made me fully realize that the strong relationship currently enjoyed between Japan and the United States is the result of years of efforts by Japan Society and countless other organizations and individuals dedicated to building ties between our two countries.
Made of Lacquer: The Innovative Art of Shibata Zeshin
“The Genius of Japanese Lacquer: Masterworks by Shibata Zeshin”
The lacquer art of Shibata Zeshin (1807-1891) is prominently featured as part of Japan Society’s centennial program, Japan100: Celebrating a Century, which commemorates the Society’s 100th anniversary since its inception. The exhibition will feature more than 70 works by the 19th century’s greatest lacquer artist from Japan. To understand the importance of his work and to see his progress as an artist, the exhibition is broken up into four groups. The first group shows his large-scale domestic works including four stacked food containers, which at the time, employed new lacquering methods never seen previously. The second group explores Zeshin’s smaller and more intimate household objects including tea sets and sword mountings. The third group shows his transition to lacquer painting, which became his most influential work in Japanese art. Finally, the fourth group shows his success s in the time-honored tradition of East Asian media with his work using ink and color on paper or silk.
With artistry steeped in tradition and the desire to be innovative, Shibata Zeshin’s lacquer work became extremely influential in the world of Japanese art and beyond. His lacquer painting was powerful due to Zeshin creating never before seen textures and finishes that imitated surface effects like enameled porcelain, patinated bronze, and rough seas. Alive and creating pioneering art during Japan’s transitional eras of the Edo (Samurai) to the Meiji period, when Japan was becoming modernized, and soon a major world power, Zeshin’s lacquer work reflects not only the changes the country underwent, but the changes that he himself experienced from it, which he expressed in his art, while sticking to the traditions he had grew up with, which just so happened to influence the modern world.
- March 21 - June 15, 2008
- Japan Society Gallery
- 333 East 47th Street
- New York, NY 10017
- Info: (212) 832-1155 or www.japansociety.org
Collection of John A. Smith and Victoria Hughes Courtesy of Tomio Koyama Gallery, Tokyo ©2001 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved
More than an artist, Takashi Murakami merges fine art, design, animation, and fashion with pop culture and has created a body of work incomparable to most other artists. This is the reason that the Brooklyn Museum will feature the show Murakami. Mainly focusing on his earlier work from 1992 to 2000, the exhibit will exhibit the many facets of his art as Murakami himself became art, entering the commercial world of branding.
Blurring the boundaries between low and high art, Murakami created sculptures called “Superflat,” which took characters from anime and manga and other forms of Japanese consumer culture and turned them into cutouts. At this exhibition expect to see several of those pieces on display along with his sculpture work that revolves around anime as well. Also on display will be the characters he created in his work “DOB in the Strange Forest.” As a working artist drawing from the pop cultures and art from his homes in Japan and New York, this Murakami exhibition takes a look into the mind of one of the most highly acclaimed contemporary artists today, as more than 90 of his works through the various avenues of media he has taken are on display. On view from April 5 through July 13, this is the last stop in the U.S. this exhibition will be shown before heading over to Germany.
- April 5 - July 13, 2008
- Brooklyn Museum
- 200 Eastern Parkway
- Brooklyn, NY 11238-6052
- Info: (718) 638-5000 or www.brooklynmuseum.org
© Barbara Alper. Courtesy of Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Various symbols of spring’s arrival include the change to warmer weather and being able to wear several layers less of clothing, but it’s also the time for the Cherry Blossom Festivals that happen all over NYC. “Hanami” (flower viewing) in Japan started over 1,000 years ago and celebrates the beauty of “Sakura” (cherry blossoms). Still a big tradition in Japan, it has since spread throughout the world, including New York. The cherry blossoms bloom only in the spring for a short period of time in March and April, with the beautiful flowers fully blooming being a sight to behold and the main attraction to most viewers. Here in New York, you can experience the beauty and tradition of the Cherry Blossom Festival at several locations in the Tri-State area.
Come celebrate the Annual White Plains Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival held at Turnure Park on May 4th. Featuring many Japanese activities, entertainment, food, and music. FREE admission.
The Brooklyn Botanical Garden (BBG) celebrates the cherry blossom with a month long viewing taking place from April 5 thru May 4, 2008. This will give visitors the opportunity to see the blossoms grow from buds to bloom. With BBG’s “Cherry Watch” on their website, you can see a layout of where every blossom is located and its current blossoming status. Don’t forget about Sakura Matsuri, BBG's 27th annual Cherry Blossom Festival on the weekend of May 3 & 4, 2008, where there will be more than 60 performances in observance of Japanese culture.
The Japan Society of Fairfield County hosts its own Annual Cherry Blossom Festival on April 20, 2008 and it’s 20th anniversary with martial arts demonstrations, dance performances, origami and calligraphy workshops, and of course, blossom viewings.
The Branch Brook Park Alliance in Essex County will be having its 32nd Annual Essex County Cherry Blossom Festival from April 13 to 20, 2008. Event highlights include a 10 mile race through the cherry blossoms in the park, a children’s fun run for ages 12 and under, a gala, a bicycle tour, and the blossomfest, a family day event featuring Japanese cultural events.
- White Plains Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival
- May 4, 2008
- Turnure Park, White Plains
- Info: 914-774-3187
- The Brooklyn Botanical Garden 27th annual Cherry Blossom Festival
- April 5 - May 4, 2008
- Brooklyn Botanical Garden
- 1000 Washington Avenue, Brooklyn NY 11225
- Info: 718-623-7200 or www.bbg.org
- Japan Society of Fairfield County 2008 Cherry Blossom Festival & 20th Anniversary Celebration
- April 20, 2008
- Greenwich Japanese School
- 270 Lake Avenue, Greenwich, CT 06831
- Info: 203-912-3757, http://home.earthlink.net/~jsfc/
- 32nd Annual Essex County Cherry Blossom Festival
- April 13 - 20, 2008
- Branch Brook Park, Essex County, NJ
- Info: 973-621-4400 or www.essexcountynj.org
- Sakura Matsuri at Flushing Meadows Corona Park
- April 26, 2008, 11:00 am
- Flushing Meadows Corona Park, near the Queens Theater and Museum at the former World’s Fair site
- Info : 212-840-6942 / 6899, JAA NY
JAA Sakura Matsuri Flyer (PDF)