Vol.20 March 2009
- U.S.-Japan Summit Meeting
- Prime Minister Aso Meets with Japanese American Delegation
- 13th Annual Japanese Speech Contest in Pittsburgh
- Second Annual September 11th Teacher Award Goes to a Japanese Teacher in Long Island
- Organization to Promote Japanese Restaurants Abroad (JRO)
- Culture Connection -The World of J-Cinema:Lights, Cameras, and Reality
- From the Ambassador's Desk
- KRAZY! The Delirious World of Anime + Manga + Video Games
- Here Comes Cherry Blossom Season!
- Event Calendar
Photo:Cabinet Public Relations Office
On February 24, during his visit to Washington, D.C., Prime Minister Taro Aso, the first foreign head of state to visit the White House after the inauguration of the Obama administration, held talks with Mr. Barack Obama, President of the United States of America.
At the meeting, the leaders agreed to further strengthen the Japan-US alliance. They also confirmed that Japan and the United States would jointly address global issues facing the two countries, the Asia-Pacific region, and the international community, with the Japan-US alliance as the cornerstone. Those issues include ones concerning finance and the international economy, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and climate change and energy.
On finance and the international economy, the Prime Minister and the President agreed that it was important to maintain the dollar's credibility as reference currency and that Japan and the United States held a grave responsibility to counter protectionism. They decided to further accelerate cooperation, toward the London Summit in April, to further stabilize the international financial system and promote growth.
Photo:Cabinet Public Relations Office
On the issue of North Korea, Prime Minister Aso emphasized the importance of a comprehensive resolution of the outstanding issues of concern, including the abduction, nuclear, and missile issues. President Obama agreed with that, stating that it was important to maintain close cooperation between Japan and the United States. The leaders restated their intention to make efforts to achieve a verifiable, complete denuclearization of North Korea through the Six-Party Talks. In response to North Korea's announcement that it was preparing to launch a satellite on a rocket, they concurred that North Korea should not take actions that would increase tensions.
Regarding Afghanistan and Pakistan, Prime Minister Aso revealed his intention to appoint, in the near future, Ambassador of Japan to Spain Motohide Yoshikawa as the Special Envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Prime Minister announced that Special Envoy Yoshikawa, together with Ms. Sadako Ogata, President of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), would visit the United States at the beginning of March to discuss a comprehensive strategy with the US side.
On energy and the environmental issues, Prime Minister Aso and President Obama agreed to launch consultations to advance Japan-US cooperation in a concrete manner in the areas of clean energy and energy conservation.
Photo:Cabinet Public Relations Office
After the summit meeting, Prime Minister Aso held a lunch meeting in Washington, D.C. with US-based experts, to exchange views on issues concerning finance and the world economy, Afghanistan and Pakistan, climate change and energy, and other global issues; Asia-Pacific region issues; and the further strengthening of the Japan-US alliance.
The Prime Minister then visited Arlington National Cemetery in the Commonwealth of Virginia and offered wreathes at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the graves of those who lost their lives in the line of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Back in Washington, D.C., Prime Minister Aso received a courtesy call from Mr. Daniel K. Inouye, US Senator, and exchanged views in a frank and forward-looking manner on matters such as overall Japan-US relations.
This article is extracted from Cabinet Public Relations Office website.
Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso welcomed the ‘09 Japanese American Leadership Delegation (JALD) at his office in Tokyo on March 3, 2009. Prime Minister Aso, having just returned from traveling to Washington DC where he met with U.S. President Barack Obama, expressed to the delegation the importance of the U.S.-Japan alliance as a cornerstone of security for all of East Asia. He further expressed the unique role of Japanese Americans in strengthening Japan-U.S. relations.
The JALD program promotes the value of sustained people- to-people relationships as a critical factor in assuring the long-term success of U.S.-Japan relations. This year’s delegation, arriving in Japan on Feb. 27th, went on a 10-day trip to Kyoto, Tokyo and Okinawa where they met with Japanese leaders from the Parliament, the Foreign Ministry, the U.S. Embassy, and business community. In addition to the meeting with the Prime Minister, delegation members met with Her Imperial Highness Princess Takamado, Yohei Kono, Speaker of the House of Representatives, leading Parliamentarians from the Upper and Lower House, and Hirokazu Nakaima, Governor of Okinawa.
The thirteen-member delegation was comprised of individuals from diverse regions of the country including Northern and Southern California, Seattle, Portland, Honolulu, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Chicago, New York and Boston. From New York, Dr. Marianne R. M. Yoshioka was selected as this year’s delegate. She is an associate professor and dean of academic affairs at the Columbia University School of Social Work. Her research of social work services includes domestic violence within Asian immigrant populations.
Upon her return from the trip, Dr. Yoshioka visited Ambassador Sakurai on March 16th. She expressed her appreciation for such a life changing experience. She found both the substantive discussions with various leaders in Japan and the informal conversations with various Japanese citizens to be informative. She has expressed her willingness to take an active role in contributing to the development of Japanese-Americans and Japanese communities in the New York area as a result of this trip.
The Japanese American Leadership Delegation is an official trip sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan and the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership in collaboration with the Japanese American National Museum. The details of the Program can be found on the Consulate website; http://www.ny.us.emb-japan.go.jp/en/s/index.html and the Japanese embassy and the Consulates in U.S. welcome application and recommendation for future candidates throughout the United States. Application forms for the next delegation will be available in the fall of this year at the above site.
On March 6, the 2009 Japanese Speech and Language Contest was held at the Oakland Campus of the University of Pittsburgh. Close to 80 students participated, representing 8 schools in Pittsburgh. The students were divided into 3 levels, and delivered a speech under this year’s theme: Self-introduction.
The contest was hosted by the Japan–America Society of Pennsylvania and the Asian Studies at the University Center for International Studies of the University of Pittsburgh. The purpose of this contest is to provide a platform for Japanese language students to demonstrate their Japanese language abilities, to introduce their own native cultures, and to share their knowledge of Japan with others.
The overall winner, Cody Magaro of Norwin High School, took home the special prize – an electronic dictionary provided by the Japanese Consulate. In his speech, he talked about his family and his favorite activities, using clear pronunciation and a broad vocabulary. All the contestants delivered excellent, enthusiastic speeches, despite the fact that many of them studied Japanese for only a couple of years.
- The following students were the winners of each level and all received a prize:
- First prize, Level 1 (second year Japanese language students)
- Jennifer Smith, Butler High School (Teacher: Masami Schaper)
- First prize, Level 2 (third year students)
- Robert Coury III, Upper St. Clair High School (Teacher: Junko Kapples)
- First prize, Level 3/4 (fourth year students and up)
- Cody Magaro, Morwin High School (Teacher: Hiroko Maekawa)
The other category in the competition was the “Poster Session”, in which students presented posters featuring this year’s subject “Sports” in Japan. This event was open to those who have received little or no instruction in Japanese language but are involved in activities related to Japan. The prize went to Lindsay Milford of Allegheny Clarion High School (Teacher: Dixie Lipnichan), for her poster on volleyball.
After the contest, the participants watched a film about Kokoyakyu: High School Baseball. Beginning in 1915, this annual Japanese baseball tournament attracts the country’s youth, their families and teachers, and millions of spectators.
Second Annual September 11th Teacher Award Goes to a Japanese Teacher in Long Island
On February 26, the Tribute WTC Visitor Center presented a Certificate of Merit to four schools and teachers who have created exemplary educational projects that help sustain the memory of September 11, 2001. The teachers were acknowledged for their discussion of the meaning of September 11th in their classrooms and for their focus on the outpouring of humanitarian efforts on that day and in the weeks and months that followed. This date was specifically chosen as it is the anniversary of the first attack on the World Trade Center on February 26, 1993.
This year’s awards were given to four teachers from Brooklyn, Long Island, Chicago, and suburban Maryland. Among the recipients was Ms. Noriko Koide, of Valley Stream High School and Lynbrook High School in Long Island, New York.
Ms. Noriko Koide teaches Japanese language to high school students in the two Long Island high schools. Following Japanese tradition, since September 11, 2001, she has had her students make origami cranes for the victims of 9/11 as a symbol and hope for world peace. Ms. Koide has personally delivered these cranes to the World Trade Center site and involved her students in conversations of this recent history. Last year, Ms. Koide took her Valley Stream students to Hiroshima where they spent time at the Peace Memorial Park and went to Hiroshima City Hall.
Ms. Koide was in the U.S. when the attacks on 9/11 took place. She began the project alone at first, because she thought it was natural for a Japanese person to do something to help those who were affected by a disaster. Gradually, her students got involved. Soon after, the connection with Hiroshima city developed. Ms. Koide says that she didn’t expect to receive an award, but she is proud of her students and grateful to Hiroshima City for its assistance.
Opening of the New York Branch of the "Organization to Promote Japanese Restaurants Abroad" (JRO)
The Organization to Promote Japanese Restaurants Abroad (JRO) was established in July 2007 as a non-profit organization. JRO is mandated to support Japanese restaurants overseas, thereby promoting Japanese food and food culture around the globe, which also helps to expand the Japanese food market.
In December of 2008, a kick-off seminar and reception was held to commemorate the opening of its New York Branch, with approximately 100 people in attendance. The head of JRO’s New York Branch, Mr. Nobuyoshi Kuraoka, welcomed special guests Tim and Nina Zagat to the event, and attendees were treated to a lecture on Japanese food concepts by Mr. Kiyosumi Uegaki, Advisor to the President of Kakiyasu, a major restaurant and food service company. In addition, Mr. Juroh Oki, Corporate Executive Chef of Kakiyasu, described a few creative Japanese dishes at the seminar.
JRO, in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan (MAFF), has established 10 overseas branches in an effort to develop a network of people in the food service industry. In the U.S., JRO set up its first branch in Los Angeles and exhibited Japanese food in a Japan Booth at the National Restaurant Association (NRA) Show in Chicago.
JRO stays very active in order to maintain the quality of Japanese foodstuff and to increase confidence in Japanese restaurants. It organizes seminars on various topics including cooking techniques and hygiene control. It also, for example, urges government agencies of other countries where there are quarantine issues, to open their markets to Japanese exportation using data acquired from surveys and research. In order to promote greater understanding of Japanese food culture, JRO recently has held seminars in the JRO branches on the theme of "umami", a basic concept which explains the Japanese palate.
JRO’s purpose is to "…convey to the world the appeal of Japanese food and contribute to the development of overseas markets for Japanese food and food ingredients". Under this banner, JRO assists with every step of the process that takes place prior to the dining table, from production to processing and distribution. JRO not only focuses on Japanese restaurants but also on food manufacturers, distributors, trading companies and retailers.
The World of J-Cinema : Lights, Cameras, and Reality
Courtesy Shochiku Co.,Ltd.
When you hear “Japanese films”, what image comes to mind? Do you think of samurai swordplay like in Akira Kurosawa’s “Kagemusha” (Shadow Warriors) or stories about ninjas? In the following interview, Ms. Kyoko Hirano, who has a long career promoting Japanese films in the U.S., tells us about the charm of Japanese film, and explains what may be obscure to the American audience.
JIC (Japan Information Center): I think nowadays quite a few Americans have heard about the world renowned masters such as Kurosawa, Ozu, Naruse and Mizoguchi, who were major contributors to the “golden era” of Japanese films in the 50s and 60s. First of all, could you describe the characteristics of Japanese films and their differences from, say, Hollywood movies?
Ms. Hirano: Let me use a few typical examples. “Tokyo Monogatari” (Tokyo Story, 1953) directed by Yasujiro Ozu, and “Meshi” (Repast, 1951) by Mikio Naruse are especially well received. Shomin geki, or working class drama, is a major genre of Japanese cinema which includes many classic, outstanding works. Shomin geki is a delicate portrayal of the humble, non-eventful, everyday life of ordinary people, through which human relations and psychology are revealed. There are many quiet sequences, so the film may look static and boring, especially for those who are accustomed to Hollywood movies.
Courtesy Shochiku Co.,Ltd.
Hollywood movies, in contrast, tend to be more dramatic. Something extraordinary occurs: superhero adventures, unbelievable love affairs, destruction of the planet, etc. These are not so common motifs in Japanese cinema, and quite a few Japanese films are inconclusive and equivocal.
A noted critic, Susan Sontag rightly commented that Japanese cinema teaches us how to live with unsolved problems and dilemmas in life. The focus is on human relations, rather than the plot. In routine life, complex, sometimes ambivalent emotions are revealed in a subtle manner.
JIC: Actually, this year’s Oscar winning film, “Okuribito” (Departures, 2008) may be one example. This film is a quiet depiction of a ritual performed by a mortician whose job is to make up and dress the deceased and place them into a coffin. The film is not an action packed story nor does it use fancy camera techniques. With all these differences, do you think Japanese films are obscure and difficult to understand for Americans, as some people say?
Ms. Hirano: That is not necessarily true. Certainly, many Japanese films make you think, but anyone can sympathize with the underlying message. I think that more and more Americans have familiarized themselves with the idea that films end at certain point but the characters’ life goes on, just as ours do, for better or worse; our life is not always straightforward and people are not just good or evil, but there are a lot of “gray zones” in reality.
As I said, it is just that Japanese films do not give the viewers a conclusion outright. In the past, after watching a Japanese film, members of the American audience often asked me, “So, what happens to the characters, afterward?” I used to tell them, “Well, I guess that the film director wants you to think and draw your own conclusion.” Often, they looked unsatisfied with my answer. But that was 20 years ago.
Courtesy Shochiku Co.,Ltd.
JIC: So do you think that nowadays more and more Americans have begun to watch Japanese films, not simply because they are looking for something foreign and exotic? Do you see any changes in Americans’ appreciation of Japanese cinema?
Ms. Hirano: More and more Americans, especially in cosmopolitan cities like New York, cherish cultural diversity and are aware that “movies” are not only “Hollywood”. One piece of evidence is that director Naruse’s classic, black-and-white films attract young Americans today; some of them even set up online chat-rooms and blogs.
JIC: What are other aspects of Japanese films that Americans may find interesting?
Ms. Hirano: Film masters like Kurosawa and Ozu have had an impact on a number of film makers worldwide. So, if you watch American remakes and then their original Japanese films, you may notice the roots of certain characteristics in the Japanese film. Likewise, Japanese films are influenced by American and European films, so you can see how the western style or trend influenced Japanese cinema. For example, “Film Noir” also became popular in Japan in the 40s, following the trend of Western cinema circle. You can see how cross-cultural interaction takes place.
All films reflect the aesthetic sense of the specific culture. Another example of this can be found in visual style or structuring – Japanese generally prefer the asymmetric composition, i.e. locating one character in the far left or far right in the frame, and the rest is largely left blank or occupied by the landscape. This way of spacing is unique to Japanese films.
I would like the audience to enjoy differences in style and approach, and discover the uniqueness of Japanese films. While enjoying such differences, I would like them to feel that we, all human beings, have a lot in common and a lot to share. There is no boundary in cinema.
March 20th will be my last day as ambassador and consul general in New York. I have lived in the U.S. for 24 years in total, including my past three years as ambassador. Taking advantage of the experience and knowledge I gained while living in the U.S and working in the private sector, I did my best to help Japanese people in New York and to contribute to increasing ties between our two countries.
During my term, I put great effort into strengthening the care and security we provide in case of an emergency, recognizing that crisis-management and the protection of Japanese citizens are among our most vital concerns. The Emergency Information Service System (EISS) was introduced in the U.S and Canada, and the overall awareness among the staff at the Consulate toward crisis management and preparedness was greatly increased.
The Consulate also plays an important role promoting cultural exchange and people-to-people exchange. If I were to name one memorable event, it would be Japan Day @ Central Park. With so much support and contributions from so many, this event helped elevate mutual understanding at the grass-roots level between the people of our two countries. I hope that Japan Day will be an annual event in New York.
We also actively supported Japanese companies, by serving as a bridge between the Japanese business community and U.S. governors and state authorities. I was proud to help organize meetings that gave an opportunity for Japanese executives to directly speak with Governor Corzine of New Jersey and Governor Manchin of West Virginia in 2007, and Pennsylvania Governor Rendell in 2008. The Consulate looks forward to continuing these kinds of events in the future.
Aiming to create an “Open Consulate General”, I worked to put our customers first, and I valued connections and communications with everyone. Based on visitors’ opinions, we made several improvements, for example, opening the Consulate office during lunch hour, and making application forms easier to fill out. Consequently, surveys of the service at the Consulate’s counters have shown more and more positive results. Through this process, my staff has become more motivated, and they voluntarily make suggestions to provide better service. As a leader, these changes make me extremely happy.
We at the Consulate will continue to do our utmost to contribute to the promotion of Japan-US exchange and to provide better service to people in the New York region. Your feedback and comment are greatly appreciated.
As for myself, I will return to New York in April to assume the post of president of Japan Society. It is an American non-profit organization, so my role will change a lot. I am determined, however, to continue to promote grass-roots cross-cultural understanding and contribute to strong Japan-US relations.
I ask for your continued support and cooperation with the Consulate.
KRAZY! The Delirious World of Anime + Manga + Video Games
© 2006 TAKASHI OKAZAKI, GONZO / SAMURAI PROJECT
Manga and Anime are cult hits among young Americans. Major bookstores in NYC have Manga sections and Amazon.com has a huge selection of manga. Anime Conventions are becoming bigger and increasing in number. So, for the first time in New York City, The Japan Society is dedicating an exhibition to the anime and manga phenomenon. KRAZY! The Delirious World of Anime + Manga + Video Games through June 14, 2009. Organized by the Vancouver Art Gallery, and featuring life-size blowups of popular figures from the worlds of anime and manga, visitors will directly experience these forms of pop-cultural production and gain insight into their future.
Altogether, 200 works of art, objects, and ephemera will be on display. Seminal works by six influential anime artists, eight manga artists, one sound artist, and two video game designers are featured in KRAZY! The exhibition includes excerpts from the classic anime, Akira (1988) by Katsuhiro Otomo, which is set in the year 2019 in a post-apocalyptic Tokyo.
©SHOGAKUKAN / Matsumoto Taiyou, 2008
The manga section illustrates how Japanese artists have taken the art of silk paintings and woodblock prints and combined them with a genre story to create something totally new. Examples include Stop Hibari-kun by Hisashi Eguchi, the cover page of Shonen Jump which features the heart-shaped face and huge eyes that are characteristic of anime and manga characters.
A sound room will allow visitors to listen to anime soundtracks by Yoko Kanno who has achieved cult status around the world with her work featuring the fusion of jazz, hard rock, blues, hip hop, and ambient techno.
In conjunction with the exhibition KRAZY!, The Japan Society will hold its first-ever Cosplay Party, inviting local fans to create and show off costumes of their favorite characters and to share their enthusiasm for anime, manga and video games. The Cosplay Party will include classic anime film screenings, a costume competition with prizes from Kinokuniya Bookstore and Manga Entertainment, and free admission to KRAZY!
Several anime films featured in KRAZY! will be shown full-length at The Japan Society's auditorium, including Katsuhiro Otomo's classic, Akira (1988), Masaaki Yuasa's, Mind Game (2004), Satoshi Kon's, Paprika (2006), and many more.
©SHUEISHA. All Rights Reserved
Here Comes Cherry Blossom Season!
Courtesy of Essex County of New Jersey
The cherry blossom (sakura) may be Japan's greatest gift to the United States. In 1912, Japan gave the U.S. 3,020 trees to celebrate the friendship between the two countries. Today, sakura trees are planted in many parks across the country, attracting appreciative viewers in abundance during their spring blooming season. One of the most famous Japanese traditions, Hanami, has been adopted in this country as Sakura Matsuri (Cherry Blossom Festival) when many people gather in parks in and around the city to picnic while enjoying the beautiful blossoming sakura trees. In the New York Metropolitan Area, there are several Sakura Matsuri for visitors to experience Japanese culture while having a good time.
One of the largest Sakura Matsuri takes place at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBG) in Prospect Park. Blooming sakura in the Japanese Garden and Cherry Esplanade sections of the BBG may be viewed between April 4 and May 3. The Sakura Matsuri is scheduled for May 2 and 3 from 10AM to 6PM, with over 60 performances, demonstrations, and exhibits.
Another Sakura Matsuri is hosted by the Japanese American Association on Saturday, April 25 from 11AM to 2PM in Flushing Meadow Park featuring traditional drum and Japanese folk dance performances as well as a Karate workshop.
White Plains' 10th Annual Cherry Blossom Festival will be held at Turnure Park in White Plains on Sunday, May 3, from noon to 5PM. There are a number of activities and workshops planned to be enjoyed by the whole family, including origami, a Kimono demonstration, tea ceremony, and musical performances. Also this year, bamboo artists from Kumamoto, Japan will demonstrate their creative craftsmanship.
The Sakura Matsuri in Essex County, NJ will be celebrated from April 5th to 26th at Branch Brook Park with more than 4,000 sakura trees blooming throughout the month. Bloomfest, a family event featuring Japanese cultural activities, including demonstrations of origami, bonsai, ikebana and dance, will take place on Sunday, April 19, from 11AM to 5PM.
In Philadelphia, the Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival will span the months of March and April. In its 12th year, this festival offers visitors many chances to explore and experience the culture of Japan from traditional customs to cuisine. A highlight of this year's event will be a performance by Kodo Drummers on March 17 at the Kimmel Center. The festival's centerpiece event, Sakura Sunday on April 5, is an outdoor party of art, food, and entertainment.
© Barbara Alper. Courtesy of Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Japanese American Association of New York, Inc.
© Helena Fierlinger Courtesy of Brooklyn Botanic Garden
- Brooklyn Botanic Garden
- HANAMI: Celebrating the Cherry Blossom-Viewing Season at Brooklyn Botanic Garden
- April 4 - May 10
- SAKURA MATSURI: BBG's 27th annual Cherry Blossom Festival
- Saturday, May 2 - Sunday, May 3, 2008, 10AM - 6PM
- Free with Garden Admissions
- 5th Sakura Matsuri
- Saturday, April 25, 11AM to 2PM
- at Flushing Meadows Corona Park
- For more information, please call Japanese American Association at 212-840-6942
- 10th Annual Cherry Blossom Festival
- Sunday, May 3, 2009, noon to 5PM
- Turnure Park
- 20 Lake Street, White Plains, NY 10603
- For more information, please contact 914-774-3187
- Essex County Cherry Blossom Festival
- Sunday, 4/19, from 11AM to 5PM
- The Cherry Blossom Welcome Center in Essex County Branch Brook Park, Newark
- List of more event, please visit www.essexcountynj.org/ or call at Essexy County Park Department 973-268-3500
- Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival of Greater Philadelphia
- March & April 2009
- Sakura Sunday
- Sunday, April 5, 11AM to 4PM
- Faimount Park's Horticulture Center
- For more information, please visit http://jasgp.org/cherryblossomfestival/