Vol.23 June 2009
- 45,000 New Yorkers Flock to JAPAN DAY @ CENTRAL PARK 2009
- Mr. Yoshisada Yonezuka, President of Judo Karate Center Inc. in NJ is Honored
- Ambassador Nishimiya Visits West Virginia
- It’s Easy to Visit Japan : Visa and Quarantine Checks
- Going Global? JETRO Can Help
- The World Heritage Sites in Japan: Spiritual Heart of Kumano and Ancient Pilgrimage Routes
- Culture Connection -TAIKO: The Ancestral Japanese Drum
- From the Ambassador's Desk
- JAPAN CUTS
- The World of Integration
- Event Calendar
“Today the East Meadow comes alive with the sights, sounds, and tastes of Japan,” Japan Day Honorary Chairman, Ambassador Shinichi Nishimiya, Consul General of Japan in New York, announced from the stage of Japan Day @ Central Park 2009 on Sunday May 31st. The event, created by the Japanese community in New York to promote cultural exchange and to say “thank you” to the city, drew an estimated 45,000 participants, and also marked the launch of the Japan Day Cherry Tree Planting Initiative to raise funds to plant new cherry trees around the Central Park Reservoir.
“Japan Day is a unique chance for members of New York’s thriving Japanese community to share their culture and traditions with their neighbors,” Ambassador Nishimiya said of the day-long festival of Japanese-themed activities, foods and stage talent.
Japan Day @ Central Park 2009 kicked off at 8 a.m. with the Japan Run, a four-mile race organized by New York Road Runners, which was led by Japan’s Olympian runner Yoko Shibui. Roughly 5,000 New Yorkers finished the race, which was followed by the Kids Run, an awards ceremony, and a raffle, in which items such as a dinner set and a roundtrip airplane ticket between NY and Japan, among others, were offered.
At 10 a.m. the public was invited to visit tents with activities ranging from a tea ceremony to children’s games to origami, calligraphy and weaving. Free samplings of Japanese cuisine were offered to long lines of patient New Yorkers. Cosplayers dressed as their favorite anime and manga characters mingled with more conventionally dressed visitors, and Hello Kitty was one of the most popular attractions, with legions of fans waiting to take pictures with her.
Enthusiastic audience greeted the day-long stage show, which included the dynamic dance group, COBU, a stunning Karate demonstration and top entertainers from Japan including violinist Taro Masuda and top pop stars (and Japan Day 2009 Special Supporters) Ai Kawashima and Orange Pekoe. The day was blessed with perfect weather, except for a brief thundershower late in the afternoon which threatened to disrupt the concert. However, as Orange Pekoe began singing their new single (and one of the official Japan Day songs) “marigold,” the sun burst through the clouds, and the audience and all the stage performers joined in a rousing finale song, “Top of the World” to end Japan Day with a sunny, genki spirit.
Audience members were also treated to an authentic Mikoshi Parade through the East Meadow and were invited to participate in a traditional Bon Odori dance led by members of NY HANAGASAKAI.
Noting that it had taken the efforts of many organizations and individuals to bring Japan Day @ Central Park 2009 to fruition, Ambassador Nishimiya thanked “Japan Day Inc.’s President, Yoshiaki Kawamata (CEO for the Americas of the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd.) and its board of directors; all the generous corporate sponsors; the Mayor’s Office and the Parks Department of the City of New York; the New York Road Runners; the many dedicated volunteers and gifted performers – and, most of all, New Yorkers like you!”
Mr. Yoshisada Yonezuka, President of the Judo Karate Center Inc. in New Jersey, and former head coach of the US Olympic judo team, was honored with The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette for his outstanding contributions to the promotion of Judo. Following the conferment ceremony for Mr. Yonezuka, which was held on May 13 at the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Nishimiya hosted a reception at his residence on May 27, in honor of Mr. Yonezuka.
In his congratulatory remarks, Ambassador Nishimiya said, “Mr. Yonezuka made the greatest impact, teaching his students not only judo’s physical skills but, most importantly, its spirit. His greatest specialty – his tokui waza as you might say – has been his unique ability to build bridges of friendship and understanding between Japanese and Americans through judo”. Mr. Yonezuka’s daughter, as she proposed a toast, said that she is proud of her father, and that she is amazed at the accomplishments made by Mr. Yonezuka, who had only 10 dollars in his pocket when he first arrived in the United States in 1960 as a young judo practitioner. Ms. Rena ‘Rusty’ Kanokogi, another judo legend and recipient of the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette in 2008, also attended the reception.
Mr. Yoshisada Yonezuka first made his mark as a talented Judo player during his high school and university days in Tokyo. In 1960, he was invited by a Judo association in New York to serve as an instructor for Americans. Since then, he has run his own Judo center, promoting the spirit and skills of Judo, both domestically and internationally.
Mr. Yonezuka was chosen twice to serve as head coach of the US Olympic Judo team, and he coached three US World Judo Championship teams as well. Due to his skills and leadership, his teams have garnered many medals. Most significantly, he coached Team USA to four medals at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea.
Throughout his long career, Mr. Yonezuka has worked hard to expand the Judo population in the U.S. He believes that Judo is more than a sport; it is an art that emphasizes the importance of respect and good manners. With this in mind, he has always focused on teaching the Judo spirit rather than just technical skills. Thanks to his mentorship and high values, Mr. Yonezuka’s Judo center has produced many excellent athletes. In addition to serving as president of local Judo associations, he was US Judo Federation president from 1998-2002, promoting Judo standards nation-wide.
Mr. Yonezuka was inducted into the US Judo Federation Hall of Fame in 1994. He has received many other accolades in the Judo world, including the Henry Stone Award from USA Judo.
On June 3rd and 4th, Ambassador Shinichi Nishimiya visited West Virginia for the first time since being appointed ambassador in March of this year. The purpose of this trip was to meet with Governor Joe Manchin III and other political, business and educational leaders, as well as to visit Japanese companies located there. It also marked Ambassador Nishimiya’s first trip to a state capital within the Consulate’s jurisdiction.
Ambassador Nishimiya made a courtesy call to Governor Manchin, and attended a dinner at the beautifully renovated Governor’s Mansion, hosted by the Governor and First Lady Gayle C. Manchin. They exchanged views on various issues including Japan-West Virginia relations, Japanese investment in West Virginia, and policies on energy, environment, education and fiscal health. They agreed to have further meetings in the near future, both in New York and in West Virginia, possibly involving Japanese company executives. Governor Manchin even considered the possibility of visiting Japan again; his first visit was in 2005. Ambassador Nishimiya also made courtesy calls on the offices of the two U.S. Senators from West Virginia, Senator Robert C. Byrd and Senator Jay Rockefeller, to discuss similar issues with their staff members.
Ambassador Nishimiya also paid a visit to two Japanese companies, Toyota Motor Manufacturing West Virginia and Kureha PGA, which are respectively the largest and the newest investments by Japanese-affiliated companies in West Virginia. At Toyota, he learned that many kaizen (continuous improvement) proposals from West Virginia have been applied at other factories elsewhere in the world, and Toyota’s world-renowned training system allows new entrants without any prior experience to become highly-skilled workers. At Kureha, he was struck by the company’s innovative collaboration with an American chemical giant, DuPont, to produce on an industrial scale a special resin called PGA for the first time in the world. In general, the Japanese businesses have had a relatively long-term focus and have had a positive impact on the local economy.
Ambassador Nishimiya also attended a meeting with people from the West Virginia Department of Education, Marshall University and Cabell County School District, who have been associated with the education of Japanese children or Japanese language education in West Virginia. Marshall University, located in Cabell County, has attracted as many as 60 to 100 students from Japan every year, and Japanese students there have been allowed to work as part-time Japanese language teachers in the county’s high schools, or in West Virginia International School, a Japanese weekend school. West Virginia’s education policy has stressed the importance of global education to give future generations more chances to succeed in a globalizing world. The attendees at the meeting asked many questions, such as how children in West Virginia can make more e-pals in Japan, and how a visit to Japan might be made easier for children.
In return for all the hospitality shown by the people of West Virginia, Ambassador Nishimiya hosted a lunch on June 4th at the gorgeous rotunda of the state capitol. Approximately 60 people attended the lunch, and the attendees included Japanese and American company executives, university professors and officials, and Japanese international school teachers and language instructors, as well as officials from state and county governments, U.S. senators’ offices, and a non-profit organization. Many attendees discussed what would be necessary to further strengthen Japan-West Virginia relations and how they can contribute to this effort.
Ambassador Nishimiya found that many West Virginians think they share a similar culture with Japan and there are growing interest in the Japanese culture and language, especially at high school and university levels in West Virginia. During his tenure in New York, Ambassador Nishimiya hopes to make the economic and cultural ties between West Virginia and Japan even stronger.
It’s Easy to Visit Japan : Visa and Quarantine Checks
Here comes vacation season! Why not consider Japan as your vacation destination: Great food, exotic festivals, cool technology, unique pop culture... All this and more is just waiting for you!
With a US passport, you are ready to go! With a US green card, please check to see if your passport needs a visa.
One of the most frequently asked questions is: ‘Do I need a visa to go to Japan?’
If you have a US passport, the answer is ‘You are ready to go.’ Just grab your passport. Buy a ticket and get on the flight! Based on the visa waiver agreement between the US and Japan, you are qualified to visit and stay in Japan as a tourist for up to 90 days. However, that does not allow you to work in Japan. (More precisely, any activity for remuneration is prohibited without a work visa.) But vacationers and tourists are more than welcome!
Another frequently asked and misunderstood question is if a US green card holder needs a visa or not. As the visa waiver agreement is based on the passport you have, having a US green card does not exempt your visa requirement to go to Japan. However, there are over 60 countries that have a visa waiver agreement with Japan, and your home country may be one of them. Please check the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website to find out if your country has a visa waiver agreement with Japan.
The procedure and necessary documents needed to apply for a temporary visitor visa are explained at the Consulate General of Japan’s website. In most cases, it takes only 4 to 7 working days to process a visa. Once a single-entry temporary visitor visa is issued, you will have to use it within 3 months or the visa will expire. The duration of the visa will be decided based on your travel itinerary submitted along with your visa application.
Current Situation of Influenza in Japan
For current information on the H1N1 virus status in Japan, please refer to the IDSC (Infectious Disease Surveillance Center, National Institute of Infectious Diseases, Tokyo, Japan) website both in English and Japanese.
As WHO (The World Health Organization) announced on June 11, the current influenza strain is considered to be moderate, and most people recover from infection without the need for hospitalization or medical care.
The procedure at all Japanese ports of entry has been revised as of May 22, and on-board quarantine checks have ceased. Passengers still need to fill in a health questionnaire. If you happen to have been seated near a passenger who is later confirmed to be infected with the virus, the local health care center will contact you to monitor your health. But it is no longer necessary for you to stay in the hospital or hotel near the airport.
Enjoy your trip to Japan!
Going Global? JETRO Can Help
By the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO)
Japan is viewed by many as the gateway to Asia for many businesses and one of the world’s largest economic markets, offering foreign companies an opportunity for major growth in revenue and profit.
The Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) is a government-related organization that works to promote mutual trade and investment between Japan and the rest of the world. We have 73 offices in 54 countries worldwide, helping foreign companies to set up an office in Japan quickly and cost effectively by providing expertise, resources, and industry connections.
Our strength comes from the reality that because we are an independent agency of the Japanese government, we are able to provide many of our services for free to our qualified clients. Every year, over 1,000 firms take advantage of JETRO’s support and services, with more than 100 companies successfully setting up an office in Japan. During FY 2008 ending March 2009, 123 foreign firms utilized JETRO’s services to expand their business in Japan.
JETRO’s New York Business Development team offers a wide variety of business support services to facilitate market-entry and office set-up. Our two main objectives are:
To help U.S. companies establish a presence in Japan.
JETRO provides free market entry information and support foreign companies to successfully enter and expand in the Japanese market. Since JETRO is an independent agency of the Japanese government, we are able to provide many of our services for free for qualified companies, including market information, temporary office space, and business partner matching, each designed to encourage thriving relationships between American companies and Japan.
Learn more about Invest Japan Business Support Services.
To help U.S. companies find Japanese business partners.
When expanding a business to Japan, companies often begin with a Japanese partner who knows the market, has a developed network and understands the business environment. JETRO provides U.S. companies with opportunities to meet potential Japanese partners through business matching programs at major trade shows.
Learn more about JETRO Business Matching Programs.
The World Heritage Sites in Japan: Spiritual Heart of Kumano and Ancient Pilgrimage Routes
The Kumano Hongu-Taisha Shrine is a World Heritage registered Grand Shrine located deep in the rugged mountains of southeastern Wakayama. It is the head shrine of over 3,000 Kumano Shrines across the country and part of the Kumano Sanzan, the Three Grand Shrines of Kumano. The other two are Kumano Nachi-Taisha Shrine and Kumano-Hayatama-Taisha Shrine. Originally, each of these three Grand Shrines had their own distinctive form of nature worship; later in the 10th century, they started to be worshipped as a set under the influence of Buddhism.
Kumano Hongu-Taisha Shrine was originally located at Oyunohara, a delta at the confluence of the Kumano-gawa and Otonashi-gawa Rivers. All of the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage routes lead to this mystical sandbank encompassed by mountains; it is the spiritual heart of Japan. In 1889 there was a tremendous flood that destroyed a large portion of the shrine complex. The salvaged materials were used to rebuild the pavilions at their present location, on a ridge 500 meters northwest of the former shrine grounds.
In the 11th century these Grand Shrines became a pilgrimage destination for the imperial family and aristocrats. By the late 15th century, the majority of pilgrims to Kumano were commoners. There were so many people visiting this area that it was referred to as “ants’ processions to Kumano”. From prehistoric times until the present, the Kumano area was, and still is, considered a place of healing; a sacred, mystical abode of the gods. Walking these ancient routes is a must for anyone wanting to experience the spiritual countryside of Japan.
There are three hot spring areas in the Hongu area each with their own unique history and atmosphere: Yunomine, Kawayu and Wataze. Yunomine-onsen Hot Spring is said to be discovered over 1800 years ago and is famous for its healing powers. The small Tsuboyu bath is the only World Heritage registered Hot Spring in the world that you can bath in. Hot waters from deep below the Kii Mountain Range bubble to the surface on the river bank in Kawayu- onsen Hot Spring. In the summer you can dig your own hot spring bath and during the winter the river is transformed into the giant outdoor bath called Sennin-buro. Wataze-onsen Hot Spring is home to one of the largest outdoor baths in Japan.
©Tanabe City Kumano Tourism Bureau／JNTO
Copyright © 2009 Japan National Tourism Organization
TAIKO: The Ancestral Japanese Drum
By Marco Lienhard
Y ou may already have seen Taiko, traditional Japanese drumming, at concerts or local festivals. In the following article, Mr. Marco Lienhard, an internationally acclaimed Taiko player, tells us more about the history and variety of Taiko as well as the charm of its powerful, passionate sound.
Taiko, which literally means fat drum, is a barrel shaped drum that is carved out of one Keyaki tree trunk. The Taiko originally came to Japan from China by way of the Korean Peninsula. Even to this day you can find similarly shaped drums throughout Asia. The shape of the Taiko is very similar in China, Korea and Japan, but that is where the similarities stop, as the rhythms played on the taiko are different in each country.
Taiko in Festivals in Japan
In Japan, the Taiko was mostly used in religious festivals or ceremonies. The Buddhist ceremonies use the taiko in simpler fashion and generally it is just used to play a simple beat to accompany the chanting. Its biggest presence is in the Shinto festivals, where it is used in more elaborate ways And, at times, it becomes the point of focus of the festival.
It is hard to generalize the art form of Matsuri taiko in Japan, as each festival and each town use different shapes and sizes of drums and different ways to play it. So there are almost as many ways to play the taiko, as there are festivals. The taiko rhythms that have developed in each town are related to the sounds and movements of the inhabitant’s daily life in the same way folk dancing is closely linked to the daily farmer or worker’s movements.
There are a few important festivals in Japan that have defined what is known today as Taiko. Such a festival taiko song is Miyake daiko from the island of Miyake, 200 miles South of Tokyo. The base of the rhythm is a swing beat. The soloist plays rhythms in a very strenuous position as he is crouching forward almost grazing the floor as he plays in movements that brings to mind, the action of wood cutting, the movement of the crashing waves and the action of pulling fishing nets out of the ocean. There is a basic pattern or theme that is played first in unison with other players, which is then followed by solos. At the end, the basic pattern is played again to bring everyone to end. This song is a very demanding one and was made famous around the world by Taiko groups such as Ondekoza and Kodo.
Ondekoza to Taikoza
After living in Japan and touring the world with Ondekoza for 18 years, I moved to New York and started my own group: Taikoza. Originally, I came from Switzerland and went to Japan as an exchange student for one year. I was fortunate enough to meet the director of Ondekoza, Mr. Tagayasu Den. My encounter with Taiko, in 1981, literally changed my life. I was so taken by the art form, as well as that of the shakuhachi (end blown bamboo flute), that I have dedicated myself to Japanese music. The power that Taiko has over people is hard to describe unless you have experienced Taiko live yourself.
Taiko originally was used in a religious setting, and used as a musical instrument it still has a strong power over people. It is this aspect that makes it such a wonderful instrument. Physically, it is a great way to express yourself through music and movement, probably one reason it is so popular with women. Taiko appears to be a simple instrument, but like most instruments the more you know about it the more complex it becomes on many levels.
Having had the chance to be involved with Taiko and Shakuhachi for so long and having learned from so many great teachers, I feel it is my duty to pass this knowledge on to as many people as possible around the world. Music is a great way to communicate and bring people of different cultures together and Taiko makes it even more of a fun experience. Since 1994, I have been touring around the world with Taikoza and bringing the art form to schools. It is such a treat to see the faces of children discovering Taiko for the first time. That it brings such joy to everyone makes it that much more fun to perform.
Let me first express my gratitude to everyone who contributed to Japan Day @ Central Park 2009 on May 31. It was a great success; a record-high 45,000 New Yorkers turned out at the park. I took part in the festivities for the first time this year, and was so impressed to see that the event resonated with such a large number of people. I hope Japan Day will continue annually, offering a way for my fellow Japanese in New York to say “Thank you!” to the Big Apple; all while promoting understanding between the people of our two countries. In addition, Mr. John C. Liu, the first and only Asian-American to sit on the New York City Council, kindly visited and gave remarks on stage. He was accompanied by Mr. Gary S. Moriwaki, president of Japanese American Association of New York. It was really something to see that Japan Day is also an opportunity to strengthen common ties with Asian communities in New York.
I once again express my sincere appreciation to all those who participated, worked as volunteers, and made donations. I also thank the Mayor’s Office, the Parks Department of the City of New York, and everyone whose hard work made the event a success.
As you see by the headlines in this month’s Japan Info, from June 2nd to 4th, I visited West Virginia to meet with Governor Joe Manchin III and state political and business leaders. You might think that the Mountain State and Japan have little in common, but in fact I found we share a lot: West Virginians have a strong concern for energy and the environment. There are a number of Japanese enterprises already operating there and the Consulate intends to continue to help foster business relations between Japanese and local corporations, ultimately helping to enhance ties between Japan and West Virginia. I was also impressed by West Virginia’s interest and efforts in the future of Japanese education.
© 2008 Bandai Visual, TV Asahi, Tokyo Theatres, WOWOW / Office Kitano
July will be an exciting month for Japanese film devotees as well as those who are interested in exploring the genre. From June 30 to July 12 the Japan Society will present JAPAN CUTS: Festival of New Japanese Film, that will offer 18 films many of which have never been seen in the U.S. Now in its third year, JAPAN CUTS is the only large-scale annual film festival in North America celebrating the latest films from Japan, ranging from blockbusters and art-house hits to cutting-edge independents and innovative animation. The festival also presents a number of exclusive Q&A's with filmmakers and actors.
One of the highlights this year is the final installment of Takeshi Kitano's deeply personal trilogy about an artist's dilemma, Achilles and the Tortoise. Written, directed by and starring one of Japan's most famous entertainers, Takeshi Kitano (whose other films include Hana-bi, 1997 and Zatoichi, 2003), the film completes the trilogy that began in 2005 with Takeshis' and continued with Glory to the Filmmaker.
© 2008 "Crime or Punishment?!?" Production Committee
Two other films of note include Crime or Punishment?!? (directed by Keralino Sandorovich) and Love Exposure (directed by Sion Sono). The former is the story of an aspiring model who participates in a common “police chief for a day” PR opportunity, only to end up trying to resolve a real robbery situation at a local convenience store. The much-anticipated 4-hour Love Exposure involves the son of a Catholic priest, who feels compelled to commit sins for his father who demands daily confessions. To satisfy his father, he joins a local gang and becomes a master of pervert photography. Things get even more complicated when he discovers that the woman with whom he has fallen in love is also to become his new step sister.
This year JAPAN CUTS also spotlights UrumaDelvi, the artistic collaboration of two animators behind the hugely popular animated music video The Bottom Biting Bug.
Special post-screening events are scheduled for two of the films; an Exposure Party following Love Exposure on July 3, and a Cyborg Party for which moviegoers are encouraged to come as their favorite human-robot hybrid, follows the screening of Cyborg She on July 11.
The Japanese film industry is one of the most dynamic and thriving outside of Hollywood. Funded by grants from The Japan Foundation and the New York State Council on the Arts, JAPAN CUTS offers U.S. audiences the opportunity to get a taste for the art of Japanese film making by showcasing some of the most talked about Japanese films from 2008 and 2009.
© 2008 "Love Exposure" Film Partners
©2008 "Cyborg She" Film Partners
The World of Integration
The World of Integration, the latest exhibition of forty-six works by the novel, spiritual artist Fusako Kuyama will be presented at The Nippon Club from July 8 to July 21, 2009.
Her unique art work is composed of arrangements of square panels onto which Japanese washi paper has been mounted. The arrangement of the panels is reminiscent of the Japanese fusuma panels (sliding door) or byobu (screen). The washi-covered panels are painted with watercolor and sometimes have gold or silver leaf applied to integrate the textures and colors of the materials. Many of her works have varying images depending upon how the panels are rotated or arranged. Viewers actually become part of the art themselves as they wander into imaginary worlds of their own prompted by the different arrangements, leading to an integration of viewer and artist.
Kuyama views art as a holistic experience. Because she believes that the creative process of art is healing and life-enhancing, she uses her work as a means to communicate and share her life experience with viewers. The World of Integration exemplifies her belief in bringing people together through art.
The artist is known for her use of the motifs of water and air in her works. Her inspiration springs from nature and the environment found in places where she has traveled and lived in Europe, Africa, North and South America. Having grown up in the Japanese culture, she has studied Western art, Japanese art, Zen garden design, and spirituality. She integrates these with her world experience, perspectives, and inner spirit expressing them on the washi panels to offer a world sense of healing and serenity.
The works of Fusako Kuyama have been enjoyed by people around the world at exhibitions in places including Tokyo, Paris, Barcelona, and Uruguay. Supported by the Consulate General of Japan in New York and The Japan Foundation, her exhibition at The Nippon Gallery will be her first in New York City.