Vol.24 July 2009
- G8 Summit 2009 in L’Aquila
- Professor Setsuko M. Nishi of CUNY Honored by the Government of Japan
- Japan Coast Guard Training Vessel “Kojima” Visits New York City
- Japan Info X-tra - The Young People’s Chorus of New York City Departs for Japan Tour
- Culture Connection -The Story of Kanrin Maru and the First Japanese Diplomatic Mission to the US
- From the Ambassador's Desk
- Buriki: Japanese Tin-Toys from the Golden Age of the American Automobile
- X 10th Anniversary Exhibition
- Event Calendar
Photo Courtesy of Alessandro Di Meo, G8 Website /ANSA
On July 8, Prime Minister Aso visited L'Aquila, Italy, to attend the G8 Summit. Immediately upon arrival, the Prime Minister attended a G8 working lunch. In the discussion on economic issues during the working lunch, Prime Minister Aso introduced the initiatives of Japan, which have been taken through a series of economic countermeasures, and expressed the intention to advance efforts to restore fiscal health going forward. In the discussion on global warming, the Prime Minister stated, "We need to establish a framework in which major emitters will fulfill their responsibilities." He emphasized the importance of participation by China and other countries in the framework.
During the working dinner in the evening, world leaders mainly discussed political issues. Prime Minister Aso stated that a firm response must be taken to nuclear tests and missile launches by North Korea. A declaration by the Heads of State and Government of the G8 countries also condemned North Korea "in the strongest terms," and urged the country "to take prompt actions to address the concerns of the international community" on the abduction issue. During the working dinner, Prime Minister Aso also held talks with Mr. Barack Obama, President of the United States, and discussed matters such as the North Korean issue and climate change.
Photo Courtesy of Cabinet Public Relations Office
On July 9, 14 countries and an organization - a group which consisted of the G8 countries, the European Union (EU), Egypt, and the five emerging nations of China, India, Brazil, Mexico, and South Africa - participated in a working session to discuss the world economy and free trade systems. The leaders of this group adopted a joint declaration for the first time in which they agreed to advance the Doha Round (multilateral trade negotiations) of the World Trade Organization (WTO). A Major Economies Forum (MEF) was held in the afternoon where measures against global warming were discussed.
On the same day, Prime Minister Taro Aso held talks with Mr. Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev, President of the Russian Federation. At the talks, the two leaders discussed how to best construct relations as strategically important partners in the Asia-Pacific region. Additionally, the two leaders discussed issues such as the territorial issue and security in the Asia-Pacific region.
Prime Minister Aso also held talks with Mr. Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, President of the Federative Republic of Brazil, in which the two discussed, among other matters, the conclusion of a bilateral social security treaty for Brazilians of Japanese descent and Japanese companies operating in Brazil. In relation to a high-speed railway plan in Brazil, Prime Minister Aso explained to President Lula about the excellence of Japanese shinkansen (bullet train) and about technical support to operate the trains.
Photo Courtesy of Cabinet Public Relations Office
On July 10, Prime Minister Aso took part in a working breakfast with the leaders of the G8, leaders of African nations, and representatives of international organizations, exchanging views with them on assistance to Africa. The leaders announced a statement expressing, among other measures, the commitments of the G8 to provide technical assistance to Africa to address water resource and sanitation issues.
Prime Minister Aso then attended a working session on food security with all the leaders of the nations participating in the G8 Summit and representatives of international organizations, including leaders from countries representing emerging and African nations. In the discussion, the leaders adopted the "L'Aquila" Joint Statement on Global Food Security, which, as one of its pillars, featured commitments by the G8 and others represented at L'Aquila toward a goal of mobilizing 20 billion dollars over the next three years until 2012 for agricultural development.
In between meetings, Prime Minister Aso held talks with Dr. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India. The two leaders discussed the issues of global warming, an economic partnership agreement (EPA), and security.
This article is extracted from Cabinet Relations Office website.
Professor Setsuko Matsunaga Nishi of the City University of New York was honored with The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon by the Government of Japan for her outstanding and lifelong contributions to the promotion of civil rights, sociological study, and well-being of Japanese Americans on April 29th, 2009. She is Professor Emerita of Sociology at Brooklyn College and the Graduate School of the City University of New York as well as the founding president of the Asian American Federation, Inc. She is also a former chair of the New York Advisory Committee of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
The conferment ceremony for Dr. Nishi was held in New York on June 5th, at the residence of Ambassador Shinichi Nishimiya, Consul-General of Japan. Approximately 100 guests including her children, grandchildren, a cousin from Japan who traveled to NY just for this occasion, her colleagues from academia, governmental and civil organizations, both senior leaders and prominent younger members of the Japanese American community in New York area, gathered to celebrate Dr. Nishi. During the ceremony, Ambassador Nishimiya praised her inspiring achievements: the mark she made in the field of sociology as a pioneering investigator into Japanese American life, the role as a leader in the Japanese American community, and as a tireless advocate for civil rights. The guests of honor, Professor Barbara Katz Rothman of CUNY and Mr. Gary Moriwaki, president of the Japanese American Association and board member of the Asian American Federation, gave warm congratulatory remarks for Dr. Nishi. A personal congratulatory message to her from United States Senator Daniel Inouye was also read at the ceremony.
Dr. Setsuko Matsunaga Nishi was a "true pioneer of Japanese American Studies" in the turbulent times during and after WWII and was a "beacon of the community," serving as both a leading scholar and a tireless social activist throughout her career right up to the present.
While a university student during World War II, she gave more than three hundred and fifty speeches in the Midwest to help prepare public receptivity to the resettlement into their communities of Japanese Americans from the incarceration camps. In Chicago, Dr. Nishi, with her father, Tahei Matsunaga, were instrumental in establishing the Chicago Resettlers Committee, now known as the Japanese American Service Committee, which helped people from the camps to start over. Later on, along with her academic career as sociologist, she served on numerous boards such as United Way of New York City and, with her expertise and commitment to civil rights and equity, she was a consultant to many organizations and public agencies. She has also been a long-time member of the Japanese Americans Citizenship League, the oldest and largest Asian American civil rights organization in the United States. In 1989, Dr. Nishi co-founded the Asian American Federation to enable various Asian ethnic groups in New York to work together in advocating and pooling resources for this rapidly growing population. Since the late 1980s she also contributed towards developing the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles as a member of the National Scholarly Advisory Council and of the New York Advisory Council.
Her early sociological research about the interment camps is especially important and highly appreciated by scholars since very little has been done on this period of Japanese American history. From 1965 until her retirement in 1999, she was a professor of sociology at Brooklyn College and The Graduate School, CUNY. She taught some of the first courses on Asian American Studies and served as a mentor to a generation of scholars. In 1982, Dr. Nishi initiated the development of the Exchange of Scholars Program between Tokyo Metropolitan University and The Graduate School and University Center of CUNY. She hosted many scholars from Japan and was the first research scholar from the Graduate School of CUNY to Tokyo Metropolitan University, where she gave lectures at graduate seminars and conducted research on Japanese Americans who went to Japan at the end of WWII. She is currently a professor emerita and principal investigator of a national study, “Recovery and Hidden Injuries: Wartime Incarceration and the Life Course of Japanese Americans,” which compares the long-term effects on those who left the camps to go to the Army, college, or work, and those who remained segregated at Tule Lake during wartime.
At the ceremony, Dr. Nishi humbly accepted the award and said in her speech that this honor was “a deeply thought-provoking recognition, given the dramatic historic changes in (her) lifetime in the meaning and the consequences of being of Japanese ancestry in American society.” She stated that the trend of American attitudes toward Japan, the Japanese and Japanese Americans, who were inevitably grouped together, was moving steadily toward the positive today.
The Japan Coast Guard training vessel “Kojima” visited the Port of New York from June 16-23, 2009, as part of a three month deep-sea training exercise. The Kojima carries a total of 77 passengers, with 45 crew members and 32 postgraduate cadets from the Japan Coast Guard Academy. The Kojima departed from Japan in mid-May and will have visited Honolulu, New York, Piraeus (Greece), and Singapore at the end of this training cruise.
The purpose of this exercise is not only to provide the necessary knowledge and technical training for the Japan Coast Guard personnel, but also, by visiting foreign ports, to provide the Japan Coast Guard with an opportunity to gain greater insight into international affairs and to promote international friendship.
Among the highlights of the Kojima’s visit to the New York area were: a visit to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, CT; a visit to the U.S. Coast Guard Sector New York facility on Staten Island; a tour of the United Nations; and a reception on board the Kojima for distinguished local guests.
During the visit to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, the cadets of the Japan Coast Guard Academy participated in a cross-cultural educational program that included small boat search-and-rescue instruction and a tour of the U.S. Coast Guard Museum, as well as a friendly softball game with the U.S. Coast Guard Academy cadets. In addition, as part of a related exchange program, two U.S. Coast Guard Academy cadets trained on the Kojima during its voyage from Honolulu to New York (a three-week journey).
The Kojima’s cadets also visited the U.S. Coast Guard’s ‘Sector New York’ facility; Sector New York is a regional division mainly responsible for U.S. Coast Guard missions in the Port of New York and New Jersey. During the visit, the cadets learned about the operations of the Vessel Traffic Service Center, including the Center’s successful coordination of vessels involved in the emergency landing of the U.S. Airways flight on the Hudson River on January 15, 2009.
Another major highlight was the cadets’ tour of the United Nations. The cadets learned about the U.N.’s main objectives as well as its key programs in areas such as international law, international security, and human rights.
Finally, officials from the U.S. Coast Guard, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and other relevant public organizations, as well as distinguished members of the Japanese and U.S. maritime business communities, attended a reception on board the Kojima on June 19th. Over 100 participants enjoyed the company of the guests and the various educational and cultural activities, including demonstrations by the cadets of Kendo (Japanese fencing) and making Mochi (a traditional rice cake made by pounding steamed rice in a mortar). Many of the guests at the reception expressed their gratitude for the Kojima’s outreach efforts.
The Kojima’s crew and cadets were grateful for their warm reception in New York. Their visit was a valuable opportunity to deepen mutual understanding and promote cultural exchange between Japan and the U.S.
The Young People’s Chorus of New York City Departs for Japan Tour
This summer, the Young People’s Chorus of New York City (YPC) will perform during a four-week tour across Japan. Just before their departure, Ambassador Nishimiya hosted a send-off reception and orientation on July 9th at his residence.
YPC, an internationally acclaimed group, was founded by Artistic Director Francisco J. Nunez in 1988 as an after school program to provide a safe haven where young people from many different backgrounds could come together and create beautiful music. The program also sought to foster both personal and artistic growth and cross-cultural understanding among the children. The original chorus had just 9 members but today, the chorus numbers more than 1,100 young people ages 7 to 18.
This will be YPC’s second visit to Japan; their last one was in 2005. Beginning July 14th, 35 selected choristers will join the tour and travel to 18 cities across Japan, including Sendai, Tokyo, Nagoya, Kobe, Hiroshima and Fukuoka. During the tour, YPC will perform various songs including Japanese children’s songs such as Warabeuta and Furusato. For the first time in Japan, they will also perform the song “Hope”, written by poet, Shuntaro Tanikawa, and composed by jazz pianist, Toshiko Akiyoshi. The members will also participate in cultural exchange activities and workshops in order to interact with local Japanese children.
During the reception, Japanese consulate staff members Ms. Midori Goto and Mr. Jesse Taylor gave a presentation on Japan’s geography and culture using visual aids and a short video. Ms. Janelle Jimenez, a JET program participant who recently returned from Japan, spoke to the group about everyday Japanese customs and etiquette that the students may encounter during their stay in Japan. The YPC then put on a very brief but beautifully performed mini concert, which included “Furusato”, a song about one’s longing for their hometown, sung using excellent Japanese pronunciation.
The Story of Kanrin Maru and the First Japanese Diplomatic Mission to the US
The forthcoming year, 2010, will mark the 150th anniversary of the first Japanese diplomatic mission to the United States, which was accompanied by the Kanrin Maru, the first Japanese-navigated steamship. The mission was a historic expedition, both because the Japanese emissaries were making their first journey to America, and because of the unprecedented excitement with which they were greeted when they arrived in the United States. Here is the story of the first Japanese mission to the U.S. 150 years ago:
A Historic Visit: Crossing the Pacific
In 1860, the Shogunate sent its first delegation to the U.S. Its official objective was the exchange of instruments of ratification for the Japan-U.S. Treaty of Amity and Commerce. In January, more than 80 Japanese individuals boarded the U.S. frigate “Powhatan” and sailed 37 days across the Pacific. The members travelled from Hawaii to San Francisco, crossed Panama by railroad, and went on to Cuba. From there they headed to Washington, again by ship, and later went to New York, their final destination.
Loaned by the Kimura Family to the Yokohama Archives of History
The mission was escorted by the “Kanrin Maru”. The steamship departed from Uraga with approximately 90 crew members under the command of Commander Settsunokami Kimura and Captain Rintaro Katsu. It was the Japanese crew's first experience making such a long voyage and they faced considerable hardships, including severe weather, during the difficult crossing. But with the aid of an American naval crew, and Naval Commander John Mercer Brooke, the Japanese sailors arrived safely in San Francisco on February 22nd, 37days after their initial departure from Japan. The crew of the Kanrin Maru was warmly welcomed by the people of San Francisco, who were very impressed by the spirit of their unusual guests from Japan.
Following a brief stay in San Francisco, the Kanrin Maru split from the mission and set sail for Japan. This time, without facing any major storms, the crew arrived in Uraga on May 5th. The first voyage across the Pacific by a Japanese navigated-ship had thus been successfully completed. Among the crew was an interpreter, John Manjiro, and Yukichi Fukuzawa, founder of Keio University.
Arrival in the United States
New York Public Library
The Japanese diplomatic mission included two ambassadors, Masaoki Shinmi and Norimasa Muragaki. The Powhatan carried the mission to Panama, where the members crossed the isthmus by train, and again set sail for Washington, DC. The arrival of the Japanese was a major event in America, and Congress granted a $50,000 budget to provide entertain for them. On March 28th, the group met with President Buchanan. During their stay, they spent three weeks sightseeing in Washington, before visiting Baltimore, Philadelphia, and finally New York. Everywhere they went they were met by local dignitaries, who put on countless balls and receptions in their honor. Large crowds turned out to see them. They were fascinated by the Japanese ambassadors' traditional clothing, top-knot haircuts, and in particular, their prominent samurai swords.
American newspapers dedicated huge amounts of space to the smallest details of the visit. Reflecting the popular view of the time, the press initially stressed how awed these visitors from afar would be when they encountered Western civilization and American progress. However, that outlook changed when the stately, and always polite, Japanese ambassadors occasionally encountered rowdy crowds who mobbed them to get a glimpse of the exotic Japanese. Dismayed by these unseemly popular displays, some editorials began asking just who was really more "civilized". The magazine Harper's Weekly lamented "there are undoubtedly ladies and gentlemen in America, but what a pity the Japanese will never know it . . . The barbarian and savage behavior has been entirely upon our part."
Warm Welcome by New Yorkers
The group's final visit was to New York in June 1860. Once again, practically the entire city mobilized to greet them. When they reached New York, a parade was held for them on Broadway, where half a million New Yorkers turned out to catch a glimpse of the Japanese visitors. They lined Broadway, filled the streets, hung out windows and dangled from lampposts in order to see. Japanese and American flags fluttered everywhere. The parade passed up Broadway from downtown up to Union Square where everyone assembled for a military review.
In the crowd that day was the renowned American poet Walt Whitman. He dedicated a poem to the parade, entitled "The Errand-Bearers". His work appeared in the New York Times on June 27th:
New York Historical Society
Over the western sea, hither from Niphon come,
Courteous, the swart-cheek'd two-sworded envoys,
Leaning back in their open barouches, bare-headed, impassive,
Ride today through Manhattan.
I do not know whether others behold what I behold,
In the procession, along with the nobles of Asia, the errand-bearers,
Bringing up the rear, hovering above, around, or in the ranks marching;
But I will sing you a song of what I behold, Libertad.
This first encounter between the Japanese and New Yorkers, which took place 150 years ago, marks a very significant moment in the history of the two countries – it was the very beginning of an active relationship which is still evident today.
In this month’s Japan Info Culture Connection we feature 2010 as the upcoming 150th anniversary of the first Japanese mission to the U.S. that was sent by the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1860. In another story touching on the early days of Japan-US relations, a delegation led by Mr. Kiyoshi Masuda, chair of Shimoda city council, visited New York recently on its way to Newport, Rhode Island, where it took part in the 26th Annual Black Ships Festival. I had the opportunity to meet them at my residence.
Shimoda City is located in the southernmost part of the Izu Peninsula in Shizuoka prefecture, and it cherishes its historical ties with the United States. After the arrival of Commodore Matthew C. Perry in the so-called, “kurofune”, or “black ships”, its port was opened to foreign countries in 1854. Based on this historical fact, exchange between the City of Shimoda and Newport, the birthplace of Commodore Perry, has been going on ever since. The first U.S. Consul General to Japan, Townsend Harris, opened a Consulate office in Shimoda, which made the city a key stage for Japan-US diplomacy. New Yorkers may be familiar with Townsend Harris as he was the founder of the Free Academy of the City of New York (later to become City College of the City University of New York). As we approach the commemorative year, I feel that it is extremely important to look back on our history and reflect on these great individuals who laid the foundation for our two countries’ relations.
Turning our eyes to the world at large, the G8 Summit Meeting was held this month in L’Aquila, Italy, with Prime Minister Aso attending from Japan. World leaders discussed and achieved many results on various issues such as the global economy, climate change, nuclear non-proliferation, and North Korea. One significant result was that the final declaration incorporated the need to address the problem of imbalances in current accounts, as well as the necessity to create guidelines regarding responsible international agricultural investment in developing countries – all points that Japan has been advocating for some time. It is also notable that this time, the G8 countries and the emerging economies including China, India and Brazil were able to arrive for the first time at a joint declaration. Furthermore, on climate change, Japan expressed to the world its firm resolve to achieve a low carbon emission revolution in order to deliver on the mid-term target of a 15% reduction from 2005 levels by 2020.
©Photo: Tadaaki Nakagawa.
An intimate and charming look at miniature tin-toy cars is showcased in the current exhibition at the Japan Society (July 9 to August 16). Buriki: Japanese Tin-Toys from the Golden Age of the American Automobile, the first exhibition of its kind at any institution in the U.S. or Japan, spotlights tin-toy vehicles which were manufactured in Japan following World War II.
The seventy buriki (from the Dutch word for tin-toy, blik) on view come from the previously unknown collection of Yoku Tanaka, a Tokyo-based businessman who first began collecting Japanese-manufactured toy models as teenager in 1961. His full collection of cars, airplanes, buses, spaceships, speedboats, and helicopters from which the Japan Society exhibition has been drawn, provides a fascinating overview of the postwar Japanese tin-toy industry including the glory days of Detroit. An array of Cadillacs, Buicks, Chryslers, Pontiacs, Chevrolets, Studebakers, and Fords, from the 1950's and 60's are sure to delight car fanatics of all ages.
Early manufacturers of tin-toys had nothing more to rely on than photographs to style their models since few American cars and automotive reference materials could be found in Japan in the early post-war years. More than half of the tin-toys made in Japan were exported to the U.S., helping to revitalize the economy as well as meeting a shortage of toys in America. One of the earliest examples featured in the Buriki exhibition is a green Cadillac sedan stamped "Made in Occupied Japan."
©Photo: Tadaaki Nakagawa.
Another highlight, considered one of the "Holy Grails" of Japanese tin-toy collecting, is a 1962 Chrysler Imperial; a swank, black, four-door sedan with its distinctive wrap-around windshield, white wall tires, chrome grill guard and rocket-style tail lights.
A foot-long Greyhound Bus from the mid 1950's featuring the faces of children painted in its windows is one of the more unusual vehicles to see as is a camping trailer attached to 1955 Oldsmobile complete with Dad, Mom, and two kids in the back seat.
The early influence of manga and anime on the tin-toy industry in the early 1960's is evident in a 1962 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz convertible which has a miniature figure of the hero of Osamu Tezuka's popular manga series, Maguma Taishi sitting in the driver's seat.
The two-decade Golden Age of tin-toy cars came to end with the invention of TV animation in 1963 and the increasing popularity of plastic toys. Nearly all of the more than one dozen tin-toy companies had gone out of business by the end of the 1960's.
Today, there is a renewed appreciation for the detailed craftsmanship of tin-toys. Through this unique exhibition, visitors will have a first-time opportunity to see these tin-toy cars that have captured the imagination of many, and in that experience perhaps come to understand why buriki have come to be regarded as fine art by its devotees.
©Photo: Tadaaki Nakagawa.
©Photo: Tadaaki Nakagawa.
©Photo: Tadaaki Nakagawa.
© Mitchell Kearney
In celebration of its 10th anniversary, the Chelsea gallery Mixed Greens has invited artists that they have worked with over the past decade to exhibit their work at X from July 9 to August 14.
Founded in 1999 as an online operation and expanded into a traditional gallery, Mixed Greens' mission is to support emerging artists by acting as a means to gain exposure for their works via their website, traveling shows, printed catalog, and gallery exhibitions. Among the 84 participating artists at X, three are Japanese contemporary artists residing in New York City who share a fascination with the flexibility of paper: Noriko Ambe, Yumiko Matsui, and Kako Ueda.
Noriko Ambe uses paper as her medium to convey the nuance of human emotion. Choosing her material carefully, she draws and cuts without using straight lines to create subtle natural distortions. In her Flat Globe Cutting Book Series work entitled "Charleston Blacksmith," she has created a cut-out image in the shape of Antarctica via a series of small bubble-like holes that collectively resemble the southernmost continent using the book Charleston Blacksmith by John Michael Vlach as the medium. Her cuttings are whimsical like soda bubbles, conveying her enjoyment of the process.
© Yumiko Matsui
Charming and playful, the painstakingly detailed miniature paper sculpture Coney Island by Yumiko Matsui makes us smile and reminds us of the simple joys of childhood. Through her work, she creates a world that focuses on happy experiences and cherished memories to provide an escape from the sometimes difficult realities and hardships in life.
Intricate and finely detailed, the work by Kako Ueda demonstrates her amazing skill with cut paper. Her work Oracle (2008) is a nearly symmetrical mesh of flowers, fruits, and human figures cut into gray paper. When looking at it more closely, one can see a human head breathing from the mouth that trails off into a mirror image of the word "optimistic." It appears decorative, yet life and death are woven into the motif to represent the passage of life of organic beings.
At the gallery, visitors will be exposed to a great variety of techniques and subject matter. All works of art at this show will entrance the viewers via their extraordinary use of materials or through the profound examination and investigation of their subject.
© Hiroko Furukawa
© Hiroko Furukawa
© Hiroko Furukawa