Vol.30 January 2010
- Japan-NYC 150 : A Commemoration of the First Japanese Diplomatic Mission
- Japanese Weekend School Alumni Reception
- Culture Connection - The Otaku Generation
- Visit Japan - SHIMANE PREFECTURE: Japan's Hidden Treasure
- From the Ambassador's Desk
- Music From Japan 2010 : 35th Anniversary Season
- Raku-go in New York by Katsura Koharudanji
- Five Thousand Years of Japanese Art: Treasures from the Packard Collection
- Event Calendar
© Frank Leslie's Illustrated News
2010 marks the 150th anniversary of an extraordinary but little known historical event: the first Japanese diplomatic mission to the U.S. and its enthusiastic reception in New York City in 1860.
Sent by the Tokugawa Shogunate to exchange instruments of ratification of the Treaty of Amity and Commerce, the first official Japanese mission to the West following over 200 years of self-imposed isolation, travelled to San Francisco, Washington DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York. By the time the group of 80 samurai reached their final destination in Manhattan, a diplomatic event had become a huge cultural happening: Half-a-million New Yorkers gathered to watch the sword-bearing Japanese visitors parade on Broadway; from grand civic balls to society parties, the city pulled out all the stops; and the popular press, music, and theater of the day were overcome by "Japan mania."
This year, the Consulate General of Japan in New York would like to celebrate, together with the Japanese community here, this fascinating historical episode at the dawn of U.S-Japan and U.S. New York ties.
Below is a brief history of the journey:
Crossing the Pacific
In January 1860, the Japanese mission boarded the U.S. frigate "Powhatan" and sailed 37 days across the Pacific. It was accompanied to San Francisco by the first Japanese piloted ship to cross the Pacific, the Kanrinmaru. The group of samurai next crossed Panama by railroad, and went on to Cuba. From there they headed to Washington, again by ship, and later visited New York, their final stop.
© Frank Leslie's Illustrated News
Huge welcome in the United States
Three ambassadors, Masaoki Shinmi and Norimasa Muragaki, and Tadamasa Oguri headed the mission. The arrival of the Japanese in Washington DC was a major event, and, the Congress granted a $50,000 budget (almost $1.5 million in today's dollars) to entertain them. On March 28th, the mission paid its official visit to President Buchanan. They spent three weeks sightseeing in Washington, before visiting Baltimore, Philadelphia, and finally New York. Everywhere the mission went, local dignitaries organized balls and receptions in their honor and large crowds turned out to see them, fascinated by the Japanese ambassadors' traditional clothing, top-knot hairstyle, and in particular, their prominent samurai swords.
American newspapers breathlessly followed the minutest details of the visit. Reflecting the popular views of the day, the press 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 polite ambassadors occasionally encountered unruly crowds. 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
© Frank Leslie's Illustrated News
The mission's final visit was to New York in June 1860. Once again, practically the entire city mobilized to greet them. When the mission reached Manhattan a parade was held in their honor on Broadway, where half a million New Yorkers turned out- including the great poet Walt Whitman, who wrote a poem in honor of the occasion (It would later be included in his Leaves of Grass). Broadway was packed as spectators peered out windows and dangled from lampposts and Japanese and American flags fluttered everywhere. The parade passed up Broadway from downtown to Union Square where a military review assembled. Later, a huge municipal ball was held in their honor. During their stay the mission would meet the mayor, tour the city, and from theater performances to popular songs, souvenirs to special "Japanese" cocktails, the summer of 1860 was the summer of Japan mania in New York.
That amazing first encounter between the Japanese and New Yorkers of 150 years ago was the dawn of the rich relationship we enjoy today. We hope you will join us in celebrating it during this special anniversary year.
On December 22nd, 2009, a reception was held for alumni from the Japanese Weekend Schools of New York, New Jersey and the Princeton Community Japanese Language School (Princeton, NJ) at the official residence of Ambassador Shinichi Nishimiya, the Japanese Consul-General in New York.
In New York State, there are 9 Japanese Weekend Schools for children/students who learn Japanese language and culture in addition to their attendance in local schools on weekdays. Some of these children/students now do not go to the Japanese Weekend schools with the premise that they will go back to Japan. Instead, others decide to stay in the United States after graduation and continue to study and work here.
The Weekend Japanese School alumni members strongly desire to strengthen their bond with Japan and to act as a cultural bridge between Japan and the United States. The purpose of the reception was to give support to the construction of a network among these alumni, members of companies affiliated with Japan, and the existing staff at the schools.
Although the reception was held just before Christmas, approximately 90 guests, including more than 50 alumni, members of the Board Trustees from each school, the staff of the schools, and other participants, gathered reflecting their enthusiasm for this event.
Ambassador Nishimiya addressed the crowd, saying that alumni who are deeply committed to continuing and strengthening their bond with Japan after studying at Japanese Weekend Schools are valuable for both Japan and the United States, and it would be to his pleasure if the reception proves to be a helpful reinforcement of the network.
Ms. Toshiko Calder, Director of Princeton Community Japanese Language School, and Ms. Kaoru Utada, President of Hoshuko Alumni Association, conveyed their appreciation to Ambassador Nishimiya, who sponsored the reception, and Mr. Motoatsu Sakurai, President of the Japan Society, who initiated this type of reception when he was Ambassador. And they also reiterated the importance of providing support for alumni who desire to strengthen the relationship between Japan and the United States.
Representing the alumni, Mr. Takahide Endo, who graduated from the Princeton Community Japanese Language School and belongs to Bloomberg L.P. and Ms. Hana Barnes, who graduated from the Japanese Weekend School of New York and is in law school, reported that they were now engaged in duties related to Japan/Japanese language, and what they learned at Japanese Weekend Schools was very useful for them now.
Special guest, Mr. Sakurai, gave warm remarks, explaining to the audience that when he attended a graduation ceremony at the Princeton Community Japanese Language School while he was Ambassador, he was so much impressed with a wonderful farewell speech and an address in reply that he decided to hold a reception at his residence, which he hoped would expand the network.
During the reception, the alumni began actively networking with members of the companies affiliated with Japan and the current staff at the schools as well as using the opportunity to renew old friendships. The reception truly seemed to be a meaningful occasion for everyone involved.
The Otaku Generation
by Patrick W. Galbraith
In Alaska, it's dark more than light most days of the year. And it's cold. People often stay indoors and stay to themselves. That's how it was for me. I spent most of my time at home with my siblings watching movies, playing games and dreaming. It was in this context that I first saw anime. My older brother was learning Japanese in high school, and had procured Japanese-language VHS tapes of classic sci-fi series such as Bubblegum Crisis. An amazing new world of colorful images opened up there in the gloom, flickering on the TV screen. There in the dark one grade-school boy became obsessed.
We moved to Montana just as I was about to enter middle school, and I found myself more alone than ever before. The world was for me cold and dark, and I sought the warmth of my private sanctuary of anime. My first love was an anime character. I tattooed her image on my body without even considering the consequences in the real world. It was then that I realized my life in normal society was over, and I embraced this fact. I was determined that all the satisfaction one needed could be found in the solitary act of engaging fantasy.
I didn't really connect my obsession back to Japan until I went to university. I enrolled in a professional training program for journalists, and was required to learn a second language. I chose Japanese, and also took courses in culture, history, literature and society. For me, this was all just "background" information for better understanding anime. It soon became apparent that my aversion to human contact made me ideally unsuited for a career in journalism, so I began focusing on Japanese, and ended up in Japan in 2004.
In Japan, I learned of people like me - people called otaku. They, too, seemed to have an intimate relationship with media and distant social relationships. I started hanging out in Akihabara, which was becoming famous for otaku, trying at once to overcome painful social awkwardness and the language barrier. I took notes on everything I heard and saw, the basis of my book, The Otaku Encyclopedia. Between 2004 and 2008, I witnessed the media discourse shift from talking about otaku as subculture to popular culture. Akihabara, too, transformed from shared private space to public space. Hoping to draw attention to the changes, I started giving weekly walking tours of the area dressed as an anime character.
The more I learned, the more complex "otaku" and Akihabara became. I enrolled in the Ph.D. program at the University of Tokyo to further my understanding of otaku. My basic area of academic interest was, and is, how media and technology impact otaku culture, and how media then represents that culture. I wrote academic papers such as "Moe: Exploring Virtual Potential in Post-Millennial Japan," "Akihabara: Conditioning a Public Otaku Image" and "Fujoshi : Girls and Women Exploring Transgressive Intimacy in Japan."
Recently, I have been able to connect with anime fans in the United States, who gather in university clubs, annual fan conventions and online community sites. Thanks to the Internet, they are quite similar to the new generation of otaku in Japan. In December 2009, I was invited to speak live via digital connection at Anifusion NYC, where an estimated 50 fans gathered despite a blizzard to share their love of anime. It is very encouraging to see such dedicated anime fans in New York City, as reports show that otaku-ism in the US is strongest in southern California.
Whatever else otaku might mean, to me the meaning is fellowship. We all found something compelling in anime, or it found us at a moment in our lives when we needed such fantasy. For whatever reason, we didn't give it up. And now we are finding one another. As I sit and write these words, the world doesn't seem quite so cold and dark anymore.
SHIMANE PREFECTURE: Japan's Hidden Treasure
Shimane Prefecture is located in the western part of Japan and has seven hundred thousand people. According to an internet survey, Shimane is Japan's least well known prefecture: even some Japanese could not locate Shimane Prefecture on a map! But residents are proud of a lot of things: Matsue Castle was built more than 400 years ago, and it is one of only twelve castles which have their original tenshu or main towers intact. You can see the most beautiful sunsets in Japan at Lake Shinji. World Heritage Site, the Iwami silver mine helped support the medieval European economy. And the Adachi Museum of Art is yet another source of pride for Shimane residents.
The Adachi Museum of Art is certainly Shimane's number one attraction. Why? The grounds of the Adachi Museum of Art have the most beautiful gardens in Japan. The Journal of Japanese Gardening, which is published in the U.S. has ranked the Adachi Museum number one for the past 7 years. Its gardens utilize method called shakkei, traditional technique which takes advantage of not only the manmade gardens but also the surrounding mountains and nature.
"The garden is, so to speak, a picture scroll." said the late founder of the museum, Adachi Zenko. His love for Japanese painting and his passion for landscape gardening produced the 165,000 m2 (1,776,000 sqf) of Japanese gardens: The Dry Landscape Garden, The White Gravel and Pine Garden, The Moss Garden, and The Pond Garden. With every step you take, the graceful view before you calms you and puts you in tune with the Japanese paintings. The changing seasons, with azaleas in the spring time, the soft green in summer, the glowing red of maples in autumn, and the snowscape of winter, all add to your enjoyment of the museum.
Please come to Shimane Prefecture and enjoy your stay. We invite you to experience our warm and traditional Japanese hospitality.
- Adachi Museum of Art : http://www.adachi-museum.or.jp/e/
- Sightseeing in Shimane : http://www.kankou-shimane.com/en/
A Sightseeing guide to Shimane Prefecture is available to the public on YouTube:
Copyright © 2010 Mr. Junji Imada, Japan Local Government Center
Happy New Year to you! In the sprit of the Year of the Tiger, my resolution is to be energetic and do my best to better Japan-US relations in 2010.
This year we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security of Japan and the US, and the 150th anniversary of the first Japanese diplomatic mission to the United States and its visit to New York City in 1860. The Consulate plans on promoting several big celebrations to mark these historic occasions and we look forward to your generous support.
In December last year, I hosted a networking reception at my residence for area Japanese weekend school graduates. There are a substantial number of Japanese and Japanese Americans who continue to live in the New York area after graduating from weekend schools. I was impressed to see that they are all deeply inspired by the ties they developed with Japan through their experiences and that they have a strong desire to serve as bridges between Japan and the US. It is my Consulate’s responsibility to support and develop individuals like them whose strong connections and interest in Japan serve as a crucial bridge between our two countries and improve Japan-US relations.
With this in mind, the Consulate will make our best efforts to promote networking between the Japanese community and individuals like these so that we might further enhance the strong friendship between the peoples of Japan and the US.
Music From Japan 2010: 35th Anniversary Season
Classical music played in Japan spans a wide spectrum encompassing everything from traditional and contemporary Japanese music to more Western classical styles. Music From Japan (MFJ) is an organization created in 1975 to help spread contemporary and traditional Japanese music throughout the world, showcasing new Japanese compositions as well as traditional pieces. To celebrate its 35th anniversary, MFJ will present its Music From Japan Festival 2010 featuring Sukeyasu Shiba's Gagaku Universe and Highlights of MFJ Commissions II on February 20 and 21 at Merkin Concert Hall in NYC and on February 24 at The Smithsonian Institution's Freer Gallery in Washington DC.
The February 20 program for Music From Japan Festival 2010 will consist entirely of Mr. Shiba's gagaku compositions and arrangements. Performed by the Reigakusha Gagaku Ensemble, it includes the world premiere of Mai Fu Jin 35 (2008), commissioned by MFJ for the 35th Anniversary. Chosa Join is a restored masterpiece that Mr. Shiba reconstructed in 1983 from lost ancient manuscripts. On February 21, audiences will be able to enjoy MFJ's commissioned works performed by both Western and traditional Japanese instruments. Hitomi Kaneko's Almost Dusk (2009-10) and Yasuko Yamaguchi's Wurzeln ("Roots") (2009-10), both newly commissioned works, will receive their world premieres that evening. In addition to the concert performances, there will also be a special program for students at Hunter College Elementary School on February 22. The children will be introduced to gagaku music along with a brief history and a performance of Shiba's work, Ponta and the Thunder God, which is based on an old folk tale.
Gagaku is the Japanese classical music performed in the Imperial court of Japan. Using musical instruments and dance that were gradually introduced to the 5th century Japan, gagaku began to take form during the Heian period (794-1185). The style subsequently declined due to escalating military conflicts. During the Edo period (1603-1868), when it was developing a distinctive Japanese culture through its isolationist policy, the Tokugawa government reintroduced gagaku, revitalizing its popularity. Today's gagaku has its roots in the Tokugawa era.
Using traditional instruments and dance, gagaku is performed primarily at the Imperial court and at shrines. The Music From Japan Festival 2010 features compositions played by the Reigakusha Gagaku Ensemble using the sho (mouth organ), hichiriki (oboe), ryutei (transverse flute), shakuhachi (type of oboe), gakubiwa (4-string lute), gakuso (koto), kakko (small hourglass drum), shoko (small gong), and taiko (drum).
© Ken Howard
Sukeyasu Shiba was born into a family of gagaku musicians that has been associated with the temple-shrine complex of Kofukuji and Kasuga Taisha in Nara for more than a thousand years. He served as a leading gagaku performer for the Imperial Household Agency for 27 years. A respected composer and scholar known for his reconstructions of lost parts of the gagaku repertory, Mr. Shiba established the Reigakusha Gagaku Ensemble in 1985 to maintain the tradition of classical gagaku music, while creating new works for these ancient instruments.
Raku-go in New York by Katsura Koharudanji
Rakugo Japanese comedy returns to New York next month. It has been three years since Katsura Koharudanji last entertained New York rakugo fans with this unique brand of storytelling comedy. Presented by The International Rakugo Promotion Committee at the conference room of The United Nations on February 19, Koharudanji's performance will be the first featuring subtitles in four different languages. This particular event will be exclusively for invitees. He will also be staging a rakugo performance entirely in Japanese that is open to the public on February 20 at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall. The program will showcase not only Koharudanji, but also three other rakugo storytellers plus a Kamigata (Osaka) style live quartet of shamisen, fue (Japanese flute), kane (gong), and taiko to enrich the performance. This rare event will provide a unique experience for both rakugo neophytes and connoisseurs alike.
Unlike American "stand-up comedy," rakugo storytellers perform seated on a zabuton (cushion) situated on a raised platform called a koza. Rakugo usually involves two or three but sometimes as many as ten or more characters. The storyteller uses different tones of voice to evoke each character. Rakugo was established during the Edo period (1603-1868) as ordinary town merchants began to emerge economically and as an audience who sought entertainment. Just as ukiyo-e was art for the common people, rakugo was comedy for the merchant class.
During their performance, Koharudanji and the three other rakugo performers will tell timeless rakugo classics including "Chiritotechin" as well as offer some original works. "Chiritotechin" is a tale about a storyteller who comes up with the idea of using rotten tofu as an exotic delicacy called "Chiritotechin" to play a prank on a neighbor who doesn't appreciate anything and pretends that he knows everything. His original work "Reizoko Aishi" ("Love Affair in Refrigerator") is a story about a star-crossed love affair between ice cream and pudding.
Katsura Koharudanji first entered the rakugo world when he apprenticed under the master Katsura Harudanji in late 1970's. Through his performances in numerous theaters and frequent appearances on television, he has accumulated a following of enthusiastic fans. He is active in creating his own original rakugo, including a rakugo version of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet." His work is appreciated globally as he has brought his art to thirteen countries including the U.S., Canada, Korea, and Europe.
Five Thousand Years of Japanese Art: Treasures from the Packard Collection
The Harry G. C. Packard Collection of Asian Art, Gift of Harry G. C. Packard, and Purchase, Fletcher, Rogers, Harris Brisbane Dick, and Louis V. Bell Funds, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, and The Annenberg Fund Inc. Gift, 1975
The Metropolitan Museum is renowned for housing the finest collection of Japanese art in the West. Last October, the museum unveiled Art of the Samurai which became an instant hit. In the wake of the buzz about "Samurai," another fantastic show of Japanese art will go on display this month. Featuring more than 220 works, many of which are rarely seen, Five Thousand Years of Japanese Art: Treasures from the Packard Collection will be on exhibit until June 6.
One of the show's highlights will be a pairing of masterpieces by a Kano school master and his son: Old Plum, a set of sliding-door panels by Kano Sansetsu (1589-1651) from the Packard Collection and the Met's recently acquired One Hundred Boys, a pair of six-fold screens by Kano Eino (1631-1697). Another standout piece, Overrobe (Uchikake) with Bamboo, with its exquisite golden silk bamboo pattern by Gion Nankai (1677-1751), is so rare that it may not be seen for another decade due to conservation considerations.
This exhibition is presented on the occasion of the 35th anniversary of the Packard Collection acquisition by the Metropolitan Museum. Harry G. C. Packard (1914-1991) was a renowned Japanese art collector who sold and donated his collection to the Met in 1975. With it, the museum acquired more than 400 works including archaeological artifacts, ceramics, paintings, and sculptures, transforming it into the institution with one of the finest collections of its kind in the West.
Born in Salt Lake City in 1914, Packard enlisted in Navy following Pearl Harbor and was sent to Japanese language school in New York. There he met the Met's curator Alan Priest who encouraged him to buy inexpensive Japanese wood-block prints and Chinese ink paintings. After the war ended, he was posted in Okinawa, and then sent to China where he encountered many high quality Japanese prints that the Chinese were eager to sell for less than a dollar apiece. On his subsequent return to Japan, he was put in charge of a camp for Japanese repatriates in Nagasaki, and continued collecting Japanese art after he was discharged. He then landed a job at General MacArthur's headquarters in Tokyo, and did postgraduate study on Japanese art at Waseda University. Although not a wealthy collector, he was a dedicated and driven man who traveled to remote areas of Japan to find the very best, all-the-while assembling a museum-quality collection.
Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, Mary and James G. Wallach Foundation Gift, Gift of Dr. Mortimer D. Sackler, Theresa Sackler and Family, and Dodge Fund, 2009
The show features artifacts and art from a wide range of periods; from the Neolithic age to the artistically sophisticated Edo period. From the Jomon period (ca. 1000-ca. 300 B.C.) there are arrowheads, fish hooks, body ornaments and jars. There are bracelets and earrings from the Kofun period (ca. 300-710), a Buddhist statue from the Heian period (794-1185), plates and cups from the Momoyama period (1573-1615), and landscape scrolls from the Edo period (1615-1868).
|Performance / Films|