Vol.31 February 2010
- Japan's Aid to Haiti
- The U.S.-Japan Alliance: Strong and Deepening
- Decoration Conferment Ceremonies
Honors for Mr. Nobuyoshi Kuraoka
Dr. Richard Wood Honored
- Visit Japan-Welcome to Chiba Zoological Park
- Culture Connection - School Caravan Program
- From the Ambassador's Desk
- ENJOY by Toshiki Okada
- Tamagawa University Taiko Dance Group
- Event Calendar
© Ministry of Defense
Immediately after the disastrous earthquake in Haiti on January 12th, Japan joined the international community in extending aid to Haiti. The Government of Japan initially announced its pledge of nearly $5 million in emergency aid through international organizations, including UNICEF and the World Food Programme, as well as emergency relief goods equivalent to 30 million yen (approx. $340,000). Japan also dispatched an emergency survey team comprised of personnel from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Defense and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to grasp urgent needs of Haiti.
The following week, a Japanese Disaster Relief (JDR) Medical Team was deployed to Haiti. One of their main tasks was medical activities in the town of Leogane, approximately forty kilometers (about 25 miles) west of Port-au-Prince. In this operation, Japan's Self Defense Force (SDF) transported 34 earthquake-affected US citizens in Haiti to Miami by its C-130H transport plane on January 17th. This initial JDR medical team was replaced by JDR Self Defense Force Unit since January 25th. This second JDR team, of approximately 100 SDF personnel, provided medical care to a total of 2, 954 people for 3 weeks in Leogane.
Japan continues to play an integral role in the recovery and rebuilding effort. In Montreal on January 25th, State Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Japan Koichi Takemasa attended at the Ministerial Conference on Aid to Haiti with representatives from the host country Canada, the United States, the European Union, Latin American countries and international organizations. Together, these participating countries and organizations agreed to continue extending emergency humanitarian aid, and the Government of Japan committed $70 million in emergency and reconstruction aid. At the Conference, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton expressed her appreciation of Japan's generous assistance to Haiti as well as her intention to strengthen the US-Japan relations through cooperation towards Haiti.
© Ministry of Defense
In addition, in response to a January 19th United Nations Security Council resolution calling for an increase to its peacekeeping operation there, Japan pledged to send a SDF unit to the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, known as MINUSTAH. The unit is now based in Port-au-Prince and its main assignments are rubble removal, road repair and building of necessary facilities.
In February 22nd, the Government of Japan has decided to extend a grant aid of up to 183 million yen (approx. $2 million) to the Government of the Republic of Haiti, through UNICEF for the Project for Reinforcement of the Immunization Program. Furthermore, JICA has sent two experts to the mission of the Post-Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) in Haiti which started from February 22nd.
Japan also promised to share with Haiti best practices on how to rebuild from the earthquake and prepare for future ones. In an ironic twist, the Haitian earthquake hit just five days before the 15th anniversary of the Great Hanshin earthquake of 1995, in which a 7.3 magnitude earthquake hit the Japanese port city of Kobe, causing widespread damage and destruction. Prone to earthquakes because of its location on four tectonic plates, Japan has important lessons from its own experiences to help the people of Haiti.
Japan will continue to assist the Haitian people in rebuilding their country.
The bilateral alliance between Japan and the United States has been one of the strongest in the world for the last fifty years. It is one that is steeped in history, and yet also holds strategic importance for dealing with the wide array of present-day and future regional and global challenges. Last month, the U.S.-Japan relationship was in the spotlight as both countries took two major opportunities to honor and reaffirm this important alliance.
First, on January 12th, Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held a bilateral meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii. Together, they discussed the alliance itself, along with a range of issues including Afghanistan, Iran, global warming, and nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation. The 2006 agreement to relocate the US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa Prefecture was also discussed. Secretary Clinton and Minister Okada agreed that, while recognizing the importance of working on the issue of Futenma Air Station, the two countries should carry through a number of other important businesses which called for their cooperative efforts. They also pledged to hold continued consultations to further deepen the alliance for the next fifty years.
One week later, on January 19th, the two countries marked the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan, the lynchpin of the U.S.-Japan security relationship. The treaty was signed by American and Japanese delegates in Washington, DC in January 1960 in the midst of the Cold War. Under the treaty, the United States is committed to defending Japan and keeping the Asia-Pacific region stable. In return, Japan provides military bases to US forces.
This anniversary gave Japanese and American leaders another chance to reaffirm their commitment to the U.S.-Japan alliance. In commemoration of the 50th anniversary, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama announced his intention to "work jointly with the U.S. Government to further deepen the US-Japan alliance...in order to adapt to the evolving environment of the twenty-first century." President Barack Obama called on both countries to "renew our alliance for the 21st century and enhance the bonds of friendship and common purpose that unite our nations."
In addition, Minister of Foreign Affairs Okada and Minister of Defense Toshimi Kitazawa joined with their American counterparts, Secretary of State Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to pay tribute to the alliance and the indispensable role it plays in ensuring the security and prosperity of the two countries as well as regional peace and stability. In their joint statement, Okada, Kitazawa, Clinton, and Gates also pointed to the need for the alliance to "remain alert, flexible, and responsive" given the new variety of emerging global threats. Japan and the United States are already putting these words into practice as they continue to work together on issues such as North Korean denuclearization, cooperation with China, and disaster relief.
Honors for Mr. Nobuyoshi Kuraoka
Mr. Nobuyoshi Kuraoka, President of Wako International Corporation and the owner of Restaurant Nippon, was honored with The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette, for his outstanding contributions to the promotion of Japanese culture through Japanese food. Following the conferment ceremony on November 3rd at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tokyo, Ambassador Nishimiya hosted a reception at his residence in New York on January 19th to honor Mr. Kuraoka.
In his congratulatory remarks, Ambassador Nishimiya noted that Restaurant Nippon is a "culinary landmark" that became famous for introducing authentic Japanese ingredients and cooking styles to local consumers. He explained that Mr. Kuraoka's "commitment to excellence no doubt has contributed to the popularization of fine Japanese cuisine in New York."
About 50 guests attended the event, including Mr. Kuraoka's wife, Eiko, and many of the couple's close friends from the food industry and the wider business world. Family friend and tennis great Madam Virginia Wade, winner of the Wimbledon Ladies' Singles Championship in 1977, gave a toast. Media representatives were on hand to cover the reception.
Mr. Kuraoka established a foothold in the restaurant industry when he founded Wako International Corporation in New York City in 1961. Two years later he opened Restaurant Nippon, with the first authentic sushi counter in the U.S. To serve classic "ni-hachi" soba noodles (made of 20% wheat and 80% buckwheat flour), Mr. Kuraoka received guidance from the well-known soba master, Dr. Dai Nagatomo. In addition, he bought a buckwheat farm in Canada to supply the restaurant. His passion to serve authentic Japanese food also encouraged him to develop his own tofu-making machine and to import fresh Japanese ingredients rarely seen in the U.S.
Among his most notable achievements, Mr. Kuraoka was the first person to import the delicacy "tora-fugu" (blowfish) into the U.S. from Japan at a time when the fish was not recognized in the U.S. He obtained an import permit from the Food and Drug Administration after a five-year effort in 1989. This achievement was recognized in an official letter by New York City Mayor David Dinkins in 1991.
Dr. Richard Wood Honored
On November 3rd, 2009, Dr. Richard Wood, Professor and Dean Emeritus of Yale University Divinity School and the former President of Japan Society, was honored with one of Japan's highest decorations, The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star, for his outstanding contributions to the promotion of educational and cultural exchange between Japan and the United States.
The conferment ceremony for Dr. Wood was held on January 22nd at the residence of Ambassador Shinichi Nishimiya, Consul General of Japan in New York. Approximately 60 people, including Dr. Wood's wife, Ms. Judith Wood, and his two children, along with staff and board members of Japan Society, members of the Japan-US foundation, friends from various fields such as actor George Takei and Eric Gangloff, the Executive Director of the Japan-US Friendship Commission, gathered to recognize Dr. Wood.
During the ceremony, Ambassador Nishimiya explained that it is particularly fitting to honor Dr. Wood in 2010, as it is a special year for Japan-US ties, with the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security and the 150th anniversary of the First Japanese Embassy the United States both being commemorated. He praised Dr. Wood for his instrumental work promoting outreach that has brought more American students to Japan while he served as Co-Chair of the Japan Conference on Cultural and Educational Interchange (CULCON), as well as for his many contributions to the field of Japanese studies and cultural exchange.
In his remarks, Dr. Wood emphasized the economic, political, and cultural importance of the Japan-US relationship, and he insisted that we should continue promoting cultural exchange between our countries, especially the exchange of people.
CHIBA: Welcome to Chiba Zoological Park
Have you heard of Chiba City before? If you have ever traveled to Japan through Narita Airport, you have most certainly passed through Chiba City on your way to Tokyo or other destinations, even if you didn't realize it. Even expert travelers to Japan are apt to overlook it. Chiba City lies midway between Tokyo and Narita and is the 13th biggest city in Japan, with a population of 950,000. Its appeal lies in its urban living environment and easy access to the center of Tokyo.
A one hour train ride connects central Tokyo to Chiba Station. From there, one of the most popular destinations is Chiba Zoological Park. Chiba Station and Chiba Zoological Park are directly connected via the Chiba Urban Monorail. The Guinness Book of Records lists the Chiba Urban Monorail as "the longest suspended monorail train system in the world, at 15.2km (9.4miles)". Some monorail cars are adorned with designs depicting the lovely animals of Chiba Zoological Park, and if one is lucky, they may get to ride in one of the decorated cars.
Chiba Zoological Park is a large leisure park which houses both a zoo and play area. The theme of the park is "being close to animals and plants". The zoo is divided into seven separate zones, each of which is abundant in nature. There are few cages found on the premises, making it easy for small children to study the animals.
During a visit to the zoo, one would do well to look out for Futa, the lesser panda, and his family. Futa became famous all around Japan in 2005 when he stood on his hind legs and bore a striking resemblance to a human. Now, he is the father of six children and he and his family are the most popular attraction throughout the zoo.
There are, of course, many other fascinating animals to see. The "siamang" (a type of ape) inflates his throat sac to cry loudly and the "shoebill" (a type of bird) remains motionless for long periods of time. The "Great Escape" of a "marabou stork" (a type of bird) was broadcast on TV, and even ended up as the subject of a picture book for children.
The playland in the park is named "Dream World". The ferris wheel is the park's main attraction and is accompanied by 11 other rides.
One can bear witness to breathtakingly beautiful flowers across the four seasons in Chiba Zoological Park. For example, the end of March through to the beginning of April marks the period of time when the cherry blossom trees are at their peak. How does having a picnic under these stunningly pretty trees sound?
Chiba Zoological Park is truly a place where people of all ages can spend the day and simply relax.
Of course, Chiba City is home to a vast array of other things to see and do, so make it a point to not just pass through on the next trip to Japan. Rather, plan to spend a few days in Chiba and experience firsthand the wonders that this city has to offer. One might even go so far as to say that Tokyo is the gateway to the City of Chiba.
Copyright © 2010 Japan Local Government Center New York
Japan Information Center - School Caravan Program
Teachers whose students are interested in Japan have a very useful resource at their disposal – The School Caravan Program. A School Caravan Program visit usually lasts for about one hour, during which a few members of the Japan Information Center share information about Japan and its culture with students using entertaining methods. We show videos, discuss geography, nature, school and children of similar age in Japan. We also engage in activities with the students like origami, traditional story-telling (kamishibai), teach them about language, writing, and of course, give them the chance to ask questions. Depending on the number and age of the students, we also try to leave behind "omiyage" (gifts) with the kids. We do our best to tailor the presentation to the students based on what the teacher or administrator would like us to share or what they believe the students may be interested in.
If you would like to set up a visit, please email or call Mr. Jesse Taylor (inset) at firstname.lastname@example.org or (212) 418-4462. We ask that you give us at least a few possible dates and at least a few weeks advance notice since we try to accommodate as many schools as humanly possible. We always look forward to meeting students with an interest in Japan and its culture.
Although it has been cold these past few weeks, spring is just around the corner. I hope all of you are staying warm and doing well.
As a country that experiences earthquakes and as a fellow APEC member, Japan decided to extend up to $3 million in grant aid and emergency relief goods equivalent to approximately $300,000 in the wake of the recent earthquake in Chile. And, although it has been already two months since the tremor in Haiti, I know that the victims there are still experiencing great hardship as well. I would like to let you know that Japan is doing its part, providing comprehensive relief assistance to Haiti through the dispatch of some 530 Japan Self-Defense Force personnel. My Consulate-General also dispatched staff to participate in Japanese government relief operations. I also am proud to mention that the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of New York made a contribution of $20,000 to relief efforts in Haiti through the American Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders and I am encouraged by this fact. I sincerely hope that normal life will return to the people of Haiti and Chile as soon as possible.
The New Year has brought lots of snow to the East Coast. Snow covered everything in New York, letting us know winter is still here, including in Manhattan where the Consulate-General is located. The snow blanketing the city turned it into fantastic world. Schools were closed and many flights were cancelled due to the heavy snowfall. However, in the center of Manhattan, public transportation, such as buses, subways and trains continued operating, and, therefore, I was impressed to see that even such heavy snowfall cannot bring New York to a stop. Thankfully the Consulate was able to remain open and we were able to continue our work.
On February 19th, a traditional Japanese comedy performance (Rakugo) was shown in four languages at the United Nations. In an era where it seems so many people communicate electronically, I was impressed by Rakugo's power of ‘live communication'. I was pleased to see so many non-Japanese people in the fully packed audience enjoying the show. I also discovered that Rakugo is useful in facilitating conversation between parents and their children about Japanese culture. Behind me, I overheard a boy asking his father what was meant by the actor (Rakugo-ka).
Soon, the cherry blossom festivals will begin, and I am full of hope as we look forward to the warm arrival of spring.
ENJOY by Toshiki Okada
© Noah Scalin
Off-Broadway theater organization The Play Company, will be presenting the first English-language translation of ENJOY, the provocative play by Japanese playwright Toshiki Okada from March 27 to April 25. Directed by Dan Rothenberg and with translation work by American writer Aya Ogawa, the company's creative team of American actors and designers will stage the performance Okada's comedy about Japanese youth culture in the environment of a changing economic reality.
ENJOY is the story of the struggle of young people in the current economic downturn played out in a Tokyo manga cafe. It's generation X versus generation Y in this slacker comedy of manners that follows the romantic adventures of the cafe's part-time workers. It ultimately reveals a generation gap between young and older workers, as well as differences in their dedication and seriousness about their work and careers.
Toshiki Okada is a playwright/director/choreographer and a leading artist in contemporary Japanese theater. In 1997, he founded the Japanese theater group "chelfitsch" (Okada's made-up word based on a child-like pronunciation of the word "selfish") to evoke Japan's lost generation, which is powerless and fearful of expectations. He has written and directed all of the chelfitsch productions, using his distinctive methodology for creating plays. Mr. Okada has become known for his use of hyper-colloquial Japanese and unique choreography. His work has received many awards including the 49th Kishida Drama Award in 2005 for Five Days in March. His Air-Conditioner/Cooler was also a finalist at the 2005 Toyota Choreography Awards. ENJOY was first presented in December 2006 at the New National Theater Tokyo. His works since have been performed outside of Japan in Seoul, Singapore, Paris, Milan, Brussels, Vienna, Salzburg, New York, and in a number of cities throughout the US.
ENJOY is the inaugural project of The Play Company's Universal Voices Translation program, which commissions English translations of foreign-language plays. It was through this program that American writer Aya Ogawa was chosen to create the translation of ENJOY. The Play Company is a theater group dedicated to gaining exposure for the works of contemporary playwrights from around the globe and was founded to promote and create diversity of ideas, issues, and voices in our world. ENJOY is directed by Dan Rothenberg, who is a co-artistic leader of Philadelphia's Pig Iron Theater.
Tamagawa University Taiko Dance Group
Photo: Aram Kailian
The energetic Taiko Dance Group from Tamagawa University will be touring the US this spring giving ten performances in two weeks beginning March 30 at The Miller Theater at Columbia University and concluding with a performance at the National Basketball Association's Philadelphia 76'ers half time show on April 12. The University Group's thirty-four students will give a powerful performance of rhythm and thunder to showcase their skill and enthusiasm.
The Tamagawa University Taiko Dance Group is known worldwide for their taiko drumming and Japanese dance. Since the group's inception in 1961, they have visited Mexico, England, Greece, Canada, Malaysia, Russia, Indonesia, Africa, and the US to introduce their new style of performing art. Winners of the Third Prize from among 450 other groups competing at the Tokyo International Taiko contest in 2006, this will be their fourth New York appearance.
In addition to New York, their schedule includes a return to the National Cherry Blossom Parade in Washington DC, as well as performing at the Philadelphia Cherry Blossom Festival, and at various colleges in NY and Pennsylvania.
The program director and choreographer is University professor and renowned Japanese dance master Isaburo Hanayagi, who studied under his father Yoshigosaburo Hanayagi. Trained as a Nihon Buyo (Japanese dance) performer in the Hanayagi-ryu (Hanayagi school), Isaburo made his stage debut under his father. The Hanayagi-ryu is the largest school of Nihon Buyo. Beginning in 1978, Mr. Isaburo has participated in dance programs in the US and Canada. Subsequently, he has held Nihon Buyo workshops at the colleges around the world and has toured Russia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Canada, Thailand, South Africa, the UK, and the US.
In addition to the performance on March 30 at Miller Theater, Isaburo Hanayagi will give demonstrations and workshops on taiko and dance performance at Columbia University.
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