Vol.33 May 2010
- Ambassador Nishimiya visits Puerto Rico
- Visit Japan Campaign Reception
- Culture Connection - Japan Information Center: Cultural Items
- From the Ambassador's Desk
- At the 150-Year Milestone, The Future of U.S.-Japan Collaboration
- Reenactment of Samurai Parade for 150 Years of Friendship!
- Event Calendar
In April, Ambassador Shinichi Nishimiya made his first official visit to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and met political and business leaders including Governor Fortuno. He was also greeted by local Japanese citizens, delivered a lecture at the University of Puerto Rico and enjoyed a traditional Japanese performance.
On April 14th, Ambassador Nishimiya met with Luis Fortuno, Governor of Puerto Rico, at La Fortaleza, his official residence in Old San Juan. The residence was built in the early 16th century to defend San Juan harbor and is the oldest executive mansion in the New World. It was listed by UNESCO in 1983 as part of the World Heritage Site "La Fortaleza and San Juan National Historic Site." Their conversations focused mainly on the economic situation in Puerto Rico and efforts by the Puerto Rican government to foster economic development. During the meeting, Governor Fortuno recounted his fond memories of his visit to Japan in the 1990s. Later in the day, Puerto Rican business leaders met with the Ambassador to discuss business synergy and Japanese investment. Caribbean Business, a leading local newspaper, interviewed Ambassador Nishimiya, and the article appeared on April 22nd as a featured story.
The evening of April 14th featured a celebration of Japanese culture. Master Kaishi Katsura and Master Tamanosuke Houraiya put on an exciting show combining Japanese traditional comic storytelling (rakugo) and traditional Japanese juggling (daikagura) at the Teatro Francisco Arriví, named after a famous Puerto Rican writer, poet, and playwright often called the “father of Puerto Rican theater.” Master Katsura, who was appointed a Special Advisor for Cultural Exchange by the Agency of Cultural affairs two years ago and has toured the U.S. performing rakugo in English, put on an energetic performance, blending traditional Japanese comedy skits with modern English jokes. Around three hundred guests enjoyed the performance. It was the first time for most of the audience to see rakugo and daikagura performed, but everyone seemed to enjoy it and Master Katsura was asked for an encore.
On April 15th, Ambassador Nishimiya delivered a speech at the University of Puerto Rico. The Ambassador stressed the significance of this year’s 150th anniversary of the first Japanese diplomatic delegation to the United States and the importance of the U.S.-Japan relationship. He also touched on the economic situation in Japan and the United States, with a special focus on the current development of Japanese technology and international aid, as well as Japanese efforts concerning climate change, nuclear disarmament and the war in Afghanistan. In his speech, Ambassador Nishimiya emphasized the importance of cultural exchange between the two countries, citing how Japanese popular culture is influencing American life. The Ambassador also talked in more detail about the relationship between Japan and Puerto Rico and brought up several cultural topics.
On the evening of March 23, the Consulate General of Japan in New York and the Japan National Tourism Organization hosted a reception at the Ambassador's residence celebrating the Visit Japan Campaign and the related Visit Japan Year 2010 project. The Japanese government launched the Visit Japan Campaign in 2003 with the aim of significantly increasing international tourism to Japan. Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has reiterated his support for this effort and the government is formulating a number of new initiatives to aggressively promote inbound tourism in 2010 and beyond. The Visit Japan Year 2010 project is designed to highlight this year's prominent tourism-related events as well as some of the interesting themes for visitors in 2010.
The president of the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO), Mr. Tadatoshi Mamiya, visited New York from Tokyo to speak at the reception. JNTO is a government-related organization that oversees the Visit Japan Campaign. Mr. Mamiya was joined by the executive director of JNTO's New York office, Mr. Shuichi Kameyama, among other JNTO officials. The audience of about 150 guests included many travel industry professionals and members of the media, as well as local residents who are active in the Japanese cultural scene.
The evening began with remarks by Ambassador Shinichi Nishimiya, who noted that after the Visit Japan Campaign was implemented the number of visitors to Japan reached a high of 8.3 million in 2008, before declining last year as a result of the global economic downturn. Ambassador Nishimiya also described the significance for Japan's tourism industry of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) events to be held throughout Japan in 2010, including the 2010 APEC Leaders' Meeting in Yokohama in November.
Mr. Mamiya then gave his remarks on JNTO's overall tourism-promotion agenda and the key elements of the Visit Japan Campaign. Next, Mr. Kameyama outlined some of the important activities and events that are featured in the Visit Japan Year 2010 program. (For more information, please see the website at http://www.japantravelinfo.com) Mr. Kameyama also explained that the Visit Japan Campaign would soon adopt a new slogan and logo. Following the event, the government revealed the Campaign's new cherry blossom logo and announced that the new slogan will be "Japan. Endless Discovery."
The latter part of the reception revolved around traditional Japanese cultural activities. The first was a kagami biraki - a ceremonial breaking of a sake barrel to wish health and success to the celebrants. The honorary sake barrel "breakers" were the president of the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme Alumni Association of New York, Ms. Megan Miller, and an American father and his young son who recently toured Japan on bicycle and were recognized by JNTO for their achievement.
Audience members also had the opportunity to witness a performance of Japanese taiko drumming and an authentic shishimai, or "lion dance," which accompanied the drumming. A taiko drum performance is characterized by the drummers' martial art-type movements and a highly disciplined rhythmic approach, while a shishimai performance is perhaps most notable for the elaborate lion masks worn by the dancers. This exhibition featured both Japanese and American performers.
The final highlight of the evening was a viewing of kirie - an intricate type of Japanese artwork sometimes called "paper cutting." Guests at the reception were introduced to the distinctive kirie art of Mr. Shu Kubo, which he refers to as "mixed media" kirie. In 2009, Mr. Kubo was appointed by the Japanese government as Special Advisor for Cultural Exchange to the Agency for Cultural Affairs.
The Consulate is pleased to continue its support of the Visit Japan Campaign by hosting events like the March 23rd reception. The Consulate looks forward to collaborating further with JNTO in the years ahead to promote the Japanese government's tourism goals, and both organizations hope to encourage many more Americans to embark on an "endless discovery" of Japan.
Japan Information Center: Cultural Items
One of our more important functions in the Japan Information Center is the promotion of Japanese culture. When possible, we do our best to support other organizations and schools that endeavor to help disseminate information about Japan to the general public. We can assist those who want to share their knowledge of Japan and its culture by providing a wide range of cultural items. Happi (light-weight festival coat), yukata (light-weight kimono), kamishibai (traditional storytelling with pictures), chochin (paper lantern), and traditional Japanese dolls are among the many items we have available.
In the past, our cultural items were used at schools and organizations which organized a "Japan Day" or an "International Day". During the events, various displays, activities, games, and information relating to Japan are made available to people so that they can experience Japanese culture. We have received many "thank you" letters and pictures of successful events that included our materials, which is encouraging and congruent with the goals of the JIC.
Last month, the Long Island School for the Gifted, received a grant from the Japan Foundation to host such an event. Under the leadership of Mrs. Jayne Ameri, one of their 2nd graders teachers, the students transformed their gym into a gallery/museum of Japanese culture. The JIC's School Caravan team had the extraordinary opportunity to take an advanced look at the fair. The students, based on their own research and incredible artistic talent, were able to create a huge variety of items to put on display for the rest of the school. What they could not craft on their own, the JIC was able to provide, in order to help construct an authentic Japanese environment for those who visited the school that day. Upon entering the gym, you had to go pass through a "torii", which is a traditional Japanese gate, usually found at the entrance of a Shinto shrine. After walking inside, visitors could explore tables decorated with beautiful art projects, photographs, information, and clothing related to Japanese culture.
The Japan Information Center has a limited supply of items but is trying to accommodate as many different events as possible. There is never any fee for borrowing our materials but there are guidelines and rules that we must ask those who use our materials to follow so that we can keep the items in the best condition possible. There is also a time limit on how long the items can be kept out, again, so we can provide assistance to as many organizations and schools as possible.
If you are interested in borrowing these items, please take a look at our website (www.ny.us.emb-japan.go.jp) to see what types of cultural items are available. Then, call or visit the Japan Information Center or call (212) 371-8222 for more details.
Our new website "Japan-NYC 1860-2010: A Heritage of Friendship" is online and we are ready to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the first Japanese diplomatic mission to New York City in 1860. Many exciting events have already been announced. The Museum of the City of New York will be hosting an exhibition titled "Samurai in New York: The First Japanese Delegation, 1860" from June 25 to October 11. And on June 6, Japan Day @ Central Park will be organizing a "samurai parade" to recreate the Japanese envoy's huge welcome on Broadway 150 years ago.
On April 23, to help kick off the anniversary commemorations, I participated in a discussion with a group of undergraduates at Columbia University's Weather East Asian Institute. I spoke about recent Japan-US relations, specifically post-war Japan-US economic relations, the post-Cold War transition in Japan-US security cooperation, the significance of the first Japanese mission's visit to New York on June 16, 1860, and the ongoing person-to-person exchange programs and services that are offered through Consulate-General in New York. I explained how Japan and the U.S. overcome a variety of issues, such as trade imbalances, to form our present strong ties. I also emphasized that the friendship shared between our countries will further flourish in the years to come.
The arrival of approximately eighty samurai diplomats in New York in 1860, sent by the Tokugawa Shogunate to exchange instruments of ratification of the Treaty of Amity and Commerce, was not only the first direct encounter between Americans and Japanese but also Japan's first real contact with foreign culture and civilization after almost 250 years of isolation under the sakoku, or "closed country" policy. This year's anniversary marks a perfect opportunity to explore the roots of our history together, the origins of our close cooperation, and to look ahead to future enhanced bilateral relations. I sincerely hope that you too will also join us in the celebrations. Please visit the Consulate's website to learn more about what "Japan-NYC 1860-2010: A Heritage of Friendship" is, and how to participate in the anniversary events. For my part, I will be leading the "samurai parade" dressed up as samurai ambassador Shinmi Masaoki. I look forward to seeing you all at Japan Day @ Central Park!
At the 150-Year Milestone, The Future of U.S.-Japan Collaboration
Courtesy of Japan Society
Did you know that Japanese envoys wearing samurai outfits with swords marched on Broadway in 1860? It may have been the 19th century precursor to the ticker-tape parades of later years with hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers filling every available window, lamp post, and space lining Manhattan's famous thoroughfare to enthusiastically greet the first Japanese diplomatic delegation to the U.S. These Japanese delegates crossed the Pacific Ocean in 1860 to visit the United States for the ratification of the Treaty of Amity and Commerce. This year marks the 150th anniversary of this extraordinarily little known historic event, which took place after over 200 years of self-imposed isolation.
To commemorate 150th anniversary of the initiation of the Japan-U.S. relationship and the 50th Anniversary of the U.S. Japan Security Alliance, a conference Celebrating 150 years of U.S. - Japan Trade Relations: Promoting the Next 150 Years of U.S. - Japan Business Collaboration, will be held at The Japan Society on May 19, 2010. Anyone wishing to attend the conference may visit The Japan Society website to register.
The Keynote discussion will focus on the business and technology collaboration between the countries by Ambassador Shinichi Nishimiya and Edward Lincoln, Director of Japan-U.S. Center of New York University, and The Oriental Economist Report's Editor-in-Chief Richard Katz. It will be followed by a panel discussion on future collaboration in the fields of transportation, tourism, and food culture. Panelists are Tadayuki Hara of Rosen College of Hospitality Management, University of Central Florida, and Hajime Ito, the president of JETRO New York.
Courtesy of Japan Society
In this era of intertwined relationships, one country's decisions often influence and/or impact the security of the other. As global issues like energy security, environmental concerns, and geopolitical balance have become increasingly complex, the discussion focus on the current and future Japan-U.S. trade relationship, which plays an important role in maintaining global economic stability.
One hundred fifty years ago, with seventy Japanese delegates onboard, the ship, Kanrinmaru, escorted by the U.S. frigate Powhatan (Commodore Perry's famous "Black Ship") under the command of Captain John M. Brooke, embarked on the first Japanese voyage across the Pacific. Thanks to the assistance of Captain Brooke and his crew, the inexperienced Japanese arrived safely in San Francisco two months later. The Kanrinmaru had sustained some serious damages, but as a goodwill gesture, the U.S. Navy was kind enough to make the needed repairs at no charge.
After visits to Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and Philadelphia, the delegates were enthusiastically welcomed to New York City in June 1860 by throngs of parade viewers. Rooms in buildings facing on Broadway were completely rented out and the city, filled with excitement, turned out for a variety of balls and celebratory events. In turn, the Japanese delegates studied American technology, industry, government, and customs, to bring back to Japan to advance their knowledge.
This initial exchange resulted in a long lasting relationship between the U.S. and Japan and collaborative efforts to advance the economy and technology of both countries. The conference will provide the audience with not only historical insights on the relationship but also a look ahead at the future collaborative exchange between the U.S. and Japan.
Reenactment of Samurai Parade for 150 Years of Friendship!
This year marks the 150th Anniversary of the First Japanese Diplomatic Mission to the United States, Japan Day @ Central Park will reenact a special Samurai Parade to commemorate this historic milestone of the Japan-US relationship. In 1860 the first official Japanese envoys to the U.S. arrived in San Francisco, then traveled to Washington D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, and finally arrived in New York City on June 16, 1860. In Manhattan nearly half a million New Yorkers lined Broadway to witness the parade by the samurai outfitted delegation. The unprecedented throng of New Yorkers lined the parade route from Lower Manhattan to Union Square, hoping to glimpse the exotic visitors. Among them was Walt Whitman who wrote a poem in honor of the occasion. The Japan Day Samurai Parade comprised of samurai outfitted marchers, will re-enact the parade of 150 years ago, followed by a quick overview of the history of this diplomatic mission.
Japan Day @ Central Park, a gift to New Yorkers who have accepted and embraced Japanese food and culture as if their own, returns this year on June 6th. This "Thank you, New York!" matsuri (festival) which is the Japanese community's response to New Yorkers will mark the fourth consecutive such celebration in Central Park.
The festival will fill the East Meadow with tents offering a wide range of Japanese traditional family-friendly activities. Want to try wearing a kimono? There will be the tent for it. How about seeing a robot sumo match? There will be the tent for that too. Always dreamed about playing taiko or other Japanese instruments? Music lessons will be offered for all. Kabuki makeup? Yes, you can have your face painted with just like a real kabuki actor! With attendance having reached more than 45,000 last year, the festival is the must-attend event for families and friends in NYC. In addition to the activities, there will also be samples of popular Japanese food such as yakisoba, gyoza, udon, and sushi offered free-of-charge. And, at the center stage throughout the festival, video programs featuring traditional Japan and current Tokyo will be shown to give the audience the feeling of being in Japan. The stage will also be the site for exciting live performances throughout the day from J-pop artist Kizuki Minami to jazz by Sadao Watanabe.
Japan Day will kick off with the Japan Run, a 4-mile marathon at 8am, followed by Kid's Run at 9:30am. The festival starts at 10am and runs until a 5pm closing ceremony. Japan Day @ Central Park will bring visitors a bit of the feeling of Tokyo in the middle of Manhattan.
Photos : Courtesy of Japan Day