Vol.37 November 2011
- Prime Minister Noda Holds Summit Meeting with President Obama
- Conferment Ceremony for Mr. Shinichi Doi
- NYAWC and CGJ in NY to Assist Domestic Violence Victims
- WOULD YOU LIKE TO WORK IN JAPAN?
- Harlem Week Takes Part in Japan Relief Efforts
- Visit Japan - Hidden Gems: The Buddhist Golden Pure Land
- Culture Connection - Japanese Language and Literature Courses at LaGuardia Community College
- From the Ambassador's Desk
- Tokyo String Quartet
- Event Calendar
On September 21, Prime Minister Noda held a summit meeting with President Obama during his visit to the U.S. to attend the UN General Assembly
At the beginning, President Obama stated that Japan is an important ally and a partner with which the U.S. would work cooperatively on a broad range of issues such as security, economy, and so forth. He further expressed that the U.S. would do everything that it can do as Prime Minister Noda has to deal with extraordinary challenges such as rebuilding Japan in the aftermath of the tsunami. In addition, President Obama mentioned that, as the two largest economies in the world, the U.S. would like to hold productive discussions with its ally, Japan, on matters such as enhancing growth and job creation.
In response, Prime Minister Noda said that the top priority for his administration is the reconstruction from the earthquake and the conclusion of the nuclear power plant accident. At the same time, he commented that even from before the earthquake took place, Japan had a lot of challenges both domestically and in foreign policy areas and that the mission of his administration is dealing with them one by one and creating a stable administration. Moreover, Prime Minister Noda once again expressed his appreciation to the enormous U.S. assistance such as Operation Tomodachi, stating that he got a firm belief that the Japan-U.S. alliance is the linchpin of Japan's foreign policy again through U.S. assistance of this time. He further showed his intention to deepen and enhance the alliance with the three pillars of security, economy, and cultural and the people-to-people exchanges.
Prime Minister Noda stated that it is important that the economies of Japan and the U.S. remain robust for the global prosperity and stability and it is crucial that both Japan and the U.S. achieve both economic growth and fiscal reconstruction while closely coordinating through multilateral frameworks such as G20. As for the European debt issue, he further expressed his idea that it was essential that European countries stood together and promptly dealt with the issue at first. Both leaders agreed to cooperate closely to achieve concrete outcome at 2011 APEC in the U.S. Regarding whether to join negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement, Prime Minister Noda conveyed his intention to discuss the issue thoroughly and reach a conclusion as early as possible. Furthermore, regarding the issue of U.S. beef imports, the two leaders acknowledged that they would continue the discussions toward a solution acceptable to both countries.
Prime Minister Noda explained that the Government of Japan confirmed the policy to move forward with the preparations to conclude the Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (the Hague Convention) this May, and has been moving forward with the necessary preparation to introduce a relevant domestic bill to the Diet in order to conclude the convention at the earliest possible opportunity.
Both leaders held a frank exchange of views on North Korea, and global issues such as the situation in Afghanistan, the Middle East and North Africa.
Two days earlier, on September 19, Foreign Minister Gemba held a meeting with Secretary of State Clinton during his visit to the U.S. to attend the UN General Assembly.
Conferment Ceremony for Mr. Shinichi Doi
On September 6, Mr. Shinichi Doi, Former Conservator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, was honored with the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays for his outstanding contributions to the promotion of Japanese culture through art.
During a conferment ceremony at the Consul-General's official residence, Ambassador Shigeyuki Hiroki presented a Certificate of Commendation on behalf of the Government of Japan to Mr. Doi.
Ambassador Hiroki expressed his sincere appreciation to Mr. Doi for his tireless efforts in broadening Japanese culture, promoting mutual understanding and encouraging cultural exchange between Japan and the United States. He especially noted that Mr. Doi completed the preservation of a cracked chalkboard from a New York City firehouse that displayed the names of 13 firefighters who responded to calls from the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001.
In Mr. Doi's remarks, he described himself as a kuroko, which comes from the Kabuki, term for an inconspicuous stagehand dressed in black who assists the actors during the performance. Indeed, Mr. Doi restored art without leaving behind any traces of his work in promoting cultural exchange between Japan and the U.S.
Mr. Doi's long time co-workers and friends gathered for the ceremony. Those present included Philippe de Montebello, Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star, Autumn 2007, and former Director of Metropolitan Museum of Art; and Charles Moffett, Sotheby's NY. Both gentlemen made beautiful speeches which further brightened the evening's festive atmosphere.
Mr. Doi worked for the Metropolitan Museum of Art for 40 years. His restoration works include "Statue of a wounded warrior", "Statue of a wounded Amazon" representing the Greek and Roman art department and "the Assembly of the Buddha Shakyamuni" representing 14th century of Chinese art. In addition, the New York Times wrote an article about his great work for the restoration of an ancient Persian dish in 1984. He has been called the "art doctor" and "diplomat in art" for his restoration techniques and passions for art. Mr. Doi also has enhanced the presence of Japanese art at the Met Museum in cooperation with Mr. Montebello. Mr. Doi played an important role in opening the Sackler Galleries for Asian art at the Met Museum in 1987. Since then, artworks from Japan have been on display there. In addition, thanks to his dedication, many collections at the Met Museum have been lent for the exhibitions in Japan. Mr. Doi thus served to build strong bridges of art exchange and mutual understanding between Japan and the U.S through art exchange. In addition, Mr. Doi has supported the Japanese community in the U.S. by launching the New York Toyama Kenjinkai (Association of Toyama Prefecture in New York) and has served as its chairman for many years.
NYAWC and CGJ in NY to Assist Domestic Violence Victims
On September 30th, the Consulate General of Japan in New York finalized an agreement with the New York Asian Women's Center (NYAWC) in order to extend assistance and support Japanese victims of domestic violence from October 1st. This agreement will extend beyond NYWAC's normal mandate of New York City out to the seven states in the Consulate General's jurisdiction (New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware and West Virginia). NYAWC is a non-profit organization established in 1982 with the aim to help women and their children overcome domestic violence and other forms of abuse. It has since become the largest organization in U.S dealing with domestic violence against Asian Americans.
Japanese nationals living in the abovementioned seven states can take advantage of the following services in Japanese at the consultation window at NYAWC:
1) General assistance for Japanese victims of domestic violence;
2) Counseling and other advice to Japanese nationals on domestic violence;
3) Information and materials on legal issues relating to domestic violence;
4) Information and materials regarding the U.S. court system; and
5) Assistance to Japanese victims who are involved in any court proceedings in New York City.
The background of this measure is that there has been an increase in cases of international child abduction by Japanese mothers living outside Japan. Such cases have received international attention in recent years. It is said that many of these Japanese mothers are victims of domestic violence, which is why they were moved to return to Japan with their children.
The Japanese Government retains a responsibility to provide assistance for Japanese nationals who are victims of domestic violence. In order to expand the ability of the Consulate General of Japan in New York to assist Japanese nationals who find themselves in such a situation, this agreement with NYAWC has been concluded. This agreement aims to provide assistance to Japanese victims of domestic violence before they find themselves compelled to flee the country. Even if those looking for information do not reside in a state where NYAWC is active, counselors at NYAWC will be happy to provide information. Japanese-speaking counselors are also available.
Mr. Larry Lee, the executive director of NYAWC said: "NYAWC is honored to work hand-in-hand with the Japanese government to assist their citizens living in these 7 states. Japan's commitment to assist and protect their citizens from domestic abuse even while living in America is truly inspiring. "
The Ambassador Hiroki Shigeyuki, Consul General of Japan in New York, said: "We are honored to collaborate closely with NYAWC which has much experience in support to Japanese victims of domestic violence. I believe that, for Japanese victims of domestic violence, it must be helpful to open the consultation window in Japanese at NYAWC, regarding to divorce, child custody issue which was caused by domestic violence".
Please feel free to contact NYAWC counselors at: New York Asian Women's Center (www.nyawc.org) 1-888-888-7702 or 212-732-5230. All services are free of charge and strictly confidential.
WOULD YOU LIKE TO WORK IN JAPAN?
APPLY FOR JET PROGRAM AND TEACH ENGLISH TO JAPANESE CHILDREN OR WORK IN LOCAL GOVERNMENT OFFICES!
F or more than 25 years, the JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching) Program has aimed to promote grass-roots international exchange between Japan and other nations. Throughout Japan today, you will find JET participants teaching English to school children or working at local government offices and developing strong relationships with their local communities. Even after completing their time on the program, many former JET participants use their experiences in Japan to continue enhancing relations between Japan and their home countries. For more information or to apply, go to the website here:
Harlem Week Takes Part in Japan Relief Efforts
This year's Harlem Week included relief efforts for northeastern Japan, which suffered great damage due to the earthquake and tsunami of March 11th. The Harlem Week committee invited Ambassador Shigeyuki Hiroki, Consul-General of Japan in New York, as a keynote speaker for the Economic Development Day at Columbia University on August 4th, and provided booths for the exhibition of Japanese automobiles at the 22nd Upper Manhattan Auto Show on August 21st in order to prevent negative side effects of rumors regarding Japanese products and safety in Japan as well as concerns of a possible decline in Japan's role in global supply chains.
At Columbia University, Ambassador Hiroki expressed his gratitude for the support provided by the citizens of New York, and all the people of the United States. He explained the current situation in Japan, emphasizing that Japan is open for business, for foreign students and for tourism, and that he hoped many people from the U.S. would visit Japan. He also mentioned that through fundraising and cultural efforts, Harlem and Japan are being brought even closer together; Harlem and Japan share a connection that runs deep in people's hearts. Finally, he added in his remarks that the Japanese people are deeply impressed with the friendship that has been extended to them from the people of Harlem, and expressed his "deep thanks to all of you here today for your support in this difficult time."
At the Auto Show, with the cordial invitation of the Harlem community and the endorsement of the Consulate General of Japan in New York, automakers Nissan and Honda exhibited their cars at the show. This exhibition was recognized as part of the Japan-U.S. Public-Private Partnership for Reconstruction, which was presented at the Japan-U.S. Foreign Ministers' bilateral meeting in April. Nissan displayed its Versa, Murano, Maxima and Armada, while Honda showed off its Civic. Their 2012 models and hybrid vehicles attracted much attention from the crowd.
Congressman Charles Rangel, New York City Council Member Inez Dickens and other dignities made appearances at the ceremony, and Mr. Rangel mentioned that "parts of Japan may have been damaged by the earthquake and tsunami, but our friendship, cultural connections and trade relationship have not changed." Yasuhisa Kawamura, Deputy Consul General, in his thank you message, explained the current situation and reconstruction efforts in Japan, and discussed Japan's position regarding the recovery of global supply chains. Finally Mr. Kawamura mentioned that "we, Japan and the U.S., will continue together into the future."
Hidden Gems: the Buddhist Golden Pure Land
Earlier this year, the international community found a hidden Japanese historic milestone in a northern mountainous city of Hiraizumi in Iwate Prefecture. The quiet location helped Hiraizumi to be such an amazing destination for Japan's top cultural artifact collections and the concepts of garden construction. This hidden gem wasn't exposed much to the global attention until earlier this year when the area is designated as the UNESCO's World Heritage site for the ancient historic temples and the beginning of Japanese garden.
The fact that the Fujiwara Rule was rather brief. However, during the 4 generations for just over 100 years, the Family's commitment to regional prosperity created unique yet very rich cultural landmarks. The family built Chusonji Temple (http://www.chusonji.or.jp/) in 1105 when Kiyohara Fujiwara established his power in Hiraizumi, then plated with pure gold from the local mines and named Konjiki-do (the Gold Pavilion). As universally perceived, gold is the symbol for power and prosperity, and this became the Hiraizumi cultural icon. The Fujiwara clan also realized their Shangri-la in Hiraizumi: The Buddhist state in perfect peace was realized in 4 gardens, which became the archetype of traditional Japanese garden later. Some historians claim that Marco Polo described Japan as "the Land of Gold" because of the significant level of gold in Hiraizumi.
As opposed to the beauty of art, Hiraizumi also has a mysterious side. The remarkable gold structure houses 4 Buddhist statues, each of which stands above the Fujiwara leaders' bodies. All 4 leaders' bodies are placed in the gold-plated wooden caskets under the golden statues in the Golden Pavilion, which is also a very rare burial style in Japan from the time people were buried directly in the ground in ancient time.
What the Fujiwara family achieved was the fundamental beauty of Japanese art and culture, and Hiraizumi represents the short-lived Fujiwara clan's cultural and historic influences that remain in today's Japan. Surrounded by very green indigenous geography, the harmony between human life and nature, Hiraizumi still welcomes visitors from all over the world with calm air and cultural significance.
Japanese Language and Literature Courses at LaGuardia Community College
- By Marisa Genuardi and Tomonori Nagano
The Japanese program at LaGuardia Community College offers five Japanese-language courses, including elementary and intermediate language courses, two courses on Japanese literature (one in English and one in Japanese), and two culture and civilization courses. More than one hundred LaGuardia students take advantage of this opportunity each semester, making the Japanese language program the second-most popular in the college after Spanish. LaGuardia is the only community college in New York City that offers four full semesters (two years) of Japanese language classes, as well as one of the few college in the area to offer a Japanese literature course targeted at native and near-native speakers of Japanese. But perhaps the true uniqueness of the Japanese program at LaGuardia Community College springs from what is perhaps the greatest asset of the school itself: the diversity of its student body.
At LaGuardia, students from a variety of national and ethnic backgrounds come together in the Japanese-language classroom to share their excitement for a new language and culture. Over 60% of students at LaGuardia are foreign-born, an asset that plays a particularly beneficial role for foreign language students, including those studying Japanese. There are about one hundred students at LaGuardia who hail from Japan, several of whom work with their fellow students as Japanese-language tutors. Students learning Japanese have the opportunity to drop by the Language Lab to practice Japanese or to chat about their interest in Japanese culture with Japanese native speakers.
The Japan Club is another cornerstone of the Japanese community at LaGuardia. In the club, Japanese-language students have the chance to interact with students from Japan outside of an official academic setting. The Japan Club also serves as a local community for international students from Japan. After the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan this year, a group of Japanese students and members of the Japan Club collaborated in various charity campaigns, raising $6,666.46 in a three-day donation event.
Of course, the core Japanese language program itself has been carefully designed to meet students academic needs in their pursuit of Japanese-language mastery. The elementary-level (first-year) Japanese courses focus on oral communication and pronunciation skills; therefore, a significant portion of the class is conducted in Japanese. In both the fourth week and the last week of their first semester of Japanese, students present a video-taped self-introduction, in which they talk about their ethnic background, school work, hometown, hobbies, and daily life.
The intermediate-level (second-year) Japanese courses put more emphasis on grammar, with a focus on expanding students' communication skills from speaking to writing. Students are expected to master the core aspects of Japanese grammar and write several compositions throughout the year. At the end of their second year, students revisit the video-taped self-introduction that they made in the fourth week of their Japanese study and expand it into a 2000-character essay. In the essay, students not only demonstrate their mastery of complex grammatical structures and Japanese rhetorical skills, but also display their newfound awareness of the cultural contrasts between Japan and the U.S.
In order to ensure their students' continued study of Japanese, faculty at LaGuardia have been working tirelessly with colleagues at several CUNY senior colleges to ensure an easy transition into upper-level Japanese language courses at a 4-year institution. Additionally, a discussion with Queens College is in currently in progress in hopes of making LaGuardia the first CUNY community college that will offer a special Liberal Arts curriculum tailored for students who are seeking a career in the field of Japanese or/and Asian Studies.
The Japanese program at LaGuardia Community College strives to create a solid academic experience with the Japanese language for its students, a goal that is readily supplemented by the cultural diversity of the school at large. Not only do Japanese-language students have the opportunity to work directly with their peers from Japan, but they also bring their own unique cultural perspectives to the classroom, where they gradually learn how to express themselves to the world in a brand-new language.
- For further information:
It has now been eight months since the last Japan Info newsletter, which I sent soon after my arrival here in New York. After solving some technical issues and dealing with practical matters, I'd like to get a fresh start on the newsletter.
Japan experienced a crisis of massive proportions in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami of March 11th. We were grateful to have received heartwarming compassion and generous support from all corners of the globe. I was touched by a drawing the Consulate General received from an elementary school student in New Jersey. The drawing depicted two people shaking hands beneath the flags of Japan and the US. It came with the message "We are with you." This gesture cast a light of hope in times of sadness for those affected people, and offered warm feelings to those in need. As of October 24th, the Consulate-General of Japan in New York has collected donations totaling $711,425.49, of which $698,479.98 (98.2%) have been remitted to the Japanese Red Cross Society.
In July, the Cabinet announced the Basic Guidelines for Reconstruction in response to the Great East Japan Earthquake. With the inauguration of the Administration of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda in September, the Japanese people will work together with all their strength toward a speedy recovery from the disaster. In spite of the various economic side effects of the disaster, including a slump in exports and a drop in tourism, efforts are being made in earnest towards a resolution of these and other issues arising from the earthquake and tsunami. For more on disaster recovery and reconstruction efforts by the Government of Japan and the Consulate General of Japan in New York, please visit our website.
Moving on to Japan-US cultural exchange, the coming year will mark the 100th anniversary of the gift of sakura, or cherry trees, to the US from Japan. It is well-known that in 1912, with the encouragement of Mrs. Taft, then First Lady of the US, the City of Tokyo, gave a gift of over 3,000 sakuras to Washington DC in order to foster good relations between our two countries. What is less well known is that at the same time an inaugural tree-planting ceremony for a number of sakura took place on the banks of the Hudson River near Grant's Tomb in Clairmont Park, now known as Riverside Park. The area in Riverside Park where this ceremony took place is now called Sakura Park. It is the 100th anniversary of the gift of these sakura that we will celebrate next year. Please join us for the many programs we will present in the near future!
Tokyo String Quartet
- by Mary Cronin and Andrew Preis
- 92nd Street Y
The Tokyo String Quartet, founded 42 years ago and regarded as one of the finest ensembles in the world, will once again take music lovers on a soul-stirring journey as they open their 2011/12 three-concert series at 92nd Street Y this fall. Marking their eighth season as the 92Y string quartet in residence, the Tokyo String Quartet will begin an intriguing two-year cycle of Béla Bartók's six quartets, which will also feature the works of Haydn, Schumann, Dvořák and Debussy.
Since their first concert on March 30, 1977, the Tokyo String Quartet and 92Y have established a long-standing relationship of mutual admiration and respect. Earlier this year, when the Quartet began raising support for the people of Japan in the wake of the earthquakes and tsunami, 92Y immediately offered its assistance. 92Y donated a portion of the proceeds from the Quartet's May 7 concert to the Japanese Red Cross Society and distributed information about important relief organizations to audience members.
That concert also concluded the Quartet's critically-acclaimed three-year survey of Beethoven's string quartets and piano sonatas with guest artists at 92Y, which was hailed by critics and audiences alike. Now the Tokyo String Quartet turns to Bartók, whom they view as the perfect follow-up. According to Quartet cellist Clive Greensmith, Beethoven and Bartók represent "... two of the most influential, profoundly individual voices to have left their mark on the string quartet genre."
Each concert will match a Bartók quartet with a quartet by Franz Josef Haydn, considered the "father" of the string quartet. This gives audiences an opportunity to experience the roots of the quartet format in Haydn and the musical innovation of Bartók. Illuminating the Quartet's goal with the new program, violinist Martin Beaver said, "Over the next two seasons, we are striving to chart the musical paths of two great masters who contributed immeasurably to the development of the string quartet form."
Captivating music lovers and critics around the world for decades, the Tokyo String Quartet includes Martin Beaver and Kikuei Ikeda (violins), Kazuhide Isomura (viola) and Clive Greensmith (cello). The Quartet frequently collaborates with an array of esteemed musicians. It has a remarkable discography of more than 40 landmark and award-winning recordings, and it is deeply committed to teaching young musicians as the quartet in residence at the Yale School of Music.
The Quartet's new season begins in November at 92Y, a space cherished by New Yorkers for its intimacy and fabulous acoustics. Under the passionate stewardship of musical director Hanna Arie-Gaifman, 92Y's concerts offer an unrivaled experience for the full spectrum of music lovers.
The first performance by the Tokyo String Quartet is Saturday, November 5 at 8 pm. The series continues March 17 and April 28. To learn more about all of 92Y's upcoming concerts this season–from children's concerts to jazz performances to a multi-disciplinary exploration into the culture of the World War II transition camp/ghetto Terezin/Theresienstadt this January–visit 92Y.org/Concerts.
Originally founded in 1969 at The Juilliard School of Music, the Tokyo String Quartet's founding members were profoundly influenced by Professor Hideo Saito at the Tokyo School of Music. Each year, the Quartet performs at concert halls and chamber music festivals across the United States and Europe. For more information on the Tokyo String Quartet, visit tokyoquartet.com.