Japan Society (New York)


Japan Society (New York)

Founded in 1907, Japan Society is a nonprofit, nonpolitical organization that brings the people of Japan and the United States closer together through understanding, appreciation and cooperation. Society programs offer opportunities to experience Japanese culture; to foster sustained and open dialogue on issues important to the U.S., Japan and East Asia; and to improve access to information on Japan. The major single producer of high-quality content on Japan for the United States, Japan Society presents over 100 events annually in the performing and visual arts, business and policy sectors, and education fields.

With performances, exhibitions, film screenings, lectures, conferences, courses, seminars, symposia and workshops, year-round programming occurs at Japan Society's landmark building located in Manhattan near the United Nations. Designed by Junzō Yoshimura as the first building in New York of modern Japanese architecture and opened in 1971, the elegant structure with its distinctive facade features a three-story indoor bamboo water garden, a 262-seat theater, art gallery, library, conference and administration facilities, and the world renowned Toyota Language Center.

Mission

"The Japan Society’s long range objective is to help bring the people of the United States and of Japan closer together in their appreciation and understanding of each other and each other’s way of life. It is our hope that a vigorous Japan Society can be of real benefit by functioning as a private, non-political organization interested in serving as a medium through which both our peoples can learn from the experiences and the accomplishments of the other." [John D. Rockefeller 3rd, March 1952]

History

Since being founded in the spring of 1907, Japan Society's growth has paralleled the development of both Japan and the United States into global powers [Michael R. Auslin, "Japan Society: Celebrating a Century (1907-2007)", Japan Society, 2007] . One of the pioneers of cultural exchange in the early 20th century, Japan Society was created in a time when few Americans knew anything about Japan. The Society not only hosted leading Japanese visitors to the United States, it sponsored early important exhibitions of Japanese art, published important books on Japan written by American experts, and promoted the study of Japan in American schools and universities by distributing learning materials and providing funds for prizes at the collegiate level. Throughout the 1910s and 1920s, it became the leading forum for Japanese to encounter their American counterparts abroad.

As political and racial tensions worsened between Japan and the United States in the 1920s and 1930s, the Society steadfastly refused to take a political stance, preferring education to advocacy. Nonetheless, Japan Society worked with other internationalist groups, such as the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace or the America-Japan Society of Tokyo, to increase contact between Americans and Japanese at all levels. The Society’s Annual Dinner became a venue for leading Japanese statesmen to give major addresses on the state of the U.S.-Japan relationship.

Despite the Society’s efforts, political crisis exploded into war in 1941. The Society closed its doors, as did all other Japan-American exchange groups. Yet the seeds of cooperation and goodwill were not extinguished by war, and in 1952, at the end of the American Occupation, the Society was reborn, largely through the efforts of President John D. Rockefeller 3rd and Executive Director Douglas Overton. The newly revitalized Society redoubled its efforts to educate Americans about Japan by expanding its lecture series, continuing to publish respected works on Japan, and by facilitating the study of Japanese students in New York.

The foresight of John D. Rockefeller 3rd resulted in the construction of Japan House in 1971 across the street from the United Nations. With a gallery, auditorium, library, and classroom space, the Society during the 1970s and 1980s expanded its programming to include groundbreaking exhibitions, sold-out performances of traditional and classical Japanese dance and music, major film series, a comprehensive language program, and a vibrant lecture series covering topics ranging from corporate and policy issues to Japanese popular culture.

Programs and Activities

Since its inception in 1907, Japan Society's activities within the international business community have evolved into the Corporate & Policy Program, which engages more than 2,500 executives annually. Recent high-profile discussions have included Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi (2002); Ben S. Bernanke, Member, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (2004); Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki (2006); Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Christopher Hill speaking on the Six-Party Talks (2007); and Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara (2007).

Japan Society’s Policy Projects include Redefining Japan & the U.S.-Japan Alliance, Bioterrorism & Consequence Management, and the U.S.-Japan Innovators Network, which brings emerging as well as established leaders in business, civil society and arts and culture together to explore new opportunities for bilateral collaboration in the 21st century. Created in 2004-2005, the project presented its first public U.S. symposium "Improvisation, Creativity, Collaboration: Fueling Innovation in the 21st Century" on May 24, 2007.

While Japan Society produced its first exhibition in 1911 (resulting in the Society's first major publication, "Japanese Colour Prints" by Frederick Gookin, 1913), Japan Society Gallery did not open until 1972 after the completion of the building. The Gallery has since become one of the premier venues in the U.S. for the exhibition and publication of Japanese art. Recent acclaimed exhibitions include "YES: Yoko Ono" (2000); "Little Boy: The Arts of Japan’s Exploding Subculture" curated by Takashi Murakami (2005); "Hiroshi Sugimoto: History of History" (2005), which toured the U.S. and Canada in 2007; and the lauded centennial exhibition "Awakenings: Zen Figure Painting in Medieval Japan" (2007).

Established in 1953, the Performing Arts Program has introduced American audiences to more than 500 programs of Japan's vibrant contemporary and revered traditional dance, music and theater. Highlights range from multiple premiere presentations of the Grand Kabuki to the wildly popular Contemporary Japanese Dance Showcase that "has served as an invaluable showcase for new Japanese dance in New York." [ [http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/20/arts/dance/20japa.html The Enigmas, the Oddities: What to Make of Dance From Japan; John Rockwell, The New York Times.] ] Through commissions, exchanges, and workshops the Program also endeavors to inspire U.S.-based artists. One such commission, Big Dance Theater's The Other Here, kicked off the 2007-08 centennial celebration and was followed by three months of noh-inspired work that culminated in spectacular outdoor traditional performances.

Japan Society is New York City's prime destination for cinematic retrospectives of seminal film directors and actors from Japan, thematic film series, and U.S. premieres of Japanese films of various genres often accompanied by commentary and discussion by participating filmmakers. From its first film screening in 1922 (a four-reel film of the crown prince's 1921 visit to Europe) to the 2006 premiere screening of "Drawing Restraint 9", hosted by visual artist Matthew Barney and collaborator Björk, Film Program highlights have also included, Kurosawa: A Retrospective (1981); A Tribute to Toshiro Mifune (1984); Anime: The History of Japanese Animated Films (1999); and Critic’s Choice: Susan Sontag on Japanese Film, Parts I & II (2003 and 2004). On July 5-15 2007 as part of the centennial, Japan Society presented JAPAN CUTS, its first-ever large scale festival of contemporary film.

Japan Society has created and facilitated many prestigious fellowships and exchanges, from Eleanor Roosevelt's 1953 participation in the Intellectual Interchange Program to the ongoing U.S.-Japan Media Fellows Program. The latter has resulted in articles from both eminent and up-and-coming newsmakers, which have appeared historically on ABC News and NPR and in publications including "The New York Times Magazine", "Newsweek", "Wired", "The Atlantic Monthly", "Business Week", "Foreign Policy", "The Wall Street Journal", "The Washington Post", "The Los Angeles Times", and "The Boston Globe" among many others.

In 1928, Japan Society received and displayed Good Will Dolls sent to America by more than 2,500,000 school children in Japan. Today the Society's Education Program offers exceptional Japan-related curricula and programs for K-12 educators, students and schools in arts, history, literature and contemporary issues, as well as educators’ study tours to Japan. With a new emphasis on special events for children of all ages, the Program serves wider audiences and local communities with firsthand opportunities to learn and experience Japanese culture.

With an annual lecture series initiated in 1911, today’s Lectures Program continues to present public lectures, panel discussions, and symposia that activate intercultural dialogue with topics ranging from art, architecture, and fashion to social policy. In the past 15 years, speakers have included Nobel Prize winner Kenzaburo Oe, acclaimed journalist Robert MacNeil, Director General of UNESCO Koichiro Matsuura, former U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata, fashion designer Hanae Mori, architect Tadao Ando, composer Stephen Sondheim, entrepreneur Martha Stewart, multimedia artist Nam June Paik, and jewelry designer Elsa Peretti.

Beginning in 1972 with a single class, the Toyota Language Center has grown into one of the most respected learning resources in the nation for the study of Japanese language, offering comprehensive levels of Japanese as well as a variety of advanced and specialized courses, workshops and conversation classes. In 2005-2006 over 2,000 students were enrolled in 165 classes, and the Center hosted a year-end discussion for students and alumni with special guest Hideki Matsui of the New York Yankees.

Japan Society's C.V. Starr Library contains roughly 14,000 volumes (primarily in English), offering Society members a comprehensive resource for information on Japanese art, history, culture, society, politics, religion and many other subjects.

Notes

External links

* [http://www.japansociety.org/ Japan Society]
* [http://www.japan100.org/ Celebrating a Century]
* [http://innovators.japansociety.org/ U.S.-Japan Innovators Project]


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