Ambassador Motoatsu Sakurai Named Japan Society President

For Immediate Release


New York, NY -- February 7, 2009 -- Ambassador Motoatsu Sakurai will be the new president of Japan Society. The Society's Board of Directors announced this morning that the Ambassador assumes his new leadership role April 7, 2009. Ambassador Sakurai is the Consul General of Japan in New York and is the former president of Mitsubishi International Corporation, USA. He will be the first Japanese-born president of Japan Society, now a 102-year old non-profit, non-political organization.

Ambassador Sakurai succeeds Richard J. Wood, who announced his planned retirement in 2008, pending the appointment of a new president. In a related announcement today, Japan Society acknowledges President Wood's accomplishments and strategic contributions.

"I am deeply honored to be the next Japan Society president," said the Ambassador. "There remains an opportunity for a broader, more continuous relationship between the people of Japan and the U.S. The Society's ability to connect people in both countries is important and necessary, and of deep interest to me."

"In 1951, John D. Rockefeller 3rd, who led Japan Society from the 1950s into the 1970s, predicted this day," said Wood. "He envisioned a moment when either an American or a Japanese person would lead the Society. I am thrilled that Ambassador Sakurai has accepted an appointment consistent with our founding vision, and I am pleased to hand the presidency of Japan Society over to him. Mutual understanding between Japan and the U.S. is our mission, and I can think of no one more suited to this important task than the Ambassador. He is a progressive, modern individual and is recognized by private and public leaders in both Japan and the U.S. as a highly successful business person and diplomat. Having spent so much of his professional career in the United States as well as in Japan, Ambassador Sakurai will bring a particularly broad perspective to his responsibilities at Japan Society."

"Ambassador Sakurai's appointment is history-making for Japan Society--and for both Japan and the U.S.," said James S. McDonald, chairman, Japan Society, and president and CEO of Rockefeller & Co, Inc. "He has a truly global outlook with a rich, in-depth understanding of the critical importance of the Japan-U.S. relationship--an alliance that is vital for shared economic and security interests and which, sadly, many leaders fail to embrace. In his tenure as board director, he has demonstrated, effortlessly and flawlessly, his extraordinary, world-class combination of international business and foreign affairs acumen and insight, and his passion for traditional and cutting-edge Japanese art and culture. Further, his deep and real desire to bring the people of Japan and the U.S. closer together made the decision of the Board unanimous."

Ambassador Sakurai has provided strategic counsel and senior executive leadership as a member of Japan's Society's Board of Directors. He has offered the Society unparalleled access to individuals and organizations in Japan, creating new partner and donor opportunities for the organization. Further, he has made constructive, long-term contributions to New York City cultural landscape and U.S.-Japan relations with the founding of the successful and ongoing "Japan Day," now a popular annual event that celebrates both Japanese culture in New York and New York's embrace of Japan, and which brought an estimated 40,000 visitors to Central Park in 2008.

About Ambassador Motoatsu Sakurai

Motoatsu Sakurai was appointed Ambassador and Consul General in New York in March, 2006 after a successful 40-year career in the private sector, and is the first business executive to serve as Ambassador and Consul General. After graduating from Tokyo University Faculty of Law in 1968, Ambassador Sakurai entered Mitsubishi Corporation (MC). During the course of his early work at MC, he received an MBA from INSEAD, Fontainbleau, France in May 1976. In 1978, Ambassador Sakurai served as a Loan Officer with the World Bank and as an Investment Officer at the International Finance Corporation in Washington D.C. In the mid- to late-1980s, Ambassador Sakurai served in several senior managerial capacities for Mitsubishi International Corporation (MIC) in New York and Washington, D.C. In 1995, after returning to Tokyo, he was named General Manager of Corporate Planning and in 1998, General Manager for Regional Strategy and Coordination. By 2000, he rose to Executive Vice President. In April, 2003, he was named President and CEO of MIC. Simultaneously, he was named President, Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry in New York. He has been a member of the Board of Directors of the Partnership for New York City, the Corporate Leadership Committee of Carnegie Hall, and the Executive Committee of the Nippon Club. He served as member of Japan Society's Board of Directors from 2003 until his appointment as Ambassador, after which he became an Honorary Director.

Ambassador Sakurai is married and lives in New York. He has two daughters who grew up in the Washington, D.C. area and now live and work in the United States.

About Japan Society

Established in 1907, Japan Society has evolved into North America's single major producer of high-quality content on Japan for an English-speaking audience. Presenting over 100 events annually through well established Corporate, Education, Film, Gallery, Lectures, Performing Arts and Innovators Network programs, the Society is an internationally recognized nonprofit, nonpolitical organization that provides access to information on Japan, offers opportunities to experience Japanese culture, and fosters sustained and open dialogue on issues important to the U.S., Japan, and East Asia.

Japan Society presents over 30 public programs between February and May 2009. Highlights include the Society-organized/produced seven-city North American tour of chelftisch Theater Company's Five Days in March (through February 22), winner of the prestigious Kishida Kunio Drama Award; the U.S.-Japan Innovator's Network Symposium Design + Community + Social Impact (February 8 in Japan) co-presented with the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership and the Japan Industrial Design Promotion Organization; the corporate conference Capital Market Competitiveness: Burnishing Tokyo’s Image in the Face of Global, Asian Challengers (February 12 in Japan) with twelve high-level panelists from Japan, the U.S., Asia and the U.K.; Shinjuku Ecstasy: Independent Films from the Art Theatre Guild of Japan (February 18-March 1), America's first retrospective film series of socially groundbreaking films from the 60s and 70s; Awaji Puppet Theater Company (March 5-7), the esteemed company's first time in New York in 10 years; and KRAZY! The Delirious World of Anime + Manga + Video Games (March 13-June 14), New York’s first major exhibition dedicated to three forms of contemporary visual art that exercise a huge influence on an entire generation of American youth.

Japan Society was founded on May 19, 1907, by a group of prominent New York business people and philanthropists, many of whom shaped the policies of exchange and collaboration that guided it through the 1930s until the outbreak of World War II. After the war, activities slowly resumed, and the stewardship of John D. Rockefeller 3rd from 1952-78 led to a unified vision and a firm financial foundation with a revitalized mission "to bring the people of the United States and Japan closer together in appreciation and understanding of each other."

Built on land donated by Rockefeller, Japan Society's landmark building was designed by architect Junzo Yoshimura and opened in 1971 as the first building by a leading Japanese architect in New York City. Located near the United Nations on 47th Street, activities at Japan Society are set against a stunning backdrop of indoor gardens, a reflecting pool and a waterfall. The facilities include a 262-seat theater, art gallery, language center, library, conference facilities and over three floors of administrative space. In 2006 the Society opened a boutique shop on the second floor next to the gallery, offering one-of-a kind functional and decorative artwork from living artists and studios in Japan.

Japan Society is located at 333 East 47th Street between First and Second Avenues. For further information on all Japan Society programming, visit or call 212-832-1155.

# # #

Shannon Jowett
Japan Society
T: (212) 715-1205
F: (212) 715-1262

Kuniko Shiobara
Japan Society
T: 212-715-1249
F: (212) 715-1262

Tricia Chan
Public Group
T: 212-905-3261

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