Board of Directors



Dear Members of the Board:

As the 2015-16 year closes, I would like to thank you, our Board members, along with Japan Society supporters and staff, for another extraordinary season. I am pleased to share that our 2016 Annual Dinner on June 1 attracted 620 attendees and raised over $1.33 million. Highlights included Japan Society Chairman Wilbur Ross’ informative fireside chat with Bank of America Chairman & CEO Brian Moynihan and actor George Takei’s heartfelt acceptance of the Japan Society Award.

We continually strive to increase the visibility of Japan Society not only in the United States, but also in Japan, deepening the impact of our institutional mission. To commemorate the 5th anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake, we led two, well-attended conferences in Tokyo, relating to economic disaster recovery in Tohoku and social entrepreneur development in Japan. We also expanded our earthquake relief efforts to Kumamoto, setting up a new fund within days of the tragedy’s occurrence. In less than two months, we have raised over $170,000.

Our programs and events continue to expand in scope, attendance and media acclaim. I hope you take a moment to review key highlights and achievements from the past year. As always, I thank you for your ongoing support and hope to see you at future Japan Society events.


Sakurai sig

Motoatsu Sakurai
President, Japan Society

The 2015-16 Performing Arts (PA) season was an incredible success, welcoming over 3,600 attendees and a robust lineup of distinguished artists. Superstar Mansai Nomura (narrator of the Society's Annual Dinner video) offered a traditional kyogen program with his father Mansaku and spunky sister duo Charan-Po-Rantan performed to a sold-out house. PA also organized consortium of co-presenters for the North American tour of Toshiki Okada's God Bless Baseball, which included five leading U.S. performing arts presenters across the country.

Up Next: In conjunction with next fall’s gallery exhibition Simon Starling: At Twilight, PA will present a weekend of noh theater (Nov 19-20). Esteemed members of the Kita Noh Theater Company will offer a number of noh plays selected from the treasured collection of W.B. Yeats. PA is also co-commissioning three new productions, to debut in Japan for the Society's 110th anniversary in 2017.

Japan Society Gallery continues to be among the premier institutions in the U.S. for the exhibition of Japanese art. This past fall, Gallery showcased For a New World to Come: Experiments in Japanese Art and Photography, 1968-1979, which Ken Johnson of The New York Times called “exceptionally interesting and informative... fascinating and illuminating." In the spring, Gallery exhibited In the Wake: Japanese Photographers Respond to 3/11, opening on the 5th anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake.

Up Next: In Oct 2016, Gallery will debut the Simon Starling: At Twilight exhibition. This immersive, multimedia installation brings to life the profound research and irrepressible imagination of artist and Turner Prize recipient Simon Starling, who will transform Japan Society’s gallery spaces into a metaphorical noh theater and illuminate the centuries-long dialogue between Japan and the West.

With 66 screenings and events, Film significantly increased its programming this past year, offering visitors more opportunities to experience the full breadth of Japanese cinema – from revered masterworks to topical documentaries, contemporary blockbusters and beyond. Film also introduced Monthly Classics screenings on the first Friday of every month, which are are discounted to $5 for Japan Society members—a new perk intended to incentivize membership.

Up Next: Film is gearing up for the 10th anniversary edition of JAPAN CUTS: Festival of New Japanese Film (July 14-24). JAPAN CUTS 2016 includes an unprecedented number of guest filmmakers and stars – Lily Franky, Atsuko Maeda and Sion Sono, among many others – and a lineup of 29 feature films and dozens of shorts, almost all screening in NYC for the first time.

The Business & Policy (B&P) Program hosted 27 corporate lectures and events at Japan Society in the past fiscal year. B&P welcomed high-level officials from Bank of Japan, including Governor Haruhiko Kuroda and Deputy Governor Hiroshi Nakaso, who talked about Japan’s economy under quantitative and qualitative monetary easing. B&P also launched the Women on the Rise series, providing enriching content on the advancement of women in the public and private sectors. Prominent executives from various professions participated, including Yukako Uchinaga (J-Win) and Kathy Matsui (Goldman Sachs).

Up Next: Next season, B&P is excited to welcome Matthew Shattock, Chairman & CEO of Beam Suntory to Japan Society. He will speak about the world’s third-largest premium spirits company’s long journey, from start-up to worldwide business enterprise.

During the past season, the Talks+ Program held 19 diverse lectures and hands-on workshops. All together, the program attracted 3,600 enthusiastic attendees, and almost half of the events sold out completely. Talks+ events received mentions in a number of major media outlets, including C-SPAN, The New York Times, InStyle Magazine, The New Yorker and Architectural Digest. Notable guests included: Actor George Takei; Ebizo Ichikawa XI, a leading young star of kabuki theater, and Sou Fujimoto, a rising star in the architectural world. One of the most exciting accomplishments was the Okinawa series, co-organized with Okinawa Prefectural Government.

Up Next: Talks+ will continue the Get to Know Japan series by highlighting Gifu Prefecture, and will also host a rare New York appearance by the 45th Headmaster of Ikenobo ikebana, Sen’ei Ikenobo. Best-selling mangaka Yusei Matsui joins us in October in conjunction with New York Comic Con. The fall also brings hearty food and drink events, with a wagyu beef talk and tasting as well as a unique shochu program.

Ten U.S. students were selected to travel to Japan (July 2015), and ten Japanese students traveled to New York (March 2016), to participate in the Japan Society Junior Fellows Leadership Program. They met with leading professionals, including former Senator John “Jay” Rockefeller IV, stayed with a host family, visited historical sites and completed a research project. Ten U.S. educators traveled on the three-week Educators Study Tour to Japan that included a homestay experience, school visitation, and historical research in various regions. Conversations with atomic bomb survivors as well as local officials engaged in recovery efforts in Tohoku provided perspectives for greater depth of teaching.

Up Next: Education will host a Visual Storytelling through Video & Photography immersion workshop, August 1-12. High school students will plan, shoot and produce a short video and series of photographs, and exhibit their work to the public.

In 2016, Innovators Network completed its three-year U.S.-Japan Leaders Exchange Program with participants from Tohoku, New Orleans, LA, Wilmington, OH, Detroit, MI and New York, NY. This collaboration resulted in two new data projects started by participants, one in Onagawa and one in Sendai, and a new program started by a participant from Soma, Fukushima, engaging high school social entrepreneurs.

Up Next: Innovators Network is planning two new projects: one, in partnership with the Japan NPO Center, that focuses on regional economic and community revitalization in the U.S. and Japan; the other, in partnership with ETIC, to create a legacy from the 2020 Olympics that will focus on social innovation.

Language Center (LC) expanded its course offerings with a slate of new theme-based classes: Anime, Conversation through Manga, J-Drama and JLPT Prep. LC also developed a series of very popular Free Trial Japanese Lessons as an innovative way to attract new students to the center, with each trial lesson resulting in a long waiting list. With these new initiatives, enrollment increased 10 percent from the previous year.

Up Next: Language Center is introducing new courses: Yukkuri Nihon-go: Japanese at a Leisurely Pace, intended for beginners of Japanese who prefer to learn in a more easygoing style, and Crash Course for Travelers to Japan, an all-in-one introduction to the language and customs of Japan.

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Images: Charan-Po-Rantan © Ayumi Sakamoto; Installation view of For a New World to Come: Experiments in Japanese Art and Photography, 1968-1979. © Richard Goodbody; This Country's Sky © Ayumi Sakamoto. Photo © Japan Society/Alan Klein; The Prince of Kabuki: Ebizo Ichikawa © Daphnee Youree; Junior Fellows with Senator Rockefeller IV © Owen Rojek; Innovators Network © Fumiko Miyamoto; Photo © Japan Society/Alan Klein.

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