Thursday, January 28, 2010

New Thinking About Foreign Policy

Ryo Sahashi from the University of Tokyo, who was one of our panelists at our event on January19th (Japan-U.S. Security Treaty 50 Years On ) recently wrote a fascinating article on Japan's foreign policy strategy for East Asia Forum.

He poses the question, "What are the implications for the Japan-US alliance and relations given Japan’s new political situation?" and comes to a thoughtful conclusion that's definitely worth taking a look at.

Here's a short excerpt from the full article:

"Alternative conceptions of Japan’s foreign policy interests are grounded on two assumptions. First, economic dependence and social interaction within Asia is on the rise. An aging Japanese society needs the strength of Asia’s growth to underpin its future welfare. Second, policies for military protection against the uncertainty in the regional security environment can be separated from other policy agendas, since, unlike during the Cold War period, economic and social interdependence in the region are now deepening. These assumptions lead to a Japanese diplomacy based on strategic hedging — maintaining the alliance with the U.S. and simultaneously increasing efforts to nest into the growth of China and Asia.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Notes from the Gallery

Goodbye Serizawa! We'll miss you!

Today, the exhibit is getting deconstructed. Loud bangs and outrageous crashes have been emanating from the 2nd floor all morning. All the noise keeps ricocheting up the staircase. If for some unfortunate reason, you couldn't make the fabulous Serizawa exhibit, you can always check out some of the pieces on our online gallery. It's sad to hear it go.

But in order to create, one must first destroy, right? Our next exhibit looks super cool! Its official title is: Graphic Heroes, Magic Monsters: Japanese Prints by Utagawa Kuniyoshi from the Arthur R. Miller Collection and it's going to run from March 12th to June 13th.

Utagawa Kuniyoshi's vivid scenes from history and legend, wildly popular 150 years ago, are a major influence on the work of today's manga and anime artists. This exhibition features over 100 dramatic depictions of giant spiders, skeletons and toads; Chinese ruffians; women warriors; haggard ghosts; and desperate samurai combat.

I. Can't. Wait.

Since all of February is going to be dedicated to putting together the new exhibit, there will definitely be more posts about Utagawa through the coming weeks.

Here's your first sneak peak:

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

News Blast

When Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates visited Japan's new leaders in October, not long after their historic election, he pressed so hard and so publicly for a military base agreement that the Japanese news media labeled him a bully. The difference between that visit and the friendly welcome that a high-level Japanese delegation received just two months later in China, Japan's historic rival, could not have been more stark.

When presented with oat flakes arranged in the pattern of Japanese cities around Tokyo, brainless, single-celled slime molds construct networks of nutrient-channeling tubes that are strikingly similar to the layout of the Japanese rail system, researchers from Japan and England report Jan. 22 in Science. A new model based on the simple rules of the slime mold’s behavior may lead to the design of more efficient, adaptable networks, the team contends.

Now that the administration has announced its base figure for the first time, it will have a clear, public benchmark. Once ministries start announcing statistics, academic researchers, independent organizations and the press can check these figures. That will help to hold the current and future administrations accountable. Admitting the problem is the first, big step, but finding solutions is the more important second step.

Hideki Matsui & Bobby Valentine: Uniting the World Series and the Japan Series

According to a recent article in The Japan Times, World Series MVP Hideki Matsui "likes the idea of games between the World Series and Japan Series champions even though he may be retired by the time such a match up takes place. Baseball commissioner Bud Selig told his Japanese counterpart earlier this month that he is open to games between the champions of both countries but no steps have been taken to set up such a series."

On a similar note, last Thursday (January 21st), we were lucky enough to have Bobby Valentine come and discuss his experiences as one of the most successful baseball managers in the world. For those of you who don't know, Bobby Valentine is the only manager in baseball history to lead a team to both the Japan Series and the World Series. You can learn more about Valentine and the event on our website.

Japan-U.S. Security Treaty turns 50 years old!

Japan Society couldn't let such an important date pass by with dedicating an event to it. On January 19th, we hosted an entire panel of experts (including Hugh Patrick, the Director of the Center on Japanese Economy and Business and Ryo Sahashi from the University of Tokyo). The group represented the next generation of Japan-U.S. relationship thinkers, along with U.S. Japan watchers, who shared some really interesting perspectives on the state of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty.

You can watch the entire event via our webcast.

Tobias Harris of MIT was also supposed to be one of our panelists too but he unfortunately fell ill at the last minute. However, he did write an insightful article on the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty for East Asia Forum, which is definitely worth a read. Here's a short excerpt:

"To a certain extent, the position is the same as it has been for decades and can be summarized in a single word: more. As a superpower that is facing burdens and challenges that will increasingly overwhelm its capabilities, the U.S. needs allies like Japan to share the load now more than yesterday, and tomorrow more than today. More can be greater military spending or new military capabilities, constitution revision or reinterpretation, higher levels of foreign aid, or greater involvement in peacekeeping...Without substantial economic reform Japan may not be able to commit the material resources the U.S. would prefer — and without serious economic reform the Japanese people will continue to have little or no interest in constitution revision."

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Book Review: "The Last Train From Hiroshima" and "Edokko"

The New York Times recently published a fantastic review of Charles Pellegrino's sober and authoritative new book, “The Last Train From Hiroshima.” Here are a few interesting excerpts from the article:

"Mr. Pellegrino, whose many previous books include “Ghosts of the Titanic” (he also served as a scientific consultant to the director James Cameron on his Titanic expeditions and on “Avatar”), relates many stories in this book, not only those of wounded survivors but also of American and Japanese pilots and many others.

He pays particular attention to forensic detail, and provides a slow-motion, almost instant-by-instant explanation of how the atom bomb discharged its fury. There is not a lot that is new here, but “The Last Train From Hiroshima” is a firm, compelling synthesis of earlier memoirs and archival material, as well as of the author’s own interviews and research. This is gleaming, popular wartime history, John Hersey infused with Richard Preston and a fleck of Michael Crichton.

This isn’t a book that wrestles deeply with the moral calculus of the decision to drop the atomic bombs. Mr. Pellegrino doesn’t say whether he agrees with Paul Fussell, who wrote in “Thank God for the Atomic Bomb” that “the degree to which Americans register shock and extraordinary shame about the Hiroshima bomb correlates closely with lack of information about the Pacific war.”

But he certainly studies every kind of fallout and does not neglect the spiritual variety. He writes about one doctor who “recalled that those who survived the atomic bomb were, in general, the people who ignored others crying out in extremis or who stayed away from the flames, even when patients and colleagues shrieked from within them.”

This doctor confessed: “Those of us who stayed where we were, those of us who took refuge in the hills behind the hospital when the fires began to spread and close in, happened to escape alive. In short, those who survived the bomb were, if not merely lucky, in a greater or lesser degree selfish, self-centered — guided by instinct and not by civilization. And we know it, we who have survived.” " 

An excerpt of Mr. Pellegrino's book itself can be found HERE.

On a similar note, here at Japan Society, we recently featured author Isaac Shapiro, who was born to Russian Jewish parents in Tokyo in 1931 and grew up in the shadows of war torn Japan. Mr. Shapiro, who went on to become a prominent Manhattan attorney and president of Japan Society, shared the fascinating tale of his Russian/Jewish/Chinese/Japanese childhood in wartime Japan with us on January 14th.

The press release for that event is on our website, if you're interested in learning more.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

We made the Times!

"Think of baby animals with spooky, giant eyes and ghosts who talk about their bodily functions. Veith Michel’s three-paneled video features plenty of these, including beautiful line drawings by the manga illustrator Hiroki Otsuka, as well as a barrage of predictable media images.

It is an immersive, at times assaultive, world, especially when paired with a recorded text created by Mr. Wade, Mr. Gradinger and Marcos Rosales that careers from fantastical adventures in outer space to heavy-handed, childlike discussions about the government, consumerism and queer politics.

Mr. Gradinger tends to be subsumed by this environment, which sometimes morphs into an alienating television show for children, full of Andreas Harder’s abrupt lighting shifts. The most successful moments come early on, when his messy, often pedestrian movement palette unspools against the text’s Neverland of shattering space, ninja battles and princesses in need of saving.

Dressed in a loose blue T-shirt and lighter blue shorts printed with rocket ships, Mr. Gradinger seems a lost boy, grinning madly, galloping about or huddling into his body; scooting his rear end across the enclosed white stage; or flipping his hands in troubled little gestures."

[ The New York Times Dance Review ]

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

66 Ways: How to Cook Miso Soup

If you missed our event, Japanese Hot Pots to Warm Your Soul, you can still learn about Japanese food from The Japanese Food Report, where you can find 66 different ways to cook miso soup.

Here's an excerpt:
"Yes, we know tofu and wakame seaweed with white miso, the default soup of sushi joints coast to coast. But there's so much more. In Japan, miso soup reflects the full bounty, breath, spontaneity and endless creativity of the cuisine -- the varieties are mind boggling and delicious."

Ear To The Ground: Tokyo

An exclusive collaboration between LimeWire Store and New York – Tokyo

LimeWire Store’s Ear To The Ground series of FREE digital music compilations spotlights a different city for each release, and Ear To The Ground: Tokyo is the series’ 15th installment!

New York – Tokyo has selected a group of artists that represent the current progressive music scenes of Tokyo. They are the tastemakers within their scenes: from their fashions to the artwork on their album covers, these creative artists are making an effort to stand out in the crowded urban setting of Tokyo.

Within the U.S., download HERE

Outside the U.S., download HERE

Japanese Medical System Overview

Here’s a great site, especially for anybody interested in Japan or thinking of moving there. About Japan is technically a teacher's resource but it is chock full of useful knowledge for anyone interested in historic and contemporary Japan. For example, there's a fantastic overview of the Japanese Medical System that includes helpful articles and updated facts.

Japan-China Relations & Japan-US Relations

“For the Japanese, there is a feeling that somehow bilateral problems will be resolved because both sides agree about the importance of a good relationship for their own national interests,and that China will always seek a compromise. The Japanese believe China needs Japan for a number of reasons, be it to protect its foreign image as a peacefully developing country, to maintain its export- and FDI-dependent economy, to cope with its environmental problems, or to reduce its energy consumption. Prime Minister Hatoyama has stated that the creation of a good atmosphere and a strengthening of an East Asian community will allow the solution of even the most difficult problems. But are such views too complacent? Do they actually reduce Japan’s options in the medium and long term while China’s overall power is growing?”

[ A new start for Japan-China relations? on the East Asia Forum ]

This is a really hot topic right now. This Thursday (January 14th), we’re having former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Hitoshi Tanaka shares his view of changes in Japan’s foreign policy since the DPJ came to power last fall and implications for U.S. – Japan relations now that the DPJ is shifting its attentions to its Asian neighbors.

Learn more about the event

Monday, January 11, 2010

Serizawa's Last Week

January 17th is the last day of our Serizawa exhibit!

Declared a Living National Treasure, Serizawa Keisuke (1895–1984) used stencil-dyeing techniques to create irresistible works of art that range from screens and kimonos to book covers and magazine designs. The combination of Serizawa’s originality and vitality with the natural beauty of his materials—cotton, silk, hemp, and other fibers decorated with the brilliant yet warm hues of natural dyes—make this show as close to unmissable as it gets.

Click here to get a taste at the Design Gallery.

View exhibition details, gallery hours, admissions, and more.