Activity Reports:About Us :2009 Presentation Ceremony for The Japan Foundation Awards

Junko Tokoro
The Japan Foundation Information Center


On October 6, 2009, the presentation ceremony for the 37th Japan Foundation Awards was held at Hotel Okura, Tokyo. The Japan Foundation Awards have been presented since 1973 to an individual or organization for significant contributions to international cultural exchange.
Three recipients of the awards for 2009, one each for Arts and Culture, Japanese Language, and Japanese Studies and Intellectual Exchange, are as follows:

ar-about0912_2.pngThe Japan Foundation Award for Arts and Culture:
Boris Akunin
(Real name: Grigory Chkhartishvili)
(Writer) [Russia]

The Japan Foundation Award for Japanese Language:
Alliance of Associations of Teachers of Japanese [AATJ]
(Executive Director: Susan Schmidt) [U.S.A]

The Japan Foundation Award for Japanese Studies and Intellectual Exchange:
James Arthur Stockwin
(Former director of the Nissan Institute of Japanese Studies at the University of Oxford) [U.K.]

ar-about0912_3.pngThe Japan Foundation Award for Arts and Culture
Boris Akunin
(Writer) [Russia]
Mr. Akunin is one of the best-selling novelists in Russia. He has been introducing Japanese literature and culture to Russian readers through his translations, scholarly works, and a diverse range of creative writing that includes a series of mystery novels. In addition, as a leading cultural figure in Russia, he has been making contributions to cultural exchange between Japan and Russia. "I no longer trust my Japanese proficiency, so I would like to make this speech in English," said Mr. Akunin at the beginning of his speech. He said that he couldn't help falling love with Japan as he learned its language, country, and people. "I ceased to be a scholar of Japanese literature a decade ago," he said, "but this love in Japan is of a lifetime, like a sickness that will never be cured." The writer shared his passion for Japan in a detached manner with an occasional touch of humor. He revealed that he didn't usually wear ties, but he rushed to buy one to have an audience with the Emperor and Empress and attend this reception ceremony. I wondered when we would see him again with the tie.

ar-about0912_4.pngThe Japan Foundation Award for Japanese Language
Alliance of Associations of Teachers of Japanese[AATJ]
(Executive Director: Susan Schmidt) [U.S.A]
AATJ is a nationwide organization for Japanese-language education in the United States, making significant contributions to the promotion and development of Japanese language education in elementary, secondary, and higher education across the country, by coordinating organizations of Japanese language teachers, providing training programs for teachers, and disseminating information on Japanese language education. Ms. Schmidt has been the Executive Director of AATJ for a decade. Despite a severe situation of education in the US, AATJ has been supporting over 3,000 Japanese-language teachers across the country and listening to the voice of teachers. Ms. Schmidt said that she owed the success of Japanese-language education in the US to many talented and supportive people. She showed her gratitude to AATJ for giving her an opportunity to work with Japanese-language learners who started their study with various motivations and with teachers who were working hard to support the learners, and to attend the reception ceremony as the representative of the Association. Ms. Schmidt was very friendly and open-minded person who had actually lived in Tokyo for twenty years and the city was her adopted hometown. In this short stay, she visited the Suntory Museum of Art, the Okura Museum of Art, and the Nezu Museum that had just re-opened. "New Nezu Museum was very impressive and I do recommend visiting there," she said.

ar-about0912_5.pngThe Japan Foundation Award for Japanese Studies and Intellectual Exchange
James Arthur Stockwin
(Former director of the Nissan Institute of Japanese Studies at the University of Oxford) [U.K.]
Professor Stockwin made significant contributions to the development of Japanese Studies in the United Kingdom through his achievements in modern Japanese political studies, and through the promotion of intellectual exchange and understanding between Japan and the UK as the founding director of the Nissan Institute of Japanese Studies at the University of Oxford. It was January 1962 when Professor Stockwin, always with a quiet smile, who was still a graduate student back then, visited Japan for the first time. With Ms. Stockwin and their six-week old daughter, he arrived at Yokkaichi Port in Mie Prefecture on a freighter. He studied Japanese politics and foreign policy for 15 months in Tokyo. At that time, Japan just entered the era of rapid economic growth amid preparations for the Tokyo Olympic Games. In the eyes of young British scholar, Tokyo in the early 1960s was still a city with rattling streetcars and only a couple of subway lines (Marunouchi and Ginza lines.) It was also a post-war era when Japan was struggling to establish its new role in the international community. Professor Stockwin was left with a lasting impression of Japan in those days. He concluded his speech by saying that it was a wonderful experience to involve himself in the efforts to nurture the British people's understanding of Japan through Japanese Studies.

Two of the speakers said that Japanese anime, manga, and pop cultures were attracting interest in Japan and Japanese language. It gave us a glimpse of the fact that such elements were the keys to recognize Japan today and they have stronger influence on people overseas than we expected.
It is our sincere hope that the recipients will continue to succeed in their endeavors in each of the fields and to promote friendly relationships between their countries and Japan. 

ar-about0912_6.pngAt the ceremony, Mr. Kifu Mitsuhashi (shakuhachi) and Ms. Nanae Yoshimura (koto) played hogaku (traditional Japanese music) "Sogyofu."

ar-about0912_7.pngOn the following day of the ceremony, the recipients were granted an audience with Their Imperial Majesties Emperor and Empress, as the past recipients had been.

Commemorative lectures were held as follows:

ar-about0912_8.jpgOn Oct. 7
Lecture by Professor Arthur Stockwin
"Japanese Politics in a British Mirror"

ar-about0912_9.jpgOn Oct. 9
Lecture by Ms. Susan Schmidt
Executive Director of Alliance of Associations of Teachers of Japanese (AATJ)
"Japanese-language Education in the U.S. and Activities of AATJ"

ar-about0912_x.jpgOn Oct. 9
Lecture by Mr. Boris Akunin
"In the Eyes of Observer: How Russia Sees Japan"

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