Meet our Grantees

January 16, 2018 – 

Nearly 600 people attended the premiere of the Hiroshi Sugimoto: Gates of Paradise exhibition in October at Japan Society in midtown Manhattan – one of its most successful openings in its recent history. The exhibit’s striking design and Sugimoto’s monumental photographs drew critical raves from both the general public and the art world.

“One always aspires to present an exhibit in a way that its relevance is immediately understood,” explained Dr. Michael Chagnon, Japan Society’s Curator of Exhibition Interpretation. “New York City is an overly saturated art market, and we’re thrilled to have successfully reached both those familiar with Sugimoto’s work and those being introduced to Japanese art for the first time.”

The exhibition tracks the journey of one of the earliest cultural exchanges between Japan and the West by tracing the footsteps of four Japanese boys as they explored 16th-century Europe as the first official emissaries from Japan. Various educational components and related performing arts programs held in conjunction with the exhibit amplified its impact.

“We really couldn’t think of a more important project to celebrate our 110th anniversary as an organization and our mission of cultivating a broader understanding between Japan and the U.S.,” Dr. Chagnon shared.

One of the premier institutions bringing contemporary Japanese art to the United States, Japan Society hosts two major exhibitions each year, covering topics as diverse as classical Buddhist sculpture and calligraphy, contemporary photography and ceramics, samurai swords, export porcelain, and masterpieces of painting from the 13th to 21st centuries.

Japan Society has a longstanding relationship… » READ MORE

January 10, 2018 – 

Two outstanding scholars are the recipients of the 2017-18 Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission (JUSFC) Prize for the Translation of Japanese Literature. The prizes will be awarded in March 2018 at a ceremony at the Donald Keene Center of Japanese Culture, Columbia University.

David Boyd, SLOW BOAT (Pushkin Press, 2017);

Hiroaki Sato, THE SILVER SPOON: MEMOIR OF A BOYHOOD IN JAPAN (Stone Bridge Press, 2015)

The Japan-United States Friendship Commission Prize for the Translation of Japanese Literature was established in 1979. The award has been administered by the Donald Keene Center of Japanese Culture at Columbia University since the Center was founded in 1986. The Prize is awarded annually to outstanding works of translation into English from the Japanese language.

The complete press release is available here.

January 2, 2018 – 

Theater Breaking Through Barriers (TBTB), is the only Off-Broadway theater in New York and one of just a few in the United States that is dedicated to advancing actors and writers with disabilities — and changing the image of people with disabilities.

“We have always been an integrated company of both disabled and non-disabled artists,” says TBTB Artistic Director Nicholas Viselli. “We’ve acquired a reputation for excellence while modeling the full inclusion of people with disabilities in our work. Support from the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission (JUSFC) has  allowed us to expand our work and mission globally to Japan, and has truly been a game-changer for us.”

Founded in 1979 as Theater by the Blind and showcasing the work of blind and low vision artists and actors, TBTB expanded its mission in 2008 to include writers, directors, administrators and performers of all disabilit

ies, and changed its name to Theater Breaking Through Barriers, retaining the “TBTB” acronym by which they are most commonly known. It is TBTB’s principal goal to alter the negative stereotypes surrounding disability and to ultimately show the “vibrancy and vitality of our artists through our art.”

“It has always been challenging to attract audiences to our work because of the stigmas and fears surrounding disability,” explains Viselli. “It is our ultimate goal to change those perceptions, and to prove that disability does not diminish or detract from the quality of the art or the artist.  Nearly 20% — one fifth — of our country’s population currently lives with a physical disability. It… » READ MORE

December 12, 2017 – 

The Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission is delighted to announce that three outstanding scholars from the United States have been selected to participate in the 2018 Fellowship Program for Advanced Social Science Research on Japan. The Fellowship is a joint activity of the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Awards support research on modern Japanese society and political economy, Japan’s international relations, and U.S.-Japan relations.

Sakura Christmas

Bowdoin College

“Nomadic Borderlands: Imperial Japan and the Origins of Ethnic Autonomy in Modern China”

Michiko Takeuchi

California State University, Long Beach

“Early Coalitions Between Japanese and American Feminists, from World War I to the U.S. Occupation of Japan”

Robert J. Pekkanen

University of Washington

“Populism in Japan”

For more information on the Fellowship, please visit  NEH’s website.

October 26, 2017 – 

In 2012 Deborah Dash Moore, Professor of History and Judaic Studies at the University of Michigan, presented her research on American Jewish history in a series of lectures at the University of Kitakyushu in Japan. Her work interested many Japanese students and scholars, particularly women, who found similarities and shared experiences in her seminar.

Moore is one of the many American historians granted a two-week Japan Residencies Program fellowship facilitated by the Organization of American Historians (OAH) and the Japan Association for American Studies (JAAS), with support from the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission. Moore, now chair of the OAH/JAAS committee, says “It’s an interaction among a diverse group of people that allows for professional and personal growth, often sparking long-term relationships.”

The program, which began in 1997 sends two OAH scholars to Japan each year. The  awardees travel to assigned host institutions in different parts of Japan. There they offer six lectures to undergraduates and graduate students, creating scholarly dialogue and exchange, and contributing to the expansion of scholarly networks among students and professors of American history in both countries.

The institutional grant from JUSFC has typically covered housing and the seminars. The grant also allows three Japanese graduate students studying in the United States to attend the OAH annual meeting, providing opportunities for networking with other many scholars. In 2017 Rikkyo University and Osaka University hosted the American scholars. “One of the major highlights was having both scholars attend the JAAS annual meeting at Waseda University,” said Professor Akiyo Okuda of Keio University and JAAS… » READ MORE

August 28, 2017 – 

Eighty-three years ago, before World War II, students concerned about the relationship between the United States and Japan created the Japan-America Student Conference (JASC). JASC is a student-led exchange that allows young people from each country to spend a month together learning, growing and finding new ways to build the bilateral relationship.

In 2008, the Korea-America Student Conference began, which

then led to the creation of a parent organization, International Student Conferences (ISC). Both programs work to identify future leaders for the Asia-Pacific region to expand interest in and strengthen relationships between the countries.

JUSFC recently spoke with ISC’s Executive Director Linda Butcher. Butcher says the mission and values of JUSFC and ISC-JASC are closely aligned, both working to strengthen the U.S.-Japan partnership through education, culture and intellectual conversation. “As an institutional grantee, we’re very fortunate to have JUSFC’s support. These relationships are stronger because that financial support allows us to continue the conversation,” Butcher adds.

JASC is the first and oldest student-led exchange program. Benefits of participating include professional growth, leadership skills development and increased cultural understanding.

“The confidence that the students gain through speaking opportunities is inspiring,” Butcher says. The program helps expand communication skills and gain insight beyond media headlines and stereotypes. Alumni report the program changed their life and many continue to stay engaged with the U.S.-Japan relationship.

This year, JASC is hosting its 69th conference, bringing together 72 Japanese and American students of all backgrounds and perspectives. Host cities include Tokyo, Kyoto, and first-time host prefectures Ehime and Mie.


August 2, 2017 – 

For Immediate Release

Washington, D.C., August 2, 2017: The Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission (JUSFC) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) announced today that a group of five outstanding artists from the United States have been selected to participate in the 2017 U.S.-Japan Creative Artists Program. The artists will travel to Japan during the 2018 calendar year to pursue their residency. Since the program’s inception in 1978, more than 170 U.S. artists, representing a diverse range of disciplines, have been selected to travel to Japan for this residency.

The 2017 group of U.S.-Japan Creative Artists Program fellows includes:

Phu Hoang and Rachely Rotem, Brooklyn, NY – Interdisciplinary Architects

Derek Gromadzki, Florissant, MO –  Translator and Author

Jose Alfredo Navarrete-Perez, Oakland, CA – Choreographer

Laurel Salinas-Nakanishi , Miami, FL – Writer

Jesse Schlesinger, San Francisco, CA – Visual and Social Practice Artist

“We are delighted to announce the new group of the U.S.-Japan Creative Artists Program”, said Paige Cottingham-Streater, Executive Director of the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission. “The program continues to be a priority for the Commission as well as the National Endowment for the Arts as we promote cultural and artistic exchange between the United States and Japan.”

Since 1978, the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts in cooperation with the International House of Japan (I-House) and the Government of Japan’s Agency for Cultural Affairs have administered the U.S.-Japan Creative Artists Program. Each year five leading U.S.-based artists, representing all genres, are selected to spend three… » READ MORE

June 20, 2017 – 

In 2014, JUSFC awarded the Mansfield Foundation an institutional grant for its U.S.-Japan Space Forum (USJSF), comprised of space policy experts from the governments of the United States and Japan, private sector, and think tank and academic communit

ies. The Foundation held meetings in Montana, Washington, D.C., Seattle and Tokyo, inviting informal discussion and dialogue about concerns and perspectives from all sides.

“The Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission helped us establish this program,” Mansfield Foundation Director of Programs Ryan Shaffer noted. “The Foundation’s support for the bilateral relationship closely aligns with JUSFC’s mission. This grant makes this type of programming possible, further enriching and strengthening the U.S.-Japan relationship. The Obama Administration and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe established a ‘Comprehensive Dialogue’ between the two countries (which continues under the Trump administration), bringing both countries together on space policy. Noting the increasing role of private sector innovation in our national space capabilities, the U.S.-Japan Space Forum provides a platform for private sector and other non-government experts to respond and contribute to this official dialogue, Shaffer explained.

Based on its series of meetings and discussions, the USJFC released Recommendations for the Japan-U.S. Comprehensive Space Dialogues in July 2016. The Mansfield Foundation also published the report in Japanese.

Although their JUSFC grant has concluded, the Space Forum continues moving forward. This year its group met with four of Japan’s most important space entrepreneurs.

“Adding voices like theirs to our dialogue, we continue to foster relationships and ideas that are enriching space policy discourse within each country… » READ MORE

May 8, 2017 – 

The Japan U.S. Friendship Commission is pleased to support the National Association of Japan America Societies’ (NAJAS) Richard J. Wood Art Curator Series. This program offers a series of talks at Japan-America Societies by curators of Japanese art at major museums in the United States. The participating curators are well known in the field and represent some of the best known collections of Japanese art in the America.

NAJAS facilitates the signature events in this art series by selecting three Japan-America Societies (JAS) as hosts. The three JAS are competitively chosen from amongst NAJAS’ 37 member organizations.

On April 24, 2017, the Japan-America Society of North Carolina (JASNC) hosted the first talk of the 2017 Richard Wood Art Curator Series. “Our goal was to partner with museum curators and share their wonderful collections of Japanese art with Japan-America Society cities throughout the United States.,” explains NAJAS President Peter Kelley. “Curators give presentations about their favorite objects in the home museum’s collection, who the collectors were and why the art is important.”

In North Carolina, Dr. John Carpenter of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art presented the conference’s keynote address at the Ackland Art Museum on the topic, “The Three Perfections of Japanese Art: Painting, Poetry, and Calligraphy – Masterworks from the Mary Griggs Burke Collection,” which is currently on exhibit at The Met. “These human interest stories regarding the collectors are just as appealing as the art,” adds Peter Kelley. “It is important to mix the art with the fascinating… » READ MORE

April 13, 2017 – 

With degrees in painting from the Rhode Island School of Design and in Interactive Telecommunication from NYU, Alex Dodge’s work combines the promise of technology as it interacts with and shapes human experience. He focuses his attention as an artist between new media and traditional fine art disciplines including painting, printmaking, woodworking and sculpture. His work is in the collections of the Museum

of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Museum of Fine Arts Boston.

Dodge was awarded a JUSFC Creative Artist Fellowship in 2016. He traveled to Japan in October 2016 to pursue his interests in technology and traditional woodworking.

On the technology side, working at a pure code level led him to create generative systems that can build self-evolving sculpture and other art. Dodge put his ideas into motion by experimenting with language, writing code for programs that would generate new words that were statistically similar to real words but did not have any meaning.

“I took a Japanese language class in high school and fell in love with it,” he explains. “Using Japanese as my model, the idea was to create an empty container of meaning that could be experienced much like art.”

These language programs evolved into physical, visual forms, generating billions of unique shapes, similar to Tetris shapes that self-formed and assembled based on the conditions of their environment.

Dodge combined this fascinating project with his interest in Japanese joinery, a form of traditional woodworking. Two years before, he had contacted… » READ MORE