Meet our Grantees

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

March 14, 2017 – 

The Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission is delighted to announce that two outstanding scholars from the United States have been selected to participate in the 2017 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.

Aaron S. Moore Arizona State University Engineering Asian Development: The Cold War and Japan’s Post-Colonial Power in Asia

Amy Borovoy Princeton University Organ Donation and Medical Practices in Modern Japanese Culture

For more information on the Fellowship, please attend NEH’s panel at the Association of Asian Studies’ meeting this week. March 18, 10:45a.m., Birchwood Ballroom, Sheraton Centre Toronto. Please also visit  NEH’s website.

March 13, 2017 – 

In 2014 the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission awarded an institutional grant to the East-West Center (EWC) in Washington, D.C. to support their Japan Matters for America website project. With JUSFC’s help, EWC created an online platform that houses comprehensive and multi-activity data to showcase Japan’s critical importance to the United States, and vice versa.  Satu Limaye, Director of EWC in Washington, created the Asia Matters for America initiative. Asia Matters for America brings together ideas of innovation, leadership and international understanding of the overall U.S.-Asia relationship, with a deeper focus on ASEAN, South Korea, Australia, China, India, Taiwan and Japan.

“After we completed the initial Asia Matters for America project, we felt the need to dig deeper into Japan because of its important range of relationships at the national, state and local level,” Satu recalls. The Japan Matters for America initiative launched in 2009 with two initial components — a dual-language publication that provided graphics, analysis and data, followed by populating the website with all the research and data.

“We’re very grateful for JUSFC’s generous support toward this effort,” Satu said. “We could not have built this key interactive resource — for policymakers, congressional members and staff, teachers, students and anyone interested in learning about U.S.-Japan relations — without the initial grant.” When Prime Minister Abe addressed a joint session of Congress in 2015, highlighting the strong relationship between both nations, the Japan Matters for America site was mentioned in a “Dear Colleague” letter.

The website is continually updated with stories, blog posts… » READ MORE

March 6, 2017 – 

JUSFC will host a roundtable discussion at the annual conference of the Association of Asian Studies in Toronto on March 16, 2017 to address why Japanese language study is important and the ways in which to secure interest and support for language study among the next generation of students.  Here, we are highlighting the American Association of Teachers of Japanese (AATJ), a longtime JUSFC grantee, which works to promote study of the Japanese language at all levels of instruction in the field and to broaden and deepen knowledge and appreciation of Japan and its culture.

Since 1997, the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission has been a strong supporter of the American Association of Teachers of Japanese (AATJ). In addition to administering scholarships, AATJ provides support and professional development opportunities for more than 1500 teachers and scholars throughout the United States.

Every year, AATJ awards scholarships to hundreds of students, mostly undergraduate sophomores and juniors. The students who apply and are awarded these scholarships major in Japanese or Asian studies; many are also interested in Japanese art, engineering and popular culture. Susan Schmidt, Executive Director of AATJ, has been with the organization since its establishment and has seen a big culture shift over the years. “Back in the early 1990s, students were interested in Japan because of the business opportunities, whether that meant starting a career in business or physically working in Japan,” Schmidt notes. “In recent years, a lot of young people are interested in the pop culture that has emerged in Japan;… » READ MORE

February 21, 2017 – 

Cultural researchers Sue Mark and Bruce Douglas of MarkSearch were awarded the Creative Artist Exchange Fellowship in 2016 and traveled to Japan in May 2016 for a six-month residency. Sue and Bruce are passionate about experiencing different ways of living and viewing the world through another perspective. They do this by viewing people and places through their creative lens.

They are no strangers to living abroad. In 2013, they traveled to Portugal to research the disappearance of handicraft and agricultural practices in a region comprising 26 villages. When they learned they would be living in Japan, they began intensive Japanese study. While Bruce learned to read and write, Sue worked on conversation and listening comprehension. With their combined Japanese language skills, they were able to communicate with Japanese locals.

Their main goal while in Japan was to learn about how architectural traditions are shared over time, and how these traditions may change as time goes on. Their creative process blends artistic, visual and performative work with sociology and anthropology.  Sue and Bruce made Kanazawa, Ishikawa their home in Japan. Kanazawa is one of the few Japanese cities that was not destroyed during World War II or harmed by any natural disaster. Much of the traditional architecture — such as the Machiya, traditional townhouses from the Edo period (1603-1867) — are still intact. These historic homes function as both residences and businesses. Sue and Bruce were interested in understanding local policies and the process of Machiya renovation, especially because more than 200 Machiya in… » READ MORE

February 9, 2017 – 

JUSFC is delighted to support the National Bureau of Asian Research’s (NBR) Pacific Trilateralism project.  Pacific Trilaterism is designed to increase public understanding of the evolution of the dynamics between the United States, Japan and South Korea, and how the three nations can work jointly to strengthen their relationship in the coming decades.

“Grant support from JUSFC was critical for this project because it allowed NBR to engage and inform key Members of Congress and the media,” says Dan Aum, Director of NBR Government and Media Relations. “Our goal is not to just present issues, but also to provide informed recommendations derived from our network of experts to key policymakers.”

The first phase of the project identified scholars from each of the three countries to author policy briefs that addressed the history of the trilateral relationship from their own country’s perspective. Daniel Sneider of Stanford University, Yoshihide Soeya of Keio University, and Yul Sohn of Yonsei University, authored preliminary briefs that would later develop into a larger report and be the focal point for a policy event on Capitol Hill.

The second phase of Pacific Trilateralism began in late 2016 and will continue through August 2017. Later this year, experts will travel to Japan and South Korea for in-depth discussions with stakeholders in Seoul and Tokyo. The groundwork for this visit was laid at a Washington, D.C. workshop where the experts identified four key issues in the trilateral relationship: regional security threats, energy security threats, non-traditional security threats, and cyber and new… » READ MORE

December 16, 2016 – 

Writer, designer and filmmaker Graham Kolbeins was named a recipient of the 2016 Creative Artist Exchange Fellowship and traveled to Japan in March for three-month residency. Kolbeins was based mostly in Tokyo, but traveled to Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Gunma and Okinawa to conduct interviews for his film, Queer Japan.

Queer Japan is an ensemble film that looks at people across the LGBT spectrum and beyond. Kolbeins’ goal was to interview a diverse group who identified as LGBT or other gender categories, and to share their stories of their triumphs and struggles being a sexual minority in Japan.

Kolbeins has worked with a variety of gay artists during the last five years. With his collaborator, Anne Ishii, he traveled to Japan in 2011 and interviewed nine gay manga artists for two books: The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame and Massive: Gay Erotic Manga and the Men Who Make It. Many of the comics were featured in English for the very first time. Publication and success led to a book tour that allowed Kolbeins to travel throughout North America and Japan.

Following that experience, Kolbeins was hungry to continue learning and researching the different expressions of gender and sexuality in Japan, in the present day as well as during the Edo (1603-1868) and Meiji (1868-1902) periods. He returned to Japan in October 2015 and created a pre-production trailer that served as the foundation for his film.

Certain aspects of Japanese society, such as familial obligations and expectation, make it difficult to be open and fully yourself,… » READ MORE

September 27, 2016 – 

In celebration of its 40th anniversary, the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission is having conversations with a number of grantees.

Landscape architect Ron Henderson was awarded a Creative Artist Exchange Fellowship in 2011 and traveled to Japan in 2012. The Fellowship is funded by the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission and administered in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts. Here, Henderson reflects on his experiences as a Fellow living in Japan.

“As a landscape architect, Japan is an important place for the profession because of its garden traditions,” says Henderson. “It was a great opportunity for me to spend time as a landscape architect investigating the gardens and horticultural practices of Japan.”

Seeking ancient cherry trees that had been cared for and protected in Japan for generations was a remarkable experience for Henderson, who visited ancient trees and culturally-celebrated cherry blossom sites.  He researched the unique phenomenon of Japanese cherry blossoms, and interviewed scholars, garden designers and anthropologists. He also documented the particular local horticultural practices of Japan such as pruning, branch crutching, and rope-tenting.

Like many fellows, Henderson presented his work at a public event at the International House of Japan. The event shared his research into the significance of cherry trees and sakura blossoms in Japanese design and culture. His presentation included an exhibition of his sakura orihon, folding sketchbooks, which he used to archive his travel throughout Japan.

While in Kyoto, Henderson interviewed Toemon Sano, the 16th generation head gardener of the Ueto Gardening Company. He has designed many renowned Japanese… » READ MORE

August 3, 2016 – 

For Immediate Release

Washington, D.C., August 3, 2016: 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 2017 calendar year to pursue their three to five month residency. Since the program’s inception in 1978, 165 U.S. artists, representing a diverse range of disciplines, have been selected to travel to Japan under this program.

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

Elaine Buckholtz – Visual Artist – Boston, MA

Jami Nakamura Lin, Writer – Chicago, IL

Kimi Maeda, Theater Artist – Columbia, SC

Quynh Vantu, Architect, Artist – Glen Allen, VA

Vanessa Voskuil, Choreographer, director, performer, writer, designer, teaching artist – Minneapolis, MN

“This award recognizes the outstanding talent among U.S. artists and the importance of cultural exchange between Japan and the United States”, said Paige Cottingham-Streater, Executive Director of the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission. “The Commission is proud of its longstanding partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and we are delighted to support this unique experience for people-to-people exchange.”

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… » READ MORE