Emperor to present two awards to Tanaka

Nobel laureate Koichi Tanaka will receive both the Order of Culture and the Cultural Merit awards from Emperor Akihito on Sunday, it was announced Wednesday.

The Order of Culture, Japan’s most prestigious award, will also be given to economist Ryutaro Komiya, aerospace engineer Jiro Kondo, film director Kaneto Shindo, novelist Sonoko Sugimoto and glass artist Kyohei Fujita.

Because winners of the award are chosen from among holders of the Cultural Merit, Tanaka will get both.

The 43-year-old Tanaka won this year’s Nobel Prize in chemistry for his contributions to the study of proteins that have paved the way for development of new medicines and early cancer diagnosis.

The Emperor will bestow the awards on the six on Culture Day, a national holiday, at the Imperial Palace.

Tanaka, a senior engineer at Kyoto-based precision equipment maker Shimadzu Corp., was born in Toyama Prefecture.

This year’s other Japanese Nobel laureate — Masatoshi Koshiba, 76, a physicist and professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo — received the Order of Culture in 1997.

Komiya, 73, from Kyoto, a professor at Aoyama Gakuin University and a professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo, is known for his studies on economic theories and the postwar development of the Japanese economy.

Kondo, 85, a professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo, is being recognized for his role in developing the YS-11, Japan’s first airliner.

Shindo, 90, has made numerous films of a contemplative nature that have won critical acclaim, while Sugimoto, 77, from Tokyo, is known for writing historical novels with great scope.

Fujita, 81, introduced contemporary perspectives into traditional Japanese aesthetics and has won a high reputation for art rendered in colored glass and gold leaf.

The government also named 16 people as this year’s Persons of Cultural Merit for distinguished services in the field of culture.

They include Tanaka, painter Kazuko Gokura, 87, “rakugo” comic storyteller Katsura Beicho, 76, drama critic Yushi Odajima, 71, novelist Taeko Kono, 76, calligraphy master Santo Ohira, 86, economist Yuichi Shionoya, 70, ballet dancer Hiroshi Shimada, 83, and biologist Koichiro Tsunewaki, 71.

Beicho, whose real name is Kiyoshi Nakagawa, is the first rakugo artist to be given the honor.

The other seven are astronomer Yoji Totsuka, 60, American scholar and Japanologist Donald Keene, 80, physicist Akira Tomura, 60, sculptor Shinya Nakamura, 76, geneticist Tomoko Ota, 69, industrial designer Sori Yanagi, 87, and American studies scholar Nagayo Honma, 73.

A celebration ceremony for the 16 recipients will be held at Hotel Okura in Tokyo on Tuesday.