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Cultural agency doles out awards to those promoting Japan

by Natasha Vik

Staff Writer

Twelve distinguished figures, including eight foreigners, received awards Friday from the Cultural Affairs Agency for their efforts in cultural exchange and promotion of Japanese culture abroad.

At a ceremony in Tokyo, Agency Commissioner Seiichi Kondo presented seven of the recipients with the “commissioner’s awards,” which commend the work of individuals involved in long-term promotion of Japanese culture overseas.

Among the recipients were John Einarsen, founder of the English-language magazine Kyoto Journal, and photojournalist and writer Everett Kennedy Brown.

“Even though my name is on the award, my feeling is that I want to share this award with everybody who has worked with Kyoto Journal over 26 years,” Einarsen said after the ceremony at the agency building. “We lost our sponsor about three years ago so we became an NPO. This award makes me feel we are starting again, and it gives us energy to move forward.”

The Kyoto Journal, which Einarsen founded in 1986, is published tri-annually, and operates entirely on a non-profit, volunteer basis. The journal grew out of the Kyoto expatriate community, of which Einarsen is a central figure. From 1987 through 2010 the Kyoto Journal published 75 issues in cooperation with the Heian Bunka Center. As of issue 76, the journal has gone digital.

“It’s a recognition of the work I’ve done for the last 25 years and I’m very happy about that, but it’s also a recognition of the work that needs to be done in the years to come,” said Brown, whose photos and articles have appeared in publications worldwide, such as The New York Times, Newsweek and The International Herald Tribune. “I feel Japan is very much at a transition stage, and especially in terms of culture, I myself feel there’s a cultural revival beginning, so it’s a very exciting time to be in Japan.”

Brown has also published a number of photobooks, including a collaborative look at macrobiotic living in Japan with his wife, essayist Deco Nakajima. At present, Brown serves as the Regional Chief Photographer at the European Pressphoto Agency (EPA).

Also among the recipients was Theodore C. Bestor, director of the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies at Harvard University. Though based in the United States, Bestor has spent eight years living in Japan, both as student, researcher and professor and has written extensively about contemporary Japanese culture and society.

“I find myself always very eager to try and help others to understand Japan,” he said. “I’m always excited to get somebody else excited about Japan.”

Other recipients of the award were: Kyoto-based painter and washi artist Sarah Brayer; Tsukasa Umekita, head of the the NPO Foreign Embassies Friendship Association; Yuko Kitagawa, head of the Japanese-language learning group for foreigners in Noshiro, Akita Prefecture; Kosaku Maeda, a researcher of Asian cultures; Shizuyo Yoshitomi, director of the Kobe-based FACIL, which provides language-assistance services in 28 languages, Jean-Francois Dufour and Thomas Sirdey, founders of Japan Expo; Richard Collasse, president of Chanel Japan; and Rene Martin, artistic director for the classical music event La Folle Journée .

  • Edward Levinson

    Congratulations. Especially to my friends, Mr. Brown and Mr. Einarsen.