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U.S. Ambassador Howard Baker and other foreign diplomats in Japan are set to present photographs showing unique features of the country at an exhibition that begins Thursday in Tokyo and then moves to Osaka.

The exhibition, believed to be the biggest of its kind in the world, will showcase about 80 pictures by 51 diplomats from 23 countries.

Organizers and participants said this year they will dedicate the event to the memory of Prince Takamado, who died last November of heart failure while playing squash in Tokyo.

The prince, a cousin of Emperor Akihito, had served as honorary president of the annual show, “Japan through Diplomats’ Eyes,” since it was launched in 1998 at the initiative of then Luxembourg Ambassador Pierre Gramegna.

Organizers have set up the Prince Takamado Memorial Prize this year, the first winner of which is Baker, who has been taking photographs for more than 60 years.

Baker’s prize winner captures a turtle returning to the glittering sea, leaving tirelike tracks on the shore of Chichijima Island, south of Tokyo.

“I believe this prize is a fitting tribute to the late prince, himself a photographer of great accomplishment, who participated avidly in this exhibit from its first year, seeing it as part of his tireless efforts to promote international friendship through cultural exchange,” Baker said.

The grand prize has been awarded to Neil Hook, British consul general in Osaka. His work, taken in the library of the Shiba Ryotaro Memorial Museum in Osaka, shows an elderly man taking a break after browsing through a collection of 20,000 books that belonged to the late novelist Ryotaro Shiba.

Shiba, a former newsman who died in February 1996, is known for his innovative and entertaining historical novels.

“The elderly man sitting quietly among this huge accumulation of knowledge catches your eye,” said Michele Pranchere-Tomassini, Gramegna’s successor and one of the show’s seven-member screening committee headed by former Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, also an avid photographer.

“Japan is a reading nation. As a foreign resident you immediately sense this even if you don’t know the language,” Pranchere-Tomassini said. “The man sits there in silence as if he listened to the multiple voices whispering through all these pages.”

The Luxembourg envoy also touched on Baker’s photo, saying the U.S. envoy shot it when he accompanied former President George Bush on a trip to Chichijima in June last year.

Bush was visiting waters near the island where, as a U.S. Navy pilot during World War II, his crippled aircraft ditched.

This episode leads viewers to sense part of what Baker meant in the photograph. Chichijima means “Father Island” in English.

During the screening process, Hashimoto joked that he became hesitant about presenting his photo to the show because he has seen steady improvement in the quality of the exhibits every year, according to Goro Kuramochi, president of photographic agency G.I.P. Tokyo, who has been involved in the project since the start.

Hashimoto’s piece captures a scene at the opening ceremony of a big tournament for child kendo athletes, reflecting his desire that these children will make Japan stronger and more prosperous in the future.

Kuramochi said the event initially drew more than 800 submissions this year, of which 400 were chosen for screening and 80 for display.

The 80 also include a photo by the late prince and one by his widow, Princess Hisako. The prince’s work depicts “silence” at Gunma Prefecture’s Tambara Marsh, which is reflected in a golden morning light. This contrasts with “fever” emanating from the princess’s photo of a festival parade in Kitakyushu.

“Photography is a powerful universal language,” Kuramochi said. “The ‘Diplomats’ Eyes’ project is growing and I hope the event will promote further understanding between the diplomatic community and the Japanese public.”

The exhibition will run from Thursday through Nov. 11 at Mikimoto Hall in Ginza, Tokyo. It will run in Osaka from Nov. 17 to 22 at International House, Osaka, in Tennoji Ward.

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