The America-Japan Society Inc. recognized on Thursday two people for their grassroots work to foster bilateral friendship between Japan and the United States, honoring the recipients — citizens from each of the two countries — with a new award launched this year.

The honorees are Jean Tsuchiya, 95, who has engaged in many exchange programs as a volunteer for more than 50 years, and Yasuhiro Yabuzoe, 72, a former English teacher based in Wakayama Prefecture who devoted his life to supporting student exchanges between Japan and the U.S.

The Kaneko Award — named after the AJS’s first president Count Kentaro Kaneko — was created this year to mark the 100th anniversary of its founding.

Art collector Joe Price received a special award created by the AJS to honor prominent figures who have contributed to bilateral relations.

The awards will be presented at the International House in Tokyo on Oct. 11.

“For a long time, they supported exchange of Japanese and American people. They did so from their goodwill and they are role models for future generations,” said Ichiro Fujisaki, president of the AJS and a former ambassador of Japan to the U.S., speaking to The Japan Times on Thursday. “By recognizing them, we hope there would be many who will follow their example.”

Tsuchiya, a second-generation Japanese-American who was born in California, was recognized for her long-standing efforts in nurturing good relations between Japanese and American people, driven by an abiding belief that direct interactions are the key to mutual understanding between the two countries. She was also an adviser to 33 successive chairpersons of the Los Angeles-Nagoya Sister City Affiliation.

Yabuzoe, who currently heads Wakayama College of Foreign Studies, contributed to bilateral relations by accepting homestay students from the U.S. and Asian countries almost every single year for the past 40 years. He also led more than 30 groups of Japanese high school students to the U.S., according to the AJS.

Price, 87, who is known to have rediscovered Japanese paintings from the Edo Period (1603-1868), has worked with art students from both countries, offering them access to his extensive collections. Price brought his collection to Tohoku in a show of support to local residents following the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

The recipients were selected by members of an AJS selection committee in Tokyo, including Kunihiko Saito, former Japanese ambassador to the U.S., Yuzaburo Mogi, honorary chairman of Kikkoman Corp. and Christopher Lafleur, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan.

Established in 1917, the AJS is one of the first organizations to promote bilateral friendship between Japan and the U.S. The organization has been headed by prominent figures, including former prime ministers Shigeru Yoshida, Nobusuke Kishi, and Takeo Fukuda.

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