This story originally appeared in UCLA Today, a discontinued publication.

Terasaki Center series sheds light on a changing Japan

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As an increasing global interest in Japanese culture, economy and politics shifts Japan’s place in the world, the Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies in the UCLA International Institute is hosting nearly a dozen events to engage the public in the study of Japan and inspire a closer academic exploration of the island nation.
 
Hitoshi Abe, director of the Terasaki Center
Terasaki Center Director Hitoshi Abe announced the "New Visions of Japan" program during a Jan. 20 gathering at the Fowler Museum to celebrate the center’s 20th anniversary as well as the Chinese New Year. The evening’s festivities included a musical performance by Osaka-born koto artist Yukiko Matsuyama, who shared the stage with Shakira at the 2011 Latin American Grammy Awards. A traditional sake barrel-breaking ceremony was performed by UCLA Chancellor Gene Block; Paul Terasaki, for whom the center is named; Herb Kawahara, a Nikkei Bruins alumnus and a long-time supporter of the center; Donald McCallum, professor of Japanese art history; and Mariko Bird, the center’s former assistant director.
 
Abe, professor and chair of the Department of Architecture & Urban Design, said that Japan has long been revered as an "economic animal," often viewed by outsiders in an outdated, historical context that overlooks the country’s culture. Abe is a native of Sendai, where he maintains an architectural practice.
 
Today, Abe said, Japan is blossoming culturally.
 
Celebrating with a Japanese sake barrel-breaking ceremony were (from left) Mariko Bird, Paul Terasaki, Professor Donald McCallum, Chancellor Gene Block and  Herb Kawahara. 
"I’m not sure if Japan changed, or the world changed, but we have to really start to rethink what Japan is and how we should situate Japan in a new global context," he said. "To do that, you have to step beyond academia, engage the outside world, deepen the academic thinking and connect more with those in Japan to exchange ideas and opinions." 
 
"New Visions of Japan," which will run through June, 2012, launches on Feb. 6 with a screening of "Ashes to Honey," followed by a discussion with filmmaker Hitomi Kamanaka and UC Santa Cruz nuclear expert Daniel Hirsch on the search for sustainable energy future. The keystone event, a forum on June 1-2, will open with a private discussion among directors of Japanese centers across the United States and leaders in the local Japanese and Japanese American community. A series of lectures open to the public, and with Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye as the featured speaker, will address the new political and economic relationship between the United States and Japan.
 
Additional events include a symposium honoring victims and survivors of Japan’s March, 2011, earthquake and tsunami, and a related art exhibition featuring large-scale photographs, short articles and videos telling the stories of those recovering in the Tohoku region, which was hardest hit by the disaster.
 
For a complete schedule on this and additional Terasaki Center events, visit this website.
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