Caroline Kennedy Cracks Open Barrel of Sake to Kick Off 'Season of Japan'

Thursday, February 11, 2016 - Asia Society in New York kicked off its Season of Japan and the exhibition Kamakura: Realism and Spirituality in the Sculpture of Japan Thursday with a visit from U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy and Ambassador Reiichiro Takahashi, the consul general of Japan in New York. 

Upon her arrival, Ambassador Kennedy, dressed in a Japanese kimono, was presented with a photo of her mother, Jacqueline Kennedy, during her 1965 visit to the Asia Society Museum exhibition Gods, Thrones, and Peacocks: Northern Indian Painting From Two Traditions. Carrying on the Kennedy Asia Society tradition, Caroline went on a gallery tour of her own through the new Kamakura exhibit.

Asia Society President Josette Sheeran noted that the Season of Japan coincides with Asia Society's 60th anniversary, which is no accident. "Asia Society's founder John D. Rockefeller 3rd traveled to Japan after graduating from Princeton," she said. "He fell in love with Japan and kept three notebooks full of notes about the beauty and how humbled he was in getting to know the people there. So we felt in honoring our 60th anniversary we should revist Japan."

Ambassador Takahashi said that in Japan, the 60th birthday is especially meaningful since 60 years is the time it takes for the lunar calander to go through a full cycle. It’s a time of "renewal, refreshment, accomplishment, and days well spent," he said, joking that "I know only too well the significance and the enormous gravity of the 60th birthday, as my own is coming up this year."

To mark the ocassion, Sheeran, Kennedy, and Takahashi broke open a sake barrel with wooden mallets in a traditional kagami-biraki celebratory ceremony. In her remarks, Ambassador Kennedy cited a meeting with students from The Bronx, Tokyo, and Okinawa over the past few days who had conducted a poetry exchange by teleconference, as well as 20 Japanese children who'd been studying hip hop for two years in New York. "It’s our job to make sure that those alliances continue," she said. "This alliance between the U.S. and Japan is one of the most important in the world."

Kennedy went on to praise Japan's "deep artisitic traditions" and its "rich cultural history," adding that, "I’m so happy that the citizens of New York will get to have a small sense of that with this beautiful exhibition."

Watch the below video for Caroline Kennedy's remarks and sake opening. Below that, watch the full video of the Season of Japan opening.

U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy speaks at Asia Society in New York on February 11, 2016. (3 min. 15 sec.)

Asia Society in New York kicks off its Season of Japan and Kamakura exhibition with U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy and Consul General of Japan in New York Reiichiro Takahashi. (19 min., 20 sec.)