Japan Foreign Affairs Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa Commends Asia Society's Year of Japan
Congratulations on the global launch of the Year of Japan by Asia Society and the opening of its Special Exhibition, Meiji Modern: Fifty Years of New Japan, in New York. Coincidentally, this year and next year mark the 170th anniversary of the Japan-U.S. relationship. On July 14, 1853, Commodore Perry and his "black ships" arrived in Kurihama, Yokosuka, carrying a letter from President Fillmore of the United States, which eventually led to the signing of the US-Japan Treaty of Peace and Amity in the following year. The arrival of Commodore Perry opened Japan's door to the world and paved the way for the country's first step to modernization in the Meiji era.
Encounters with different cultures, different traditions, and different techniques not only advance mutual understanding between societies of different backgrounds but also promote self-discovery. The Year of Japan's flagship exhibition, Meiji Modern: Fifty Years of New Japan, showcases how Japanese artists and craftspersons rediscovered Japan's tradition and aesthetics through a filter of different art mediums, disciplines, and motifs from the West, innovating them and elevating them to a new height. The masterpieces on exhibit epitomize the evolving and flourishing Japanese culture at that time.
John D. Rockefeller 3rd, the founder of Asia Society and an architect of the cultural exchanges between Japan and the United States, once said, "Asians and Americans are capable of a richer and more meaningful mutual understanding because of shared hopes, fears, and aspirations." According to him, such "understanding" does "strike deeper than mere tolerance; it reaches further than mere acquaintance or formal association; it is that quality of mind and spirit whose existence is essential to true peace." What truly differentiates such understanding from other qualities is the existence of complementarity between different cultures that promotes societal progress through exchange and self-discovery.
Today, Japan, the U.S. and the Indo-Pacific as well as the entire international community are at a turning point in history. Mutual understanding between Japan and the U.S. cultivated through our 170 years of exchanges, overcoming numerous trials and challenging times, makes our Alliance unwavering and robust as a cornerstone of peace and prosperity in the region. John D. Rockefeller 3rd's messages still resonate in today's world. The Year of Japan will provide an opportunity for us to embrace such cultural encounters and mutual understanding through numerous Japan-related events. I hope that Asia Society’s global network will help us to learn the founder's legacy and vision to its wider audience, and to revisit his messages in such a crucial time.
Minister for Foreign Affairs