Reflecting on the Inaugural Peace Symposium in Tokyo
On September 21, 2022 the United Nations’ International Day of Peace, Japan Institute of Portland Japanese Garden held its inaugural Peace Symposium, “Peacemaking at the Intersection of Culture, Art, and Nature” in Tokyo, Japan. Hosted by the International House of Japan’s Iwasaki Koyata Hall, the symposium explored how peacemaking can be accomplished at the intersection of culture, art, and nature, using Portland Japanese Garden as a case study when it comes to public spaces that have made transformative social impacts.
‘The Garden is Found in All Civilizations’
The first Peace Symposium organized by Japan Institute was fittingly held in Tokyo at the International House of Japan on the United Nations International Day of Peace, September 21, 2022. “The International House has a storied history going back 70 years,” Japan Institute of Portland Japanese Garden CEO Bloom shared. “It was founded, in part, by the Rockefeller Foundation, and has been a place that has gathered some of the world’s great social, political, and academic leaders. It is a linchpin to American and Japanese relations and was the perfect location to host our first Peace Symposium.”
Among the highlights of the day were remarks from Her Imperial Highness, Princess Tsuguko. Princess Tsuguko, who has been working for the Japan Committee for UNICEF for nearly a decade, underscored the critical need for people to engage in conversations around peace by pointing to a recent report that estimated 36.5 million children around the world have been driven out of their homes because of conflict and violence through 2021, not even including those driven from their homes in Ukraine.
The Princess noted that cultural organizations like Portland Japanese Garden help contribute to long-lasting peace. “Various races, religions, and customs may differ, but the ‘garden’ is found in all civilizations,” Princess Tsuguko remarked. “Gardens are rarely completed in a single generation. Almost all of them rely on the natural environment and the continued activities of future generations. I hope this Symposium will be an opportunity to revisit the value of Japanese gardens and how they are a space for learning about both nature and peace.”
It appears that the events that followed fulfilled Princess Tsuguko’s hopes. “She was quite impressed with the Symposium and thought the discussions were thought provoking,” Bloom shared. “She seemed to appreciate the deliberate way the Symposium explored the concept of cultural diplomacy. In fact, the Princess mentioned it was something she had not thought about before!”
The symposium included two panel discussions:
- “Japanese Gardens – Transforming Global Cultural Landscapes” featuring panelists: Isoya Shinji, Former President, Prof. Emeritus of Tokyo Univ. of Agriculture; Hiromi Matsugi, Assistant Professor, International Research Center for Japanese Studies; Marc Peter Keane, Garden Designer and Author; moderated by Sadafumi Uchiyama, Chief Curator of Portland Japanese Garden and Director of the International Japanese Garden Training Center.
- “Re-imagining Peace at the Intersection of Culture, Art, and Nature”, featuring panelists: Mami Kataoka, Director, Mori Art Museum; Masayuki Wakui, Landscape Architect and Distinguished Professor at Tokyo City University; Junya Ishigami, Architect and CEO, Junya Ishigami + Associates; moderated by Akihito Nakanishi, Arlene Schnitzer Curator of Culture, Art, and Education, Portland Japanese Garden.
“The conversation started by exploring the historical journey that Japanese gardens have taken as a cultural and artistic export to the West and how it has inspired other cultural and art movements,” shared Portland Japanese Garden’s Arlene Schnitzer Curator of Culture, Art, and Education, Aki Nakanishi. “The panelists then looked at Japanese gardens in a modern context and where they can go from here. It was a very engaging conversation—I believe we are the first Japanese garden organization that has presented gardens in such a framework.”
Following the first panel discussion was a stirring poetry reading from Yumi Fuzuki. Fuzuki, recipient of the Gendai Shi Techō and Maruyama Yutaka Memorial Modern Poetry prizes, penned an original poem titled Gathering the voices, which explored Japan’s unique perspective on peace and beckoned all to join her in listening to those who have survived calamity. Following this passionate reading was the day’s second panel discussion.
“This conversation, moderated by myself, delved into the specific topic of the intersection of architecture, art, and nature,” Nakanishi shared. “We chatted about what the immersion of these fields can mean for global peace and we learned that despite these disciplines having many similarities and likeminded goals, their leaders don’t often talk to each other. That’s what makes Japan Institute so invaluable. We were the catalyst for this conversation to spark. The result was staggering. A lot of people came up to the panelists with a gleam in their eyes, saying this conversation should have been held years ago.”
Nakanishi offered the most fulfilling part of the day for him was the impact it had on students from the University of Temple who were among those invited to attend. “They came to me with a lot of excitement, asking ‘How can I have a career in something like this?’” Nakanishi recalled. “That was an emotional moment for me because I didn’t realize how much I could help inspire younger generations. I feel absolutely blessed that I and my colleagues at Japan Institute could help guide these students to think about professions in global peacemaking and give them guidance on how to pursue it beyond this event.
Masterfully Rendered, Heartfelt Gifts
As part of the program in Tokyo, Japan Institute presented a symbol of peace and friendship to cities that profoundly understand and represent the need for peace: Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Tokyo. Inspired by the gift of a Peace Lantern from Yokohama Mayor Ryōzō Hiranuma to the City of Portland after World War II, Japan Institute commissioned its own Peace Lanterns to each of these cities. Presentations of the lanterns were held ahead of the Peace Symposium.
Sadafumi Uchiyama, Portland Japanese Garden’s Chief Curator, led Japan Institute’s efforts in not only retaining a craftsman to build the lanterns, but overseeing their installation. “The lanterns are really good,” Uchiyama said, praising the work of their stonemason, Tetsuro Tanabe. “Tanabe-san is probably one of the top ten living stone artisans today. His work takes a deep understanding, and it shows in the finished lantern. The roof is three-and-a-half feet wide and the thickness tapers down to only an inch and a half at its end. To get it that thin you have to hammer it countless times all while making sure you don’t break it. Even just one crack means you must start over. He has made five now, the three this year and two previously for Yokohama and Sapporo. He has never broken a piece.”
The first Peace Lantern dedication ceremony took place in Hiroshima on September 14 on a green belt that runs parallel to the city’s Peace Memorial Park. “I was very impressed with where the Peace Lantern was installed—it was given a prime location that many people walk by every day,” Uchiyama shared. “There are monuments from all around the world on the green belt, our peace lantern may have been given the last available spot.”
Nagasaki was the site of the second Peace Lantern dedication ceremony. Once again, Uchiyama was pleased with its location. “It’s located in a space where millions of visitors pass by on their way to the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum,” he noted. “Unlike Hiroshima, where you can walk all the way around the lantern, this was placed on a slope, so I cut into ground a bit and created a bit of an alcove around it.”
While the weather had been pleasant for the ceremonies in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, that would quickly change as Japan Institute’s traveling party headed to Tokyo for the third and final peace lantern dedication. “We were running from two separate typhoons,” noted Bloom. “The first one was in Nagaski and the second was in Tokyo. We had to adjust plans and travel schedules.”
For Uchiyama and those responsible for installing the third Peace Lantern at the International House in Tokyo on September 20, they decided to work in the moments the torrential rain and heavy winds of the typhoon ebbed. “When we got to Tokyo, the typhoon caught up with us,” Uchiyama recalled. “We got to the International House at 7:30 in the morning and stood under an eave in our rain gear, hoping the downpour might stop. I started to brace myself for the idea of installing the lantern in the rain, but then, almost magically, the storm stopped at 8:25. We were in the eye of the storm, so to speak. We raced under the little bit of blue sky we had and maybe an hour later, we were back to the heavy winds. By the next day, though, the storm had moved north and it was a beautiful day. We had the dedication ceremony outside.”
“The placement of the Peace Lantern outside the International House is really lovely,” added Bloom. “As soon as you pull into the driveway, you see it. And its location is actually in a historically designated garden by the city of Tokyo, so that was very heartwarming.”
Torii notes that these gestures are meaningful to the residents of these cities. “The first peace lantern the Garden commissioned was installed in Yokohama,” he pointed out. “I’m from Yokohama and I can attest that it’s very meaningful to see it there.”
Keeping the Message of Peace Alive
Japan Institute’s programming in Japan was also filled with in-person gatherings. Some were jubilant, others were more solemn. “For me, meeting some of the atomic bomb survivors in Hiroshima and Nagaskai was very moving and powerful,” Bloom shared. “We’ve been to these cities before and have met with museum and foundation directors, but this was the first time we’ve met with survivors who lived in the aftermath of a nuclear attack. It was important to go to meet these individuals so we could get a visceral understanding of what they experienced.”
“I think the survivors were surprised to have an American organization established by a garden come such a long way to meet with them,” Nakanishi added. “This kind of peace exchange typically happens through government and sister-city relationships, but we did this outside of any governmental framework. They were touched that we wanted to hear them share their story and were pleased we did this out of our own sincere interest.”
“Meeting with them certainly gave me a lot to think about,” Bloom offered. “My conversations with the survivors informed my address at the Peace Symposium. I wanted to reassure them then and moving forward that Japan Institute will continue carry out their important message of peace to people and cities around the world. It begins with our six Peace Symposia on six continents in three years, but our commitment will extend well beyond this initial programming.”
‘Everyone Was Ecstatic to Gather’
There were also opportunities for Japan Institute’s staff and patrons to socialize during their travels. One of the most notable gatherings was a reception hosted at the residence of U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel and Amy Rule. “It was such an eclectic range of people representing so many different professions, it was just amazing,” Nakanishi glowed.
“There were members of the Imperial Family, cabinet members, former ambassadors of Japan to the United States, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, celebrities, and sports figures,” Nakanishi recalled. “Everyone was ecstatic to gather not only because they were meeting people they might not normally interact with, but also because it was first in-person social function in several years for many of the guests. Several attendees, including the former ambassadors, were impressed that a Japanese garden could provide such a dynamic cultural platform that allows for these kinds of gatherings to take place.”
“I think that Ambassador Emanuel and his wife Amy received us in their home speaks to the respect that we garnered for the work we are doing in Japan,” Bloom pointed out. “A very special part of that evening was being able to meet and hear from Her Imperial Highness, Princess Takamado. She gave some wonderful remarks about the need for having places where people can gather to know each other.”
Another joyous gathering was held in Nagasaki at the Garden Terrace Nagasaki Hotels & Resorts the evening of the Peace Lantern dedication ceremony. “We were very well received everywhere we went in Japan, but Nagasaki was particularly special because our peace lantern dedication was the first public reception they had had since the pandemic. The reception later was very festive, everyone was in a great mood,” said Bloom.
“Our presence in Nagasaki felt like a city-wide event,” Uchiyama offered. “Because of their location they are not sometimes given their due attention as Hiroshima is. They were appreciative that we recognized the value of being there and meeting with them. The events there were filled with a great deal of passion—a lot of tears and a lot of laughter.”
For Torii, he had a very memorable moment when he had the opportunity to meet Kinya Hira for the first time. Hira, who was the first Garden Director of Portland Japanese Garden from 1964 to 1969, now lives back in his native Japan. “He’s still very sharp at 85,” Torii shared. “We talked for maybe three hours. I was very happy to hear him share his memories and all the little details he added to the Garden that I had not known about. They’re essentially love letters that he left behind.”