The International Exchange Forum connects global communities for dialogue through exploring those ideals of Japanese culture which resonate in every culture around the world, including appreciation of fine craftsmanship, a deep personal connection to nature, and the search for internal and external peace. The Exchange Forum connects individuals and organizations around these shared interests. Together, participants build global relationships, exchange and explore ideas critical to modern life, evolve theory and practice in their respective fields, and collaborate to implement the ideals of Japanese gardens, arts, and culture in varied and meaningful ways for communities around the world.

Japan Institute’s peace programming is made possible through Robert and Deborah Zagunis.

International Peace Symposia | “Peacemaking at the Intersection of Culture, Art, and Nature”

Our international Peace Symposia series features partners and leaders from numerous cultural, intellectual, and diplomatic fields, coming together to discuss the evolving role of public spaces as the platform for peacebuilding and community engagement. 

Highlights from the Peace Symposium in London in 2022, held at Guildhall.

Japan Institute has hosted Peace Symposia in Tokyo, Japan; London, England; New York, United States; Johannesburg, South Africa; and Cape Town, South Africa. A glimpse of each of these programs can be seen below:

Tokyo, Japan (September, 2022)

On September 21, 2022 the United Nations’ International Day of Peace, Japan Institute of Portland Japanese Garden held its inaugural Peace Symposium 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. Among the highlights of the day were remarks from Her Imperial Highness, Princess Tsuguko. Read more in “The Light and Hope of Peacemaking.”

Tokyo Peace Symposium Photo Slide Show:

London, England (December, 2022)

In December 2022, Japan Institute of Portland Japanese Garden took its international peace programming to the United Kingdom. These exciting endeavors included a gathering at the United States Embassy in London, a pine pruning and bamboo fence building workshop, a presentation of a masterfully handcrafted Peace Lantern to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and a Peace Symposium at the auspicious trappings of Guildhall. Attendees heard a congratulatory address from Tokyo Governor, Yuriko Koike, and a keynote address given by Nobel Peace Center Director, Kjersti Fløgstad. Learn more in “Nobel Peace Center and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew Partner with Japan Institute for London Peace Symposium.”

London Peace Symposium Photo Slide Show:

New York, United States (September, 2023)

On September 21, the United Nations’ International Day of Peace, Japan Institute held its third Peace Symposium at Japan Society’s headquarters in New York, New York. Co-presented with Japan Society New York, this partnership underscored the organizations’ shared belief in the power of cultural diplomacy – the act of sharing the unique gifts of a culture through arts, traditions, aspirations, and values. Attendees of the event heard from several global thought leaders, including a keynote speech from Caryl Stern, Chief Impact Officer, LionTree & Former CEO, U.S. Fund for UNICEF. Read more in “Japan Institute Holds Peace Symposium in New York.

New York Peace Symposium Photo Slide Show:

  • His Excellency, Ambassador Osamu Yamanaka, Deputy Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations speaks at Japan Institute's Peace Symposium.
  • Ayanna Behin speaks at Japan Institute's New York Peace Symposium.
  • Christopher Willis speaks at Japan Institute's New York Peace Symposium.
  • Hiroshi Senju speaks at Japan Institute's New York Peace Symposium.
  • Caryl Stern speaks at Japan Institute's New York Peace Symposium.
  • Portland Japanese Garden CEO Steve Bloom speaking at Japan Society in New York.
  • Thomas Hill sitting in a chair on stage at Japan Institute's New York Peace Symposium.
  • Japan Institute staff and colleagues pose for a picture at the New York Peace Symposium.
  • Four poets who participated in the New York Peace Symposium held by Japan Institute standing together in a photo.

Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa (November & December, 2023)

Japan Institute hosted two Peace Symposia in South Africa – in Cape Town on November 30th and and Johannesburg on December 4th. The Cape Town and Johannesburg Peace Symposia were done in collaboration with the Nobel Peace Center and over a dozen South African partner organizations and will honored the South Africa’s Peace Prize laureates, Chief Albert Luthuli, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, President F.W. de Klerk, and President Nelson Mandela. The events featured keynote addresses, panel discussions, and commissioned poetry readings. Learn more about the highlights of these programs in “Healing at the Individual Level To Achieve Lasting Peace: Japan Institute Brings Peace Programming to South Africa.”

Video Message for South Africa Peace Symposia from Kjersti Fløgstad, Nobel Peace Center Director:

South Africa Peace Symposia Photo Slide Show:

  • Siphokazi Jonas reciting a commissioned poem.
  • Lungi Morrison speaking at a podium in Cape Town.
  • Steve Bloom standing on a stage speaking to attendees of a peace symposium in Cape Town, South Africa.
  • A large group from Portland Japanese Garden and Japan Institute along with local partners in Johannesburg, South Africa after the 2 organizations planted a tree there.

Additional Peace Program Components

Beyond initiating dialogue through the Peace Symposia, Japan Institute aims to highlight the power of cultural diplomacy through additional program components – including poetry & art, workshops, dedications symbolizing peace, international tours, and collaborations with international cultural institutions. Each Peace Symposia is slightly different, for the intention is to be able to customize the program components to be relevant to the culture and community of each special place.

Poetry for Peace

As an art form, poetry is a powerful tool for peace-making. It can eloquently voice, encourage and inspire human aspirations, as well as provoke thought, emotion, and positive action. Japan Institute and Portland Japanese Garden’s Peace Programming includes a poetry component – Poetry for Peace – a young person’s poetry competition conducted in partnership with the Poetry Society of the U.K., a globally respected organization founded in 1909 that advances poetry through its publications, competitions, and collaborations with international organizations. At the conclusion of the global Peace Symposia series, Japan Institute will publish a book featuring the poetry.

Commissioned Poets:

Yumi Fuzuki reads her work, ‘Gathering the voices,’ at Japan Institute’s Tokyo Peace Symposium in 2022. Photo by Ken Katurayama.

Peace Dedications

In September 2022, Japan Institute presented replicas of Portland Japanese Garden’s Peace Lantern* to the cities of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Tokyo ahead of its Peace Symposium in Japan. Then, in December of 2022, Japan Institute presented a Peace Lantern to The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in England. On December 5th, 2023, Japan Institute had the distinct honor of making an addition to the stunning grounds of the Johannesburg Botanical Garden: a Celtis africana.

A planting of this tree or a gift of a lantern is an expression of hope and a message of peace, specifically located in publicly accessible spaces, to inspire those who come upon them to reflect on the ideals of peace and how they may carry it forward in their communities and the world around them.

*The Peace Lantern gift was inspired by a gesture in 1954 by Yokohama, Japan’s then-mayor, Ryōzō Hiranuma. In an effort to repair friendships in the aftermath of World War II, Hiranuma began gifting stone lanterns to different locations around the world to “cast the light” of peace.  Portland was one the recipients. At first, the lantern was installed in the International Rose Test Garden and then finally in 1967, it was placed in Portland Japanese Garden’s Strolling Pond Garden. While its journey concluded more than 50 years ago, its significance has not waned. Rather, it inspired the generations that followed. To read more about the Peace Lantern, click here.

Peace Lantern Dedication Photo Slideshow:

International Tours

The International Exchange Forum creates customized national and international travel programs for audiences to explore and contrast Japanese gardens, art, and culture with other similar and contrasting destinations around the world, as well as destinations and organizations that align with Japan Institute’s mission of Inspiring Harmony & Peace. Through this exploration, individuals find renewal for themselves as well as opportunities to understand people from other cultures.

Japan Institute staff and their patron tour outside the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo, Norway.

Oslo, Norway Photo Slideshow:

Concurrent to its peace programming in London in December of 2023, Japan Institute hosted a patron tour including Portland Japanese Garden Board Members, donors, and partners to experience more programs and build the relationships that will help advance our mission of inspiring harmony and peace. At the conclusion of the London Peace Symposium, the patron tour continued to Oslo, Norway. There, both Japan Institute staff and their fellow travelers visited the Nobel Peace Center and attended events highlighted by the Nobel Peace Prize Award ceremony held on December 10. Below is a collection photos of the events and gatherings that took place in Norway.

Collaborative Programs with International Cultural Organizations

Global relationships continue to reveal new opportunities for discussion and collaboration on initiatives important to varied communities around the world. These projects are some of the first collaborative efforts:

  • Partnerships with highly lauded institutions such as Nobel Peace Center and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, to bring Japan Institute’s programs to Portland, London, Johannesburg, and South Africa.
  • Sister-institution relationships modeled on the established collaborations between Portland Japanese Garden and Taizo-in (Kyoto), International House of Japan (Tokyo), and Keihanna Garden (Kyoto).
  • Ongoing Living Traditions webinar series in conjunction with the Government of Japan and Japan Society, exploring the influence of centuries-old traditions on many of today’s most popular trends.
  • Collaboration with Japan’s Ministry of Culture, Garden Society of Japan, North American Japanese Garden Association, and others to achieve UNESCO designation of intangible world heritage for Japanese garden art form – 2016 through 2026.

In addition, the International Exchange Forum is working to create global connections among gardens and Japanese cultural organizations with plans to host these conferences in future years, including the Inaugural Great Gardens of the World Leadership Forum in Portland, Oregon in July 2026 (tentative).

London Peace Symposium keynote speaker Kjersti Fløgstad, Nobel Peace Center Director. Photo by Hayley Madden.
A reception at the U.S. Embassy in London, hosted by Japan Institute and Portland Japanese Garden. Photo by Hayley Madden
Portland Japanese Gardena and Japan Institute CEO Steve Bloom (l) in conversation with Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew Director Richard Deverell during a lecture held at Portland Art Museum in July, 2022. Photo by Jonathan Ley.
The atrium at the offices of Wieden + Kennedy, where the Portland installment of Living Traditions was hosted in January, 2024. Photo by Arthur Hitchcock.