Japan Society is a non-profit organization in New York City connecting Japanese arts, culture, and ideas with New York and beyond.
Japan Society is a non-profit organization in New York City connecting Japanese arts, culture, and ideas with New York and beyond. At its NYC headquarters, a landmark building designed by architect Junzo Yoshimura that opened to the public in 1971, the cultural center acts as a hub for exhibitions, films, talks, workshops, language classes, and more.
Q: Tell us about the Japan Society!
Japan Society is the premier organization, founded in 1907, which connects Japanese arts, culture, business, and society with audiences in New York and around the world. We are inspired by the Japanese concept of kizuna (絆)–forging deep connections to bind people together. We are committed to telling the story of Japan while strengthening connections within New York City and building new bridges beyond. In over 115 years of work, we’ve inspired generations by establishing ourselves as pioneers in supporting international exchanges in arts and culture, business and policy, as well as education between Japan and the U.S.
Now, more than ever, we strive to convene important conversations on topics that bind our two countries together, champion the next generation of innovative creators, promote mutual understanding, and serve as a trusted guide for people everywhere who seek to more fully appreciate the rich complexities and abundance of Japan.
Q: Can you highlight a recent initiative, program, or exhibition?
Our current Gallery exhibition is Out of Bounds: Japanese Women Artists in Fluxus (October 13, 2023–January 21, 2024). This exhibition is the first to fully explore the essential role of Japanese women in Fluxus, a movement instigated in the 1960s that helped contemporary artists define new modes of artistic expression. Near the 60th anniversary of the movement’s founding, this exhibition highlights the contributions of four pioneering Japanese artists—Shigeko Kubota (1937–2015), Yoko Ono (1933–), Takako Saito (1929–),and Mieko Shiomi (1938–)—and contextualizes their role within Fluxus and the broader artistic movements of the 1960s and beyond.
Q: What is something about your organization that most people might not be familiar with?
Activities at Japan Society are set against a stunning backdrop of indoor gardens, a reflecting pool and a waterfall. Facilities include a 260-seat theater, art gallery, language center, library and conference rooms. Japan Society’s landmark building—located near the United Nations on 47th Street and First Avenue—was designed by architect Junzo Yoshimura and opened in 1971 as the first building in New York City by a leading Japanese architect. The classic elegance and simplicity of Yoshimura’s original vision has been preserved even as the building has been enhanced by a substantial renovation. Marking the 110th anniversary in 2017, renowned artist Hiroshi Sugimoto renovated the Society’s lobby garden, now featuring original artwork, handmade Nara ceramic tiles and two large-scale tropical bonsai ficus trees.
Q: What is something in your neighborhood or near your organization that you would recommend experiencing if someone were to visit?
If you visit Japan Society, which islocated at 333 E. 47th Street, I’d recommend going to see the United Nations which is right across the street from us at 4Street and First Avenue. They are open to the public from 9:00am–5:00pm Monday to Friday and offer in-person guided tours.
Places to eat in the vicinity include: Slate Café Midtown (941 Second Ave.), The Smith (956 Second Ave.), Wano (245 E. 44th St.) and Crave Fishbar–Midtown (945 Second Ave.).
Q: What is a design object in your collection that you would like to highlight?
In both the public and private spaces of the Japan Society building, we have an extensive collection of George Nakashima-designed furniture, Shiko Munakata woodblock prints as well as pieces by other renowned Japanese artists such as Yayoi Kusama.