September 5, 2019 13:00 JST
The America-Japan Society Inc.
The America-Japan Society announced two recipients of The Third Kaneko Award this year. They are Ms. Helen Rindsberg of Cincinnati, Ohio, and Mr. Charlie Nagatani of Kumakoto. Dr. Genshitsu Sen will receive a Special Award.
Count Kentaro Kaneko was the first president of the America-Japan Society. The Society was established in 1917 to promote people-to-people relations of Japan and the United States. Count Kaneko is known because he successfully persuaded his fellow Harvard alumnus, President Theodore Roosevelt to use his good offices to convene the Portsmouth Peace Treaty Conference between Japan and Russia after the 1904-1905 Russo-Japanese war.
The Kaneko Award was founded in 2017 to commemorate the centennial of the establishment of the America-Japan Society in 1917. The Award is given to those who worked for long years to promote people-to-people exchanges between Japan and the United States, in particular, aiming at the people who worked on grass roots level. In addition, prominent persons who have also made distinguished contributions to Japan-US relations are recognized with the Special Award.
The committee is comprised of Mr. Kunihiko Saito, former Ambassador of Japan to the United States (Chairman), Mr. Yuzaburo Mogi, Honorary Chairman of Kikkoman Co. Mr. Yoji Oohashi, Senior Advisor of ANA Holdings, Mr. Christopher Lafleur, President of American Chamber of Commerce in Japan, Ms. Hiroko Kuniya, a journalist, Dr. Fumiaki Kubo, Professor of Tokyo University and President Ichiro Fujisaki of the America-Japan Society.
Mr. Charlie Nagatani (recommended by America-Japan Society of Kumamoto)
Born in 1936 in Kumamoto
Mr. Nagatani was so deeply enticed with the C&W music at the age of 20 as to decide to become a C&W singer at once. He organized his band named “Charlie and Cannonball” in 1961 and started concert tours for the US
military bases in and outside Japan. In 1976 he opened the C&W live house named “Good Time Charlie” in Kumamoto where he still sings now. Even now he has a lot of American music friends whom he met in the US military base tours. In addition, he has organized the largest scale C&W music festival in Japan, “Country Gold” in his mother town of Kumamoto. In the States, he has performed on the stage of “Grando Ole Opry” concert, Nashville Tennessee, as many as 29 times. As such, he has sustained the good relationships with a number of people in the US enough to be invited to the guest of the White House by President Bill Clinton in 1999.as well as being awarded an honorary citizen from 33 states and the Honorary Ambassador assigned by the former Ambassador William Hagerty.
Ms. Helen Rindsberg (recommended by Japan-America Society of Greater Cincinnati)
Born in Cincinnati, 1949
Ms. Rindsberg majored in art education in college and then taught art in public junior high and high schools for 15 years and for 15 years served as an assistant principal. After retiring from full-time work, she taught art, photography and Japanese Art History at the high school and university level for 16 years. Since her first trip to Japan in 1984 she has taken many photographs there and used those photographs in classes and on her website to introduce Japanese art, culture and history to many students and adults. Since 2004, she has volunteered as a docent at the Cincinnati Art Museum where she has been highly praised for her well-prepared approach to introducing Japanese arts and culture in a way easily accessible to people in the US.
Ms. Rindsberg has collaborated with her husband, Steve, also a photographer, in their consistent pursuit of promoting Japanese culture and enhancing the relationship between the two countries. Since 1989, they have been a home stay family for 16 Japanese students and 3 teachers for anything from 6 months to 5 years. Their relationships have become so close as to be called “American Mama and Papa.” Their extended family now includes 25 “grandchildren.” Since 1984, she has visited Japan 18 times including as co-leader of three tours for university students and one tour for docents. She and her husband collect Japanese kimonos, hanging scrolls, books and Edo-era wood-block prints (ukiyoe). She joined the Cincinnati-Dayton Taiko Group in 2000, and is now its Director. She has been President of the Cincinnati Asian Arts Society since 2008. Thus for 35 years, she has devoted considerable and significant time to leading the development of cultural exchanges between the people of Japan and America.
Dr. Genshitsu Sen (recommended by America-Japan Society of Kyoto)
Born in 1923, in Kyoto
Dr. Genshitsu Sen is the 15th-generation grand master of the Urasenke Chado tradition. He became grand master in 1964 and transferred the position and title to his son in 2002, taking the name Daisosho Genshitsu Sen.
While a student at Doshisha University in 1943, he was drafted into the Japanese Naval airforce and assigned as a special attack unit pilot. Due to his height, he was assigned to a reconnaissance plane crew, and ultimately repatriated with the rank of First Lieutenant. It was following his return to Kyoto that he learnt that the way of tea could contribute to international exchange when he saw his father serve tea to U.S. Army occupation force soldiers.
In 1951, Dr. Sen traveled to the United States. During that visit, he was present for and commemorated the conclusion of the 1951 peace treaty in San Francisco, and held a large presentation of chado at Columbia University in New York, beginning his lifelong mission to share chado outside Japan.
Dr. Sen knew that chado, the way of tea, contained ideals that were not represented correctly by the term “tea ceremony” introduced in Okakura Kakuzo’s “The Book of Tea.” In chado, people are not distinguished by status, and a respect for nature and each other is fostered. People of the United States quickly caught on, and now there are 37 Urasenke locations throughout the U.S. for practicing chado. Dr. Sen has also donated tea rooms to several universities, through which students are able to experience chado as part of Japanese culture-related courses. Even now he visits the US several times a year, and has met with many important figures during those visits, including former President and Mrs. Bush, members of the Rockefeller family, Bill and Mrs. Gates, and former Ambassador Caroline Kennedy and family.
At the U.N. Millenium Summit in 2000, Dr. Sen made a tea offering in prayer for World Peace, introducing chado and serving tea to the General Assembly delegates in attendance. He became President of the United Nations Association of Japan in 2002, and also was named the first-ever Japan-U.N. Goodwill Ambassador in 2005. Dr. Sen has traveled to 62 countries over several hundred overseas visits, continuing his mission of “Chado Diplomacy” to this day.
The next Kaneko Award is to be selected in 2021.
The America-Japan Society, Inc.