The Japan Society and its gallery showcase the fine, decorative and performing arts of Japan while also offering more than 100 events each year featuring presentations of Japanese art and culture and open, critical dialogue on issues of vital importance to the U.S., Japan and East Asia.
Exhibitions offer works ranging from the traditional to the contemporary, including painting, sculpture, calligraphy, ceramics, woodblock prints, textiles, lacquerware and present-day mediums such as video and manga. Many works, if not entire shows, come from Japanese museums and otherwise inaccessible private collections.
Likewise, the society offers performing artists in both traditional and contemporary roles such as Grand Kabuki actor Tamasaburo Bando V and comedian Issey Ogata. American audiences have had the rare opportunity to see Butoh artist Kazuo Ohno, as well as the musicians Sadao Watanabe and Terumasa Hino.
The society's library houses an extensive collection of English-language books on Japan. The language center offers 12 levels of Japanese-language instruction. The film center has an international reputation for premiering the work of Japan's most provocative new filmmakers as well as reintroducing the work of masters like Yasujiro Ozu and Kenji Mizoguchi.
The society was founded on May 19, 1907 by a group of prominent New York business people and philanthropists, many of whom shaped the policies of exchange and collaboration that guided it through the 1930s until the outbreak of World War II. After the war, the society gradually resumed its activities. Built on land donated by John D. Rockefeller, III, Japan Society's landmark building was designed by architect Junzo Yoshimura and opened in 1971 as the first building by a leading Japanese architect in New York City. It is a blend of American materials and Japanese forms and as such reflects the unique aesthetic sensibilities of this fascinating culture.
During the run of gallery exhibitions, free tours in Japanese take place Friday at 6 pm. Private Japanese tours can be arranged at other times for a fee; please call (212) 715-1224. Films including those in the annual Japan Cuts film festival are screened in Japanese with English subtitles.
Programs for SeniorsTo the extent that funding permits, the Japan Society offers free dance performance at senior centers.
Hands-on demonstrations, crafts and performances for families are organized around some of Japan’s annual festivities. These include Oshogatsu (New Year’s Day), Hinamatsuri (Doll’s Festival), Kodomo no hi (Children’s Day), Tanabata (Star Festival), Shichigosan, (7-5-3 Celebration), and Exploring Japan’s Mystical Folktale Creates & Ghosts through Kamishibai (which takes place around the time of Halloween).
Art Carts in the galleries actively explore topics of the current exhibition. A museum educator guides inquiry, helping children acquire context-building information while developing visual analysis and critical thinking skills. Families are invited to handle objects and artifacts.
Slated for the second Saturday of every month when an exhibition is on view, tours engage young children ages 2 to 4 and their families in fun, interactive learning experiences. Using games, puzzles, storytelling and other techniques for discussing art and culture, tours explore exhibition themes and include Japanese vocabulary and language acquisition activity-building skills. No reservations are required.
The society offers numerous programs for school groups including film screenings, gallery lessons, discussion panels and workshops.
In Gallery Lessons, school groups explore the society's exhibitions with a museum educator.
To schedule a Gallery Lesson, please call (212) 715-1224.