Reimagining Japan Society New York: A beacon of hope at the epicenter of the pandemic

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New York is a beacon of hope for the free world. We are the beating heart, not only of the United States, but of the world and of global financial markets. The current moment defines our generation and the future world to come.

As Japan returns from its Golden Week and Children’s Day, and here in America, we just celebrated Giving Tuesday as we joined countless nonprofit organizations around the world to promote the work we do, we are challenged to ask ourselves what we can do for current and future generations. At the Japan Society, we can stay true to our mission to bring the United States and Japan together—something we’ve been doing since 1907—while reimagining what that future will look like.

I sincerely believe that U.S.-Japan relations will come through this pandemic even stronger than before and be even more defined. Just as 9/11 forever changed the way we travel, the way we think about security, clarifying the trade-offs between privacy and security, the pandemic has already changed the way we think about our own health. We are interconnected to everyone in ways that we have never had to consider before.

Because the Japan Society is located in New York City, the US epicenter of the pandemic, we need to be a beacon of hope as we serve our devastated community. People are going to look to New York, just as they did after 9/11, to lead the way in terms of resilience.

Where better than Japan to look for resilience, with the Olympics postponed, where the flames are kept alive at the epicenter of March 11? With such a strong economic component in this crisis, when you have the largest and third largest economy in the world coming together – the United States and Japan – it is a powerful opportunity for hope and inspiration.

As liberal democracies, our societies must emerge stronger in ways that many authoritarians cannot and will not accomplish. When the immediate public health crisis passes, the truth will come out, showing how Japan was there for us despite its reluctance to publicly promote its efforts. It is up to us to show why we need freedom, liberty and privacy in the face of public health crises, security threats or war.

Today we declare that we are here for New York, we are here for our community, we want to inspire hope in the same way that during 3/11 we sought to comfort and show our friendship to our Japanese friends.

Unlike 3/11, when we established one of the largest and most renowned relief funds for Japan after it was singularly devastated by the triple disaster of earthquake, tsunami and fallout from the nuclear reactor, we are all together in this pandemic. We know we’re not the only place to direct donations that are desperately needed at all levels for public health, restaurants and everyday frontline heroes.

But for us, the mission of the Japan Society will always remain the same, to bring the United States and Japan together. We want to remind you of the resilience of this relationship, that we have lived through these terrible times before, although never in this way with public health.

Although our historic building remains closed to the public and staff, we have been busier and more determined than ever to meet the enormous challenges ahead. We are reimagining our programming to reach a much wider audience, innovating while building on our centuries-old heritage and tradition.

In addition to our reimagined annual dinner on June 18, which we boldly bring online, we’re excited about our new virtual reality as we reimagine our website, our membership, and even the biggest Japanese-language film festival outside. from Tokyo, “Japan Cuts,” while our language center, the largest in North America, continues to teach Japanese at all levels, online. As we make these necessary leaps of faith, we hope we can inspire others to see the light at the end of this long tunnel, because ultimately we are all in this together.

In the past, good deeds spoke for themselves. In today’s world of misinformation, the Japan Society is an honorable organization that has stood the test of time. Our programs and resources — currently located primarily in the digital realm — represent the best of their kind.

I am optimistic that the US-Japan relationship has to bring to this world, not just in the current crisis, but that we will continue to benefit from this relationship in new ways that we cannot even conceive of today.

The Olympics will be held in Japan in 2021, and when the world comes together to celebrate next year, it will be an unprecedented celebration. We are ready and hope you will join us in celebrating the spirit of New York that is stronger with Japan.

Joshua W. Walker is president and CEO of the Japan Society.

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