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Japan Society - Bridging Japanese and US Cultures

Updated on July 8, 2012


Japan Society is located in the 333 East 47th Street of New York City in the United States.


The Japan Society was found in 19 May 1907, with the mission to bring Japanese and American people closer. This motto will help understand the culture and life of people of the two different countries. The Society served as the torch bearer to promote Japanese culture in the city of New York. This initiative helped the Americans to know more about Japan and its culture, before which it was just in minds of few Americans.

During the era of 1920’s and 30’s, when both racial and political relation between the two countries, i.e. Japan and United States, was getting bitter the Society chose to walk the road of its mission rather than taking the side of political extravaganza. It kept doing its duty of education. Japan Society had a great tie up with many renowned international groups – America-Japan Society of Tokyo and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace are the two among them. The Society, in partnership with these two groups, worked hard to encourage and boost relationship between the Japanese and Americans, at every level.

However, time and luck had taken its toll. Though the Society had made lot of efforts the war of 1941 could not be avoided, which arose due the political crisis between the two powerful countries. Bending to the political pressure, the Society had to follow the footsteps of other Japan-American exchange groups and shut their doors. Though the Society had to shut down its operations due to the war and bitter relation, the reputation and cooperation had bring the Society back to operation and the Society had its rebirth in the year 1952. The major credit for this rebirth goes to President John D Rockefeller, 3rd and Executive Director Douglas Overton. The new Society had increased its effort to showcase Japan and educate the Americans about Japan and its culture. This effort made the Society increase the lecture series that they conduct, publish Japanese works etc.


The New York building, which is with modern Japanese architecture, is designed by Junzō Yoshimura. This building was inaugurated in the year 1971 and was the first building designed by a leading Japanese architect in New York City. This building is an excellent and beautiful structure. The front part of the building bears three-storey bamboo water garden. That’s not all to describe the beauty of this building. This building houses a theater, which has the capacity to accommodate 262 audiences. An art gallery, library, conference facilities along with administration facilities find its place in the Japan Society building. Along with these facilities the world famous Toyota Language Center has a place in this building. This sheer elegance was renovated to enhance its facilities in 1998, without damaging the original vision of simplicity and elegance of Yoshimura.

Cultural Side

As mentioned in the beginning of the article, the mission of the Society is to educate American people about Japan and its culture. Culturally, the Society is completely focused to its mission. The Society conducts many numbers of cultural events that are focused on Japanese culture and its people. The Society always on its toes to conduct programs that showcase the culture of Japan – through art and cultural events, performing arts, exhibitions etc.

Surrounding Area

The Society building is located close to United Nations, which is on the 47th Street. Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza Park is near to the Society building. Grand Central Station is just a short walk from the building.

Interesting Facts

  • The Japan Society is a non-profit and non-political organization.
  • The Society organizes well over 100 events in a year, which includes performing arts and visual arts.
  • The events organized by the Society also include business sectors and policy sectors along with the education field.
  • Besides the performing and visual arts, the Society organizes exhibitions, lectures and seminars along with film screenings.
  • Various courses, symposia and workshops are the added features of the year round agenda.
  • The building has indoor gardens accompanied by a reflecting pool and a waterfall.

Past Events

The Society had organized many useful and educational events in its past years of operation. All the events were, of course, revolved around educating the Americans with Japan and its culture. Few film events are worth mentioning in this article. One of the films was Helldriver that was screened in April 2011. Back in the year 2010, quite big banner movies were screened. Beside the film events, Japan Society has also organized many exhibitions, lectures, seminars, symposia etc. The Society also had conducted educational program for families and corporate sector. One of the most prominent events that the Society conducts is the performing art. These performing arts are sheer reflection of Japanese culture.

Regular Events

The Japan Society conducts any events on regular basis. Those events are open to the people who are very much keen to know about the culture of Japan and Japanese people. The events that the Society conducts are not limited to set particular set of audience. There are lots of categories of events that the Society conducts on regular basis. Performing and visual arts are one of the regular events that the Society conducts to serve the meaning of its mission. The performing art consists of musical and dance program along with plays that bring pictures of Japanese culture. Lectures are one of the regular events that the Society conducts. In these events lectures are delivered on varied subjects related to Japan and the country’s culture. The world famous Toyota Language Center is housed in the Japan Society building. This center conducts Japanese language courses along with workshop on Japanese calligraphy. Film screening is also a regular event in Japan Society. Many big banner Japanese films are screened in the 262-seater theater that is housed in the Japan Society. The Japan Society also has educational events for schools. The motto of this initiative is to bring Japan to various schools and educational institution along with the nationwide communities.


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