The Japan Foundation Awards (2019)

Shuntaro Tanikawa (Poet)[Japan]

Photo of Shuntaro Tanikawa
(c) FUKAHORI mizuho

Shuntaro Tanikawa has relentlessly crafted poetry over the nearly 70 years since he published his first anthology, Two Billion Light Years of Solitude, in 1952, and today continues to dynamically engage in a wide range of activities that harness the power of language. His works are noted for their breadth of style, ranging from nursery rhymes to poems that convey the profound joy, sorrow, and other emotions at the heart of the human experience.

In recent years he has experimented with new possibilities for poetry, including an iPhone app called “Tanikawa,” in which the user virtually fishes poems from an onscreen river, and a “Poemail” service for sending poems through the mail. He also hosts his own readings and various workshops to provide many people with opportunities to experience the world of poetry.

His creative pursuits go beyond poetry to encompass many other genres as well, including lyrics, scripts, picture books, children’s stories, essays, and ideas for textbooks. Throughout this broad range of activity he uses language as a tool for exploring the meaning of life and human interactions.

His poems, woven with simple language into delightfully crisp, rhythmical text, are appealing not only to native speakers but also foreigners in the process of learning Japanese. His works have often been incorporated into the curricula of both Japanese-language courses and teacher training, including creations such as Word Games: Nonsense Pictures and Rhymes, which can help learners gain a sense for the distinctive rhythm and sound of Japanese, as well as poems like “To Live” and “Listening” that tackle universal subjects in plain language. More than 50 of his poetry anthologies have been translated into more than 20 languages, including English, Chinese, French, and German, and these translations have helped to shrink the cultural distance between Japan and other countries. As a wordsmith whose many creations have been read by people of all ages in different countries and regions, he deserves much praise for the enormous impact he has had in diverse fields.

In recognition of Shuntaro Tanikawa’s many years of contributing to the growth of mutual understanding between Japan and the world through poetry writing and other activities, we confer to him the Japan Foundation Award with the hope that he will continue to shine brilliantly in the future.

Association of Indonesian Alumni From Japan (PERSADA)[Indonesia]

Photo of PERSADA

The Association of Indonesian Alumni From Japan (PERSADA) is an association of people who previously studied in Japan that strives to be a bridge between Indonesia and Japan. It also serves as the core member of the ASEAN Council of Japan Alumni (ASCOJA).

A large number of Indonesians have studied in Japan since the first student arrived in the early 1930s. Many of those who were in Japan prior to World War II became leaders of the Indonesian independence movement after returning to their homeland, and later spearheaded Indonesia’s evolution as an independent state. The number of Indonesian youths studying in Japan surged following the war, and in 1963 PERSADA was formed by some of those alumni. Today, PERSADA is an enormous association of former international students to Japan, with around 8,000 members on it roll. It continues to serve as a bridge between the two countries by engaging in many projects in Japanese language education, hands-on cultural experiences, exchanges of experts, and other areas.

In 1986, PERSADA and the Indonesia-Japan Friendship Association led the founding of Darma Persada University, a private institution that remains a symbol of amity between Indonesia and Japan. The university now comprises four undergraduate schools—Letters, Engineering, Marine Engineering, and Economics—and the Graduate School of Renewable Energy. All students, currently numbering around 5,400, study Japanese and English as well. Inspired by the Japanese spirit, it aspires to be a center of monozukuri(craftsmanship), and roughly one-fourth of all graduates find employment in Japanese-owned businesses. In 2016, the Japanese government and eleven Japanese institutions of higher learning established a university consortium for advancing cooperation with Darma Persada University, opening the door to vigorous, ongoing academic exchanges between both countries.

As these examples illustrate, PERSADA, as an organization launched by mainly Indonesian alumni of Japan, has for many years served as a nexus of exchange linking Japan and Indonesia. We present the Japan Foundation Award to PERSADA with the hope that they will continue to be a central force for friendly exchange between not only Japan and Indonesia, but also with the other members of ASEAN.

Ewa Pałasz-Rutkowska (Professor, University of Warsaw)[Poland]

Photo of Ewa Pałasz-Rutkowska

Ewa Pałasz-Rutkowska is one of Poland’s top scholars of Japanese history. For many years she has contributed to education and research in Japanese studies at the University of Warsaw, one of Europe’s premiere institutions in this field. She has also published numerous books on Japan.

One of her most noteworthy academic contributions has been her research on the history of Poland’s relations with Japan. In 1996, she published History of Polish-Japanese Relations 1904-1945, a comprehensive portrait of the ties between the two countries from the time of the Russo-Japanese War to the end of World War II (Co-authored with Andrzej Romer. A Japanese translation by Riko Shiba was published by Sairyusha in 2009, and the second edition of the original was released in the same year). The product of an effort that involved research and exploration of a vast body of documents in both Japan and Poland, this unparalleled, epoch-making work represents the world’s first extensive chronicle of the two nations’ relationship.

This was followed by her habilitation thesis, Japan’s Policy towards Poland 1918-1941, which was published in 1998. Her research revealed that the political and diplomatic ties between Japan and Poland in that era of war and strained international relations were much closer than previously hypothesized, and that those ties were buoyed by mutual amity and affinity.

Pałasz-Rutkowska has also researched the role of the Japanese Emperor in the modern period, compiling her findings into the voluminous Emperor Meiji: The ruler’s image in a modernizing Japan (2012).

She has visited Japan frequently for study and research, and has closely networked with Japanese scholars. Since becoming a professor at the University of Warsaw in 2003, she has provided instruction and guidance to many undergraduate and graduate students. In addition, she is an advisor to Chado Urasenke Tankokai Warsaw Sunshin Association, which has worked to promote the Japanese tea ceremony. She has also been involved in the operation of “Kaian,” a tea ceremony room inside the university library.

Through these and other endeavors over the years, Ewa Pałasz-Rutkowska has not only served as a key leader in Japanese Studies research and education at the University of Warsaw, but also greatly contributed to the advancement of academic/cultural exchange, mutual understanding, and friendly relations between Japan and Poland, and between Japan and the world. We extend to her the Japan Foundation Award in hopes that she will continue making such tremendous achievements in the years to come.

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