Director’s Message Archive

November 19, 2015
July 2015
February 2015
December 2014
Fall 2014
Summer 2014
Spring 2014
Winter 2014

November 19, 2015

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

2015 has been an eventful year for the Japan Foundation, Toronto. After 20 years in the Colonnade Building, we have relocated to 2 Bloor St. East, on the third floor of the Hudson’s Bay Centre. We sincerely hope that you will join us as we continue to offer exhibitions, a free lending library, language classes, lectures, film screenings and other events at our new centre.

JFT is moving into the next phase of its existence and I, too, am also moving on to the next phase of my life. After four years with The Japan Foundation, Toronto, I will be returning to my family and home in Japan at the end of November.

Since arriving in Toronto in 2011, I have enjoyed cooperating with Canadians to realize projects introducing Japanese culture and fostering international exchange, and it has been my privilege to experience the open-mindedness and generous spirit of the Canadian people and the beauty and diversity of the land. It has truly been a pleasure to represent The Japan Foundation in Canada, and I will always hold fond memories of this country and its people in my heart.

However, I leave JFT in excellent hands with my successor, Ms. Emi Iwanaga, a long-time Japan Foundation veteran and dearly respected colleague who comes to us from a post as Executive Director of The Japan Foundation’s Budapest office. I have no doubt that her experience, professionalism and enthusiasm will lead JFT in exciting directions.

I would like to express my deepest appreciation for your kindness and support of The Japan Foundation’s programming during my tenure, and beyond, and to wish you all the best in your future endeavors.


Takashi Ishida
Executive Director
The Japan Foundation, Toronto


July 9, 2015

Time has passed quickly since we announced our plans to move, and we are already entering our last two months in the Colonnade Building.

Thank you to everybody who came out for our library’s farewell celebration on June 13 for storytelling, origami, purikura and a visit with PARO the robot baby seal. On June 30, our gallery also closed its doors for the last time. Over the years, we have presented over 100 exhibitions, and our final exhibition in this gallery featured extra-large B-Zero designs from some of Japan’s top designers. We have enjoyed 20 happy years in this building, and we will miss our friends and neighbours, but we look forward to continuing our work at the new gallery and library in the Hudson’s Bay Centre at 2 Bloor St. E. in the fall.

While we prepare for the move, we continue to develop programming for the rest of the year and support film, language and cultural activities around Toronto and greater Canada. We are also supporting Japan Studies Fellowship awardees travelling to Japan for research, and language studies.

The Toronto Japanese Film Festival just wrapped up its fourth instalment, and each year is more impressive than the last. With The Japan Foundation’s grant support, this year’s festival hosted two esteemed guest directors, Masato Harada and Masayuki Suo. After the festival, The Japan Foundation was able to team up with the TJFF and University of Toronto Department of East Asian Studies to present a sold-out screening of Mr. Suo’s 2012 drama A Terminal Trust, with Mr. Suo and the film’s star, Tamiyo Kusakari, in attendance.

The Summer Training Program for Japanese-Language Teachers was held on July 2-3 in Burnaby, British Columbia, and on July 5, the only North American summer session of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) was held in Edmonton, Alberta. Let’s hear it for all the enthusiastic teachers and students who continue to work on their Japanese language skills during the summer! Our thanks are due to the Prince Takamado Centre for Japanese Education and Research of the University of Alberta for organizing the test.

In other Japanese language news, our Travel Japanese class was so popular that we decided to add an extra session. Thank you to everyone who signed up, and we hope you have a chance to put your new language skills to work on your next trip to Japan.

We were delighted to hear that the inaugural recipient of Renison University College’s Teaching Excellence Award was Professor Akiko Maruoka. Professor Maruoka taught Japanese language at Renison and was the founder of the Ontario Japanese Speech Contest, among other accomplishments. Congratulations to Professor Maruoka!

Summer in Japan is a great time to enjoy festival culture, and we have two chances to do so right here in Toronto. The annual Natsu Matsuri and Bon Odori is held at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre on July 11, and the Matsuri will bring the sights, sounds and tastes of Japan to Yonge-Dundas Square on July 26. Please drop by the Japan Foundation booth and say hello.

This summer, we are delighted to present two film screenings at Innis Town Hall in partnership with the Consulates-General of Iceland and Finland, and the University of Toronto’s Department of East Asian Studies. Nordic Nippon Nights will feature the 1995 Icelandic/Japanese comedy Cold Fever on July 24, and the 2006 Japanese/Finnish comedy Kamome Diner on August 7.

We wish you a relaxing and refreshing summer season. Please enjoy some ramune,  yakisoba and kakigori at your local festival, and we look forward to seeing you around town.
Warm regards,

Takashi Ishida
Executive Director
The Japan Foundation, Toronto

March 20, 2015

On the brink of the Vernal Equinox, marking the Northern Hemisphere’s long-awaited shift from winter to spring, we have our own major transition to announce. Effective September 1, 2015, the Japan Foundation, Toronto will be moving to a new location in the Hudson’s Bay Centre at 2 Bloor St. East.

The Japan Foundation opened its Toronto office in 1990, and  later expanded its operations to become a cultural centre in 1995. At that time, we moved to the Colonnade Building and opened a public lending library, exhibition space and event hall. Over almost 20 years, countless exhibitions, lectures, film screenings, demonstrations, concerts, conferences, author’s and artist’s talks, and other events were organized, often in cooperation with Canadian partners, presenting diverse aspects of Japanese art, culture and society. We have appreciated our luck at being housed in the historic Colonnade building in the lively Yorkville neighbourhood. Most recently, we were proud to join the area’s arts and cultural organizations as a founding member of the Bloor Street Culture Corridor.

We are happy to be moving only a few short blocks east, to the dynamic intersection of Bloor and Yonge. The Japan Foundation will be just as accessible, if not more. Our new location is almost directly atop Bloor-Yonge Station, and the Foundation will continue to offer library service, gallery exhibitions, language classes and various free cultural events.

While preparing for the big move this summer, we will experience a brief suspension of regular service. During the springtime, however, we will continue our operations. Please visit our event calendar page for upcoming events, and our moving page. Our weekly newsletter will also keep you up-to-date on our progress.

In the meantime, we’ll look forward to seeing you during our last few months in the Colonnade!

Warm regards,

Takashi Ishida
Executive Director

February 13, 2015

We are now well into 2015, Year of the Ram, appropriately so, as we find ourselves swathed in wool, lowering our horns and charging head on through the cold winds and drifting snow of one of the colder winters in recent memory. In Japan, crowds brave the weather to enjoy snow sculptures at Yuki Matsuri (snow festivals), the most famous of which is held in Sapporo, Hokkaido. Here in the Yorkville neighbourhood of Toronto, we look forward to ice carving demonstrations at the Yorkville Icefest, held on February 20-21. If you’re looking for a complete change of pace, why not visit the Outdoor Adventure Show on February 20, 21, and 22 and learn about travel opportunities in Japan?

Having just wrapped up the Threshold print exhibition by Walter Jule and Ryoji Ikeda, we now welcome another artist to our gallery. The Byobu screen exhibition features beautiful Nihonga-style painted screens by Montreal resident Alejandro Bertolo, alongside works by his mentor, Hiroshi Yamamoto.

Last month, we enjoyed co-presenting a unique event at the Revue Cinema on Roncesvalles: a screening of the documentary The God of Ramen accompanied by samples of Japanese food. We also took our film showings on the road to Hamilton, where we held three screenings at the Central Public Library.

Of course, we have a number of exciting events in the pipeline. On Valentine’s Day, we will delve into the romance of beer brewing in Japan and Canada with a talk by Dr. Jeffrey Alexander and Nicholas Pashley. In March, we will look at the world of Japanese video games and also examine the jury system in Japan.

Our library, currently displaying selections from the IBBY Collection for Young People with Disabilities (through February 27), will celebrate Hina Matsuri (Girls’ Festival) on March 7. Several sets of hina dolls will be displayed during the month of March, and the Katari Japanese Storytellers will return on March 21 for their annual storytelling event

JLPT results were announced last month, and I hope you all received the marks you were hoping for. Now we turn our focus to the upcoming regional and national Japanese Language Speech Contests. Good luck to all participants!

We are eagerly anticipating the return of Cinema Kabuki to the TIFF Bell Lightbox on February 28 and March 1. Tickets are now on sale, and we will be holding a series of free talks on a variety of kabuki-related topics at JFT in the weeks leading up to the event.

There is much to celebrate in the world of Japan-Canada relations. Recently, University of Toronto Professor Emeritus Michael Donnelly, founder of the Asian Institute at the Munk School of Global Affairs, was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon for his work in intellectual exchange.

Two of our past visiting authors have also received high honors. Hiromi Kawakami just received the Yomiuri Literary Award, and Masatsugu Ono was awarded the Akutagawa Prize.

In sadder news, on February 10, Japan lost its most celebrated industrial designer, Kenji Ekuan, best known for designing Kikkoman’s iconic soy sauce dispenser in 1961. The simple, highly functional bottle was featured in both editions of the Japan Foundation’s Japanese Design Today 100 exhibitions.

I hope you are all staying safe, warm and free from the flu and cold. Please enjoy the beauty of winter in Canada, and I look forward to seeing you at The Japan Foundation, Toronto, and out and about.

Takashi Ishida
Executive Director
The Japan Foundation, Toronto


December 4, 2014

Although the calendar claims that nearly three weeks of fall remain, it seems appropriate to call this a winter greeting. There is still no snow on the ground, but the streets outside the Colonnade Building are lit with holiday garlands and the dropping temperatures demand that we swath ourselves in layer upon layer of insulation before leaving the house.

A sure sign of the year-end is the arrival of our annual Japanese Film Screenings in Toronto. Throughout the fall, our films tour Canada with the support of the local Consulates-General of Japan, ending in Toronto. Please join us for three free screenings at the Bloor Cinema of films highlighting the lives of young people in Japan on Dec. 7, 8 and 9.

Another (perhaps less eagerly anticipated) sign of winter is the impending Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT), held annually on the first Sunday of December in Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver. Good luck to all of this year’s test-takers!

Many of you will rejoice upon hearing that after taking a break for one year, Cinema Kabuki is returning to Toronto in 2015! Screenings will be held at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in February, so please stay tuned for updates in the New Year.

Looking back on 2014, Japan can take pride in the naming of washi, traditional Japanese paper, to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list. Washi joins washoku, traditional Japanese cuisine, which was named to the list in late 2013. You can see a fine example of washi’s use in our current exhibition, Threshold, on display until January 31, 2015. This collaborative exhibition showcases prints by Canadian artist Walter Jule and Japanese artist Ryoji Ikeda, most of which are printed on gampi washi paper.

While the Japan Foundation, Toronto’s mandate is to introduce Japanese culture to Canada, it is equally rewarding to see Canadian culture represented in Japan. This year, NHK’s asadora (morning drama series) Hanako and Anne, told the story of Hanako Muraoka, the first person to translate Anne of Green Gables into Japanese, and a famous Japanese-Canadian baseball team is the subject of a major new Japanese motion picture, The Vancouver Asahi. We hope to see more examples of international exchange between Canada and Japan in coming New Year.

As you traverse the lively Bloor St. Culture Corridor, please take some time to visit our gallery and library, noting that our gallery and library will close for the holidays on December 20, reopening on January 5. Remember, if you borrow library materials before the holiday, you can keep them for an additional two weeks. And if you missed any of our recent events, please check our book lists of related materials.

On behalf of The Japan Foundation, Toronto, I wish for a safe and happy holiday season for all of our friends in Toronto, across Canada and around the world.

Takashi Ishida
Executive Director

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October 1, 2014

Autumn greetings from The Japan Foundation, Toronto. We are enjoying a gentle transition from summer to fall this year, with perfect weather for the beginning of the school year and TIFF. Even Word On the Street, often slightly too chilly for comfort, turned into a lovely, sunny day after a morning of frightening torrential rain! Although our ever-popular robot seal PARO was not able to make an appearance due to weather concerns, we were still able to keep busy promoting our library materials and services to fellow book lovers.

In other book news, we are excited to be welcoming one of Japan’s brightest young authors, Fuminori Nakamura, to Toronto’s International Festival of Authors. His book The Thief won numerous awards, including Japan’s most prestigious literary award, the Oe Prize, and his newest translated thriller, Last Winter We Parted, will be published on October 21. This is a chance to meet a great new talent in suspense fiction whose star is only beginning to rise.

This is always an exciting season, as we begin our annual contemporary film screening series, hosted by the Japan Foundation and local Consulates-General across Canada, open registration for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT), and welcome local and international scholars for the annual conference of the Japan Studies Association of Canada (JSAC).

At this time of year, the Japan Foundation publishes the new program guidelines for the coming fiscal year. This includes grants and fellowships for projects occurring between April 1, 2015 and March 31, 2016. Although most application deadlines are in early December, please check our website carefully as some deadlines are earlier, such as Performing Arts Japan and the grant for Translation and Publication. Please do not hesitate to contact our office, or your local Consulate-General, if you have any questions.

Our current exhibition, Japanese Design Today 100, reconfigures a popular earlier exhibition of the same name with new and exciting design pieces from Japan. This has been an especially stimulating and well-received exhibition, with many visitors coming to experience both high tech and handcrafted artifacts of Japanese material culture. If you haven’t seen it yet, it will continue until October 30, with a special late night opening until 1:00 a.m. for Nuit Blanche on October 4 -5. After October 30, the exhibition will then travel to Montreal, where it will be on display at UQAM from November 19 to January 18.

In addition to our annual cross-Canada film screenings, we will also be hosting a series of 35mm anime screenings at the Revue Cinema in October. This will be a great chance to see some rarely screened classic anime films, including AKIRA, on the big screen in a classic neighbourhood theatre.

We continue to offer various courses in Japanese language, including a new long-term course based on the Japan Foundation’s Marugoto textbook series. Of course, we also offer a number of short-term courses on interesting topics, including our Japanese Language and Culture Sampler, JLPT preparatory classes, and a Reading in Japanese course, among others. In addition to courses for students, we offer workshops for Japanese language teachers, including the Continuing Learning Japanese series, and an introduction to using the Marugoto textbook.

As the air grows colder, please stop by and visit us to enjoy the design exhibition, take in a lecture, movie or class, study or relax at our library.

Take care and enjoy the many cultural events Toronto has to offer this fall!

Takashi Ishida
Executive Director

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June 25, 2014

The long-awaited summer season has finally arrived! We had the pleasure of attending several Japanese-Language school graduations in Toronto, and would like to say congratulations and “o-tsukaresama deshita” to graduating students and their teachers.

For many, summer vacation means taking a few months to rest, recover, and travel, but there are also opportunities to take summer classes and engage in professional development and networking activities, as is the case with the Japanese-language teachers participating in our summer training program in Victoria. In addition, the Canadian Association of Japanese Language Educators (CAJLE) will hold their annual conference in Toronto in August, providing further opportunities for information sharing.

For those students who are keen to put their Japanese language skills to work over the summer, the University of Alberta in Edmonton will be holding a summer Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) session, the only summer session currently held in North America. If you missed the deadline for this one, registration for the December JLPT sessions across Canada will open in September.

At the Japan Foundation, Toronto, our Seiji Ozawa photography exhibition will continue until July 31. It has been truly inspiring to meet friends and colleagues from Maestro Ozawa’s Toronto years, and to realize the lasting impact he has had on the international classical music scene.

Our next exhibition, New Japanese Design Today 100, August 6 to October 30, will feature 100 artifacts, from dishes to masking tape to cameras to cars, representing the finest ideas in contemporary industrial design.

In the library, we will celebrate Tanabata, the summer star festival, with cultural displays and Saturday festival days on July 12 and 26. On these Saturday openings, there will be a chance to meet PARO, a therapeutic robot seal (whose sibling recently found a home at CAMH, a Toronto hospital). On July 22, a book launch will be held for Japanese author Yoko Morgenstern’s debut novel. The library will be closed for inventory during the week of July 28, but please check the website for information about hours, special events and new acquisitions.

The Toronto Japanese Film Festival at the JCCC is drawing to a close after screening 18 top films from Japan, and we are honoured to be able to co-present a screening of A Boy and His Samurai at JFT with TJFF special guest director Yoshihiro Nakamura present. In July, we look forward to the visit of anime director Mamoru Oshii, who will be present for the first two screenings of the retrospective Techno/Human at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. We will also host a presentation of animated shorts created by Toronto Animated Image Society’s artist-in-residence, Maya Yonesho, and her workshop students.

July is a busy month for the Japanese community, with the Natsu Matsuri and Obon festival at the JCCC on July 12, and the Matsuri at Yonge and Dundas Square on July 27. Please come out and experience Japanese culture this summer in an air-conditioned theatre, in our comfortable library, or a lively outdoor Japanese summer festival.

I hope you enjoy the warm weather and long hours of sunshine, and I look forward to seeing you around town.

Takashi Ishida
Executive Director

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April 1, 2014

While we have always been grateful for our location in the architecturally significant Colonnade building at 131 Bloor Street West, with its historic charm and lively atmosphere, we particularly appreciate the many wonderful neighbours who share our goal of celebrating diverse national and international arts and culture in Toronto and beyond. This spring, the Japan Foundation joined with 11 other organizations  to inaugurate the Bloor Street Culture Corridor, promoting the wealth of sights, sounds and experiences contained within the one-mile walk between Bathurst and Bay. Please visit the new Bloor Street Culture Corridor website for information about our partners and events.

The Many Faces of Danjuro IX, an exhibition of original ukiyo-e prints, continues through April 30.  Over the past month, complementing the exhibition, we have held a series of lectures and screenings in our event hall of Noh and Kabuki films illuminating the legacy of Danjuro IX, and the final lecture will be held on April 8.

Looking back, since January we have organized lectures on architecture, trade regimes, anime, manga and pop culture at our event hall and other venues; hosted a manga artist in residence from Japan; and held a variety of language classes.

In April, we will organize film screenings in Hamilton, Burlington and London. As we always welcome the opportunity to work with community groups to hold screenings and other events in Ontario, please contact us, and we will be happy to discuss the possible options.

Following Danjuro IX will be an exhibition, organized in partnership with the Toronto City Archives and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, documenting the early career of Seiji Ozawa, the legendary conductor who came to Canada as a young man in 1968 to direct the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Seiji Ozawa, Portrait of a Young Maestro, will be open from May 6 – July 31.

On May 26 and 27, we will have a special weekend opening for Doors Open, with a focus on Japanese ghosts and monsters in keeping with the festival theme of “Secrets and Spirits.” On the same weekend, JFT will have a table at Anime North, a convention celebrating anime, manga, music, games and other forms of Japanese culture.

We have also been busy attending and supporting the seven annual regional Japanese Speech Contests across Canada, which just concluded with the national competition in Ottawa. Congratulations to all of the participants and winners!

For students of Japanese who are ready to take the Japanese Language Proficiency Test early, we are happy to announce that for the second year, the University of Alberta in Edmonton will be holding a summer JLPT test session on July 6. Registration is open until April 11.

Please drop in to the Japan Foundation library to see our latest acquisitions, including books, journals, DVDs, CDs and other materials in Japanese, English and French, and watch for the latest news about exhibitions and events on On behalf of our staff members and volunteers, I thank you for your continued interest and support, and look forward to seeing you out and about this spring in Toronto.

Takashi Ishida
Executive Director

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Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu and Happy New Year from The Japan Foundation, Toronto!

2013 has been a busy year of exhibitions, lectures, concerts, film screenings, readings and language classes, not only at our Toronto cultural centre and library, but through our Canada-wide grants, event co-presentations and project sponsorships. We are looking forward to even more exciting programs in 2014.

During the final weeks of the Yokohama Noh Photography Exhibition (on display until January 31), we will be showing a series of Noh-related films: Akira Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood, animated Noh plays directed by the great stop-motion animator Kihichiro Kawamoto, and two modern Noh plays written by Yukio Mishima.

In February, we will launch The Many Faces of Danjuro IX, an exhibition of original ukiyo-e prints co-presented with the Stuart Jackson Gallery. We will also welcome the manga artist Nao Yazawa as our guest until early March. Ms. Yazawa, known for her manga and anime “Wedding Peach”, among others, will support our Japanese Language team in presenting educational events introducing Japanese language and pop culture.

Please join us for these events, and more to be announced as the year continues, and visit our library to explore more about Japanese film, literature, history and culture.

On behalf of all the staff at The Japan Foundation, Toronto, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to our many guests, visitors, lecturers, supporters and volunteers for making 2013 a memorable and successful year, and wish you all the best for a wonderful 2014.

Takashi Ishida
Executive Director

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