JapanPhilly 2020

The Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia, a Global Philadelphia Association (GPA) member, will host the full-year JapanPhilly2020 initiative, which will celebrate Japanese art, business and cultural activities and build excitement for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. 

In particular, JapanPhilly2020 has made it their mission to raise the Philadelphia community’s awareness about the under-the-radar cultural connections between Japan and Philadelphia. Beginning in March 2020, JapanPhilly2020 expects to welcome over 100,000 attendees from across the region and will host events throughout the entire year, such as viewings of the 2020 Olympics. In addition to this, JapanPhilly2020 will partner with various local organizations throughout the program. For example, Philadelphia International Airport will host an exhibit to highlight the relationship between Japan and Philadelphia, while the Rosenbach Museum will feature a manuscript of a conversation between Captain William Whitfield and John Nakahama Manjiro, whose friendship kickstarted Japan and Philadelphia’s relationship.

In 1841, Manjinro embarked on a fishing trip off the coast of Japan in search of bonito but encountered a severe storm led to him being marooned on Torishima Island. After months of surviving off the sparse island resources, he and his crew were finally rescued by an American whaling ship who stumbled upon the island while trying to replenish their provisions. The whaling ship’s captain, William H. Whitfield, took a particular interest in Manjiro and decided to bring him to his hometown of Fairhaven, Masschusetts. While there, Manjiro learned about American culture and received in education in subjects like English, algebra, sailing and shipbuilding. When Manjiro eventually returned to Japan, his unique American education made him a pivotal asset to the Japan/U.S. relationship after Commadore Matthew Perry’s arrival in 1853. To this day, Manjiro’s and Whitfield’s descendents have remained in contact, maintaining their friendships over five generations. 

The John Manjiro-Whitefield Commemorative Center for International Exchange was created in 1991 to honor this international friendship. The Center is especially known for their Japan/America Grassroots Summit, which provides Japanese and American citizens with the opportunity to meet and make meaningful memories. With Japan and America annually alternating as hosts, the program allows over 100 guests to travel to the host country to enjoy a week of sight-seeing and cultural activities. This year, their 30th annual Summit will be featured as one of the central highlights of JapanPhilly2020, alongside the National Association of Japan-America Societies Annual Conference. 

Japan America Society has partnered with the following organizations to host JapanPhilly2020: Citizen Diplomacy International Philadelphia, the Consulate-General of Japan in New York, the John Manjiro-Whitefield Commemorative Center for International Exchange, National Association of Japan-America Societies and NBC10.

Learn more about Japan2020 at http://japanphilly.org/programs/japanphilly2020/.


Article written by Rico Le on behalf of Global Philadelphia Association