Sochiro Hayashi is a 13th-generation Noh actor born into a traditional Kyoto family of Noh performers whose lineage stretches back to 1625. He first performed on the Noh stage at the tender age of 3, and since then has been continually refining his art from his base in Kyoto, as well as performing in Tokyo and Okayama. In addition to honing his stagecraft, Hayashi also conducts courses aimed at introducing the art of Noh to as many people as possible, where participants are actively encouraged to indulge their curiosity regarding this simple yet deeply profound artform.
“Noh” is an abstract performance art that is over 600 years old, and is known for the technical and physical demands it places on performers seeking perfection in their artistic expression. Hayashi is simply striving to master his art. When he stands alone on the stage, the audience is so entranced that one could hear a pin drop. The tension is palpable; the rich, intricate drama unfolds onstage as both performer and audience become one. A bewitching, beguiling atmosphere infiltrates time and space. Every subtle movement, pause, posture and sound is carefully crafted to captivate the spirit of everyone present. Hayashi’s performance opens the lid on a Japanese performing art tradition that is unrivalled and unmatched.
For so many people “unreasonable” is synonymous with “illogical” or even “inaccessible”. Not so for Daniel Epstein. Since beginning his entrepreneurial journey at the age of 10, Epstein has been wielding the power of entrepreneurship as a tool towards solving the problems he saw around him. He continued to hone this belief in college where, as a freshman Philosophy major, he started up 3 more companies. Now, using this same approach, Epstein is aiming his belief in the power of entrepreneurship towards today’s toughest social and environmental challenges. As the Founder of the Unreasonable Institute and today, the CEO of the Unreasonable Group, he gathers together business leaders in a variety of new ways with the goal of creating positive change together. In doing so, he has helped lead the way towards re- inventing our understanding of what is truly “unreasonable” in changing our world for the better.
Aileen Mioko Smith
The opening of the first nuclear power plant in Obninsk, Russia in 1954 ushered in humanity’s love-hate relationship with nuclear power. Yet the promise of plentiful energy came at a high priceー the Three-Mile Island tragedy in Pennsylvania, Chernobyl, and most recently Fukushima Daiichi, are just a few of the many sites of nuclear incidents and disasters. Aileen Mioko Smith has spent the past 30 years leading the charge to educate others about the dangers of nuclear power. Her expertise, knowledge, drive and passion have earned her worldwide respect as an anti-nuclear activist, and have led her to serve multiple times as a board member for both Greenpeace International and Greenpeace Japan, as well as to found the Japanese citizen organization “Green Action”. In order to share the dream of a nuclear-free Japan and world, Smith joins with regular citizens, encouraging grass-roots activism. One voice may not be heard by the powerful, but as Smith is proving, many voices joined cannot be ignored.
In today’s world, people find themselves asking “Who can we trust?”. Our political leaders? Our company CEO’s? Our news reporters? An increasing number of people within Japan and around the world–especially after 3/11–answer a resounding “NO” to each of these questions. Jun Hori, who studied internet media at UCLA as guest researcher, and has received numerous awards as a newscaster and a reporter in NHK, knows all too well why the tide of distrust in journalism is rising. Behind the closed doors of an insular system, the transparency and spirit of shared truth vital to building trust and honesty has eroded. Through his 8bitNews project, Hori has set out to lead a newsroom revolution, to change the shuttered world of journalism and reporting into a creative and cooperatively shared approach joining professional journalists and media experts with everyday people. His goal is as inspiring as it is daunting: to open the gates of controlled information in order to nurture the growth of an informed and empowered public.
In a world that often seems to demand status quo sameness, Patrick Linehan celebrates that which is different. This stems partly from his extensive experience as a diplomat, from his many postings around the world as a member of the U.S. Foreign Service to his positions at the U.S. Consulate in Sapporo, the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, and now, since 2011, as the Consul General of the United States in Osaka. Linehan’s personal and public dedication to building a society that celebrates diversity stems also from his personal life. As an out and married gay man, Linehan has used his position in the public eye to educate and inspire others towards creating a world that embraces differences, respects all, and rejects the bullying, hate-speech and homophobia that continue to endanger so many men and women, young and old. His powerful message encompasses us all, celebrating the many wonderful ways that each of us are different.
It has long been known by educators that learning can be—and indeed may best be—achieved through play. Yumi Kato’s goal, as Director of the NPO Kodomo Art, is to provide children with opportunities to play and learn freely through art, and to re-teach parents and other adults how to keep their hearts and minds open to the wonders of childhood. To this end Kato coined the term “Asonabi”. “Asonabi” combines the word asobi (play) with manabi (learn). Fusing a variety of educational and artistic methods and approaches, including the Italina Reggio Emilia method, Kato’s “Asonabi” has resulted in a variety of festivals and projects that have explored fusing art with play, explorations into nature and international communication. In a fast-paced world that often seems to leave play and creativity behind for children and adults alike, Kato offers a powerful and delightful remedy.
Seiichi Kondo has a deep passion for spreading awareness and appreciation of traditional Japanese culture to other countries. Therefore, he had real cause to celebrate when this year Japan’s beloved Mount Fuji was awarded the title of “Fujisan: Sacred Place and the Source of Artistic Inspiration” by UNESCO. Mount Fuji, long revered and admired in Japan, is widely recognized across the globe as symbolic of Japanese culture and art. Kondo, author of several books about global views of Japan and a former UNESCO ambassador, Ambassador to Denmark and Commissioner of the Agency for Cultural Affairs, wishes to broaden this awareness of Japan. Combining his vast diplomatic experience with his love for his country and culture, Kondo seeks to inspire others to find that balance between rationalism and nature that is so deep a part of the art, culture, history and people of Japan.
Documentary Film Maker
Words such as “diversity”, “multiculturalism” and “identity” seem to be everywhere, as our world and its people draw ever closer together. However beyond these broad terms, determining our own identity, and how we fit in to the puzzle around us goes far deeper than a label or definition. Megumi Nishikura, a documentary filmmaker and member of the Hafu Project, knows first hand the challenge of discovering personal identity. Upon returning to Japan in 2006, after having lived in the United States for 11 years, Nishikura found herself facing identity issues that she had thought she had put behind her. Then she met others who, like herself, were “hafu”ーhalf Japaneseーincluding the founders of the Hafu Project. With the Hafu Project, Nishikura has used the medium of film and video to explore what it means to be multiracial and multicultural in Japan. What began as a personal quest for Nishikura has grown into an exploration of “identity” that that touches millions who seek the answer to the question “Who am I?”.
Akiko Naka’s professional and personal philosophy hinges on three simple concepts. First, our actions shape our future. Second, a joyful life grows from loving what one does, and third, one must never stop seeking out new opportunity and challenge. Out of this philosophy, Naka developed “Wantedly”, one of the largest online recruiting tools in Japan, designed to connect individuals with businesses through personal recommendations. Naka’s talent for connecting people became evident while she was still in high school, when she created a community website for foreigners and on into college, when she helped create a magazine designed to connect students with important syllabus and campus information. Naka’s deep desire to connect people to the resources they need has helped reshape social media into a valuable tool, and serves as an inspiring example of the power of connectivity, rather than competition, in building a rewarding future.
Look up “renaissance man” and you’ll find a definition of Brian Williams. Originally intending to be a Marine Biologist, Brian happened to take an art class in high school. He never lost his interest in Science, but a few months into the class knew he was to be a painter. Born in Lima and raised in the Andes of Peru, Brian also lived four years in Chile before moving to California at 16, and to Kyoto at age 22. His development of “parabolic painting” grew out of the balance of reason and intuition that typifies him, as he continuously explores creating a three dimensional, realistic experience from a two-dimensional surface. Brian’s quest for landscape has led him to paint around the world, including Easter Island, the Taklamakan, Nepal, the peak of Kilimanjaro, Mongolia and, most recently, painting while scuba diving on the coral reefs of Yap Island. Brian embodies what his art so clearly conveys: there is always more to life than meets the eye.
In the hands of thousands of violinists, the violin is merely an instrument. However, in the hands of Ji-Hae Park the violin is an extension of her body and a reflection of her every emotion. To watch Park play is to watch an intimate dance between artist and instrument. Since 2003 Park has enthralled listeners playing upon the Petrus Guarnerius 1735, Venedig violin on loan to her from the Deutsche Stiftung Musikleben (German Foundation of Musical Life). On this historic instrument Park has shared her vibrant, emotional performances in world-famous venues including Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center as well as the Rokoko Theater in Germany. Park has also graced the stage at the main TED conference in 2013, the Shanghai Concert Hall accompanied by the Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra and her solo CD Baroque for Rock received the Golden Disc Award. Park’s masterful musicianship and desire to share the gift of music with others has earned her numerous prizes at several international competitions in Germany, Romania, Austria and Italy. In addition to playing concert venues, Park has shared her musical passion in hospitals, churches and prisons. We are fortunate to have this rare opportunity to witness a performance by Park and to be swept away by the power of her music.
When we sit down in a theater, facing the closed curtains of a darkened stage, we can usually predict what will unfold as the curtains rise. We anticipate actors, dancers, singers or musicians. We anticipate props and lights. In short, we expect to see and hear what millions of people before us have seen and heard. The performers of Gear, however, have infinite surprises for us. “Gear” is composed of a collection of world-class performers specializing in such diverse areas as mime, juggling, magic and breakin’. Their wordless performance of a futuristic story is presented through facial expression, dance, music, rhythm and more, combined with the innovative technology of projection mapping. Within the city of Kyoto, often seen as the heart of traditional Japanese arts, music and dance, Gear strives to prove that amid Kyoto, heart of Japan’s time-honored traditions, there is also room for the future of performance.
For visitors, or even for residents of Japan, it’s easy to look at the clutter of modern cities, and assume that finely crafted wooden houses, scenic countryside, and old sensibilities are being lost. Modern technology would seem to deny or destroy those things. Most seriously impacted is rural Japan, where populations are shrinking fast, and age-old natural environments are under threat. However Alex Kerr wields a different kind of technologyーthe technology of restoration. Although born in the United States, Kerr has spent most of his life in Japan and Thailand. A highly acclaimed and award winning author and specialist in East Asian traditional culture, Kerr sees a new way forward for the ancient beauty of Japan. Focusing on renovating old houses and towns, Kerr is fostering “sustainable tourism” as a means to revive the countryside. One restoration at a time, Kerr is teaching us to look past the sea of concrete and into the true heart of the Japan he loves.
Many young minds are currently developing inside a closed education system, surrounded by peers from similar backgrounds. Lin Kobayashi proposes a new approach with the “International School of Asia, Karuizawa”. Her goal is to empower students through an nternationally focused approach that values diversity and individual talents and interests, while encouraging discussion and interaction with peers from all around the globe.
Kobayashi’s own educational journey is a testament to the value of international education. While still a teenager, she quit a prestigious Tokyo high school in order to enroll in a Canadian boarding school, eventually leading her to Stanford University. She has applied her expertise in international schooling to her work with UNICEF where she developed innovative educational projects for street children.
In a world that is growing increasingly interconnected, our future leaders will need to look beyond the familiar in order to truly embrace our global community—and Kobayashi plans on leading the way.
Mobile Device Developer
It seems that the smaller our electronic gadgets get, the more integral they become to our lives, as much a part of us as our clothes or skin. Takahito Iguchi, a pioneer in wearable computers, embraces this idea of wearable computer technology in his latest project “Telepathy One”, a device referred to as Japan’s answer to Google Glass.
Iguchi laid the groundwork for this newest innovation when he created “Sekai Camera”, a widely popular iPhone app that combined his passion for computer programming with his degree in philosophy. Iguchi’s passion for creating quality software designed to foster shared, meaningful human experiences inspires us all to see beyond mere programming, and on to a future where technology enhances, rather than controls, our lives.
Rapid Prototyping Guru
The challenge to solve problems is a human universal. From tiny, mundane questions to technical puzzles, from interpersonal disagreements to environmental threats, why and how we solve problems has long been humankind’s great headache, and yet the greatest inspiration for innovation. Tom Chi has long been in the business of solving problems from a technical standpoint, whether it be in the field of astrophysical research or in the development of computer hardware and software. Along the way Chi realized that the path from problem solving to innovation was perhaps unnecessarily arduous. Thus he pioneered a unique approach called “Rapid Prototyping”, which allows not only innovators, but all of us to work together in such a a way as to quickly develop and share new ideas, and to spread those ideas so that they can grow and thrive. In a world where problems often seem to develop faster than the solutions, the time for “Rapid Prototyping” has come.
In the hands of calligraphy artist Tomoko Kawao, the brush and ink become part of a dance that mesmerizes just as much as the work of art she is creating. Kawao began learning calligraphy at the age of 6, and since 2004 she has studied under the Master Calligrapher Shoshu. Kawao has received numerous awards and considerable recognition for her body of work, which covers exhibitions, live-performance demonstrations in addition to workshops for the physically challenged. Her work has been featured in the logo for the Hankyu Railway Arashiyama Station, included in window displays of numerous department stores, and incorporated in collaborations with the music and fashion industries.
Her masterpiece – the Correlation series – focuses on brush movement between dots, conveying the theme of “imagining the invisible”. The Correlation series, inspired by her daily examination of classic works, was used as the opening sequence for the NHK drama Yae no Sakura and also serves as the basis for all of her live performances and workshops.
All these achievements, however, come down to the simplicity of paper, brush and ink, transformed in the hands of Kawao into works of staggering beauty.
Hirofumi Seo’s fascination with the workings and intricacies of the human body began at the age of 14, when he happened to see a TV show about human DNA. In addition to the science of the program, Seo was drawn in by the computer graphics depicting human DNA clearly. Today Seo, a graduate of the Medical Department of The University of Tokyo and expert in scientific computer graphics, continues to combine these two passions with a specific purpose in mind: to use 3D Computer Imaging as a tool to demystify science for students as well as everyday people. Noting how computer graphics and video in film and on TV have been used to clarify even very complex ideas, Seo wants to expand on this to enhance science education, as well as to inform and reassure sick children and their parents as to the intricacies of their disease. It is Seo’s dream that Japan can open the world to 3DCG as a new way of understanding science and the human body, and thus a new way of seeing ourselves.
When most people look up at a tall tree, they perhaps see a beautiful living thing, a source of shade, or even an obstacle. When John Gathright looks up at a tree, he sees hope, freedom and courage. What began as a one-time challenge to help a 57 year old paraplegic woman achieve her dream to climb a Giant Sequoia has turned into Gathright’s lifelong quest to reunite people with nature through tree climbing and nature activities. His passion blossomed into founding Tree Climbing Japan and TreeHab – far-reaching endeavors to free physically, mentally and socially challenged youth from the barriers of their lives on the ground by teaching them how to climb trees. To date he has helped over 200,000 individuals of all abilities and backgrounds learn how to climb trees. In the process, he has helped each of these climbers find hope and self-confidence as they experience -many of them for the first time- a new-found depth of feeling with not only the trees and nature, but also within themselves.
the Original Tempo
In it’s most delightful sense, “play” can mean to follow where the imagination leads. “Play” also encompasses creativity, delight and communityーall of which lie at the heart of the innovative performances of The Original Tempo, founded and directed by Worry Kinoshita. Worry Kinoshita helped to create a performance experience inspired by a sense of play, spontaneous creativity and nonverbal expression. The members of The Original Tempo together create a whirlwind of music and movement using a vast array of expected -and unexpected- items, as well as incorporating audience participation and technological wizardry. By using play and the imagination as the creative foundation for their performances, Worry Kinoshita and the Original Tempo hope to inspire others to embrace the joy of performance, play and imagination in everyday life.