By Edwin Folven, 5/31/2012
The Miracle Mile Community will soon say “konnichiwa” (hello) to the Japan Foundation, Los Angeles, a Japanese cultural organization that is moving to 5700 Wilshire Blvd. Ste. 100 on June 4.
The Japan Foundation, which is currently located downtown, provides information for people wishing to learn more about Japanese culture, or who may be planning a trip to Japan. The foundation offers language classes, and the basics can be learned in approximately five weeks, according to Misako Ito, director of the Japan Foundation. Other resources include a library featuring Japanese literature and film, classes on making sushi or other Japanese culinary delights, and courses on business etiquette.
“We primarily deal with American people who want outreach, or are planning to visit Japan,” Ito added. “The services at the new location will be designed for the American people. There will be reference books on Japan and magazines, newspapers and DVDs, so people can enjoy Japanese films. Many people are interested in conducting business in Japan.”
Ito said business etiquette and protocol in Japan can be quite different from American traditions. For instance, the seating at business meetings should be organized around the highest-ranking officials or business people. Many Japanese meeting rooms feature an alcove, in front of which the highest-ranking individual will sit, Ito added. The lowest ranking individual should always be seated closest to the door, she added.
“It is very different, but it is something that is very important,” Ito said.
Another important tradition in Japanese business culture is the way the business card is presented. The card should always be turned in the customer’s direction when handed over, Ito said.
“It’s important that he or she can read your name without turning it over again,” Ito added. “Another thing is you have to take care of their card as if it is the customer themselves. You have to handle it with care, and you can’t throw it away. That is not considered polite.”
Ito also said the foundation provides grants and teaching materials to schools wishing to include Japanese culture instruction in their curriculum. It also organizes cultural demonstrations for schools and businesses, such as Taiko drumming or Japanese music and dance. There are also origami classes, regular film screenings of works by masters such as Akira Kurosawa, or contemporary offerings such as Japanese anime.
Following the devastating earthquake and tsunami in 2011, the Japan Foundation helped organize relief efforts, and in March held a cultural concert at the Ahmanson Theatre to thank the Los Angeles community for its support. The event kicked-off a worldwide tour for the presentation, which later visited New York, Paris and Beijing.
“We wanted to show the American people that the people of Tohoku (the site of heavy damage in the disaster) are recovering and that we are thankful for the help,” Ito said.
The Japan Foundation will join a growing number of cultural institutions that call the Miracle Mile Home, including the Korean Cultural Center Los Angeles; the Goethe-Institute, Los Angeles, which promotes German culture; and the Singapore Tourism Board. Ito added that it will take a few weeks for the foundation to get settled in, and it may not be fully operational until July or August.
“It is a cultural area, and we will be very happy to be part of the community,” Ito added. “It’s just across the street from LACMA and the Japanese pavilion, and it’s in the middle between downtown and UCLA. We are expecting many more people to stop by, and we are very excited about it.”
Steve Kramer, president of the Miracle Mile Chamber of Commerce, said he was excited to learn the foundation was moving to the local area.
“It’s an exciting addition to the Miracle Mile community,” Kramer said. “Once again, it reminds us of the cultural importance of the Miracle Mile.”