Berkeley Japan Prize

The Berkeley Japan Prize is a lifetime achievement award from the Center for Japanese Studies to an individual who has made significant contributions in furthering the understanding of Japan on the global stage.

Hosokawa BJP2023 Berkeley Japan Prize

Recipient: Toshio Hosokawa

Toshio Hosokawa was born in Hiroshima in 1955. After beginning his musical training in Japan, in 1976, he went to Berlin to study with the Korean master composer, Isang Yun, at the Hochschule der Künste in Berlin. Thereafter, he studied with Klaus Huber at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik in Freiburg. After his studies, he became a tutor at many of the most eminent music festivals in Europe, such as the Darmstädter Ferienkurse für Neue Musik, while his international reputation as a composer grew. Since 2001, he has served as artistic director of the Takefu International Music Festival, with the mission to mentor younger composers, as well as bringing renowned international musicians to Japan. He is a permanent guest professor at the Tokyo College of Music and splits his time between Japan and Germany.

Since the early 2000s, Hosokawa has been one of the most visible composers in the world, receiving commissions for major works for orchestra and opera by the most prestigious institutions in Europe, the U.S., and Japan. Circulating Ocean was composed in 2005 as a commission for the Salzburg Festival. Lotus under the Moonlight was premiered by the NDR Symphony Orchestra. Woven Dreams was premiered by the Cleveland Orchestra. The Horn Concerto – Moment of Blossoming was written for the horn virtuoso Stefan Dohr, who premiered it with the Berlin Philharmonic under the direction of Sir Simon Rattle.

Hosokawa is fluent in what the critic Will Robin has called the vernacular of the European avant-garde, but into that sonic space, he has successfully platformed Japanese subjectivity. In Voiceless Voice in Hiroshima, he expressed the devastation and trauma incurred upon Hiroshima, his hometown, by the atomic bomb. More recently, as in Meditation, an orchestral work dedicated to the victims of the 2011 tsunami and the subsequent nuclear disaster, Hosokawa’s works move us towards a meditative peace, without foreclosing the pain of the traumas. Perhaps that kind of pathos has its origins in Noh, a form that Hosokawa has said he wants to “create completely anew.” His operas Matsukaze and Hanjoboth based on Noh masterpieces, fulfill his stated ambition by fusing the storytelling and pathos of Noh with contemporary opera’s sounds: spectral string glissandos, uncanny sprechstimme (speech-song) and murmuring, aleatoric percussion — to suggest the breath of the natural world. The staging is stunningly modern: Matsukaze features the opera singers suspended within a beautiful web-like set designed by the artist, Chiharu Shiota.

By updating Noh, by mastering the affordances of contemporary Western music, by foregrounding stories of contemporary Japan, and by balancing Western and Japanese influences in his work, Hosokawa’s accomplishment shows potential for the porousness of culture. By now, his music has impacted Western classical music as much the history of Western classical music had transformed his life. Toshio Hosokawa is not only Japan’s pre-eminent composer: he is one of the most prominent composers in the world.

Watch Toshio Hosokawa's acceptance speech Kyoko Kawamura's koto performance, and a conversation with Professor Ken Ueno on YouTube.

2022 Berkeley Japan PrizeYu Miri Award

Recipient: YU Miri

YU Miri, a citizen of South Korea, was born in Tsuchiura, Ibaraki, Japan, in 1968 and grew up in Yokohama. Her 1996 novel Family Cinema received the Akutagawa Prize in 1997. The English version of her recent novel Tokyo Ueno Station won the 2020 National Book Award for Translated Literature in the U.S. 

The works of YU Miri have brought critical attention to the challenges of socioeconomic inequality, ethnic discrimination, gender discrimination, and everyday precarities that continue to shape the life of the minoritized and traumatized, while conveying the scale of historical trauma through their intimate focus on the suffering of individuals and families. YU’s 2004 novel End of August, whose protagonist was modeled after her marathon runner grandfather, vividly describes the injustice, indignity and hardships that he, his family, and many other Korean people had to suffer during and after the Japanese occupation of Korea. YU’s Tokyo Ueno Station was conceived as a link between the pain of homeless people in Tokyo’s Ueno Park, whose families disintegrated after working away from home for too long, and the pain experienced by the evacuees after the Great East Japan Earthquake and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident of March 11, 2011.

While YU’s books depict harsh realities and the pain of individuals under extreme conditions, underlying her writings is a sense of hope. By advocating for individual freedom and dignity, her books continue to give courage to many people around the world, both young and old, who struggle to survive and fight against social injustice, exclusion, and inequity.

Watch YU Miri's acceptance speech and her conversation with Karen Tei Yamashita on YouTube.

2017 Berkeley Japan Prize

Takaaki KajitaRecipient: Takaaki Kajita

Takaaki Kajita received the Nobel Award in Physics in 2015 along with Arthur B. McDonald. Thanks to his research in the Super-Kamiokande neutrino observatory, an experimental facility in a mine in Japan, Kajita detected measurement deviations in neutrinos created in reactions between cosmic rays and the Earth's atmosphere. This discovery helped prove that neutrinos have mass, which led to the rethinking and revising of the Standard Model of particle physics.

Kajita's success reflects his own remarkable abilities and the birth of Japan's international intellectual leadership in ‘Big Science’, which drew on the nation's technological prowess, from delicate glass production to mining and tunnel construction.

Kajita was born in Saitama, Japan. He studied at Saitama University and at the University of Tokyo where he received his doctorate in 1983. His doctoral advisor was the future Nobel Laureate Masatoshi Koshiba. Since 1988 he has been affiliated with the Institute for Cosmic Radiation Research, University of Tokyo, and in 2015 he became its director. He is also a professor at the University of Tokyo.

"Takaaki Kajita - "Facts". Nobel Media AB 2014. Web. 25 May 2018.

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2013 Berkeley Japan Prize

Ryuichi Sakamoto

Recipient: Ryuichi Sakamoto

Ryuichi Sakamoto began his career in 1978 as a founding member of the Yellow Magic Orchestra, and emerged as a pioneer in electronic music. He began acting and composing for film with Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1983). His score for The Last Emperor (1987) won him an Academy Award for Best Original Score, Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score, and Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack Album for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media. His score for The Sheltering Sky (1990) won him his second Golden Globe Award, and his score for Little Buddha (1993) received another Grammy Award nomination.

Sakamoto's visionary and genre-defying work as a musician, with his dozens of film scores, pop music, classical music as well as experimental glitch, has demonstrated universal appeal beyond Japan. His collaborations have included some of the biggest musical stars in the world, such as Michael Jackson, and prominent cultural figures, such as the Dalai Lama. He helped to shape musical thinking in the incorporation of electronic instruments. Sakamoto has also been an outspoken advocate of eco-activism. Among his film scores are those for Original Child Bomb: Meditations on the Nuclear Age (2004), a short film about the aftermath of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and Alexei and the Spring, a documentary about a Belarus village 180 kilometers downwind of Chernobyl. After the Fukushima Nuclear Accident, he organized the No Nukes 2012 Concert in Chiba, Japan.

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2009 Berkeley Japan Prize

Hayao MiyazakiRecipient: Hayao Miyazaki

For nearly fifty years, internationally acclaimed filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki has been enchanting the world with fantastic, meticulously composed and emotionally soaring films, making him one of the world's most respected and revered animators and directors. Among the dozens of films he has written, directed and animated, his best-known and beloved include: My Neighbor Totoro (1988); Kiki's Delivery Service (1989); Princess Mononoke (1997); Spirited Away (2001; Oscar® winner for Best Animated Feature); and Howl's Moving Castle (2004; Oscar nominee for Best Animated Feature).

Miyazaki founded his now legendary animation studio, Studio Ghibli, in 1985, shortly after the release of his second major film, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. After Studio Ghibli became a household name in Japan, it sought to bring their films overseas and built a partnership with the Walt Disney Company. In 2002, Miyazaki's masterpiece Spirited Away won the Oscar for best animated feature film — the first Japanese animated film ever to win the award. Audience reaction to Spirited Away was unprecedented. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times heralded Spirited Away as: "..enchanting and delightful in its own way, and has a good heart. It is the best animated film of recent years... the Japanese master who is a god to the Disney animators."

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2008 Berkeley Japan Prize — inaugural

Haruki Murakami

Recipient: Haruki Murakami

Claiming a global readership and internationally recognized as Japan's leading novelist, writer, and translator, Haruki Murakami is winner of the Yomiuri Prize for his critically acclaimed The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. The author's numerous works, which have been translated into 36 languages, lead the reader along the interstices between the mundane and the sublime. His work has been described as easily accessible, yet profoundly complex.

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