Announcing 2023 Berkeley Japan Prize Recipient

December 1, 2022

Toshio HosokawaThe Center for Japanese Studies (CJS) of UC Berkeley welcomes Japanese composer, Toshio Hosokawa to the campus as the recipient of the 6th Berkeley Japan Prize. At the award ceremony of January 20 (details to be announced soon), Toshio Hosokawa will  give an acceptance speech, followed by a performance of koto music that he composed.

“The calligraphy masters say that this space, where one cannot see — this silence, this white area — is just as important as linear movement. With my music, this silence, where one cannot hear, is also a part of the movement of sound energy.” Toshio Hosokawa (New York Times, August 4, 2011)

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 Hanjo, both 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.

The CJS Berkeley Japan Prize is a lifetime achievement award given to an individual who has made significant contributions to enriching the understanding of Japan on the global stage.

Photo Copyright by Kaz Ishikawa







バークレー 日本賞は、カリフォルニア大学バークレー校日本研究センターが、生涯を通して世界における日本の理解に重要な貢献を行ってきた方に贈呈する賞です。この賞は、日本研究センター設立50周年を記念して2008年に創設され、数年に一回の頻度で受賞を行っています。過去のの受賞者は、作家の村上春樹氏(2008年)、映画監督の宮崎駿氏(2009年)、音楽家の坂本龍一氏(2013年)、物理学者の梶田隆章氏(2017年)、作家の柳美里氏(2022年)です。