Crossing Space and Time at Japan Society’s 2021 Annual Dinner

On June 22, Japan Society celebrated its 2021 Annual Dinner, raising over $1.3 million to take us into the next year and beyond. It was—literally and virtually—a star-studded evening at the intersection of science, art, culture, business, and the U.S.-Japan alliance.

After a special message from Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, the program included a conversation between former JAXA astronaut Naoko Yamazaki, the second Japanese woman to fly in space, and Ambassador Caroline Kennedy—marking the 60th anniversary of President Kennedy’s Moonshot Address, followed by a performance from Japan’s Ryoma Quartet. The keynote Fireside Chat brought together two titans of industry, our very own Chairman Joseph Perella, Chairman Emeritus, Perella Weinberg Partners and private equity pioneer Henry Kravis, Co-Chairman and Co-CEO of KKR—also the recipient of this year’s Japan Society Award.

Mr. Kravis underscored the value of investing in long-term relationships throughout his talk with Mr. Perella, noting, “You have to be patient. You have to set your mission. You have to have a focus on ESG (environmental, social, and governance). Any company today that is not focusing on their ESG and on diversity of their workforce is not going to have much of a future. Today, it’s not all about making money. That’s a part of it. But it’s also very important to ask, ‘What are you doing for society, what are you doing to help your country?'”

In her conversation with astronaut Naoko Yamazaki, Ambassador Caroline Kennedy cited her father’s famous Moonshot Address at Rice University in 1962: “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.” Yamazaki, who is working to inspire the next generation in aerospace, among other initiatives, is “thrilled to be able to witness the Artemis Program, which is sending the first woman and the first person of color to the moon, with international cooperation. Japan is in charge of the cargo transfer to the Lunar Gateway, the station [that will orbit the moon], and also Toyota and JAXA are developing a pressurized lunar rover to explore the surface of the moon.”

For Japan Society, the next 50 years will be our own Moonshot, as we move forward into a new post-pandemic inflection point—a significant reopening full of energy and excitement this fall that embodies the best of American and Japanese spirit. It’s time to reach beyond the physical space of our landmarked building, which opened to the public 50 years ago in September 1971, re-imagining our enduring mission of connecting American and Japanese people, cultures, and societies across time and space for the next half century.

Sixty years ago, President John F. Kennedy’s Moonshot Address inspired a generation of Americans to look to the moon in the spirit of adventure, patriotism, and freedom. Today, under new leadership in the United States and Japan, Japan Society starts a new chapter in building our kizuna, our forward-facing energy and deeply interwoven connections, between New York and Japan – and beyond. How do we continue to inspire the next generation of leaders in U.S.-Japan relations? As we think about the next 50 years at Japan Society, much has changed, yet many of the foundations remain the same from our starting point 114 years ago.

There’s a lot to look forward to as we celebrate significant milestones in 2021-22 and beyond. As Mr. Kravis said, in order to grow and to survive, “You have to keep innovating, you have to keep moving.” Japan Society is a convener for the future. With your support, we, too, will overcome the tough challenges facing this world and the U.S.-Japan alliance, together. See you at Japan House and on the far side of the moon!

If you missed out on our 2020-21 season, below are some of the highlights. Stay tuned for more exciting events coming this summer and fall, in person and online!

This article was published on June 22, 2021.