Open House New York 2023
Japan Society had an astonishing 449 visitors attend Open House New York on Sunday, October 22, 2023, the 21st Annual Open House New York Weekend. Those of us at JS who’ve been to/volunteered at other OHNY weekends over the years cannot ever remember seeing this kind of crowd, or so many people filled with eagerness to learn about Japan House and Japan Society. The Society was open from 12-6 pm (including an add-on performance of John Cage’s Ryoanji at 2 pm—that audience was not included in the ONHY count), offering three free in-person tours as well as self-guided audio tours. Guests were encouraged to view the exhibition, Out of Bounds: Japanese Women in Fluxus, which was not part of the tour—but the tours were organized so that people ended up at the Gallery entrance!
Who were those 449 people? New Yorkers of all sorts, many of them our Turtle Bay neighbors. There were very few Japan Society members present. Only two to three guests on each in-person tour had ever been to Japan Society before! I met a woman who asked me if I had met John D. Rockefeller 3rd? “No,” I said, he died in 1978, long before I started working at Japan Society.” “Oh,” she said, “I was his secretary for a year or so, and accompanied him to meetings at the UN. He was such a wonderful person, and he changed my life!”
In-person tours (12:15, 3:30, and 5 pm) were wildly popular, with people coming specifically for the tours who would not be turned away. Some people even arrived by 11:30 am for the 12:15 pm tour. As Japan Society’s Managing Editor & Archivist, and the Society’s self-declared Living Institutional Memory, I developed the in-person and audio tours and served as the in-person tour guide. Bringing Japan Society’s 116-year-history to life this way was a very empowering experience, and left me with a deep respect for the skills involved in engaging an audience as well as a taste of improvisational public speaking! Almost half of the overall visitors checked out the audio tour, which will eventually become a resource on Bloomberg Connects.
The biggest takeaway from OHNY is that Japan Society, and its home, Japan House, is truly a living, breathing space for U.S.-Japan—and that people respond to our history when it is presented in the form of a story, albeit one that is constantly evolving.
Want to take the audio tour? Here’s the link.