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The Japanese Culture Center (JCC), located at 1016 W. Belmont Avenue in Chicago, was established in 1977 by Aikido Shihan and Zen Master Fumio Toyoda. It’s a great place to connect with Japanese history, traditions, arts and more. Their goal is for the Chicagoland community to come view, learn and engage with key elements of Japanese culture, especially for those who may not have encountered it before.

The JCC focuses on martial arts, cultural arts, Japanese history and philosophy. From a young age, Fumio Toyoda (now addressed respectfully as Toyoda Shihan) had been a student of martial arts. Before coming to the United States, he was a ‘live-in’ student at Ichiku Kai Dojo as well as the Aikido World Headquarters (Aikikai Hombu Dojo) in Tokyo.

Toyoda Shihan achieved a 6th degree black belt (rokudan) in the art of Aikido. At the time, Toyoda Shihan was the youngest person to ever achieve that rank. His accomplishment still stands to this day. In addition to the JCC, Toyoda Shihan also established the Aikido Association of America in 1985, the Aikido Association International in 1991 and the Aikido International Foundation in 1997.

The JCC started as a place to learn Japanese martial arts, with an emphasis on Aikido. Today, the center shares Japanese culture in more ways, expanding the range of cultural arts for study and reflecting the innovation of Japanese culture in the past several decades. Through new classes and partnerships, the center has developed new ways to share Japanese culture through a wide variety of experiences, including public programs, art making, and exhibitions.

One such partnership is with the Japanese Arts Foundation (JAF), a nonprofit with a mission to create inclusive and equitable opportunity, education, and support of Japanese arts thriving in Chicago’s diverse community and beyond. The JAF celebrates the multitude of voices in our community exploring and innovating Japanese arts and culture.

With the support of the JAF, the original origami cranes folded by President Barack Obama during his 2016 visit to Hiroshima, Japan, were exhibited at the JCC alongside objects on loan from the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. The JCC and the JAF will continue to partner and bring public programs, events, and arts classes that will increase Chicagoans’ knowledge of Japanese arts and culture.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the Japanese Cultural Center has moved its programming online. The JCC has been sharing history, art, and language through Facebook and Instagram to stay connected. On Facebook, you can find all the virtual events the center might be hosting, from virtual Sumi-e workshops to Tokyo House Party, a free bi-weekly live streamed event with guest artists, scholars, musicians and more!

The JCC is a place where people find peaceful and engaging experiences through Japanese arts and culture. Activ8 wishes the JCC continuing success in promoting Japanese culture in Chicago!

The Japanese Culture Center

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