On April 29th, the Japanese Government announced that the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon, will be conferred upon Ms. Merry White, Professor of Anthropology at Boston University, in recognition of her significant contributions to the development of Japanese studies and the introduction of Japanese culture in the United States of America.
In order to study the contemporary society and culture of Japan, Professor White visits Japan almost every year. She has recently focused her attention on social space and social changes in urban Japan. Her many books cover the areas of education, internationalization, youth and popular culture, family/social policy and women in Japan. In 2012, she received the John E. Thayer Prize from Japan Society Boston.
In 1997, Professor White introduced a course in the anthropological study of food culture. In 2002 and 2003, when she was a visiting professor at the Kyoto Center for Japanese Studies, Professor White helped to start a project of importing Cambodian coffee into Japan. In this project, Cambodian farmers and exporters are linked in a network. Eleven Japanese companies and one American company have imported Cambodian coffee beans through the project. Funds obtained from this project were used to construct elementary schools in Cambodia. In 2012, Professor White published Coffee Life in Japan, a study of the place of coffee in Japanese society, which began over 130 years ago.
In contemporary American food life, Japan has become tremendously popular, thanks in part to Professor White’s contributions. She has written prolifically on Japanese culture in newspaper articles and in magazines, most recently in an article in the Boston Globe introducing many café places in Kyoto. She has also been featured in a television series about Asian cuisine, called Culinary Asia, for the Discovery Channel. In 2007, she acted as a moderator for an event organized by the Consulate General of Japan in Boston, “Dining Diplomacy: Japanese Cuisine and American Taste”.
In light of these contributions, the Government of Japan acknowledges Professor Merry White as an appropriate person to receive the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon and is delighted to announce the decoration.