UW-Madison Anthropology Professor Receives Order of the Sacred Treasure

The Japanese government recognized the work of William F. Vilas Anthropology Professor Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney, with its highest honor for public service, awarding her the Order of the Sacred Treasure, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbons (瑞寶綬章) on November 28, 2022, in Chicago. Tajima Horoshi, Consul-General of Japan in Chicago, presented Prof. Ohnuki-Tierney with the honor at an event hosted at the Consul-General’s residence that was attended by several Japanese officials and UW-Madison’s Professor Sarah Thal. The award was intended to be presented in 2020, but due to the pandemic, the ceremony was postponed until this last fall.

Left-to-right: Consular Official, Professor Ohnuki-Tierney, Consular-General Tajima, and Professor Thal

Over the course of her career, Professor Ohnuki-Tierney has written about many communities. Her career began with studying the Detroit Chinese community, followed by three books on the Sakhalin Ainu resettled in Hokkaido. She then turned her focus to the Japanese. Her first book, Illness and Culture in Contemporary Japan, made her realize how one fails to understand people and their way of life by studying only at a particular point in time. From then on, her work took on expansive periods to understand “culture through time.”

Her most recent works explore the co-opting of folk aesthetics and Japanese cultural identities by the Japanese state to promote imperial projects and wars. This research resulted in two books: Kamikaze, Cherry Blossoms, and Nationalisms: The Militarization of Aesthetics in Japanese History and Kamikaze Diaries: Reflections on Japanese Student Soldiers. The following book, Flowers that Kill, focuses on obscuring the meaning of symbols in political spaces by comparing the uses of flowers by the Japanese military with those by European dictators. Her work continues to be a combination of historical and cross-cultural perspectives in the role of political symbolism and folk aesthetic.

Professor Ohnuki-Tierney was selected for the Order of the Sacred Treasure, a recognition of public service that dates to 1888, for her contributions to the understanding of Japanese culture and the views of Japanese people through lectures at universities and research institutes worldwide. Her works have been translated into 10 different languages, significantly contributing to the promotion of the understanding of Japan. Consul-General Tajima delivered congratulatory remarks and presented to Dr. Ohnuki-Tierney the patent and decoration conferred by the Japanese Emperor; Dr. Ohnuki-Tierney then delivered her reply address.

Please join CEAS in offering Professor Ohnuki-Tierney congratulations!


All images are courtesy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the Japanese Consulate in Chicago.