Order of Culture

Order of Culture
Order of Culture
Order of Culture(Japan).jpg
Neck order of the award
Awarded by the Emperor of Japan
Type Order
Awarded for contributions to Japanese art, literature, or culture
Status Currently constituted
Sovereign His Imperial Majesty The Emperor
Grades (w/ post-nominals) one class
Established February 11, 1937
Next (higher) Order of the Sacred Treasure
Next (lower) Medals of Honor

The Order of Culture (文化勲章 Bunka kunshō?) is a Japanese order, established on February 11, 1937. The order has one class only, and may be awarded to men and women for contributions to Japan's art, literature or culture; recipients of the order also receive an annuity for life. The order is conferred by the Emperor of Japan in person on Culture Day (November 3) each year.

The badge of the order, which is in gold with white enamel, is in the form of an mandarin orange blossom; the central disc bears three crescent-shaped jades (magatama). The badge is suspended on a gold and enamel wreath of mandarin orange leaves and fruit, which is in turn suspended on a purple ribbon worn around the neck.

The order ranks between the Order of the Sacred Treasures, First Class and the Order of the Rising Sun, Double Rays (second class).


System of recognition

The Order of Culture and Persons of Cultural Merit function together in honoring contributions to the advancement and development of Japanese culture in a variety of fields such as academia, arts and others.[1]

Order of Culture

Kabuki actor Nakamura Kichiemon I was awarded the Order of Culture in 1951. He was the first kabuki performer to be accorded this honor.

The Emperor himself presents the honor at the award ceremony, which takes place at the Imperial Palace on the Day of Culture (November 3rd). Candidates for the Order of Culture are selected from the Persons of Cultural Merit by the Minister for Education, Science, Sports and Culture upon hearing views of all the members of the selection committee for the Persons of Cultural Merit. The Minister then recommends the candidates to the Prime Minister so that they can be decided by the Cabinet.[1]

Persons of Cultural Merit

The system for Persons of Cultural Merit was established in 1951 by the Law on Pensions for the Persons of Cultural Merit. The purpose is to honor persons of cultural merit by providing a special government-sponsored pension. Since 1955, the new honorees have been announced on the Day of Culture, the same day as the award ceremony for the Order of Culture.[1]

Selected recipients

A complete list can be found here [1].

  • Akira Ifukube (1914–2006). A composer of classical music and film scores.
  • Ryukichi Inada (1874-1950). A physician, a prominent academic, and bacteriologist researcher.[2]
  • Hideo Kobayashi (1902-1983). An author, who established literary criticism as an independent art form in Japan.
  • Hantaro Nagaoka (1865-1950). A physicist and a pioneer of Japanese physics in the early Meiji period.
  • Nakamura Kichiemon I (1896-1954). 1st kabuki actor to receive this honor.[3]
  • Nakamura Utaemon VI (1917-2001). A famous kabuki actor, known for his oyama roles. [4]
  • Kinjiro Okabe (1896-1984). An electrical engineering researcher and professor who developed the split-anode magnetron.
  • Jirō Osaragi (1897-1973). A popular writer in Showa period.
  • Junjiro Takakusu (1866-1945). An academic, an advocate for expanding higher education opportunities, and an internationally known Buddhist scholar. [5]
  • Kenjiro Takayanagi (1899-1990). A pioneer in the development of television. [6]
  • Morohashi Tetsuji (1883-1982). An important figure in the world of Japanese studies and Sinology. [7]
  • Susumu Tonegawa (1984). A scientist who won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1987. [8]
  • Eiji Yoshikawa (1892-1962). A historical novelist. [9]



  • Takashi Asahina (1908-2001). Orchestral conductor.[10]
  • Tadao Umesao. Ethnologist.[11]
  • Hideo Shima (1901-1998). Railway engineer.



  • Hanae Mori. Fashion designer.[13]
  • Rizō Takeuchi (1907-1997). Historian of Japan.

















  • Tadao Ando. [29]
  • Akito Arima. Nuclear physicist.[29]
  • Issei Miyake. Fashion designer.[29]
  • Eiichi Negishi. Chemistry Nobel Prize laureate.[29]
  • Yukio Ninagawa. Stage director.[29]
  • Akira Suzuki. Chemistry Nobel Prize laureate.[29]
  • Haruko Wakita. Medieval historian.[29]

Known to have declined the honor

  • Kenzaburō Ōe, 1994 Nobel laureate and critic of the Japanese Imperial system, is the only person to have refused to accept an award of the Order of Culture.[30]


  1. ^ a b c Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (Japan): Culture 2000, Part 1, Chapter 3, Section 2.1
  2. ^ Fukuoka Medical School:
  3. ^ 中村吉右衛門 (初代)
  4. ^ Honor awarded 1979 -- Strom, Stephanie. Nakamura Utaemon VI, 84, International Star of Kabuki", New York Times. April 4, 2001.
  5. ^ Honor awarded 1944 -- Junijiro Takakusu
  6. ^ Honor awarded 1981 -- "Kenjiro Takayanagi, Electrical Engineer, 91", New York Times, July 25, 1990.
  7. ^ Honor awarded 1965 -- Sanjo City website: Morohashi Tetsuji Museum
  8. ^ Frängsmyr, Tore. (1993). Nobel Lectures in Physiology or Medicine, 1981-1990, p. 380.
  9. ^ Honor awarded in 1960 -- "Yoshikawa Eiji, in Encyclopædia Britannica. (2006).
  10. ^ "Takashi Asahina, 93; Musical Director of Orchestra in Japan", Los Angeles Times, December 31, 2001.
  11. ^ NEC (October 2, 2002). "Brief Summary of Recipients' Careers". Press release. Retrieved April 18, 2010.
  12. ^ a b Rockefeller University (October 26, 1995). "Japanese Government Honors Rockefeller University Professor for Cancer Research". Press release. Retrieved April 18, 2010.
  13. ^ "Hanae Mori", Japan Times Online, October 23, 2007.
  14. ^ a b "Order of Culture Awarded", Japan Foundation Newsletter, Vol. XXV, No. 6, March, 1998, page 6. (PDF)
  15. ^ a b "Order of Culture", Japan Foundation Newsletter, Vol. XXVI, No. 4, February, 1999, page 7. (PDF)
  16. ^ a b "Prime Minister Attends Order of Culture Award Ceremony", Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet (official website), November 3, 1999.
  17. ^ a b c "Nobel chemist to get Order of Culture", Japan Times Online, October 25, 2000.
  18. ^ a b "Five pioneers to receive Order of Culture awards", Japan Times Online, October 31, 2001.
  19. ^ a b c "Emperor honors six in culture, science", Japan Times Online, November 4, 2002.
  20. ^ a b c "Ogata, Ooka and others to receive Order of Culture", Japan Times Online, October 29, 2003.
  21. ^ "Seal engraver, kabuki actor among honored cultural contributors", Forum Japon, October 29, 2004.
  22. ^ a b "Five honored with Order of Culture", Japan Times Online, November 4, 2005.
  23. ^ Arata receives award from Emperor of Japan on ISCMNS
  24. ^ a b "Writing nun gets culture award", Japan Times Weekly Online, November 11, 2006.
  25. ^ a b "Kyogen actor, four others accept top culture awards", Japan Times Online, November 4, 2007.
  26. ^ a b "Gov't decorates 3 Nobel winners, Seiji Ozawa, Donald Keene, 3 others", Japan Today, October 29, 2008.
  27. ^ a b c d e f Honor awarded 2008 -- "Donald Keene, 7 others win Order of Culture," Yomiuri Shimbun. October 29, 2008.
  28. ^ a b "Beicho, Tojuro among 5 recipients of year's top culture award", Seek Japan, October 27, 2009.
  29. ^ a b c d e f g "Nobelists Suzuki, Negishi get Order of Culture," Japan Times. October 27, 2010, retrieved 2011-04-20.
  30. ^ Honor refused 1994 -- Onishi, Norimitsu. "Released from Rigors of a Trial, a Nobel Laureate’s Ink Flows Freely," New York Times. May 17, 2008.


  • Peterson, James W., Barry C. Weaver and Michael A. Quigley. (2001). Orders and Medals of Japan and Associated States. San Ramon, California: Orders and Medals Society of America. 10-ISBN 1-890974-09-9; 13-ISBN 978-1-890974-09-1

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