Toronto, April 30, 2013 - At the Fifth Annual Sakura Gala on April 20, 2013, the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre (JCCC) honoured Japanese conductor Seiji Ozawa with the Sakura Award. Mr. Ozawa is considered a legend in the music business internationally for his long and distinguished career leading the top orchestras in North America and Europe. While Mr. Ozawa has received awards and honours for his work all over the world, he has not yet been recognized in Canada until the Sakura Gala.

The Sakura Award recognizes for the first time Mr. Ozawa’s achievements as Music Director of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) from 1965-1969. Almost 50 years following Mr. Ozawa’s tenure at the TSO and subsequent international acclaim, Toronto is honouring his shining legacy. Mr. Ozawa considers himself grateful to the TSO, the people of Toronto and former TSO Managing Director Walter Homburger for giving him his first major orchestra to conduct and mould into his own. After the TSO, Mr. Ozawa was Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra from 1970-1977, the Boston Symphony Orchestra for an unprecedented 29 years, and the Vienna State Opera from 2002-2010.

In recent years Mr. Ozawa has experienced major setbacks in his efforts to continue conducting due to his ill health from esophageal cancer. While his health is recovering, he is not yet at the point where he is able to travel and could not travel to Toronto to accept the Sakura Award in person. Seiji Ozawa, in a recorded acceptance speech played at the Sakura Gala, reminisced about the TSO saying, “It was a big, big challenge, but for me it was a wonderful memory. My music life really started there.”

The Sakura Gala celebrated Mr. Ozawa’s experiences as a young conductor in Toronto. Loie Fallis, Director of Artistic Planning at the TSO, said of the gala, “This memorable evening was a fitting and moving tribute to an icon of the musical world and a dear friend to our city and our orchestra.”

Mr. Ozawa’s reminiscing may soon turn into an actual trip down memory lane. He hopes to return to Toronto in the future and make his dream of a final performance with the TSO a reality, once he gets his strength back. His daughter, Seira Ozawa, attended the Sakura Gala on her father’s behalf. Ms. Ozawa spoke at the gala, conveying her father’s appreciation saying, “He is so very grateful and honoured to be given such a prestigious award [by his community].”

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The Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre is a not-for-profit organization that offers programs, services and a gathering place to celebrate Japanese and Japanese Canadian culture. Promoting harmony, friendship, and understanding in Canada’s diverse society since 1963, the JCCC is recognized across Canada as an important, vibrant community institution. 2013 marks the JCCC’s 50thanniversary. For more information visit www.jccc.on.ca.


Bringing together the best of Canadian and Japanese entertainment, cuisine, culture, and style, the highlight of the Sakura Gala is the presentation of the Sakura Award. Awarded once a year by the JCCC, the Sakura Award recognizes exceptional contributions made by individuals to the promotion and exchange of Japanese culture and enhancing awareness of Japanese Canadian heritage within Canada and abroad. For more information, visit www.sakuragala.com


James Heron, Executive Director, 416-441-2345 ex. 224, jamesh@jccc.on.ca


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