George Tanabe, left, accepts the commendation from Consul General Toyoei Shigeeda.

George Joji Tanabe, Jr., emeritus professor of the Department of Religion at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa received the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon at the Japanese Consulate in Honolulu on January 24, 2014.

Tanabe was honored for strengthening the academic and cultural exchanges between the United States and Japan. His contributions have deepened the understanding of Japanese religion and Japanese culture.

For 35 years, Tanabe has been a key figure in Hawaiʻi in the field of religion, mainly in the area of Japanese Buddhism, focusing his efforts on educating students and doing research. He visited Japanese universities and fostered networks with the research faculty and coordinated academic symposiums such as the International Conference on the Lotus Sutra and Japanese Culture.

More on Tanabe

In 1974, Tanabe received a masters of arts in Japanese from the Department of East Asian Languages at Columbia University. He then spent two years researching Buddhist philosophy and history at the University of Tokyo as a foreign research student.

In 1977, he joined the faculty of the Department of Religion at UH Mānoa, where he taught religion and Buddhist philosophy for 28 years. Tanabe also served as the chair of the religion department from 1991 to 2001.

In 2006, Tanabe became an emeritus professor at the university and continued his writing and lectures. That year, he also became an advisor of the Numata Center at the Bukkyō Dendō Kyōkai. In 2001, following the Ehime Maru incident, Tanabe assisted and advised the American side on issues of varying sensitivities involving Japan culture and religion.

Among his published titles are Japanese Buddhist Temples in Hawaiʻi: An Illustrated Guide, which he wrote and researched with his wife Willa Tanabe, and Practically Religious: Worldly Benefits and the Common Religion of Japan, co-authored with Ian Reader. He is also general editor for the Topics in Contemporary Buddhism series.

For more information, read the announcement on the award issued by the Consulate General.