Toshio Hori (Managing Director, The Japan Foundation China Center)
The Japan Foundation China Center ("the Center") was established in 2006 with the aim of promoting youth exchange between Japan and China. Under the motto of "Heart to Heart Community," the Center connects the hearts and minds of young people on which the future of the two countries rests. Based on my private-sector background and as the inaugural Managing Director, I have been involved in the work of the Center since its founding.
Funded by the returns on a fund that is made up of government investment funds approved in the FY2005 supplementary budget and the existing funds of the Japan Foundation, the Center started off by having personnel, physical resources, and capital that included a secretariat and staff.
A tea ceremony workshop at the Jinan Center for Face-to-Face Exchanges
The following three core programs that were initially envisioned for the Center are going strong even now, ten years later, without any noticeable flagging.
The number of Chinese high school students who have studied and lived in Japan for about a year has grown to 329 in the last ten years. The students have been hosted by 44 of the 47 prefectures in Japan. Of the 268 of them who have already graduated from high school, 125 have returned to Japan to pursue further studies or for employment (as of April 2016). This number represents 47% of the total, arguably a high percentage.
Members of the 10th class strolled around town during their training after arriving in Japan
At the "Centers for Face-to-Face Exchanges" established in provincial towns in China, young people can gain exposure to Japan's latest cultural scene through Japanese magazines, books, videos, and other materials. In addition, the Centers are utilized for a variety of Japan-China exchange events. The 14th Center for Face-to-Face Exchanges is scheduled to open in Changsha, Hunan Province in autumn 2016.
The focus of this program is exchange events held mainly at the Centers for Face-to-Face Exchanges, in which Japanese and Chinese university students co-manage from planning to implementation.
The Japanese Spring Festival: university student exchange event held at the Kunming Center for Face-to-Face Exchanges
Of the above three programs, I struggled the most with the Long-Term Exchange Program for Chinese High School Students. Until this program, the Japan Foundation never had a program in which it hosted young people in their teens for as long as a year. In this regard, we were starting from zero.
It is worth noting that in the last ten years, the Center has produced many alumni in Japan and China who are creating, expanding, and increasing networks of exchange. High school students who studied in Japan eventually become university students and working professionals pursuing their respective dreams and goals. In this process, they grow up to become dependable actors of exchange, helping out with exchange events at the Centers for Face-to-Face Exchanges and planning and implementing their own Japan-China exchange programs.
In July this year, nearly 300 people gathered together to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Center, including the host high schools, host families, "Heart to Heart" alumni, members of the Centers for Face-to-Face Exchanges, as well as officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Chinese Embassy in Japan. The reception venue was full of people not wanting to part with each other, even past the closing time of the venue.
A student gave a speech on behalf of the alumni
The tenth anniversary reception marks no more than a milestone. The Center will continue to make further advancements looking ahead to the next decade. As we embark on the next ten years, I will, as I always have, continue to watch over the young people of Japan and China as they grow while mutually deepening exchanges.
Heart to Heart Community: Chinese High School Students' 11 Months in Japan (10th Class, 2015-2016)
The Japan Foundation China Center: A Chronicle of the Last Decade (in Japanese)
The Japan Foundation China Center: A Chronicle of the Last Decade (in Chinese)