From shamisen concerts to international social research, the Japan Foundation’s activities span a wide range. We bring you a glimpse of the action backstage, the joys and pains that go into making these events happen, featuring stories that only staff members can tell, of episodes that could only happen in that particular corner of the world.
Building up to "Japonismes 2018: les âmes en resonance," the Japan Foundation held the exhibition "Japanorama: A new vision on art since 1970" from October 20, 2017 to March 5, 2018 at Centre Pompidou-Metz (Metz, France). On February 7, the exhibition's curator Yuko Hasegawa (Artistic Director, Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo and Professor, Tokyo University of the Arts' Graduate School of Global Arts) held a debriefing session at the Japan Foundation's Tokyo headquarters. Noboru Takayama, Kohei Nawa and Haruka Kojin, whose works were displayed at the exhibition, also participated. The session featured candid discussions between these artists from different generations and fields.
The year 2017 was marked as the Year of Japan-India Friendly Exchanges by the prime ministers of Japan and India in celebration of the 60th anniversary since the Cultural Agreement came into force in 1957. In fact, sixty years is not a short span of time. Today, Japan and India seem closer but still distant at the same time. Since I was appointed to be in charge of Arts & Cultural Exchange at the Japan Foundation New Delhi in late 2013, I have felt a strong urge to enhance mutual understanding through interactive and collaborative projects in addition to simply showing Japanese culture to the Indian audience. In the ever-growing economy in India, Japan-India cultural exchange has entered a period of transition.
I wonder if the readers of Wochi Kochi Magazine know that a design similar to an ukiyo-e by Katsushika Hokusai was used on the cover of the first version of the musical score for Debussy's The sea, three symphonic sketches for orchestra. In the recently released movie, Gauguin Voyage de Tahiti directed by Edouard Deluc, there is a scene in which Gaugin, played by Vincent Cassel, gazes at a drawing of this ukiyo-e. At the time, Japanese ukiyo-e fascinated many artists in Paris, and that artwork had a significant impact.
Children kick a football on a bright afternoon in the sweltering heat, with temperatures in excess of 30 degrees Celsius. Fathers and mothers watch from the sidelines--perhaps an everyday scene in Japan, but here, after 3:00 p.m., the sound of the adhan can be heard calling Muslims to prayer at a nearby mosque. This is the Republic of Indonesia, the most heavily populated country in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and these kids are practicing football under the watchful eye of their 26-year-old Japanese coach, Yu Komiyama.
The Japan Foundation Prizes for Global Citizenship were founded in 1985 under the name of the Japan Foundation Prizes for the Promotion of Community-Based Cultural Exchange. The Japan Foundation was established in 1972. At the time, the Japanese economy was enjoying ongoing growth, and "international," "culture," and "regions" were the key words of the times. In the 1980s, regional municipalities began to engage in promoting cultural administration. Various cultural facilities, such as civic halls, art galleries, and museums, were built in each region, and municipalities began inviting artists from overseas and holding international cultural events, and this saw international cultural exchange take root throughout the country. In 1987, the "Guidelines for International Exchange in Local Public Bodies" was issued, and the internationalization of the regions progressed further as international exchange associations were set up across the country.
The Japan Foundation provides high quality Japanese broadcast contents primarily to countries and regions where commercial broadcast of them would be difficult through its Japanese TV Broadcasting Abroad program. As part of the program, the Bengali version of Tora-san's Sunrise and Sunset was broadcast on a Bangladeshi TV channel with the cooperation of the Embassy of Japan in Bangladesh in September 2016.
The Japan Foundation Japanese-Language Institute, Kansai , has developed websites and smartphone apps to aid in learning Japanese as a part of a program to support the Japanese-language learners around the world. In July 2016, "JF Japanese e-Learning Minato " was newly opened. It is a Japanese-language learning platform, widely and generally available, so that anyone that has access to the Internet from a PC, smartphone, or any other device, can register as a user. Users can select and take any course they find interesting or useful from the wide variety of courses available on Minato. Furthermore, the platform is about more than simply learning; users can also interact with others who share the same interests on community pages, all on the theme of Japan.
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.
I was transferred to the Japan Foundation, Seoul in April 2012, and worked there for a period of approximately four years. During that period, various bilateral issues came to the surface and the relationship between Japan and Korea was rather unfriendly. In the field of arts and culture, on the other hand, I believe that the exchanges between the two countries made steady progress.
On April 1, 2015, the first day of my transfer to my new section at work, I was unexpectedly entrusted with a mission: "I want you to create a concert in connection with Haruki Murakami."