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.
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."
In 1980, the "Training Center for Japanese Language Teachers," commonly called the "Ohira School," was established based on the 1979 agreement between then Prime Minister Masayoshi Ohira and then premier Hua Guofeng with the aim of fostering human resources to promote Japanese language and Japanese studies in China as well as cultural exchange. Five years later, through negotiations between the Japan Foundation and the Ministry of Education (MOE) of the Government of the People's Republic of China, the Ohira School was reborn as the Beijing Center for Japanese Studies, and has continued to function as one of the institutional hubs of Japanese education and research in China. The Center is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2015 and numerous events have been held so far to commemorate this occasion, culminating in the much-anticipated international symposium "Possibilities for Japanese Studies in Asia," the main event in the series of celebrations.
The Japan Foundation Cairo Office hosted the Japanese Language Education Seminar in the Middle East in August of this year. The seminar is held annually with the participation of approximately 40 Japanese-language teachers from the Middle East and North Africa for training and information exchange. This year marked the 15th anniversary of the seminar. Forty teachers from seven countries participated, including two from Syria, a country that for several years now has been in the grips of civil war.
Both Bolivia and Brazil are countries that have deep connections with Okinawa Prefecture. In Bolivia, for instance, there is a town called Colonia Okinawa, a settlement of Okinawan migrants in Bolivia. It is a place where the culture of Okinawa is preserved and passed from generation to generation. The first Japanese settlers came to Colonia Okinawa some 60 years ago. The present project was planned and implemented in order to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the establishment of Colonia Okinawa and the 100th anniversary of Japan-Bolivian diplomatic relations. Sao Paulo in Brazil is home to many people of Okinawan descent. The year 2015 marks the 120th anniversary of the conclusion of the Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation between Japan and Brazil, so in order to commemorate it, the project was carried out in Brazil as well.
With the aim of facilitating greater understanding of Japan's socioeconomic situation through its youths, Dr. Ryosuke Nishida and Noritoshi Furuichi delivered seminars in London and Sheffield in the U.K. from November 10 to 13, 2014.
Myanmar, a country that was closed politically for decades, made the transition to civilian rule in March 2011. Since shifting to an open economic policy, the country is now attracting the attention of the world. A large number of Japanese companies are beginning to enter Myanmar, a fact that many people have already known from news stories and other reports. Demand for personnel who can speak Japanese is also increasing, and many signs advertising private Japanese language schools have sprung up in cities. It was in this context that Myanmar's first joint public-private large-scale Japanese language teachers' seminars, the "Myanmar Japanese Language Teachers' Conventions," came to be held in October.
JAPAN: Kingdom of Characters, a traveling exhibition presented by the Japan Foundation got off to a spectacular start on September 17, 2014, with over 300 guests attending and an address and ribbon cutting by Takehiro Kagawa, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to the Arab Republic of Egypt.