Section 6.  Promoting International Understanding


Japan's international situation has changed radically in the forty years since the war ended. Having risen new-born out of the rubble of war, Japan has grown rapidly until it is now the second-largest free-market economy (after the United States) in the world, with the result that developments in Japan have a major political and economic impact on the international community and Japan's international responsibilities have rapidly expanded befitting this position. International interest in Japan has reached unprecedented heights.

However, it must be admitted that there are still a number of areas in the international community plagued by misunderstanding and mistrust born of inadequate information, such as in the economic friction with the countries of North America and Europe, and it is essential that Japan redouble its efforts for cultural exchange and public information activities in order to promote greater international understanding.


1.  Cultural Exchange

One of the most important events in the last forty years of Japanese international cultural exchange was the establishment of the Japan Foundation. While the rapid economic growth experienced by Japan and the increased international availability of Japanese products in the 1960s and early 1970s generated greater interest in Japanese culture, they also sparked criticism of Japan. Under the circumstances, the Japan Foundation was established under the auspices of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to improve the quantity and quality of government-sponsored cultural exchange and to promote effective cultural exchange so as to heighten international understanding of Japan.

The government's contributions to the Foundation have totaled approximately \48.4 billion to date, and the Foundation's budget for cultural exchange activities in fiscal 1985 was about \5.1 billion. Conducting a broad range of programs, including personal exchanges, introducing Japanese culture overseas, assisting Japanese studies, and promoting the diffusion of the Japanese language overseas, the Foundation has drawn particular attention in recent years for its sponsorship and cooperation with large-scale exhibitions of Japanese culture such as the Great Japan Exhibition held in London in 1981 and 1982 and for its efforts to promote Japanese language studies overseas in response to the growing demand for Japanese language education.

There are now approximately 12,000 foreign students in Japan. Because these students from countries in Asia and the rest of the world can serve as important bridges linking Japan and their home countries, studies are now under way among the ministries and agencies concerned to final ways of increasing the number of foreign students to 100,000, approximately on a par with the industrialized countries of North America and Europe, by the start of the twenty-first century. Vigorous efforts are also being made to promote international youth exchanges, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is inviting young people to Japan from Europe, Asia, and Latin America and is providing assistance to exchange program with the United States.

Many of the cultural exchange programs with the developing countries take the form of Japanese cooperation for the development of indigenous cultures. Recognizing the importance of this area of activity, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs began a cooperative program of cultural capital grants in 1975 to help with the preservation of cultural artifacts and sites, the promotion of the arts and sports, and the diffusion of education. After many years of steady growth, the budget for such activities was \1.8 billion in fiscal 1984.

In an effort to establish the legal framework for promoting cultural exchanges, Japan has concluded cultural agreements with 33 countries, from the Japan-France cultural agreement in 1953 to the Japan-Peru cultural agreement in 1984. In addition, there are also joint cultural committees with 16 countries, including the Japan-United States Conference on Cultural and Educational Interchange, to discuss cultural exchange and other programs under these agreements.

In that the preservation and promotion of international understanding is prerequisite to Japan's survival and prosperity and that there has been increasing international interest in Japan of late, it is imperative that Japan step up its programs for the promotion of cultural exchange. It is particularly important that efforts be made to expand the total of Japan's cultural exchange activities by improving and strengthening coordination with the increasingly active cultural exchange efforts by private bodies and local municipal and prefectural organizations.


2.  Public Information

Like cultural exchange, public information activities have also taken on increasing importance as Japan has taken on greater international importance in the forty years since the war. 

It is obviously important that Japan, a country determined to maintain good relations with all countries and to contribute to international peace and prosperity, promote greater international understanding of Japan not only by obtaining the best information it can for a better understanding of overseas developments but also by explaining the Japanese situation and Japanese policies as best it can overseas. Realizing this, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been making continuing efforts, in cooperation with like-minded private-sector and local government bodies, to utilize every possible means for the dissemination of information overseas, for a better understanding of Japan, and for improved mutual understanding.

In its overseas public information activities, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been making every effort, in view of the economic friction with the countries of North America and Europe, to explain those Japanese social and economic realities that form the basis for Japan's external economic policies to media people and other opinion leaders through private meetings, discussions, conferences, symposiums, invitations to Japan, and the whole range of means at its command. At the same time, an effort has been made to promote understanding by presenting a balanced picture of modern Japan in publications, films, and other media designed for the general public.

Japan has become much more international over the last four decades. Just as the number of Japanese going overseas has jumped from 250,000 in 1956 to approximately 4.65 million today, the number of people coming to Japan from overseas has risen from 240,000 in 1951 to approximately 2.03 million. The sister-cities program initiated in 1955 now boasts 520 pairings. As may be seen in these figures, the wave of internationalization touches all of our lives, and everyone in Japan may be said to be a link between Japan and the rest of the international community.

It is thus all the more essential, given this situation, that every Japanese national be fully appreciative of Japan's international position, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has therefore stepped up its efforts to promote broad public understanding of the international situation and Japanese foreign policy and is working hard in cooperation with private-sector and local government efforts on public information programs to gain broad-based popular understanding and support for Japan's international exchange activities.


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