International Exchange and Public Relations Activities
The international community of today is becoming increasingly interdependent politically, economically, culturally, socially and indeed in all aspects. Moreover, with the end of the Cold War, in place of ideological confrontation, ethnic and cultural differences have been pushed to the forefront of international relations. In order to ensure the stable development of the international community, it is increasingly important for countries to become mutually cognizant of their ethnic, cultural and social diversity and to deepen mutual understanding. Further, emergence of a myriad of global issues-poverty, energy, human rights and the environment, etc.-has been activating international exchange related to these issues.
Japan has been actively working to promote international exchange since then-Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita described international exchange as one of the three pillars of Japan's foreign policy in his London speech in 1988. Prime Minister Hashimoto, in January 1997, proposed in his policy speech in Singapore the promotion of cultural exchange and cultural cooperation as one of three proposals. In Japan's relations with developing countries too, there is a call for not just the more traditional economic cooperation but also cooperation in cultural aspects. In such a context, cultural exchange and cultural cooperation are therefore becoming frequent themes of discussion at both bilateral and multilateral levels, including talks between Heads of State and foreign ministers.
In recent years, besides the Government and the Japan Foundation, many international exchange activities have been conducted at the levels of local governments, private organizations, educational and research institutions, private enterprises, individuals and other promoters. In particular, the growth in grass-roots exchanges in local communities has been remarkable, under the banners of "internationalization" and "culture" as common slogans. From now on, it is important to build networks among the relevant domestic organizations as well as to strengthen the cooperative relationship between the government and private organizations, and thus to promote more effective international exchange.
In addition, whereas traditional cultural exchange focused on mutual exchange, cooperation in promoting the culture of developing countries and preserving their cultural heritage are now taking on much greater importance. In these countries, rapid economic growth and social change often threaten the existence of cultural properties. To save the heritage of mankind as a whole, Japan is cooperating in the preservation of cultural heritage such as the Angkor monuments in Cambodia, utilizing the Japanese Trust Funds established within UNESCO as well as the framework of the Convention for the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. Equipment is also provided through the scheme of cultural grant aid to help developing countries promote their cultures.
In the area of international exchanges, too, it is important to implement projects by thoroughly considering the characteristics of each country and region, as well as their relationship with Japan.
In exchanges with North America, the close ties between Japan and the United States are reflected in the vigorous personal contacts and exchanges taking place at a number of levels among local governments and private organizations.
For example, under the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme (an invitational program for young people from foreign countries by local governments in Japan to teach foreign languages at junior and senior high schools and to be involved in international exchange activities), more than 20,000 young people from the United States and Canada have come to Japan, contributing greatly to international exchange at local level.
In addition, the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership promotes intellectual exchanges through seminars, symposiums and joint research, etc., among Japanese and American academics and researchers, also supporting exchanges at the grass-roots level.
Exchanges with Europe have tended to focus on traditional culture, an area in which great mutual interest exists. However, the scope has widened in recent years, with many large-scale cultural events organized as comprehensive and mutual cultural introductions. Following the common understanding reached by Japanese and French Heads of State, the year beginning in April 1997 was designated the "Year of Japan in France," where a variety of cultural events have been held as a broad introduction of Japan's traditional culture and contemporary Japan. The "Year of France in Japan" will begin in April 1998. Moreover, the Maison de la Culture du Japon á Paris (The Japanese Cultural Institute in Paris) was inaugurated in May 1997, and has been organizing a variety of cultural events, aiming at becoming the hub of cultural exchange between not only Japan and France but also Japan and Europe.
The traditional focus of exchanges with Asia has been introducing Japanese culture to the Asian countries. Recently, however, exchange has come to be based on a much more equal partner between Japan and these countries. For example, the Indonesian Government, with the cooperation of private organizations, held the Indonesia-Japan Friendship Festival '97 in Japan from August to November 1997, which provided a comprehensive cultural introduction, including an exhibition on "Treasures of Ancient Indonesian Kingdoms." New experiments are also being made in promoting multifaceted and multilateral exchanges with ASEAN countries. These include the Multinational Cultural Mission proposed by Prime Minister Hashimoto, wherein a mission of eminent figures from Japan and the ASEAN countries will make recommendations on Japan-ASEAN cultural exchanges.
The First Asia-Europe Young Leaders' Symposium was also held in Tokyo and Miyazaki in March 1997 as a follow-up to the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), helping to promote dialogue and exchange between Asia and Europe.
The Japan Foundation, which celebrated its 25th anniversary in 1997, plays a key role in implementing international exchanges. However, the current structure of the Japan Foundation (with a FY1997 budget of 20.6 billion yen and 18 offices abroad) is not efficient vis-á-vis the growing importance of international exchanges. It is much smaller in scale than similar foreign institutions such as the British Council (the United Kingdom) and the Goethe Institute (Germany). The vital tasks are not only implementing more effective and efficient projects, but also further strengthening the structure.
One of the Japan Foundation's main tasks is disseminating the Japanese language abroad. In this regard, in addition to the Japanese Language Institute, Urawa, the Japan Foundation Japanese Language Institute, Kansai, began to function in May, aiming at spreading the study of Japanese language.
The Japanese Government has been encouraging foreign student exchange in line with the plan to accept 100,000 foreign students by the early years of the 21st century. In recent years, however, the number of privately-funded foreign students has fallen, and it is vitally important to organize, both at home and abroad, a system to receive students. It is also important to help in the creation of alumni associations among students returning home from their studies in Japan as one means of increasing Japan's friends abroad.
Japanese people have been developing a higher degree of interest in international affairs and foreign policy in the last few years due to a greater degree of personal contact with people of other countries through rapid developments in communications and information systems, deepening of economic and cultural exchanges, and an increasing number of Japanese traveling and living abroad.
Based on the perception that domestic and foreign policy are inextricably intertwined, the Japanese Government, taking careful note of public opinion while at the same time actively implementing public relations activities concerning Japan's foreign policy, has continued to make efforts to foster among the Japanese people a greater understanding of Japan's foreign policy and to obtain their support.
For example, since 1976 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been offering for public use at the Diplomatic Record Office, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, diplomatic records produced over 30 years ago file by file as the compiling and screening process is completed. The 13th Declassification of Postwar Period Documents and Records was made on 24 February 1997. More than 2,800 items were made available for public perusal, covering domestic politics, foreign policy and the economy, etc., and including such major incidents as the matter of the Agreement Between Japan and the United States of America for Settlement of the Awa-Maru Claims. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is working to declassify as many records as possible, perceiving record disclosure as one important duty of the Ministry.
The Ministry has also organized systems through which the latest materials and information on foreign policy and international affairs can be easily accessed from homes and workplaces via the home page of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. With the recent popularity of the Internet, the Japanese version of this home page in particular has seen a rapid rise in the number of users, with the Internet growing into one of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' most important vehicle for supplying information and conducting public relations.
The Ministry is also endeavoring to report in an easily understood manner important issues which are perceived to be of the highest interest to people and to respond to public interest by such means as featuring special issues in regular publications, creating pamphlets and creating television programs. Efforts are also being made to obtain wide-ranging support for Japan's foreign policy by increasing the number of opportunities for direct dialogue with the Japanese people. For example, more lectures by Ministry officials are being held in high schools and universities, and the Ministry also holds lectures and symposia such as Gaiko no Mado (Window on Foreign Affairs), Gaiko Kurabu (Foreign Affairs Club) and Kokusai Forum (International Forum) in local areas.
An understanding of Japan and Japan's foreign policy by people in foreign countries and a favorable and trusting view toward Japan are essential elements in the advancement of Japan's foreign policy. To this end, the Japanese Government is extending a variety of public relations and activities through embassies and consulates-general, etc.
More specifically, carefully designed public relations activities are conducted in each region and on current issues. For example, the Japanese Government explains to other countries such policies as the six major reform programs now being pursued by the Government, as well as its efforts on environmental issues. Africa, on the occasion of TICAD II, and Asia, where Japan has been extending its support for the current financial crisis, are the other focal points of public relations activities. In terms of information about Japanese society and general information, the Japanese Government places particular emphasis on public relations targeting the younger generations in other countries in order to foster an accurate and balanced view toward Japan. In conducting these public relations activities, the Japanese Government surveys and analyzes public opinions about Japan in major countries, and on the basis of the results, organizes lectures and various other types of activities for specific regions and specific countries. When VIPs and prominent Japanese citizens visit other countries, the Japanese Government works with the Japanese and foreign press to provide information about the visits. The Japanese Government also rebuts reports based on misperceptions and biases regarding Japan.
The Japanese Government also promotes personnel exchanges by, for example, inviting foreign television crews, newspaper-related individuals and foreign opinion leaders to Japan, as well as dispatching Japanese intellectuals abroad as speakers for symposiums and other events.
Various types of printed materials and videos have been produced and distributed by government institutes, to introduce Japan's foreign policy and general information about Japan, and many pieces of information concerning Japan's foreign policy have been disseminated in several languages, including Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Russian and Spanish, through such media as the home page of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (URL: http://www.mofa.go.jp) since April 1995.
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