International Exchange and Public Relations Activities
A. Promoting international exchanges
a) The importance of international exchanges
With the rapid advancement of globalization in the international community of today, international exchange that transcends geographical distance is advancing in various spheres, including cultural, political and economic fields. Thus interdependent relations continue to further deepen. On the other hand, replacing ideological confrontation, a variety of problems based on ethnic and cultural differences have become apparent.
In such a situation, recognizing ethnic and cultural diversity, as well as understanding and respecting different cultures are important in order to engender trust among nations, and to build truly friendly relations. International exchange provides a valuable means to this aim. Recognizing this fact, Japan is actively developing bilateral and multilateral international exchange through activities such as the introduction of Japanese culture abroad, the introduction of foreign culture to Japan and personnel exchanges, including intellectual dialogue. The importance of cultural diversity and dialogue was reaffirmed at the United Nations, which made the decision to designate the year 2000 as the International Year for the Culture of Peace and 2001 as the United Nations Year of Dialogue Among Civilizations.
b) Recent trends
With respect to bilateral exchanges with European countries, major cultural events and projects have been undertaken from January 2000 as part of the Year of Germany in Japan, including an exhibition of the Treasures of the Todai-ji Temple in Cologne. In addition, 1999 was designated as the "Japan-China Culture and Friendship Year" to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the People's Republic of China and the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Japan-People's Republic of China Cultural Exchange Agreement. Thus a variety of cultural events took place in both countries, including large-scale performances. 1999 was also the year which marked the 100th anniversary of Japanese emigration to Peru and Bolivia, and the 70th anniversary of emigration to the Amazon region. To commemorate these milestones various cultural events were held.
It is remarkable that in relations with the Republic of Korea (ROK), on the occasion of the Japan-ROK Summit Meeting held during the visit of Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi to the ROK in March 1999, both leaders agreed to establish a Japan-ROK Cultural Exchange Council comprising private sector intellectuals, in order to examine the ways of expanding cultural exchange between the two countries. The Council was inaugurated in June with the first meeting in Seoul in September. The Japan-ROK Cultural Exchange Council performs an active role in the promotion of cultural exchange between the two countries, for example by issuing of the 13-point proposal on cultural exchange. Furthermore, in the Japan-ROK Ministerial Meeting held on Cheju Island in October, both sides agreed to designate 2002-the year of the FIFA World Cup co-hosted by the two countries-as the Year of Japan-ROK National Exchange, and to promote exchange in fields such as culture, sports, youth, regional exchange and tourism.
In addition, in recent years with the increasing importance of cultural exchange and cultural cooperation in a multilateral framework, the important role played by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) which contributes to world peace and security through the promotion of cooperation between peoples of all nations in education, science and culture, has been reaffirmed. The fact that Mr. Koichiro Matsuura, Ambassador of Japan to France, became the first Asian appointed as the Director-General of UNESCO in November 1999, is a manifestation of other countries' respect for Japan's achievements in these fields.
With respect to the Asian region, the second meeting of the "Intellectual Dialogue on Building Asia's Tomorrow," was held in Singapore in July, which is a multilateral dialogue first proposed by then Foreign Minister Keizo Obuchi in 1998.
As for exchange among the young people who will bear the responsibilities in the next generation, efforts are being bolstered to improve the system of accepting exchange students, under the Plan to Accept 100,000 Foreign Students by the early years of the 21st century. Furthermore, the number of young people visiting Japan through the JET Programme, engaging in teaching foreign languages and international exchange activities in local governments has steadily risen each year, even after the numbers reached 5,000 in 1996. This proves the activation of international exchange at the local level. Also, the Japan-Russia Youth Exchange Center, the establishment of which was proposed on the occasion of Prime Minister Obuchi's visit to Russia in November 1998, began inviting its first students from July 1999.
Studying the Japanese language is an effective means to deepen understanding of Japan, and Japan is making efforts to promote Japanese language education overseas in a variety of ways, such as the dispatch of Japanese language specialists and the donation of textbooks. According to a survey conducted in 1998, the number of people studying the Japanese language overseas has reached two million.
In the field of cultural cooperation, interest in developing countries is rising not only in economic development, but also in the preservation and promotion of culture, and Japan has been actively cooperating for several years toward such nation-building efforts. An important pillar in these activities is the supply of equipment through Japan's Cultural Grant Aid, and since its inauguration in FY1975, as of the end of 1999 over 1,000 projects had been implemented. In addition, in cooperative activities for the preservation of cultural heritage, with the efforts of the Japanese Government Team for Safeguarding Angkor, restoration work was completed in 1999 on the Northern Library of the Bayon Temple, one of the most important buildings among the Angkor Monuments in Cambodia. In December the 23rd Session of the World Heritage Committee was convened in Marrakesh, Morocco and 48 new sites including Japan's tenth site, Shrines and Temples of Nikko, were newly inscribed on the World Heritage List.
c) Future direction
In addition to detailed bilateral cultural exchanges based on the individual country's characteristics and relations with Japan, the importance of cultural exchange through a multilateral framework that goes beyond traditional frameworks is also considered to be of increasing importance. In responding to this trend, Japan, in addition to actively promoting multilateral exchange and cooperation, intends to further cooperate with UNESCO and other international organizations.
The G8 Kyushu-Okinawa Summit to be held in 2000 provides an important opportunity to introduce the rich and diverse Japanese culture to people overseas. It is important to continue to make efforts to further develop Japan's international exchange.
In addition, all levels of the population, such as the local governments, private organizations, business enterprises, and NGOs, are making remarkable progress in the globalization of Japan. Thus, it is of most importance to implement international exchange more effectively by increasing the government's information provision and by keeping ties with the groups mentioned above.
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