South Asian Youth Invitation Program 2004

January 2005

The South Asia Youth Invitation Program began in 1983 by inviting to Japan five participants from five South Asian countries. The program is designed to invite from South Asia a group of promising young individuals as potential future leaders in various circles and fields and promote their understanding of Japan through meetings with officials in the Japanese government, prominent figures in the private sector and Japanese individuals of their own age group. They will also make visits to industrial and cultural facilities, in order to strengthen mutual understanding for the development of sound bilateral relations which will facilitate Japan's diplomatic efforts in the future. The number of invitees have been increasing continuously and the total aggregate number of invitees amounts to 934 participants.

Under the South Asian Youth Invitation Program 2004, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan invited 39 youths from seven South Asian countries (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) to Japan from Friday, September 24 to Tuesday, October 5, 2004. The main events of the program were as follows.

1. Japan and South Asia Youth Forum

The Japan and South Asia Youth Forum was held for three days based on the theme "Promoting Exchanges between Japan and South Asia--What We Can Do for the Creation of New Partnerships." The South Asian participants and 45 Japanese youths held lively discussions in three groups based on the sub-themes "International Relations, Security and Society," "Economics" and "Sports, Culture and Arts."

The first day began with a keynote address by, Mr. Masanori Kondo, Associate professor of International Relations of International Christian University on international relations, economy, culture and society between Japan and South Asia. While serious discussions were exchanged, the forum progressed in a friendly atmosphere. Participants then held discussions in their respective groups and compiled a detailed proposal. On the first and the second day of the forum. On the last day, each group delivered a presentation with their draft proposal, after which the participants adopted a Proposal as a whole.

2. Reception

Mr. Kazuo Kodama, Deputy-Director General, Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau hosted a reception for the 39 South Asia Participants, Japanese participants of the Youth Forum, Embassies in Tokyo and academics. During this reception, leaders of participants from each country delivered speeches to introduce their countries as well as expressing strong expectations for further Japanese initiative in the international community. The participants also introduced local songs and dances to share their culture.

3. Audience by Their Imperial Highnesses Prince and Princess Akishino

The South Asian participants were also granted a special audience by Their Imperial Highnesses Prince and Princess Akishino. This was a very special experience and their Imperial Highnesses approached the participants gently to hold conversations. The participants, who were dressed in their traditional attire informed their Imperial Highnesses of their views on various topics such as their impressions of Japan, visits in Tokyo and South Asian culture. The participants later remarked that they were impressed with the gentle personalities of Their Imperial Highnesses the Prince and Princess.

4. Visits (Tokyo, Hiroshima and Kyoto)

Participants had a great opportunity to experience the history, society, tradition and culture of Japan. In Tokyo they viewed modern cityscapes and visited a number of places, including the Edo-Tokyo Museum, the National Diet Building and Muroga Shibori, a metal processing plant.

In Hiroshima, the participants visited Miyajima, the Atomic Bomb Dome, the Memorial Cenotaph for Atomic Bomb Victims and the Peace Memorial Museum, and attended a lecture by a survivor of the atomic bomb, which allowed the participants to learn and raise their awareness about the realities of the impact of an atomic bombs. In Hiroshima participants stayed overnight with Japanese families, which provided a precious opportunity to experience a typicially Japanese family life. In Kyoto, the participants visited Nijyo Castle, Kinkakuji (the Golden Pavilion) and Kiyomizu Temple as well as being introduced to the process of Yuzen dying, a Japanese tradition.

5. Impressions and opinions of the participants

Many participants commended the organized and well through-out Invitation Program.

With regard to the Japan and South Asia Youth Forum, the participants found it to be a valuable opportunity to discuss and exchange various opinions and knowledge as well as deepening their friendships with each another, including the Japanese participants.

The participants also acknowledged the true impact and damage caused by atomic bombs through their visit to the Peace Memorial Museum and mentioned their shock at learning of the tragedy and the destruction caused by nuclear weapons by directly hearing the experiences of true atomic bomb victims.

Finally, the participants regarded their experience of staying with Japanese host families in Hiroshima as a valuable opportunity to learn more about the Japanese lifestyle.

6. Conclusion

Thanks to the support and cooperation of many, the South Asian Youth Invitation Program 2004 was a great success. In particular, we thank the tremendous support and cooperation of the host families in Hiroshima. The cooperation of the young Japanese participants of the Youth Forum are also with mentioning.

Among the youths of South Asia and the Japanese participants of the Youth Forum, a mailing list has been compiled and they have expressed their enthusiasm to further deepen their exchanges.

Considering the opinions of the participants of this program, that it should be further developed for expanding exchanges between Japan and South Asia. the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs will further develop and continue this Invitation Program.

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