Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

The Japan Foundation: Looking Ahead on its 50th Anniversary
UMEMOTO Kazuyoshi / President, The Japan Foundation

August 4, 2022
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Japan Foundation (JF). Since its foundation in 1972, as Japan’s only official international cultural exchange organization, it has carried out a comprehensive range of projects in various parts of the world, centering around support and exchange in the fields of culture and arts, Japanese language education, Japanese studies, and intellectual dialogue.
During this period, driven partly by the rapid spread of manga, anime, and Japanese cuisine, a far greater number of people than 50 years ago are now interested in Japanese culture and arts, and studying the Japanese language. Under the highly challenging circumstances brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, we have continued to consider and explore how we should fulfill our mission of creating a place that links Japan and the world and thereby foster empathy, trust, and goodwill among people. Several points have emerged out of this exploration.

Looking back over our record of the past 50 years, we realize anew that a significant number of people who have had contact with JF through fellowships, training, research support, and cultural events during this period are now occupying key positions in educational institutions, museums, theaters, and other cultural facilities in their countries, and are active at the forefront of transmission of Japanese culture and arts, education, Japanese studies, and Japanese language teaching. This, in a sense, is the most visible result of the JF projects. It is the people that always play a central part in culture, language, and dialogue. Given this intrinsic human factor, it is clear that the development of human resources and the building and development of human resource networks remain at the core of JF projects.

We have received support and cooperation from these valuable “human assets” in the implementation of JF projects. As we aim to make more multi-layered use of these assets than ever before, we would like to focus more on both “vertical” and “horizontal” approaches in the future. The “vertical” approach means intergenerational exchange, specifically in programs such as fellowships, training, and intellectual dialogue, in which the alumni who have participated in such programs are systematically encouraged to participate. It is hoped that such contact across generations of people with common interests will create added value. The “horizontal” approach means regional expansion. JF has human networks with various parts of the world through its overseas offices and other channels. By combining and utilizing these networks, for example, by connecting academics and experts, in different regions such as the Americas, Europe, and Asia, who share the same interests, and providing them with platforms for dialogue and exchange, we may bring to light, from multiple perspectives, things that have not been seen before. (For example, a recently held online dialogue between Japanese authors and translators from some countries provided the opportunity for them to meet, albeit online. They discussed their work and swapped stories about the difficulties they each had in translation and the means they devised to overcome them. It turned out to be an interesting dialogue full of fresh discoveries for the participants and viewers alike.)

In April, JF integrated and reorganized the departments previously specializing in Japan-US and Japan-China exchange respectively, and established a new Department of Global Partnerships. This new department is now considering and preparing for ways to develop interesting projects that stride generations and regions. It has been JF’s mission to strengthen the ties between Japan and the rest of the world and to win more friends for Japan. We aim in the future to strengthen, through Japan, the bonds among our friends around the world.

Finally, I would like to mention the great potential that IT holds, irrespective of how COVID-19 turns out. Like many other organizations and institutions, JF found itself under heavy restraint regarding projects involving the movement of people, and has been experimenting with IT-enabled projects since 2020. These projects got on track in 2021, and the results have exceeded initial expectations.
For example, the project “Stage Beyond Borders – Selection of Japanese Performances, which is an online distribution of excellent Japanese theater performances with subtitles in multiple languages, has distributed a total of more than 90 productions, including Noh, Kyomai, Kagura, and other traditional performing arts series newly produced for this project, as well as contemporary theater and dance performance works that have been popular in Japan and overseas. In June 2020, it achieved a total of 10 million views in 111 countries and territories. The number of viewers reached was several digits higher than actual performances. In addition. JF was able to reach out to areas that had been previously been beyond reach. These are truly encouraging developments. It should also be noted that the use of the online method has made remarkable progress in various ways in Japanese language education, including the implementation of the first Japanese language education project in the Palestinian Territories.

Kazuyoshi Umemoto is a former ambassador to Italy and Switzerland.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

梅本 和義 / 国際交流基金理事長

2022年 8月 4日


[この貴重な「人的資産」からは、JF事業の実施にあたっての支援や協力を得てきているが、これまで以上にこの資産を重層的に活用していく上で、今後は「縦」と「横」の二つの方向のアプローチにより力を入れていきたい。「縦」というのは世代間の交流である。Encouraged to 具体的には、フェローシップや研修あるいは知的対話などのプログラムにおいて、かつてそのようなプログラムに参加した alumniの参画を組織的に進めることにより、共通の関心を持つ異なる世代間の接触から付加価値が生まれることを期待したい。「横」というのは地域的な広がりである。JFは海外拠点などを通じて、世界各地に人的ネットワークを持っているが、それらを組み合わせて活用し、例えば米州、欧州、アジアなど異なる地域において共通の関心を持つ学者や専門家を結び付け、対話や交流の場を設けることにより、多角的視点から今まで見えていなかったことを浮かび上がらせることが出来るのではないだろうか。(例えば、最近実施した日本の作家と各国翻訳者とのオンライン対談では、異なる国の翻訳家たちがオンラインとはいえ初めて会い、翻訳における苦労や工夫などをお互いに紹介しあうなど作品について議論が行われたが、各参加者や視聴者にとっても新鮮な発見が多く、興味深い対談であったことをご紹介したい。)

この4月には、JFでは、従来、日米や日中の交流に特化して部署を統合再編し、新たに国際対話部(Department of Global Partnership)を設けたが、今後、世代や地域をまたいだ面白い事業を展開していくべく検討・準備を進めているところである。従来、JFは、日本と世界の絆を強め、日本の友人を増やすことをそのミッションとしていたが、今後はさらに、日本を介して世界各地の日本の友人の相互の絆を強めるということも目指していきたい。

最後に、今後のコロナ禍の動向いかんによらず、IT技術の持つ大きな可能性に言及したい。他の多くの団体や機関と同様に、JFも、人の移動を伴う事業が大きく制約を受ける中で、2020年以降ITを使用する形での事業を試行して来たが、2021年に入りこれらが軌道に乗ると、当初の予測を上回る結果が出てきている。例えば、日本の優れた舞台公演を多言語字幕付きでオンライン配信するプロジェクト“Stage Beyond Borders – Selection of Japanese Performances”では、本プロジェクト配信のために新規製作した能・京舞・神楽などの伝統芸能シリーズのほか、日本国内や海外で人気を博した現代演劇やダンス・パフォーマンス作品等合わせて合計90作品以上配信しているが、今2022年6月には累計視聴国111ヵ国・地域、合計1000万ビューを達成した。視聴者数がリアル事業よりも桁数の違う多数に及んだことに加え、これまではJFの活動が及ばなかったエリアにも発信が可能となったことに勇気づけられる思いである。また、パレスチナ自治区で初めての日本語教育事業の実施など、日本語教育においても様々な形でオンラインの活用が進展したことも特記しておきたい。

一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟

English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > The Japan Foundation: Looking Ahead on its 50th Anniversary