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April 1999

A Monument to Friendship

D rawings by 250 Japanese and French schoolchildren living in Tokyo will be built into a monument to be completed in the fall of 1999. The project will promote friendship between Japan and France and is part of festivities celebrating "France Year" in Japan.

The drawings are being made by Japanese children at three schools in central Tokyo--Joto, Meisei, and Tsukudajima Elementary Schools--as well as by French kids who attend an annex of the Lycée Franco-Japonais de Tokyo, located on the grounds of Meisei Elementary School.

The drawings, which will be on the theme of "friendship," will be baked on ceramic plates and put together in the shape of the mathematical symbol for infinity. An arch with figures of young children will be built on top of the plates.

Keiichi Tanaami, professor at the Kyoto University of Art and Design, came up with the design to express the idea of everlasting friendship and unlimited dreams. The monument will also promote closer ties between the sister cities of Paris and Tokyo and further the cause of world peace.

The monument will be placed in Paris Plaza, now under construction in a corner of Ishikawa-jima Park in Tokyo's Chuo Ward.

The Lycée Franco-Japonais is the only school in Japan providing French-style education for French-speaking children. There's been a big increase in enrollment recently, and so its main school building in Chiyoda Ward became cramped. Therefore, it opened an annex on the grounds of Meisei Elementary School.

The French and Japanese kids have become friends, but the art project is the first time they'll be involved in a joint undertaking. The monument idea was conceived by an organization in charge of planning cultural events for France Year in Japan. Michiko Takahashi, who heads the organization, said, "We hope that the monument and the experience of building it together will make a lasting impression on every child's heart."

Photo: A model of the soon-to-be-completed friendship monument. (Gallery Yugen)