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Events Celebrate a Growing Friendship (May 30, 2003)

the virtual goodwill ambassador
the virtual goodwill ambassador
This year Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are coming closer together. A number of events have already been held to celebrate ASEAN-Japan Exchange Year 2003, such as a concert of music performed on a tsugaru shamisen, a traditional Japanese stringed instrument, in Malaysia in February and a Thai food festival in Tokyo in April. There are many more events to come, including J-ASEAN Pops, a pop music concert planned in Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Bangkok, and Yokohama. In fact, more than 30 exchange projects are taking place every month. ASEAN-Japan Exchange Year 2003, a joint public-private undertaking, was organized in order to promote broad-based friendship between Japan and the 10 countries of ASEAN. By the middle of May, a total of some 459 events had already been listed in the Calendar of ASEAN-Japan Exchange Year 2003 Programmes/Events, 145 in Japan and 314 in ASEAN countries, and more are expected to be added as the year unfolds. With the goal of building a closer Japan-ASEAN partnership, this is the first time such a wide range of exchange events has taken place over such a long period of time.

Prime Minister Koizumi's Idea Becomes Reality
The story of this year of exchange began in January 2002, when, during a visit to ASEAN countries, Prime Minister Jun'ichiro Koizumi asserted that Japan and ASEAN should be close partners that "act together and advance together" in the twenty-first century and proposed enhancing Japan-ASEAN cooperation. In November 2002, at the Japan-ASEAN summit meeting held in Cambodia, Koizumi announced five initiatives for Japan's policy toward ASEAN under the banner "Cooperation for the Future." ASEAN-Japan Exchange Year 2003 was officially agreed on as part of that package, and both sides have been working hard to make it a success.

Since then Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda launched a policy placing greater importance on relations with ASEAN in 1977, Japan has cultivated close friendships with the countries of ASEAN. Some ¥13 trillion ($108.3 billion at ¥120 to the dollar) of trade (exports and imports) was conducted between Japan and ASEAN nations in 2001, accounting for 14% of Japan's total trade and making ASEAN Japan's most important trading partner after the United States and the European Union. Japan provides about $2.1 billion in overseas development assistance to ASEAN countries each year, accounting for about 28% of all of Japan's bilateral ODA. For ASEAN, meanwhile, trade with Japan accounts for about 20% of all trade, making Japan the association's largest trading partner after the United States. Prime Minister Koizumi, who regards former Prime Minister Fukuda as his political mentor, is working to expand Fukuda's policy of furthering Japan-ASEAN ties.

Commemorative Summit to Be Held in December
2003 was chosen as ASEAN-Japan Exchange Year because it marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the ASEAN Cultural Fund, which was founded on the initiative of then Prime Minister Fukuda, as well as the fortieth anniversary of the signing of the treaty of amity and commerce between Japan and Indonesia, the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Cambodia, and the thirtieth anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Vietnam.

The exchange projects have three strands: dialogue and seminars among industrialists, academics, experts, and officials aimed at seeking ways to strengthen Japan-ASEAN relations; youth exchange for the development of future human resources and the strengthening of people-to-people ties; and cultural and artistic exchange for the further mutual understanding.

Japan and ASEAN countries are each responsible for planning, implementing, and running events in certain months during the year. Japan is the key coordinator country for January, for example, and the joint coordinator for April and December with Thailand. December will be an especially busy month as the "Month for Joint ASEAN Activities in Japan," with the Japan-ASEAN Commemorative Summit in Tokyo and programs and events scheduled to round off the year of festivities in Japan.

A beautiful 21-year-old Japanese girl, born in 2003, has been created using computer-graphics as a goodwill ambassador to promote ASEAN-Japan Exchange Year 2003. The character was designed by the Steering Committee of Asean-Japan Exchange Year 2003 and Musashino Art School Media Lab, and her costumes were designed by Junko Koshino. The goodwill ambassador is a bright, vivacious figure who will appeal to everyone.

Here are some of the planned events:

June: The 9th International Conference on "The Future of Asia" (Tokyo); Education Programme for Indonesian Youths (Tokyo, Kamakura, Yaizu); Joint Japanese-Philippine performances of the opera Lord Takayama Ukon (Tokyo, Kanazawa, Kyoto, Okinawa, Osaka, and elsewhere); "Robot Seminar" for children in 2003 (Malaysia); 12th Singapore-Kagoshima Conference (Singapore)

July: International Exhibition on ASEAN Contemporary Art (Tokyo); ASEAN Contemporary Arts Exhibition (Fukuoka); Asian Cartoon Exhibition (comics) (Jakarta); Exchange program for young people from Ichikawa City (Indonesia)

August: Performances of rakugo (comic monologue) in English (Philippines and Malaysia); Yosakoi Festival (Indonesia); Shadow Play "Mochi Mochi Tree" ASEAN Tour 2003 (Brunei, Myanmar, Thailand, Lao PDR, Cambodia)

September: Asia Music Festival 2003 (Tokyo); Performances of outdoor fire-lit noh (Takigi-noh) (Vietnam); The 30th Ship for Southeast Asian Youth Programme (ASEAN countries); Summer courses for students to experience other cultures (Padjadjaran University, Indonesia)

October: Japan-ASEAN Security Dialogue (Singapore); International symposium on the conservation of the Angkor monument sites (Tokyo); 29th ASEAN-Japan Business Meeting (Philippines)

November: Asia-Pacific Journalists Meeting (Tokyo); Asia-Pacific Youth Forum for Community Development (Cambodia); Street performances (Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia); Exhibition of Japanese prints (Singapore)

December: Japan-ASEAN Commemorative Summit (Tokyo); Japan-ASEAN Pop Music Concert (Yokohama); Japan-ASEAN Joint Dance Performance "Rainbow of Dance part 8" (Tokyo); Japan-ASEAN High School Students Exchange Project (Tokyo); Conference on global warming and infectious diseases (Miyagi); Southeast Asia Film Festival (Tokyo)

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Related Web Sites
ASEAN-Japan Exchange Year 2003
"tsugaru shamisen" in Kids Web Japan

Copyright (c) 2004 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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