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Exhibition Gives Visitors a Fresh Glimpse at Their Own Culture

December 20, 1999
Shinjukugyoen. (Amb. Alexander N. Panov, Russia)

Aoyama Cemetery. (Amb. Pierre Gramegna, Luxembourg)

The Prime Minister's Residence. (Ryutaro Hashimoto, former prime minister)

Osaka. (Amb. Leonard J. Edwards, Canada)

A photography exhibition titled Nippon: Taishitachi no Shiten 1999 (My Favorite Spot in Japan through Diplomats' Eyes) was held in Tokyo's Ginza district in mid-October. In reviewing the works submitted by diplomats from numerous countries residing in Japan, the event's chairman, Luxembourg Ambassador Pierre Gramegna, commented, "I have gained a real sense of the role of photography as a universal language."

A Fresh Look
The unique experiment of displaying artistic photographs of Japan taken by diplomats living in the country was first held in October 1998. It was so well received that a second showing was put together in 1999, this time with the theme, "My Favorite Spot in Japan." The show comprised 71 works selected from over 500 entries submitted by 43 individuals from 33 countries, including ambassadors, their wives, and embassy staff members. Works by former Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, who served as head of the jury, were also featured in a special display.

The perspectives of the photographs ranged from traditional landscapes capturing Japan's scenic beauty to casual everyday scenes. Among them were shots of such famous traditional tourist spots as the ancient capital of Nara in Nara Prefecture, the city of Nikko in Tochigi Prefecture, and Meiji Shrine in Tokyo, as well as youth culture in the hip Tokyo districts of Shibuya and Harajuku, small neighborhood parks, public baths, and stalls selling takoyaki (roasted dumplings containing octopus pieces). Gramegna hopes that the photographs, which presented objective yet warm views of Japan, conveyed the artists' affection for Japan. One of the fascinating aspects of the exhibition was that it gave Japanese viewers a chance to discover aspects of their country's landscape and of everyday life that they, as insiders, had been unaware of. The photographs from the exhibition have also been compiled in a book.

A New Form of International Exchange
The kind of interaction that diplomats in Japan engage in tend to center around rather exclusive events like playing tennis and golf. Gramegna says that this exhibition is very different in that it draws common Japanese people into the picture. The event's organizers are considering touring the exhibition across the country, and Gramegna is enthusiastic about the show's future. "I want to do it again next year," he says. "I already have more ideas for themes than I can count."

This new form of international exchange--using photography as a universal language to share perspectives on Japan--is hoped to play a growing role in promoting mutual understanding.

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Trends in JapanEdited 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.