In October 2022, the Japan Foundation (JF) celebrates its 50th anniversary. We would like to express our sincere gratitude to all those who have supported our activities and to those who have worked together with us in the field of international exchange.
Fifty years ago, Japan was in the midst of rapid postwar economic growth and was speedily increasing its presence within the international community. This was a time when Japan became the world’s second largest economy, hosting major events such as the Tokyo 1964 Olympic Games, the World Expo 1970 Osaka and the Sapporo 1972 Winter Olympic Games.
Against this backdrop, JF was established on October 2, 1972, with the purpose of “deepening the understanding of other countries toward Japan, promoting mutual international understanding, and contributing to culture and other fields around the world, thereby contributing to the development of a favorable international environment and the maintenance and development of Japan’s harmonious relations with other countries” (Incorporated Administrative Agency, Japan Foundation Law, Article 3). Since then, JF has been engaged in cultural exchanges with other countries in the fields of 1) arts and cultural exchange, 2) Japanese language education overseas, and 3) Japanese studies and international dialogue while responding to changes in the international situation surrounding Japan.
We have created this website in the hope that it will offer you an opportunity to look back on the significance of international cultural exchange and its potential future, while explaining JF’s 50 years of history and introducing the voices of those who have supported our activities in various ways. Unfortunately, it is not possible to cover all of our activities over the past half century, but key selections have been included. We hope you will take a look at as many stories as possible and experience the depth and breadth of exchange between Japan and the rest of the world over the years.
Over the past 50 years, as globalization has progressed, a better understanding of Japan has been promoted throughout the world. Today, for example, there are approximately 3.8 million people studying Japanese language overseas, an increase of approximately thirty times since the end of the 1970s. Compared to the past, when interest in Japanese culture was limited to specialists and enthusiasts, it is truly heartening to see so many people around the world interested in and enjoying various aspects of Japanese culture.
On the other hand, the path forward is not necessarily an optimistic one. Over the past two years, the coronavirus pandemic has drastically changed our daily lives and greatly restricted human interaction between Japan and the rest of the world. In addition, it seems almost every day the media reports the heartbreaking scenes of frequent natural disasters in various parts of the world as well as global events that have shaken the very foundations of the international order.
However, it is precisely in turbulent times such as these that the true value of cultural exchange is being realized. In an increasingly multi-polar and uncertain international society, it is more important than ever for Japan to strengthen its ties with people around the world. While many countries are increasingly interested in soft power diplomacy, competition in this field is becoming more intense. Therefore, we feel that we must work harder than ever before to maintain the presence of Japanese culture on the global stage in the future.
JF will continue to play the role of catalyst for deepening mutual understanding and trust between the people of Japan and overseas, and we will redouble our efforts to build good relations between Japan and the world. I would like to ask you all for your continued support for our endeavors.
Finally, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the many people who kindly agreed to be interviewed and provided a wealth of valuable information to create this website.
The Japan Foundation