Due to rapid postwar economic growth, Japan became an economic power. This increased its international role and there were voices both at home and abroad calling for a specialized institution that would introduce Japanese culture to the rest of the world, promote mutual international understanding and culturally contribute to the world. Against this backdrop, the Japan Foundation (JF) was established on October 2, 1972 as a special legal entity under the auspices of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Inheriting offices in five overseas cities from its predecessor organization, the Society for International Cultural Relations, JF has built its foundation while responding to changes in the international situation surrounding Japan, and has started projects that continue in the fields of arts and cultural exchange, Japanese language education overseas, and Japanese studies and international dialogue.

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  • The Sapporo Winter Olympic Games were held

  • The Okinawa Reversion Agreement came into effect

  • Joint Communique of the Government of Japan and the Government of the People’s Republic of China

  • The Japan Foundation (JF) was established
    as the successor of the Society for International Cultural Relations
    (Kokusai Bunka Shinkokai: KBS), inheriting its offices
    in Kyoto, Rome, Cologne, New York, London and Buenos Aires

  • 1972 基金開設披露宴での田中首相挨拶 15年のあゆみNo.25 30年のあゆみNo.2



  • Started quarterly publication of "Kokusai Koryu" (International Exchange)

  • 和文機関紙『国際交流』発刊
  • Prime Minister Tanaka visited Southeast Asia, and anti-Japanese demonstrations broke out in Jakarta, Bangkok, and other cities

  • Released the first volume of the "Handbooks for Instructors of Japanese"

  • Invited writer André Malraux (France) under the Special Guest Program

  • 1974 作家アンドレ・マルロー招へい 15年のあゆみNo.4 30年のあゆみNo.3



  • Held the exhibition "Toshodaiji: Treasures of a Japanese Temple" in France

  • 1977 唐招堤寺展
  • Invited Sir Isaiah Berlin, President of the British Academy

  • The Three Principles of Japan’s Southeast Asian Diplomacy (Fukuda Doctrine) were announced; funding of 5 billion yen for ASEAN cultural cooperation projects

  • Invited French cultural anthropologist and ethnologist Claude Lévi-Strauss




As interest in Japan grew around the world along with the country’s economic growth, a major Japan festival was held in the United Kingdom in 1981-82. JF organized the successful “Great Japan Exhibition: Art of the Edo Period, 1600-1868” as a core project, attracting 520,000 visitors. Since then, JF has cooperated with art festivals and cultural institutions in various countries to strengthen the introduction of Japanese culture to other countries. Meanwhile, in 1982, six projects were conducted in Japan to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the establishment of JF, stepping up efforts to introduce other cultures to Japan. In 1980, following the conclusion of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Japan and China, the Japanese Language Training Center in China (now the Beijing Center for Japanese Studies) was established, and to this day continues to provide a high level of Japanese studies and Japanese language education. During this period, the number of Japanese language learners around the world grew steadily, and in 1984 the Japanese Language Proficiency Test was administered for the first time in 19 cities overseas. In 1989, the Japanese-Language Institute, Urawa was established as a training facility for overseas Japanese language teachers.

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  • The Equal Employment Opportunity Law came into effect

  • Held touring performances by the Okinawa Dance Company
    in Southeast Asia

  • 1986_zenei
  • Published the English version of "The Basic Japanese-English Dictionary," followed by versions in multiple languages

  • Held the exhibition "Japon des Avant Gardes 1910-1970" in France
    Visited by 150,000 people

  • 「前衛芸術の日本1910-1970」展


  • Toured screenings of KUROSAWA Akira’s films and others in Latin America

  • The Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme started

  • Held a symposium in commemoration of the 15th anniversary of
    JF’s establishment, "Toward a Culturally International Community"


  • Held the exhibition "Japonisme" in France and Japan,
    visited by 120,000 people (France)

  • Prime Minister Takeshita mentioned international cultural exchange as one of the three pillars of his "International Cooperation Initiative" in his speech in London

  • Participated in the "Seoul Olympics Arts Festival" and held the first Kabuki performance in Korea

  • Held the exhibition "Japan: The Shaping of Daimyo Culture 1185-1868" in the U.S.

  • 「大名美術」展
  • Broadcast a Japanese-language TV course "Let's Learn Japanese"
    on 33 stations in the U.S.



In 1990, the ASEAN Culture Center was established to introduce Asian cultures to Japan; in 1995, the Center was reorganized as the Asia Center to promote two-way exchanges with Asian countries. Then, in response to the end of the Cold War and the intensification of Japan-U.S. trade friction, the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership was established in 1991 with the view of strengthening the Japan-U.S. alliance. Since then, in addition to existing programs with the U.S., many experts have been nurtured who serve as bridges between the two countries through intellectual and grassroots exchanges, and there has been constant support for joint Japan-U.S. efforts to address the challenges facing the world. In 1997, the Japan Cultural Institute in Paris (Maison de la culture du Japon à Paris) opened as one of the largest overseas centers through French-Japanese, public-private cooperation. That same year, the Japanese-Language Institute, Kansai was also established as a training facility for diplomats, public officials, researchers and various other Japanese language learners from each country.

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  • Established the ASEAN Culture Center

  • Invited Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel García Márquez (Colombia)

  • Participated and cooperated in the first "Japan Year"
    at the Frankfurt International Book Fair

  • 1990_tosho
  • The number of registered foreigners living in Japan exceeded one million, and the annual number of Japanese people traveling overseas exceeded 10 million

  • Unification of East and West Germany




  • The Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake occured

  • Abe Fellowship Symposium
    "Examining 50 Years of Postwar U.S.-Japan Relations and Policy Research"

  • 1995_abefellowship
  • Established the Asia Center
    (expanded and reorganized from the ASEAN Culture Center)

  • Held the first "Asian Cartoon" exhibition

  • 1995_2
  • Released the "Survey Report on
    Japanese-Language Education Abroad, 1993"
    The number of Japanese-language learners exceeded
    1,000,000 for the first time, reaching 1,623,455



  • The Nagano Winter Olympic Games were held

  • Held tour performances by the butoh dance troupe "Sankai Juku"
    in Russia and Eastern Europe

  • 1998_sankaijuku
  • Held the exhibition "JOMON: Origins of Japanese Art" in France

  • 1998_3
  • Held the exhibition
    "Africa Africa: Vibrant New Art from a Dynamic Continent" at the 2nd Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD II)

  • South Korea started opening the door to Japanese popular culture in phases


As globalization advanced and the presence of Japanese culture in the world grew, there were calls for a full-fledged international art exhibition to be held in Japan. Based on many years of experience participating in the Venice Biennale, JF contributed to the successful launch of the first Yokohama Triennale in 2001, attracting 350,000 visitors from Japan and abroad. That same year, with the terrorist attack in the U.S. and the start of the Iraq War in 2003, the strengthening of exchanges with the Middle East region, and in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, which struck the southeastern U.S. in 2005, the new agenda of “peacebuilding, disaster recovery and culture” began to be addressed. In October 2003, JF transitioned from a special legal entity to an independent administrative agency. Then, in 2006, the Japan Foundation China Center was established to promote youth exchange between China and Japan. With the Economic Partnership Agreements with Indonesia and the Philippines coming into effect in 2008, Japanese language training programs for prospective nurses and care workers also began.

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  • Participated and cooperated in the 400th anniversary of relations between Japan and the Netherlands; held the exhibition "Encounter between Japan and the Netherlands", etc.

  • 2000
  • International Symposium in Commemoration of the Kyushu-Okinawa Summit "Prospects for the 21st Century"

  • Kyushu-Okinawa Summit was held
    "Respect for cultural diversity" on the agenda

  • Participated in the "Sydney Olympics Art Festival"




  • Iraq War

  • Commemorative symposiums for the 150th anniversary of the Japan-U.S. relationship "Redefining Japan and the U.S.-Japan Alliance," "History and Prospects of U.S.-Japan Relations," and "Cool Japan: The New Japanese Cultural Power"

  • 2003
  • Started the Special Programs for Japan-Middle East Exchange;
    Mission for cultural exchange and dialogue with the Middle East

  • Spread of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome)

  • Transitioned from a special legal entity to
    an independent administrative agency, and began its first mid-term plan

  • Held a J-ASEAN POPs Concert in celebration of
    ASEAN-Japan Exchange Year 2003

  • 2003



  • 第2回横浜トリエンナーレ2005
  • The 2005 World Exposition, Aichi, Japan was held

  • Held a performance by the Kazenoko Theater Company
    in Indonesia and Timor-Leste

  • Invited Afghanistan potters for peace-building through culture

  • 2005 アフガニスタン陶工招聘
  • The Kyoto Protocol entered into force

  • The number of Japanese people living abroad exceeded one million


  • 2007
  • Held performances of Japan’s first Central Asian contemporary theater performance "Imitations of The Koran"

  • 2007_quran
  • Organized performing arts workshops for children in Aceh,
    Indonesia for peace-building through culture

  • The number of registered foreigners living in Japan exceeded two million

  • Established the "Nihongo de Care-Navi"
    Japanese-language study support website

  • Invited Nobel Prize-winning author J. M. Coetzee (South Africa)



In the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake, efforts to support reconstruction through cultural exchange were strengthened. In 2014, in order to build momentum for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the “WA Project-Toward Interactive Asia through Fusion and Harmony” commenced. A new Asia Center was established to expand and deepen two-way exchanges with Southeast Asia and other regions. Japonismes 2018, the largest-ever overseas celebration of Japanese culture, was held in Paris and other French and Japanese cities in 2018, with JF acting as the secretariat and commemorating the 160th anniversary of diplomatic relations between France and Japan. This festival brought the broad appeal of Japanese culture to more than 3.53 million visitors during the 8-month period. That same year, the number of Japanese language learners worldwide reached 3.85 million. In 2010, JF released the “JF Standard for Japanese-Language Education” to accelerate the spread of Japanese language education to enhance the communication skills of learners, and in 2019, JF also launched the Japan Foundation Test for Basic Japanese (JFT-Basic) for those who wish to come to Japan under the Specified Skilled Worker program.

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  • Arab Spring, pro-democracy movement

  • Participated and cooperated in the 150th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and Germany; held the "Hokusai-Retrospective" exhibition and other commemorative events

  • (2011)56 北斎展
  • The Great East Japan Earthquake occurred

  • Invited a group of young journalists from the U.S. to present messages of support to the victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake

  • 2011
  • Released the "Survey Report on Japanese-Language Education Abroad, 2009," and found 3.65 million Japanese-language learners overseas


  • Prime Minister Abe announced the Five New Principles of Japan’s ASEAN Diplomacy during his visit to Southeast Asian countries

  • Held performances of Sugimoto Bunraku
    "Sonezaki Shinju: The Love Suicides at Sonezaki"
    in Spain, Italy and France

  • 2013-1
  • Published the Japanese-language textbook
    "Marugoto: Japanese Language and Culture" in various languages

  • 2013-2
  • Tokyo was chosen to host the 2020 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games







The spread of COVID-19 around the world from February 2020 had a serious impact on cultural exchanges. JF has activated online projects and other initiatives, so as not to close its carefully built channels of exchange between people in Japan and around the world. At the same time, in April 2022, a reorganization was undertaken to develop the foundation’s activities more effectively and efficiently. JF’s network of overseas offices, which started with five cities around the world when it was established 50 years ago, has since expanded to 25 cities in 24 countries thanks to the support of many people.

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