The Japan Forum

Connections to New Cultures Cultivate the Next Generation

Chairperson, Board of Trustees

Noma Yoshinobu

In 2022, restrictions on overseas travel were eased, allowing me once more to travel abroad. People who had seemed a little difficult to connect with via online meetings turned out to be jocular, even sunny in disposition when we met face to face. Such experiences demonstrate person-to-person exchange at its best.

Flooded as we are with information via the Internet and SNS, we are easily tempted to accept what we hear without properly digesting its meaning, making us susceptible to the biases and preconceptions of others. I was reminded, upon resuming travel abroad after a long interval, how important it is to gain information through direct personal experience.

Since its founding, the publishing company Kodansha has pursued the corporate objective of providing information we describe as “omoshirokute, tame ni naru” (literally, “interesting and useful”), which sounds rather prosaic in direct translation. How to get across to the world what that phrase means to us in the company has long been a challenge. In 2021, we collaborated with an American consulting company, and finally came up with the slogan: “Inspire Impossible Stories.” Why we worked with this overseas company was precisely because their staff did not know anything about Kodansha. Beginning with zero preconceptions, they interviewed more than 100 people connected with Kodansha regarding the essence of the company. And together we arrived at the English catch-phrase that would capture the direction Kodansha would take.

The Japan Forum is mainly engaged in programs aimed at junior and senior high school students, such as projects for exchange involving dance and the arts. Particularly in young people who are known as “digital natives” and who are inseparable from the Internet and SNS, we want them to cultivate the capacity to face squarely what is before them and learn to grasp issues at their core. Over time, whenever different cultures have come together, the meeting points of their interaction are the scene of all sorts of changes and reactions. From that interaction new values have come forth, talents have flourished, new culture has emerged and developed. Exchange among young people can provide the opportunity for such growth and development.

We know that where people learn and what they learn will change from one era to the next. TJF will go on creating places where new values and new culture can be created.

In 2022, TJF marked its thirty-fifth anniversary. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all who have encouraged us in this endeavor and look forward to your continued goodwill and support.

Toward the Creation
of New Values and Culture
through Exchange


Sato Gun-ei

The Japan Forum marked its thirty-fifth anniversary in 2022. Throughout these three and a half decades, the foundation has created and implemented opportunities for exchange among young people of diverse backgrounds, ways of thinking, and means of expression who will shoulder the future.

Exchange activities for young people are of especially great importance in these times. The frameworks of the world are in a great time of transition. Events of widespread and unanticipated impact, such as the pandemic ensuing from the spread of COVID-19 and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, are unfolding. The values underpinning democracy, international peace and cooperation, and other ideals are in flux. Efforts toward the reestablishment of a stable world order are urgently needed.

When we turn our attention to history, we can see how important it is, in our relationships with the diverse others around us, to recognize each other as equals and build equitable relationships. It is precisely at a time like this, when established values are being shaken, that exchange activities for young people are needed that will promote the rethinking of values and the building of new bridges of solidarity.

There is also an increased need for efforts to address the problems of the environment, resources, and human rights. Connecting with others and collaborating with them are indispensable if we are to succeed in solving such problems.

The programs we plan from now on should aim, not just to cultivate respect and understanding of diversity and differences but to encourage people to squarely face those differences and, while building new relationships based on equity and inclusivity, work to achieve the creation of new values and culture through exchange. Capacity for critical thinking, creativity, and social skills are indispensable in this endeavor. TJF’s programs, including “Mr. Tender’s ‘How to Live with the Things around You,’” “‘Performance Camps’ for Multilingual, Cross-cultural Exchange,” and “Nurturing Global Perspective” are aimed at the resolution of social problems and creation of new values.

We have been continuously discussing basic objectives to guide TJF activities that will address contemporary problems and we are in the process of setting forth the goals to be achieved in the next five years and the policies, organization, and programs for achieving them. From 2023 onward we will be moving forward steadily based on these objectives and plans. We look forward to your support and cooperation.