Hatoyama visits Expo for ‘Japan Week’ start

SHANGHAI (Kyodo) The Shanghai World Expo marked “Japan Day” on Saturday, commencing a weeklong series of events to introduce traditional and contemporary Japanese arts and culture to visitors from China and other parts of the world.

“I hope the Shanghai Expo will contribute to ensuring world peace and strengthening cooperation between Japan and China,” said former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who is visiting the Expo as special envoy for new Prime Minister Naoto Kan, at a ceremony to mark Japan’s national pavilion day.

Referring to an agreement that he made with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in late May to set up a “hotline” between Beijing and Tokyo, Hatoyama voiced confidence that the world’s second- and third-largest economies will boost ties through such a channel.

“I’m sorry that I stepped down as prime minister” earlier this month, Hatoyama said, indicating regret that he did not come to Shanghai in the capacity of prime minister.

Hatoyama’s Shanghai-born wife, Miyuki, clad in a kimono, and political and business leaders including former Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura, took part in the ceremony.

During talks with Chinese State Councilor Liu Yandong, Hatoyama stressed the importance of promoting youth exchanges as a way of enhancing bilateral relations.

The seven-day “Japan Week” comes ahead of Tokyo’s easing of visa regulations for individual Chinese tourists from July 1, a step Tokyo hopes will significantly increase Chinese visitors to the country.

Hatoyama is scheduled to visit the Japan Pavilion, the China Pavilion, the Japan Industry Pavilion and the Osaka Pavilion before attending an event involving Japanese singer Shinji Tanimura, who teaches at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music.

Japan Week features a packed schedule of events, ranging from folk dancing and live performances of classical instruments such as the “koto” harp, shamisen, Noh flute and “taiko” drum, to shows of video games, animation, “manga” comic books, fashion and contemporary music and movies.

In a move to highlight exchanges between Japan and China in ancient times, a replica of a ship used in Japan’s “Kento-shi” missions to China during the Tang Dynasty, which led to the import of Chinese culture, sailed Saturday afternoon on the Huangpu River that runs through the expo site.

In the evening, Japanese model Anne and actress Tetsuko Kuroyanagi were to join an event to launch the Japan International Contents Festival, or “CoFesta,” aimed at introducing Japanese youth culture.

Japanese officials expressed hope that young people from China and other parts of the world will “feel and learn” Japanese culture through the scheduled events and the Japanese pavilions.

“We would like visitors from China and elsewhere to experience Japan’s pop culture, the latest science and technology, and other attractions of Japan,” said Atsuhiko Hatano, minister for commercial affairs at the Japanese Embassy in Beijing.

“Japan will ease visa regulations for individual Chinese tourists from July 1. We hope the Shanghai Expo, especially Japan Week, will be a driving force in increasing the number of Chinese tourists to Japan and bringing the two countries closer,” Hatano said in Shanghai.

With the theme “Better City, Better Life,” the Shanghai Expo, which opened to the public May 1, will run through Oct. 31.