At a symposium in Tokyo on Sunday, 12 people between the ages of 17 and 25 from a dozen different countries exchanged views about their cultures and the things they experienced during a one-month stay in Japan.
The symposium was the final event of the 2012 Nihongo Summit (Japanese language summit), which brought young Japanese-language students from overseas to learn about and experience the country first-hand.
The young envoys arrived in early July and traveled to Oita and Miyazaki prefectures in Kyushu, where they held symposiums and engaged in home stays to learn about the Japanese lifestyle and indulged in sightseeing.
The nonprofit organization Japan Return Program has organized the annual Nihongo Summit since 1999 to help youths overseas who want to use the language for their careers.
Among the sponsors were the Foreign Ministry and the Agency for Cultural Affairs, as well as The Japan Times and Nifco Inc.
During Sunday’s symposium, youths from Cambodia, the Czech Republic, Bolivia, Jordan, South Korea, Brazil, Sri Lanka, China, Kazakhstan, Singapore, Serbia and Paraguay made short introductory speeches in Japanese about themselves.
The program was followed by a panel discussion moderated by well-known freelance journalist Akira Ikegami. During the discussion, the panelists shared their views on various issues about their time here and events in their home countries. It even touched on current social issues, such as bullying.
Amid torrential rain in Kyushu, Jordanian Mousa Mahmoud Abedalaziz Abuhayyeh, 17, said he enjoyed the precipitation because it rarely rains in his home country.
Cambodian Sesil Bou, 18, said she had no particular feelings about the wet weather as her country usually gets lots of rain.
In a discussion about historical issues between Japan and other countries, Yin Xinxin, 25, from China, talked about the time he watched a war movie at school. After viewing it, a majority of his classmates had hostile feelings about Japan, which invaded China during World War II. He, however, didn’t share their feelings.
In a discussion on identity, Park Ju Hee, 17, who lived in Japan until she was 8 but who now lives in South Korea, said she never faced any prejudice during her childhood but was teased upon her return about her connections with Japan, which brutally annexed the Korean Peninsula in 1910.