Chinese exchange students at Shiga University have been interviewing local residents and posting the videos and articles in Chinese under a project called Interviewing 100 People in Hikone.
With relations between the two countries worsening in recent years, the students hope to “show the kindness of Japanese people to their family and friends in China” through the Internet.
The seven students involved in the project give Chinese lessons at a local nonprofit organization called Hikone Chugokugo Kai.
The group set up a website in December and posted video interviews with Chinese subtitles along with articles in Japanese and English.
They aim to interview 100 residents of the city over the next two or three years.
Apart from their language students, they have interviewed an art teacher and a glass craftsman so far, asking them about their work, hobbies and personal preferences, such as: “What is your favorite (Japanese) word?” or “What do you do to overcome obstacles that may come your way?”
The reactions have been positive. Readers are posting replies in Chinese about some of the articles.
“I didn’t realize they have different habits from the Chinese. It’s a new discovery,” one commenter wrote.
Another said: “There are many interesting people.”
“(I’m happy) we can show them a different side of ordinary Japanese people that you won’t normally see on television,” said 23-year-old economics student Wang Dan.
“I want to show my Chinese relatives and friends how kind the Japanese people are,” added fellow economics major Yin Yong Ming, 24.
The group decided to create the website after the Senkaku Islands dispute escalated in 2012.
Demonstrations were held in both countries and the Chinese students received many inquiries about their safety from parents and friends.
Although the Japanese around them are friendly and gave them no trouble, their family and friends back home found that hard to believe.
Taizo Tomamoto, chairman of Hikone Chugokugo Kai, saw what the students were experiencing and suggested the website in March last year.
“If the information is coming from Chinese exchange students, I think Chinese people will find it easy to accept,” Tomamoto said.
The project also provided the students with an opportunity to interact with local people outside the school.
“I think I can blend in well with the locals here. One of the purposes of being an exchange student is to interact with the people in the host country,” Wang said.
This section, appearing Saturdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published on Feb. 7.