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The relationship between Japan and France began in the early 17th century, when a Japanese ambassador and an accompanying samurai stopped off in Southern France on their way to Rome. They caused a stir with the locals. The infatuation must have been reciprocated because, 400 years later, Yokohama has dedicated a month to all things French.

Now in its seventh year, the Month of France will once again bring a certain je ne sais quoi to the city of Yokohama. From last year, L’Institut Franco-Japonais — the official French cultural information center in Japan — took the helm and began coordinating the event, with the support of the city’s retailers, museums, art spaces, theaters and restaurants. The festival has already kicked off, and will continue until July 15. An impressive array of events will be offered to visitors, covering the visual arts, dance, music and flavors of France.

Highlights of the month include contemporary dance performances choreographed and performed by the inspired Fabien Prioville on June 22 and 23, and Xavier le Roy on June 25. The Bordeaux Music Festival in Yokohama will be held again this year, now entering into its fifth year of festivities.

There will also be wine and champagne seminars hosted by certified specialists, and if you hurry you can catch a film on June 17 — the last day of the Yokohama French Animation Film Festival. What’s more, author and illustrator Julie Blanchin will be leading two workshops for children, focussing on illustration and cartoon-making, ensuring that Francophiles of all ages can join in on the fun.

“The Month of France 2011” runs through July 15 in Yokohama. For details, visit www.institut.jp/ja/evenements/10712y (French and Japanese only).

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