• Kyodo

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This year’s Fukuoka Asian Culture Prize winners have suggested that, given time, the changing face of culture could make the world a more harmonious place.

Indonesian author Pramoedya Ananta Toer, recipient of the grand prize in the 11th Fukuoka Asian Culture Prizes, said Thursday that Asian politicians appear to be considered illogical, while their Western counterparts are often seen to be more calculating and logical.

“There are many differences in modern Western and Asian cultures, but in centuries to come, perhaps these differences will disappear both in the political arena and in other fields,” Pramoedya said.

The 75-year-old writer, whose works address the issue of national independence as well as the emancipation of mankind, said he hopes that one day everyone around the globe will be able to live in equality and under a democracy.

Pramoedya’s views were echoed by the three other Fukuoka award-winners.

Myanmar historian Than Tun, winner of the academic prize, explained how his country has tried to incorporate outside influences — including Buddhism and elements of modern Western cultures — into its own culture.

“People are always trying to adopt new cultures, but they are also trying to preserve their own identity,” said Than Tun, 77, professor emeritus at the University of Yangon.

He said there is a feeling of ambivalence created whenever new cultural elements are introduced into a society because, while people in the host country may not be completely happy with every aspect of the new culture, they may still regard it as a “higher way of life.”

Political scientist Benedict Anderson of Ireland, who will also be presented with the academic prize, touched on the issue of information technology, saying there is a digital divide not only across regions but also across generations.

“I grew up at a time when computers did not exist, and I feel a big gulf with young people whose living conditions are now so different to those I experienced,” the 64-year-old Cornell University professor said.

He said computers offer users the chance to communicate easily with people in other parts of the world and allow them to “overcome national narrow-mindedness,” but warned that their proliferation also encourages superficiality as young people are reading fewer books as a result.

Hamzah Awang Amat, a performing artist from Malaysia and recipient of the arts and culture prize, emphasized the importance of preserving traditional cultures and said national leaders are responsible for protecting their countries’ own identities.

The four recipients are scheduled to take part in the prize presentation ceremony Monday as well as individual and group forums over the weekend.

They will also visit local schools during their stay in the city.

The Fukuoka Asian Culture Prizes were established in 1990 to recognize and honor the outstanding efforts of individuals or organizations to preserve and create diverse cultures in Asia.

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