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Fukuoka, which promotes itself as a historic gateway to Asia, has been hosting events to raise awareness of Asian culture each fall since 1990.

This year, the Fukuoka Municipal Government has declared September to be Asian Month and has organized a wide variety of cultural activities.

As part of the events, a weeklong festival was held at a plaza just outside City Hall from Sept. 10. It featured live performances by dance and music troupes from China, South Korea, India and Thailand, as well as cuisine from various Asian countries cooked at food stalls by professional chefs.

Taeko Yamaguchi, a 20-year-old university student, said she went to the plaza because she was attracted by the colorful decorations and festive sounds.

“I had no idea there was something official called Asian Month, but I noticed around this time there are all kinds of events focused on Asia. I think it’s great because, without even knowing it, we can come into contact with foreign Asian things,” Yamaguchi said.

A block away from City Hall, four laureates of this year’s 11th Fukuoka Asian Culture Prizes shared their views Sept. 10 about national identity and globalization at a public forum titled “Asia, Identity and Dynamism.”

The laureates are Indonesian writer Pramoedya Ananta Toer, winner of the grand prize; Myanmar historian Than Tun and Cornell University professor Benedict Anderson of Ireland, winners of the academic prizes; and Malaysian shadow play master Hamzah Awang Amat, winner of the arts and culture prize.

An award presentation ceremony for the prizes, established in 1990 to honor outstanding work by individuals or organizations to preserve unique and diverse cultures across Asia, took place Monday, and the recipients were also to visit local high schools Tuesday to speak with students.

Sunday was also the final day of screenings at several venues in downtown Fukuoka of more than 30 films from Asian countries, including China, South Korea, Vietnam, Iran and India. The films had been on show since Sept. 9.

“Because Fukuoka is physically close to the Asian continent, especially the Korean Peninsula and China, it has had a long history of cultural exchanges with the rest of Asia, so it is quite natural for us to want to keep working on promoting such exchanges,” a city official said.

“And the best way to do that is to provide citizens with the opportunity to come in contact with Asian cultures and mingle with people from other parts of Asia,” the official said.

Due to accelerated globalization, there is a danger that Asian culture might lose its uniqueness and diversity, and therefore it is all the more important to preserve these traditions and cultures, the official said.

As part of its efforts to promote Asian exchanges, Fukuoka has declared itself an “Asia-Pacific City” and pledged to work together with other countries in the region to promote mutual understanding and call for a peaceful world.

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