Local interaction and nurturing personnel suitable to such efforts is the key to the future of grass-roots exchanges between Japan and the United States, experts in bilateral cultural relations said Friday at a Tokyo symposium.

The aim of the symposium organized by the nonprofit America-Japan Society was to discuss the past and future of cultural exchange as the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II looms.

“Creating ties between not only large cities but also regional heart lands would make a further contribution to promote friendship,” said Sarah Marie Cummings, an American living in Nagano who is dedicated to preserving local culture as president of Bunkajigyobu Corp.

“Japanese cultures remain clearly in rural areas,” Cummings emphasized to audience in Japanese.

Cummings, who is also a certified sake sommelier, called for establishing a working holiday scheme between Japan and the U.S. to strengthen citizen exchanges.

Koji Murata, president of Doshisha University in Kyoto, said the parties involved in the cultural exchanges need to foster personnel who will help promote international interactions at the local level.

“Municipalities and universities needs to collaborate to nurture such personnel,” noted Murata, an expert on American diplomatic history. “Grass-roots exchanges won’t gain force without supporters for such efforts.”

Murata added that it’s increasingly important to have views on such aspects as minorities and religions when promoting cultural exchanges in the private sector.

“A cultural exchange does not mean an interaction between countries. It’s conducted by people and at local levels,” pointed out Seiichi Kondo, former chief of the Cultural Affairs Agency.

Kondo stressed the importance of experiencing culture in person, rather than on the Internet, if one wants to get a true understanding.

The America-Japan Society was founded in 1917 as one of the first organizations to nurture friendly ties between the countries. Its past presidents include former prime ministers Shigeru Yoshida, Nobusuke Kishi and Takeo Fukuda.

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