Meiji University president sees new Japan-China relationship evolving through manga

Kyodo

Believing pop culture such as manga and anime will help establish a foundation for stable relations between Japan and China, Meiji University President Keiichiro Tsuchiya has been promoting bilateral exchanges through lectures on cultural topics at Peking University.

Efforts by Tsuchiya, 71, include a lecture series on Japanese manga and anime delivered at the prestigious university in Beijing since May 2010 and the establishment of the Meiji University Manga Library Reading Room there in November 2014.

“It is interesting that the most conservative and authoritarian university in China has a manga library,” Tsuchiya said with a laugh.

The 100-square-meter reading room situated in the building housing Peking University’s School of Foreign Languages now has 20,000 copies of manga, anime magazines and novels, with the bulk of the collection coming from Meiji University.

Tsuchiya contributed to the opening of the library, sending a large volume of comic books from Japan with the help of friends.

The lecture series has drawn many students who are interested in Japanese pop culture.

In the first lecture, Kunihiko Ikuhara, director of the globally popular anime “Sailor Moon,” talked about its production. The speaker was welcomed by female students at Peking University who offered a cosplay performance of characters in the series.

“The president of Peking University and other executives were overwhelmed (by the scene of the lecture.) At the same time, they must have recognized the importance of manga and anime in establishing (a sound) relationship with Japan,” Tsuchiya recalled.

Four months after the first lecture, bilateral ties were chilled after collisions between a Chinese fishing boat and two Japanese patrol boats near the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, which are claimed by Beijing.

However, the second lecture in November 2010, two months after the maritime incident, was held on a high note. It attracted so many people that some could not enter the venue.

A few students even tried to listen to the lecture by pressing an ear to the wall or door. Witnessing such a situation, Tsuchiya said he thought “a new relationship between Japan and China is growing independently from political situations.”

The latest lecture, conducted in May this year and the seventh in the series, was also popular.

Tsuchiya, who became president of Meiji University in 2016, specializes in legal philosophy and is familiar with a wide range of traditional Japanese arts, including noh, kabuki and ikebana.

He thinks that manga and anime can play an important role as a common culture of Japan, China and elsewhere in Asia.

“I wonder how (the) next generations who did not experience war will create the future Japan-China relationship. Manga and anime will be its foundation,” the scholar said.