An expert panel has proposed increasing the number of Japanese teachers sent abroad to teach the Japanese language as a way of improving relations with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The proposal is one positive step forward toward a fuller recognition of just how many students in the ASEAN member nations — the Philippines, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam — are studying Japanese, and just how vital that is for Japan’s ties with this important region.

The proposal was not just about upping the level of Japanese grammar, however. The panel seemed to recognize the need for promoting a genuine exchange between Japan and ASEAN countries. This means not just exporting knowledge of the Japanese language and commercially driven popular culture, but also importing the culture of ASEAN countries.

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