Bridges: What has your personal experience been of working and living in Indonesia?
Takahashi: Many Indonesians are interested in Japan, and I often have the opportunity to experience the kindness of Indonesian people, which makes my work and life fulfilling.
With Nihongo Partners, your cultural section and Japanese studies, you play a number of roles in the Japan – Indonesia partnership. How did you manage during the pandemic and what are you focusing on in 2022/2023?
Since March 2020, the spread of the new coronavirus disease has imposed significant constraints on the activities of the Japan Foundation, Jakarta, as it became impossible to move across borders and hold events that brought people together in person. On the other hand, during this period, we have been able to develop feasible online projects and have seen the benefits of using the digital platform to enable our exchange programs to reach regions and audiences that we had not been able to reach before. In Indonesia, public interest in online projects is considerably higher compared to other countries.
When the Japanese Film Festival was held online in February 2022, the audience from Indonesia was one of the largest among all 25 countries where the films were available for viewing. Since the festival was held online, Japanese film fans from all over Indonesia were able to watch the films. With the recent improvement trend in the situation of new coronavirus infections and subsequent deregulation, from 2022 we plan to gradually revive our former face-to-face exchange programs and try to implement them in a hybrid form by combining them with the online programs. Several programs such as offline travel exhibitions “Yokai (Japan supernatural entities)” have now also been included in our agenda to be held this year in several regions in Indonesia. We do hope that the Covid trend in Indonesia will continue to show improvements in the future.
For our readers, please explain the ‘ghost’ exhibition run by the Japan Foundation?
The Japan Foundation has always engaged in developing understanding between Japan and the world. We organized a variety of projects in Arts and Cultural Exchange area, one of them is regularly conducting a traveling exhibition from Japan to the world. This year’s exhibition is “Yokai Parade: Supernatural Monster from Japan” which has been traveling the world since 2021. Yokai is a Japanese term of supernatural creature which is known since Heian Period (794-1185) through Nishiki-e. This exhibition explores the phenomenon and popularity of Yokai and invites the viewers to venture into and explore their profound world of mystery. Yokai Parade: Supernatural Monster from Japan will be held in Bentara Budaya Jakarta from June 17-27, 2022 and Sepuluh Nopember Institute of Technology Surabaya from July 12 to August 2, 2022.
What role will the Japan Foundation Jakarta play in the future to bring Japan and Indonesia closer together?
The mission of the Japan Foundation is to create opportunities to connect Japan and the world through ‘culture’, ‘language’ and ‘dialogue’, and foster understanding and trust between people, in order to cultivate the friendship between Japan and the world. We are convinced that fulfilling this mission will, in other words, bring Indonesia and Japan closer together.
How can Indonesia and Japan strengthen their partnership post-pandemic to the betterment of both countries?
Taking into account that the average age of Indonesian society is 29 years old, in recent years we have been developing programs that primarily target the younger generation, with the aim of expanding the base of people who are Japan-friendly. There is no change in this direction. In addition, Indonesia also has significant enthusiasm for learning the Japanese language, with 709,479 Japanese language learners, which makes it the second-largest in the world (according to the 2018 Survey of Japanese-language education institutions by the Japan Foundation), and approximately 88% of these learners are high school students.
Thus, in strengthening the partnership, support for Japanese-language education in Indonesia is essential. Along with the survey, we received 250 school applicants for the Nihongo Partners program – a program that sends Japanese citizens to secondary schools in Asia in order to support Japanese language learning – in Indonesia for placement in 2022-2023, which suggests the popularity of the project itself. The assignment of NIHONGO Partners is not only to support the educational activities of the local Japanese-Language teachers but also to spread the charms of the Japanese language and cultures through their learning support and cultural activities in and outside the classroom.
Before the pandemic, Indonesia has received the largest number of Nihongo Partners among the 12 target countries and regions. In 2020, we have not been able to send the Nihongo Partners to Indonesia, but since the situation of the pandemic has gradually improved, we were able to resume the project from last year. We would also like to develop various projects that will have an impact on people who were not interested in Japan and provide an opportunity to get to know our country as well, through projects related to arts and culture, and presenting the achievements of Japanese Studies research by Indonesian scholars to the wider public.