Civil­ian ex­changes be­tween China and Ja­pan increase as diplo­matic ties warm

Global Times US Edition - - BIZMETROPO­LITAN - By Wei Xi

For Hiromi Hor­age, chief of the in­ter­na­tional pro­grams of­fice at the Bunkyo Gakuin Univer­sity’s Hongo cam­pus, this has been one of the busiest years of her career, with the high­est num­ber of stu­dents ap­ply­ing for sum­mer study tours in Bei­jing.

“Usu­ally we would have 10 to 12 stu­dents, but over 30 stu­dents came this time,” Hor­age told the Global Times, adding that the num­ber of Ja­panese stu­dents vis­it­ing China is of­ten in­flu­enced by re­la­tions be­tween­the two coun­tries.

“It is mainly be­cause of these stu­dents’ par­ents, which can be seen as a re­flec­tion of so­ci­ety as a whole,” Hor­age ex­plained.

And it seems to be the same on the Chi­nese side. Ac­cord­ing to data from Ja­pan Tourism Sta­tis­tics, in 2018 the num­ber of Chi­nese tourists to Ja­pan, ex­clud­ing those from Hong Kong and Tai­wan, reached 8.38 mil­lion and ac­counted for the high­est num­ber of for­eign vis­i­tors that year. Ja­panese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had paid an of­fi­cial visit to China in Oc­to­ber that year, the first visit by a Ja­panese prime minister in seven years.

Ayumi Nakai is a fresh­man stu­dent com­ing to China for the first time. She was greatly im­pressed by the res­tau­rants near the Chi­nese cam­pus and his­tor­i­cal sites in Bei­jing such as the For­bid­den City, Sum­mer Palace and the Tem­ple of Heaven. “I al­ready told my friends how amaz­ing China is,” Nakai told the Global Times.

It was the ma­jor sight­see­ing spots that left the deep­est im­pres­sion on

Nana Ya­hagi when she came last sum­mer, but she now has a much broader view of the coun­try.

“I [used to] think that Chi­nese peo­ple are self­ish, but af­ter I came here last year, I found Chi­nese peo­ple are kind and some are real gen­tle­men,” said Ya­hagi, who has now ap­plied for a study abroad pro­gram at the Bei­jing Lan­guage and Cul­ture Univer­sity for a year.

“Af­ter [last year’s] se­mes­ter ended, I re­ally liked it and I re­ally wanted to [come back], so I de­cided to study in this univer­sity again,” Ya­hagi said, adding that she wishes to use Chi­nese as a work­ing lan­guage in the fu­ture.

Kyoshin Sasahara, who is now in his third year in Bunkyo Gakuin Univer­sity, went to study in Min­nesota, US last year. “Af­ter I stud­ied English, I feel like I need to be able to speak Chi­nese as well, be­cause the pop­u­la­tion of Chi­nese [speak­ing peo­ple] is get­ting big­ger and big­ger,” the ju­nior stu­dent said.

Af­ter get­ting a neg­a­tive im­pres­sion of China from what he learned about its pol­i­tics and en­vi­ron­ment in Ja­pan, Sasahara said that he met some Chi­nese stu­dents in the US, and it was through them he be­came in­ter­ested in China.

“Af­ter I came here, I found China is not that bad. It [does] have some prob­lems but it’s bet­ter than I ex­pected,” Sasahara ex­plained, adding that some Chi­nese stu­dents from Chengdu came to meet him when they learnt he was in Bei­jing, and they had a very good time to­gether.

As for what im­pressed him the most over the past month in Bei­jing, Sasahara replied it is the peo­ple.

“How this many peo­ple can live in this city is im­pres­sive to me,” Sasahara told the Global Times. “You know, once you go out of the cam­pus, you see a lot of peo­ple, a lot of cars, and a lot of bikes. I don’t know how they live to­gether… when­ever I walk on the street, I feel un­safe be­cause many bikes are go­ing next to me and al­most crash.”

Leav­ing com­fort zone

Hav­ing taken Ja­panese col­lege stu­dents to Bei­jing for al­most 20 years now, Hor­age said while Chi­nese young peo­ple are very en­thu­si­as­tic about study­ing abroad, their young peers in Ja­pan of­ten pre­fer to stay in their home coun­try, be­cause they feel life at home is more com­fort­able. How­ever, both the Ja­panese gov­ern­ment and uni­ver­si­ties are en­cour­ag­ing young­sters to walk out of their com­fort zone.

Data from Ja­pan Tourism Sta­tis­tics shows that there was a quick rise in the num­ber of tourists go­ing abroad, surg­ing from 4.95 mil­lion in 1985 to 16.8 mil­lion in 1997 at the peak in the 20th cen­tury. How­ever, en­ter­ing the 21st cen­tury, the num­ber of Ja­panese over­seas trav­el­ers only grew from 17.82 mil­lion in 2000 to 18.95 mil­lion in 2018.

Sasahara added that com­pared with the older gen­er­a­tion, young peo­ple like him are more will­ing to go out, but “mainly for trav­el­ing.”

While young peo­ple are all in­ter­ested in pop cul­ture and like to talk about re­la­tion­ships, Sasahara no­ticed that Chi­nese youth are more cu­ri­ous about pol­i­tics. Ja­panese are not, be­cause he thinks pol­i­tics “is not close to my life.”

Ya­hagi added that af­ter stay­ing in both na­tions, she finds that Chi­nese peo­ple are more straight­for­ward in ex­press­ing ideas about what they like and do not like, there­fore she thinks the way Chi­nese peo­ple live is more suit­able for her. How­ever, her par­ents still have con­cerns about the en­vi­ron­ment and air pol­lu­tion in China.

Hor­age agrees. She said that while there are safety con­cerns, par­ents of Ja­panese stu­dents “are more wor­ried about the en­vi­ron­men­tal prob­lems in China,” and stereo­types still ex­ist.

While some his­tor­i­cal is­sues can­not be put aside, Hor­age thinks the best way, look­ing to the fu­ture, is to pro­vide more op­por­tu­ni­ties for younger gen­er­a­tions to get to know each other. “Some­times it might be only a few days in a for­eign land, but that could still in­flu­ence their whole lives,” Hor­age said. “Young peo­ple have their ways of look­ing at the world, and we should just pro­vide op­por­tu­ni­ties for them to com­mu­ni­cate with each other.”

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