Interview with Mr.Shigeki Yamada, Deputy Director (Nagoya City, Aichi Prefecture) and Mr.Joe Fujishima, Assistant Director CLAIR Sydney office (Aomori Prefecture) about “CLAIR” participation in the Matsuri Japan Festival on 8 December.
“Have you ever heard of CLAIR?”
What does CLAIR do in Australia?
Mr. Yamada and Mr. Fujishima: CLAIR was established in 1988 as a cooperative organisation of local Japanese authorities and this Sydney office opened in October 1994 to cover Australia and New Zealand. CLAIR’s main roles include contributing to local authorities’ international activities and sister city exchanges, and promoting the JET Programme, a programme that enables university graduates from Australia and New Zealand to teach English or work in a local authority in Japan.
The staff of the Sydney office from Japan are posted from Aomori Prefecture, Tokyo Metropolis, Wakayama Prefecture, Kochi Prefecture, Nagoya City, Kurihara City and the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications. These posted staff are able to meet officials from other organisations, which broadens their network and is a really good experience for them.
“Lifelong memories money cannot buy but anyone can grasp”
What can CLAIR do because it is a local-level institution as opposed to being at the national level?
Mr. Yamada and Mr. Fujishima: We think that the best part of exchanges at the local level is the people-to-people interactions. The concept of grassroots exchange is exactly what we help to foster. For example, an exchange student not only experiences the student life in Australia but also interacts with fellow students, and notices the differences in classes and the student-to-student and student-to-teacher relationship. This will be an inspiration for them and, when they return back to Japan, will leave with the feeling that “I am certainly coming back to Australia.” I reckon this will become a lifelong, treasured memory. Seeing such amazing experiences, even if language is an issue, gives us a ton of motivation and can only be possible because people are connected together. I think these types of memories are what local authorities can provide.
“Snow, Sakura, Japanese Culture and Food”
From your experience of living in Australia, what are Australians interested in about Japan?
Mr. Yamada and Mr. Fujishima: We promote Japan at a number of local events and regularly get asked about Japan’s snow, sakura, culture and food. The interest in ski trips, other types of tourism and Japanese food goes beyond what we imagined.
We have also noticed that a large number of students study Japanese as their second language option. We didn’t expect this many schools with Japanese classes. Australians are also exposed to Japan from an early age. We regularly hear stories of Australians who are studying Japanese language gaining an interest in Japanese culture. There are also a lot of people who keep studying Japanese language because of Japanese culture. We get the sense that Japan is more popular than what we thought. At CLAIR, we hope to share this with people in Japan and be a bridge between the two countries.
“Snippets for those attending the Matsuri”
Which Prefectures and what will you promote at CLAIR’s booth this year?
Mr. Yamada and Mr. Fujishima: This year we have four organisations representing Taito Ward in Tokyo, Kansai (Osaka City, Kobe City and Sakai City); Fukuoka Prefecture, Oita Prefecture and Kobe City will host 2019 Rugby World Cup games, so will have a rugby focus. It is very exciting that Japan will host the 2019 Rugby World Cup, 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games and the 2021 World Masters Games (WMG) Kansai. The WMG was hosted in Auckland, New Zealand last year and Japan will be the first Asian nation to host.
This year CLAIR will also promote the regions of Japan. We hope that, like last year, a number of people come and our brochures run out quickly. We look forward to meeting everyone at the Matsuri and invite you to check us out.
“Appreciation to Australia”
The theme for this year’s Matsuri is “『ありがとう』～appreciation～”. What would you personally like to express to Australians?
Mr. Yamada and Mr. Fujishima: We both came to the Sydney office in April last year. For the both of us, Sydney is the first place we have worked overseas. In Sydney, we get to have experiences and challenge what we couldn’t do in Japan. We feel Australians’ kindness when they take the time to listen to those who don’t speak English as a first language. We also regularly notice that Australians are interested in Japan and hold it in a good light.
We really appreciate that local authorities in both countries understand the importance and need for exchanges. We are grateful that Australian local authorities are very cooperative when Japanese local authorities from all regions of Japan visit Australia.
Interviewer: Tomoka Okuhara