President, Amicale au Japon pour la Maison de la culture du Japon à Paris
There are an infinite number of ways to define culture, but I have come to think of it in the following way. Culture has been the fruit of human efforts since time immemorial to live better, and both the process and the product of the human creative endeavor to find a better life. People’s lives are dictated by the natural environment and the climate of their homeland, and the unique culture of each nation is a result of the historical accumulation of this search for a better way of living. As living beings, culture is inherited from our forebears, and we do our best to expand on it, before passing it on to the next generation. If this cycle continues over time, a prosperous, competitive nation develops, with the ability to procure happiness for each of its citizens. The age when economic development takes precedence over human lives is now past us. Culture is a crucial element in the development of humanity. Every people and nation in the world recognizes the importance of culture, and we must think of designing a society wherein culture occupies a pivotal role. The nation most likely to understand this is France, the world’s capital of culture. The cultural power of a certain place increases whenever it collides with the differing culture of another people or region, and this is evident in the case of France, whose culture has been honed through Islamic influences as well as those from Classical Europe, and which has also deftly assimilated the splendor of the Renaissance. In the 19th century, France began to absorb Far Eastern culture in the form of the japonisme movement, leading to the glory of Art Deco and Art Nouveau. The development of Japanese art and culture after the Meiji Reformation owes much to French culture, although by that time, elements of pre-modern Japanese culture such as ukiyo-e had already permeated French society. In this way, we see that cultural exchange was not simple, but a complex interaction between the two nations, much like a wave coming and going between the two shores. It is undoubtable that this most fortunate of relationships allowed both cultures to reach heights that would otherwise have been unobtainable.
Japonismes 2018 marks an attempt to create a new cultural movement with its nucleus in France, commemorating the 160th anniversary of Japanese-French diplomatic relations. With advances in transportation and communication, the world has rapidly become smaller. Japanese culture, which combines tradition and innovation, is making waves around the world. In this day and age, what kind of impact can contemporary Japan have on France, the heart of European culture? Whatever the answer may be, we can be sure that the impact will spread to the rest of Europe, before travelling even further abroad, eventually triggering further development in Japan. Japonismes 2018 is not about something happening on faraway shores—it is the first step in mapping out our future. I sincerely hope that the seeds sown now will allow beautiful flowers to blossom into the next generation.