Contact Us

HOME > 23rd JAMCO Online International Symposium > The Role of International Cultural Exchange and Television in Disaster Prevention and Reconstruction

JAMCO Online International Symposium

23rd JAMCO Online International Symposium

February 2015 - October2015

Audience Perception of Japanese TV Programs in Asia and the Middle East.

The Role of International Cultural Exchange and Television in Disaster Prevention and Reconstruction

Tadashi Ogawa
Director of Southeast Asian Bureau and Director of The Japan Foundation, Jakarta The Japan Foundation

Policies of the Post-3/11 Public Diplomacy

The Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011 is a triple disaster-massive earthquake, giant tsunami and nuclear meltdown-that has ever been experienced in Japan and the world. Facing unprecedented calamity and fearing exposure to radiation, foreign residents left Japan. The number of international students has declined by 3699 from the previous year and the annual number of foreign visitors has decreased from 8.61 million to 6.21 million, drastically fell to 2.4 million. Rumors that crops from Japan were contaminated with radioactive was spreading overseas and negative view like “Japan does no longer fit to live”, “Japan has no chance of economic recovery”, “Japan is doomed” were expanding. The whole of Japan was disaster stricken area in the eyes of foreigners.

Japan confronted damage caused by misinformation overseas and the disaster stricken areas were devastated both economically and psychologically. As a first base to reconstruction, it is essential that we provide accurate data and show to the world that Japan is not giving up and have strong-minded to recovery from damage so as to stop all that was leaving Japan and restore the flow of people, goods and information.

The Japan Foundation, institution which play a part in Japan’s public diplomacy (public relations and cultural diplomacy) promote cultural exchange programs between countries. This institution had organization-wide discussion about the subject of post-3/11 public diplomacy and the role of cultural exchange in disaster reconstruction. Thereafter, we carried out more than 200 projects, large and small related to the Great East Japan Earthquake in line with the following policies during the fiscal year 2011.

  • 1) Promote understanding about Japanese society and Japanese people.
    After the 3.11 earthquake, Japan became a matter of concern in the world. We have to convert this crisis into opportunity and promote understanding about Japan. Present diverse aspects of Japanese culture without emphasizing the peculiarity based on feelings of nationalism.
  • 2) Contribute to international community by utilizing Japan’s experiences and knowledge about the disaster.
    Cooperate with international community and share experiences of the 3.11 earthquake so as to develop other countries’ disaster prevention education and disaster prevention culture.
  • 3) Make use of the above in reconstructing, reviving and revitalizing Japanese society.
    Provide opportunities for exchange between the disaster’s victims and international community with the aim to ease the pain of disaster, regain hope and vitality for reconstruction and strengthen local community tie.
  • 4) Collaborate in events held in other counties with the aim to support Japan or to mourn the lives lost.
    Cooperate in activities to join together with Japan through the medium of Japan Foundation offices overseas by providing information, know-how and place to interact.

Three years have already passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake, nevertheless, the Japan Foundation continues efforts to promote cultural exchange which contribute to disaster reconstruction and prevention. As the Sumatra-Andaman Islands Earthquake 2004 (the Great Indian Ocean Tsunami) occurred in 2004 in Indonesia, county prone to natural disasters, Indonesians are keenly interested in Japan from the point of view of disaster recovery and prevention. In this report, I will present prominent examples of cultural exchange programs organized by the Japan Foundation overseas office in Jakarta and then express my opinion about the role of Japanese television programs in this area.

Discuss the reconstruction of Japan in Islamic boarding school

First, I will show example of project based on the first policy “Promote understanding about Japanese society and Japanese people”.

I took up my post at the Japan Foundation overseas office of Jakarta in September 2011, six months after the Great East Japan Earthquake. Since then, I have been searching for earthquake reconstruction projects which also meet the characteristics and needs of Indonesia. The key to success of this research is the concept that religion play an important role for disaster reconstruction.

We tend to think that disaster reconstruction and prevention concern only the field of communication technology and social structure. However, they are also closely related to mind and culture. In comparison to Japan, people feel more the presence of religion in daily social life in Indonesia. Indonesia is one of the world’s largest multi-religious country-88.8 percent of the population are Muslim, 8.7 percent are Christian, 1.7 percent are Hindu, 0.6 percent are Buddhist, 0.1 percent are Confucian and 0.1 percent of the population practice other religion. The overwhelming majority are Muslim and its population adds up to 210 million. Indonesia have the world’s largest Muslim population.

Indonesia offer a unique Islamic education system. Teenage boys and girls are away from their family and live in boarding school called pesantren for training primarily in Islamic subjects. The number of pesantren students is estimated at 10,000 and several thousand. Graduates of prestigious pesantren play leading roles not only in Islamic world but also in world of politics, finance, academia, arts and culture.

During the three years since the Great East Japan Earthquake, staffs of the Japan Foundation overseas office in Jakarta have visited these influential pesantrens. We have held lectures around the theme “The importance of culture in disaster reconstruction and prevention-lessons from Japan”, accompanying with screenings of documentary concerning the Great East Japan Earthquake. These programs aim to share with the future leaders of Indonesia the process of Japan’s reconstruction and how important role culture (religion) play in disaster reconstruction and prevention.

In these sessions, we often use NHK Documentary Can You See Our Lights?-First Festival after the Tsunami. This documentary shows the process of realizing the traditional Tanabata Festival in Rikuzen-Takata city (prefecture of Iwate) during the summer of the year the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred. Mourning the loss of family and friends, people repaired floats and drums damaged by tsunami and accomplished the Festival which seemed impossible to hold at that time. The program is subtitled in Indonesian.

Those who have firsthand experience of reconstruction realize the importance of the local community “ties” for reconstruction process from disaster. When the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred, tsunami hit the areas suffering from increasing out-migration of young people and population aging. How should we reestablish the regional society? From the viewpoint of social integration, religious culture can foster feeling of unity through ceremonies and festivals. The above documentary Can You See Our Lights?-First Festival after the Tsunami shows the importance of spirituality in an easy way to understand to the young Muslims of Indonesia. This documentary is an exemplary material for explaining modern Japanese people’s conscience of religion such as repose of souls and invocation to people overseas unfamiliar with Japan.

In questionnaire conducted after the events, they commented that when the disaster had occurred; the Aceh Massive Tsunami 2004 and the Java Earthquake in Yogyakarta 2006, Japan was the first to come to rescue. They also showed a sense of solidarity as country where natural disaster occur frequently. They expressed respect for Japanese about helping each other without panicking when the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred. Moreover, some student showed interest in Japan, a desire for deeper understanding by asking whether this attitude comes from religion.

These Indonesia’s young people who have no relation with Japan in daily life and perhaps have never talked with Japanese before were touched by courage, self-control, tolerance, the indomitable spirit of the victims as they strive to stand up once again in difficult condition. Every time the session ends, I have impression that the young Indonesians are cheering us saying “Don’t give up, Japan!” On the contrary, I was deeply impressed with their sympathy.

Disaster prevention education by the young Indonesians via videos

As project based on the second part of policy “Contribute to international community by utilizing Japan’s experiences and knowledge about the disaster”, we held youth competitions around the theme disaster prevention education.

I communicated with the youth of Indonesia at university and the prestigious pesantrens. Their opinions “I want to help Japanese who came to rescue in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean Tsunami.” and “I want to do something for Indonesia, country exposed to danger of natural disaster such as earthquake, tsunami, floods and volcanic eruption.” show strong desire to contribute to the society.

The Japan Foundation overseas office of Jakarta took a view of these opinions and organized during the fiscal year 2012 and 2013,“Japan-Indonesia Youth Competition for Disaster Education”, joint program with the Indonesian Institute of Sciences in which young Indonesians were asked to propose model plan for disaster prevention.

We consulted with the Embassy of Japan and decided that participants with excellent performance deserve a study trip to Japan which mainly contain disaster area as invitation program offered by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. The prize is designated to convey to the young Indonesians the knowledge about disaster prevention and reconstruction that Japan learned from the earthquake and encourage them to actively work on disaster prevention and reconstruction for their country.

Compared with the first competition held in fiscal year 2012 which gathered 556 applicants, the competition of the following year gathered more than double, accounting for 1276 applicants. In fiscal year 2013, the prize was given to 24 college students approaching the education on disaster prevention, selected from 1276 applicants. These 24 prize winners who were invited to Japan with the youth exchange project JENESYS 2.0 offered by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan were offered a chance to find the reality of modern Japan including the disaster prevention.

In an effort to convey broadly the knowledge about disaster prevention to Indonesian society, the staffs of the Japan Foundation used ingenuity in selection process for excellent performance. Applicants who passed the selection based on document and advanced to second stage were 26 teams, a total of 104 persons (each group is consisted of 4 individual members/ 2 male and 2 female). They were asked to create a short video promoting their activity relating to disaster prevention and to post on YouTube.

With reference to these videos, panel of experts selected final winners based on three criteria: 1) How solid understanding they have of the disaster risks (depth of understanding) 2) Creativity of model plans they proposed for disaster prevention (problem-solving skills) 3) How they express their ideas in the video (communication skills).

To share these efforts as widely as possible, we posted the videos of 26 teams on Facebook page of the Japan Foundation, Jakarta. These videos garnered 3,800 “like” even only it was the screening period. Using social media in selection process proved to be an effective new way of sharing knowledge about disaster prevention. We plan to apply this idea to other projects in future. This selection process using social media which is an effective way to share knowledge about disaster prevention with the society will be adopted hereafter in other project.

“Blinds’ Clue” is a video that left special impression on me:
Please access to the following address to watch all 26 short videos:

The videos created by applicants show the fact that Indonesia is facing risk of surprising variety of natural disasters. They treated measures assuming not only earthquake and tsunami but also volcanic eruptions, landslide caused by torrential rain, floods in urban and so on. The solutions presented here are diverse: evacuation drills for people with disabilities, children and the elderly, disaster education using animation and characters and fostering consensus with people of the community. These many sided measures reflect the complicated situation of this country prone to various natural disasters.

Finally, I would like to refer to the international role of Japanese television programs in disaster reconstruction and prevention from the standpoint of promoter of public diplomacy related to this domain in Indonesia.

It is demanded to share documentary programs about the experience of disaster and the reconstruction with the international community. As I mentioned at the beginning of this report, the Great East Japan Earthquake is the largest disaster that has ever been experienced where massive earthquake, giant tsunami and nuclear meltdown occurred in succession. Therefore, these experiences and the lessons could be precious resources for international community to save lives as many as possible in case of disaster in time to come.

The NHK Digital Archive of the East Japan Great Earthquake and Disasters collect and classify a massive collection of information concerning the disaster, news videos and interviews from disaster victims. These programs are reedited with the aim to serve as reference data for disaster prevention and disaster risk reduction toward the succeeding generation. I believe that making this archive available in English and other languages and sharing them with the international community is the mission that Japanese broadcasting have to fulfill.

Japan should collect and store videos concerning the disaster prevention and reconstruction from Asian countries, like above-mentioned Youtube videos by the young Indonesians and take initiative to form international network by encouraging Asian counties to set up digital archive for natural disaster. This is the role expected to Japan in disaster prone region, Asia.

*Links are for posted items. It is possible that some items are not currently available or are being edited.

Tadashi Ogawa

Director of Southeast Asian Bureau and Director of The Japan Foundation, Jakarta The Japan Foundation

Academic background:
Mar 1982 B.A., English Language and Literature, School of Education, Waseda University
Sept 2012 PhD, Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies, Waseda University

1982     Joined The Japan Foundation
Jan 2007–Aug 2011     Served as Secretary General of the Center for Global Partnership
Apr 2008–Sept 2011     In addition to the above, served as Managing Director of Japanese Studies and Intellectual Exchange
Sept 2011–     Serving as Director of the Southeast Asian Bureau and Director of The Japan Foundation, Jakarta

Selected publications:
1993     Indonesia-Taminzoku kokka no mosaku (Indonesia-Quest of a Multiethnic Nation), Iwanami Shoten
2000     Hindu nationalism no taito-Kishimu india (The Rise of Hindu Nationalism-A Creaking India), NTT Publishing
2002     India-Tayosei taikoku no saishin jijo (India-Latest Developments in the Great Nation of Diversity), Kadokawa
2003     Genrishugi towa nanika-Beikoku, chuto kara nihon made (What is Fundamentalism?-Covering the United States, the Middle East and Japan), Kodansha
2007     Tero to kyusai no genri shugi (Fundamentalism in Terror and Salvation), Shinchosha
Public diplomacy-Yoron no jidai no gaiko senryaku (Public Diplomacy-Strategies in the Age of Public Opinion)
2012     Sengo beikoku no okinawa bunka senryaku (Postwar United States and Its Strategy for Okinawan Culture), Iwanami Shoten

2000     Asia-Pacific Awards Special Prize from the Asian Affairs Research Council for Hindu nationalism no taito-Kishimu india (The Rise of Hindu Nationalism-A Creaking India), NTT Publishing

Past Symposiums

Copyright Japan Media Communication Center All rights reserved. Unauthorized copy of these pages is prohibited.