We recently got the chance to speak with the PR Coordinator for the Japan Foundation here in Sydney, Jessica Chow. Throughout our interview with Jessica we discussed the Japan Foundation itself, the upcoming annual Japanese Film Festival and of course Japanese Culture in general. For the full scoop on the Japan Foundation and the wonderful world of Japanese Culture please read on for the complete interview.
S30: Thank you for the taking the time out to speak with us, could you tell us a little about what you do for the Japan Foundation?
JPF: Thank you for the invitation. As the Public Relations Coordinator, I share Japanese culture to those living in Australia, and help build connections between them through promoting The Japan Foundation, Sydney’s array of events and programs.
S30: For those out of the know, what exactly is the Japan Foundation and what sort of work do you guys do?
JPF: The Japan Foundation, Sydney is a cultural organisation dedicated to ‘Bringing Japan to You’, so we share all things cool, quirky and traditional from Japan with Australia. We run programs and events, from art exhibitions in our gallery to flying in academics from Japan for intellectual exchange with our grants. For those who want to be involved in sharing Japanese culture and meeting like-minded people, we offer volunteering opportunities. Of course, we also hold the world’s largest Japanese film festival outside of Japan every year!
S30: What sort of Japanese cultural events do you have coming up in the future?
JPF: You’ll also be eager to hear about the Japanese Film Festival (JFF) where we bring Japan’s latest films from the box office to an ever-growing audience. So that more people can enjoy Japanese Films, the JFF is expanding into 2 new cities, Adelaide and Auckland, and 4 new venues to include Parramatta and Fremantle. We also run a small program in regional areas, so those interested should definitely find out about their closest JFF is.
Our gallery, library and other facilities will reopen this October after we move into our new office at Central Park. We can’t wait to start planning art exhibitions, cultural workshops and other interesting talk events in our new space.
S30: For the past 18 years the Japan Foundation has hosted an annual Japanese Film Festival, how important is this event and what does it mean to JPF?
JPF: The Japanese Film Festival plays an important role in bringing a diverse group of people together to celebrate Japanese culture. Films are gateways into Japanese culture and language that can otherwise be hard to access in Australia. They offer a glimpse into the interesting lives of Japanese people which we hope will fuel their curiosity and start conversations about Japanese culture.
Lovers of Japan look forward to the Festival each year because this is one of the rare chances they can watch Japanese films on the big screen. Among our audience, we have eager Japanese learners who use this opportunity to put their skills to practice and strengthen their passion for the language.
The Japan Foundation, Sydney continues running the Japanese Film Festival because audiences gather to enjoy the different facets of Japan it offers and encourages the discussions that spark over a film between people, even between strangers.
S30: The next Japanese Film Festival is set to tour nationally between October and December of this year, what can we expect from this year’s event?
JPF: Not only is the JFF expanding to new venues this year, but the number of films in this year’s line-up has also increased, particularly for Sydney and Melbourne. In terms of programming, a great selection of films was released in Japan, so film buffs can look forward to it. We’re also expecting special guests, but details are still a secret for now.
S30: Could you give us any hints for this year’s line-up for the Japanese Film Festival?
JPF: Anime fans will be excited to hear that the live-action trilogy Rurouni Kenshin is in the main line-up. Tickets sold amazingly fast when we screened the original title two years ago, so we know that the trilogy will be a big hit. Other films are yet to be announced but we know our audience’s love affair with food, and laughter so that’s your clue. Stay tuned for our official announcement!
S30: Now I know that the Japan Foundation has brought a lot of Japanese guests to Australia for events over the years, including for the SMASH! convention that just passed. What work goes into bringing these guests down under and how is the decision made on which guests will appear?
JPF: SMASH! decides which guests to invite from Japan through their own networks, and we support them financially to make it happen because they create connections between fans in Japan and Australia.
S30: Is there any challenges that you are faced with when bringing Japanese culture to Australian audiences?
JPF: There are always challenges when introducing a foreign concept to a new audience. We always consider possible misinterpretations when translating uniquely Japanese concepts to Western thinking. At last year’s JFF we screened the bizarre superhero film, HK: Forbidden Hero, where the main character gains superhuman powers when wearing a pair of ladies’ panties on his head. With this type of film, there’s a risk of offending someone but sometimes we need to have faith in our audience.
S30: Japanese culture is wildly different from that of Australia and most other countries in fact, what do you think it is about Japanese culture that endears itself so much with the rest of the world?
JPF: I’m not an expert but I think as non-Japanese, we’re attracted to Japanese philosophy, the root of their dynamic culture. Derived and adapted from foreign philosophies in the East and West, their philosophy is embodied in their aesthetic designs and works, and can be seen reflected through the Japanese language and interactions with the Japanese community. Based on their values and thoughts, they developed performing arts unique to Japan such as Kabuki, and created Japanese pop culture like anime and manga, which many Australians enjoy today.
S30: On a more personal note, what does Japanese culture mean to you?
JPF: I find that practical simplicity in Japanese culture is very inspiring in an age where environmental sustainability is a major concern. The concept of ‘mottainai’, literally translated as ‘what a waste’, encourages us to treasure nature, our resources and live sustainably. This is transferred to Japan’s aesthetically beautiful but minimalist designs reflected in Japanese architecture and art, and even in the way they prepare food! Japanese culture possesses beautiful elements that aren’t visible on the surface, and I hope to share this with others through my work at The Japan Foundation, Sydney.
S30: Finally is there anything you’d like to say to our readers who may be interested in the Japan Foundation or Japanese culture in general?
JPF: If you’d like to know more about Japanese culture, The Japan Foundation, Sydney offers a variety of Japan-related events and programs, as well as educational online resources. Simply visit our website at www.jpf.org.au or keep in touch via our social media platforms!
Special thanks to Jessica Chow of the Japan Foundation for taking her time out to answer our questions. For more information on the Japanese Film Festival discussed in the interview check out www.japanesefilmfestival.net. Please leave us know your thoughts on this interview in the comments section below.