- SOCIAL SERIES
Emperor in Reiwa Era — 1st Goodwill Visit / Japan Emperor Strives to Encourage Young Indonesians
The Yomiuri Shimbun
6:04 JST, June 18, 2023
This is the third and last installment in a series looking at Imperial international visits in the Reiwa era.
The Emperor on Thursday emphasized the importance of “exchanges among the younger generation” ahead of a visit to Indonesia by the Imperial couple.
Speaking at a press conference on the day, the Emperor said he strongly hoped the visit would serve as an opportunity to deepen exchanges between Japan and Indonesia, especially among young people.
The itinerary for the visit underlines the Emperor’s passion for encouraging youth. The Imperial couple will visit Darma Persada University and a vocational high school, where they will meet with students currently studying Japanese.
Indonesia is known as a pro-Japan nation and has the second-largest number of Japanese language learners in the world after China. Many Indonesians work in Japan. “I’m happy to hear that many [Indonesian] nurses and caregivers have come to Japan and are playing an active role,” the Emperor said.
From fiscal 2008 through fiscal 2022, about 3,600 Indonesian nationals came to Japan as prospective caregivers and nurses under the Economic Partnership Agreement program.
“If [the Imperial couple’s] visit helps Japanese people learn about Indonesian culture, [our nations] will become closer,” said a 42-year-old care worker at Care Port Itabashi, a care facility for the elderly. The care worker was among the first group of caregivers who came to Japan under the EPA program.
The Emperor has championed young Indonesians from his 20s. From 1989 to 1997, as crown prince, he met annually with children visiting Japan as part of a delegation program at his then official residence, Togu Gosho Palace, in Tokyo.
The Emperor and Empress have acted in tandem on Indonesia since their marriage in 1993. According to the Harmony Center, the nonprofit foundation that hosted the events, the Imperial couple would use English to chat with the children. “The kids were always so pleased,” said the center’s representative director Shinya Muramatsu, 62. “[Those interactions] provided us all with great encouragement.”
Among the children who met with the Emperor during that period, one has gone on to become a member of the Indonesian Parliament, while another has become an assistant professor at a university. These individuals, among others, are scheduled to meet the Emperor and the Empress during the upcoming visit.
Indonesia, a major power in the emerging and developing Global South, has a population of 275 million and is currently enjoying a “Japan boom,” sparked by Japanese animation. “Doraemon,” which began airing around 1990, remains a popular weekly TV show in Indonesia. Voice actor Dana Robbyansyah 28, who plays the role of Doraemon in Indonesia, said many Japanese anime shows are easily accepted in the country due to their themes of friendship, family ties and helping one another.
Many Indonesians see Japan in a positive light, he added. Takoyaki and ramen noodle outlets are increasing popular in the country, and onigiri rice balls are available at convenience stores across the nation.
Interest in the Imperial family has been growing ahead of the Imperial couple’s visit. Yusron Ihza Mahendra, 65, who served as Indonesian ambassador to Japan from 2014 to 2016, said it is easy for Indonesians to understand the Emperor’s role in Japan. Indonesia is a republic, but each region has its own sultan, or regional king. Although sultans have almost no political power, they are viewed in a similar light to the emperor, in that they are deeply respected by locals.
Yusron said affection for Japan will likely increase among Indonesians when the Imperial couple’s warm personalities become known.
“Given that this is the first overseas visit by the Imperial couple following the Emperor’s accession to the throne, Indonesians will get the message that Indonesia is important to the couple,” said Yuji Otabe, professor emeritus at Shizuoka University of Welfare, and an expert on the Imperial family. “The visit will be an excellent opportunity to further deepen political, economic and cultural exchanges with Indonesia, which is playing an increasingly important role as a major power.”
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