Japonismes 2018: les âmes en resonance
Cities across France will host events showcasing Japanese culture including ancient ‘Jomon’ pottery, contemporary drama and technology-driven art installations.
“‘Les âmes en résonance’ means ‘souls in resonance.’ This comes from the words of Paul Claudel, who was a great writer and served as French Ambassador in Japan in the 1920’s,” explains H.E. Masato Kitera, Ambassador of Japan to France.
Incidentally, 2018 marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Claudel who is remembered for playing an extremely important role in cultivating the admiration between France and Japan.
The name ‘Japonismes’ describes the wave of Japanese culture that swept across France in the 19th century and influenced French masters such as Debussy and Monet.
“The City of Paris will host over sixty expositions and performances of Japanese art,” says Kitera. “It will help French people rediscover Japan as well as enhance mutual understanding between us. Our common spirit and values will surely remain an important factor in the future development of our relationship.”
Largest Asian Investor
“As we celebrate 160 years since the founding of Japan-France diplomatic relations, our ties are better than ever – we call it exceptional partnership,” says Kitera. “Many Japanese companies are doing business in France and they have developed cordial links with communities and local authorities.”
Today, there are over 490 Japanese companies operating in the country. Casio, Konica Minolta, Horiba, NGK, VESSEL, Honda, OptoSigma and Takeuchi represent a host of industries where Japanese companies are engaged in.
“The majority of these investments are in the automobile sector, such as the Toyota-Renault-Nissan alliance, the electronics sector and the food and agriculture sectors. Other investments have been made in the machinery, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, chemical materials and information technology sectors.”
“Cooperation between our two countries is progressing in a wide-range of fields including motor vehicles, aircraft, nuclear, digital, steel and food,” explains Kitera. “Many products which are ‘Made in France” are the result of Japanese investments which have greatly contributed France’s competitiveness and export capabilities.”
Japanese company, Toray produces carbon-fibre products in France and exports under the ‘Made in France’ brand.
“In addition to the sectors in which Japan has traditionally been a market-leader, such as automobiles and machinery, I believe we will see an increase in high value-added consumables such as organic food and developments in the production and distribution of consumer goods,” says Kobayashi.
Uniqlo is a success story in France. The retail giant today has twenty five stores in France. The French market accounts for forty per cent of the company’s sales in Europe.
“The digital sector is an area in which both the public and private sectors in Japan and France are actively promoting,” says Kobayashi. “I expect innovative services to be created through further cooperation in technology through the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) for example.”
Fujitsu announced last year that it would invest fifty million euros over five years to work with France’s vibrant digital community. The company will co-create new human-centric intelligent solutions and has embarked on a long-term research and co-creation program with the French National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Automation (Inria). This partnership combines Inria’s expertise in AI-focused research and development with Fujitsu’s technology.
“By the same token, French companies such as Air Liquide, AXA, LVMH and Valeo are doing business in Japan,” says Kitera. This has paved the way for other French niche industry leaders to expand into Japan. Tier 1 supplier to the Aerospace industry, WeARE Pacific recently opened their four storey office in Tokyo through a partnership with Japan’s Yamaichi Group.
The ‘Comité d’Echanges Franco-Japonais’ (CEFJ) has been one of the most important bicultural professional networks of the CCI Paris-Ile de France since 1997.
“Many of our members are newly born starts-ups and the number is increasing,” says Noriko Tominaga-Carpentier, Managing Director of CEFJ. “Their success in France provides other mid-sized Japanese companies the opportunity to follow them or work together in innovative and technology. We organize round-table discussions in order for both the Japanese and the French attendees can compare consumers and buyers’ selection criteria, digital influences, and their own distribution systems.”
European Union (EU) – Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA)
ully concluded four years of negotiations on the EPA. With a population of 500 million, the EU is one of Japan’s most important trading partners and accounts for twenty per cent of global GDP and ten per cent of the gross value of Japan’s imports and exports.
“This agreement is one of the pillars of Japan’s growth strategy and plays a vital role in maintaining and strengthening a free trade system that has been undermined by the spread of protectionism,” says Kitera.
As the second largest economy in the EU and one of the most influential member countries, France plays a significant role in expediting the EPA’s implementation.
“This EPA is designed to promote trade between the two regions by eliminating tariffs in various markets,” explains Kobayashi. “More importantly, this partnership can be referred to as a model which simplifies regulations and we can expect the EU and Japan to play leading roles in establishing an international standard. The EPA also emphasizes transparency and rapid disclosure of information which will ensure easier access to respective markets for companies in both regions and will therefore contribute to more active economic exchanges.”
“I am sure that this agreement will lead to many opportunities for European, and not least, French companies. The removal of the wine export tax in Japan and the reduction of the Japanese sake import tax to zero will be one of the most conspicuous examples,” adds Kitera.
What lies ahead…
Sport symbolizes the strong connection between Japan and France. The Olympic torch will be passed from Tokyo to Paris following the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020 and the Rugby World Cup from Japan in 2019 to France in 2023.
“‘Japonismes 2018: les âmes en resonance’ should provide an opportunity to focus on both the building of momentum for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games and increase the number of international tourists visiting Japan,” says Kitera.
Third country collaboration is also underway. “I am convinced that our cooperation and collaboration will go beyond our bilateral relationship,” says Kobayashi. “Our two countries co-hosted an official side-event, the ‘Japan-France partnership for Africa’ at the ‘Tokyo International Conference on African Development’ held in Nairobi, Republic of Kenya two years ago. We confirmed the steady progress being made regarding Africa’s sustainable growth, peace and stability.”
“Japan and France share the same spirit and values,” concludes Kitera. “We have benefited from the intertwining of our cultures and the consequent interaction between our people. I want to witness even closer mutual understanding and exchanges within a wide-range of areas including economic, cultural, artistic and sports. I aim to take Japan-France relations to a new level, encompassing all aspects, even the spiritual. In this spirit, ‘Japonismes 2018: les âmes en resonance’ will surely introduce a new, more intimate dimension to our relationship which will help our souls resonate as one.”