Palacký University opens Japan Centre

Reproduction: Žurnál UP
Monday 26 April 2021, 8:48 – Text: Milada Křížková Hronová

Lectures, debates, workshops, summer schools, Japanese language courses, festivals, and exhibitions will be among the activities provided by the new Japan Centre in Olomouc, launched now by Palacký University with the aim to contribute to deeper knowledge of contemporary Japan and the everyday life of common Japanese men and women. The ceremonial opening will take place on 28 April at 5 pm, with the participation of Hideo Suzuki, Ambassador of Japan to the Czech Republic. With respect to the ongoing epidemic situation, the event can be followed on-line.

Events organised by the UP Japan Centre will be open to the greater public. The first one is planned immediately after the opening on 28 April. It will be a talk called “Hanami: Spring Holidays in Japan”. The word “hanami” literally means “flower viewing”. Shinobu Chinju, a Japanese woman who has lived in Olomouc for some time now, will explain which tree blossoms people like to view and how they enjoy this ancient custom all over Japan.

According to Martin Kudláček, UP Vice-Rector for International Relations and the initiator of the idea, the foundation of the Japan Centre has been fuelled by UP’s long-term interest in building a strategic partnership with Japanese universities, organisations, and the Japanese Embassy in the Czech Republic.

“Several cultural centres have been established at UP already. They help us become more familiar with the cultures of their respective countries, introduce foreign languages to our academic community, schools, and the public from greater Olomouc, and support language education at primary and secondary schools. In addition to the British and French Centres, we also have the Korean King Sejong Institute and the Chinese Confucius Institute at our university. Teaching Japanese has a long tradition here, and the Japan Centre will greatly complement the above-mentioned centres in accordance with the university’s strategic plan. It will enable Palacký University Olomouc to intensify the cooperation with our Japanese partners, while introducing traditional as well as modern Japanese culture to the general public,” he said.

The educational activities by the UP Japan Centre will rely primarily on Czech experts in Japanese culture and society as well as on Japanese citizens living in the Czech Republic. However, the Centre will also happily accept proposals for events and activities from the public.

“We are always interested in people who would like to give a lecture or lead a workshop. We are thus looking forward to any suggestions for cooperation. Any feedback is welcome, too,” said Halina Zawiszová, the Japan Centre coordinator.

She added that the UP Japan Centre would focus primarily on topics that would give the audience an idea about life in contemporary Japan. “During the year, we will try to choose topics corresponding to the seasons and related seasonal events. We’d like to focus on Japanese food and drink culture, celebrations of annual holidays and life events, the study and work life of contemporary Japanese people, as well as travel, art, sports, and clothing. Our workshops will be dedicated not only to cooking Japanese food and to typical Japanese exercises, but also more traditional aspects of Japanese culture, such as the tea ceremony, calligraphy, kimono dressing, and fabric gift wrapping (furoshiki),” Zawiszová commented.

Although the epidemic situation does not yet allow any other opening of the centre but on-line, all interested parties are nonetheless invited. The virtual opening ceremony will be held in English and will include a short concert and the announcement of a competition in haiku, a very short poetic form from Japan, popular worldwide.

“We believe that the epidemic situation will improve. For the time being, however, we suppose that our events and activities will take place on-line, at least until the autumn. In the summer, we plan to organise a summer school focussed on Japanese language and cuisine. We are planning Japanese courses for the public in the autumn; in addition, a weekend cultural festival (matsuri) should also take place. Apart from offering cultural programmes, food stands, and workshops at the festival, we also want to organise a sports day (undókai), where both the young and old will have a lot of fun at traditional Japanese games and competitions,” said the coordinator. Information on upcoming events is available on the UP Japan Centre’s website and Facebook page.

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