Activity Report (1998) Preface - Background

THE ASIAN REGION, which encompasses an unparalleled diversity of cultures and ethnic groups, as well as immense human and natural resources, was hit in mid-1997 by the Asian Currency Crisis. The effects of the Asian Currency Crisis were felt throughout Asia and around the world. As a result of the currency crisis, the phenomenal growth of the so-called Asian Tigers was called into question with the re-examination of what has been termed 'Asian Values.' Although the currency crisis which literally crippled the major economic success stories of the region seems to have now passed us by, the idea of a re-examination of what is Asia and then simultaneously what are Asians in a global context seems to have come to the forefront of cultural and intellectual discussions not only in Asia but also in the rest of the world. And the Asian region continues to face numerous problems which are not easily solved by one country but will require an increase in mutual collaboration and exchanges at varying levels of societyamong the countries of Asia.

The Japan Foun dation, a semi-governmental organization dedicated to international cultural exchange, founded in 1990 the ASEAN Cultural Center with the purpose of introducing the cultures of Southeast Asia to Japan. The ASEAN Cultural Center carried out public education projects in various fields of the arts, including mounting public exhibits, sponsoring visits of performing arts groups, film showings, lecture series, and established a library on Southeast Asia open to the public.

In October 1995, in commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the end of World War II, the Foundation decided to expand the ASEAN Cultural Center to include other countries of Asia and to add programs to promote intellectual exchange and cultural vitality in the Asian region more generally. This new entity became the Japan Foundation Asia Center (referred to hereafter as the "Asia Center"). The Asia Center comprises two divisions: the Culture and Information Division, which basically takes the role of the former ASEAN Cultural Center, now expanded to enhance understanding of Asia among the Japanese people; and the Intellectual Exchange Division, which focuses on promoting intellectual exchange and encouraging cultural vitality in the Asia region.

The primary objectives of the Asia Center are: (1) to promote mutual understanding through dialogue and exchange at various levels of society in the Asian region; and (2) to encourage international collaboration in coping with common problems in the region.

The Asia Center has a flexible variety of modalities for implementing these goals. It can for instance, initiate projects on its own (the main modality for the Culture and Information Division's Programs). Or, it may collaborate in the planning, implementation and administration of projects with other governmental or non-governmental organizations, both within and outside Japan. Finally, it can (through the Intellectual Exchange Division's grants program) provide funds in support of projects that are proposed by organizations in Asian countries in an open grant competition.

This Activity Report lists and describes in two parts the projects and programs that the Asia Center's Intellectual Exchange Division had initiated itself or in collaboration with other organizations and the projects that have been carried out by other organizations in Asia with the support of grants from the Asia Center. All of these activities were carried out in fiscal year 1998 (April 1, 1998 to March 31, 1999).

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