The Japan Foundation Prizes for Global Citizenship (2016)

This year marks the 32nd anniversary of the establishment of the Japan Foundation Prizes for Global Citizenship in 1985. In its 32 year history, 100 organizations have been awarded. The Japan Foundation Prizes for Global Citizenship is intended to support organizations located throughout Japan that endeavor to strengthen networks among citizens both Japan and abroad, and to share knowledge, ideas, and expertise through intercultural exchange.

The Japan Foundation Prizes for Global Citizenship was established under the name of the Prizes for the Promotion of Community-Based Cultural Exchange, and renamed as the Japan Foundation Prizes for Global Citizenship in 2005.

In 2016, of the 133 organizations that applied or were nominated for the prizes, the following three organziations were selected as awardees. The recipient organizations were presented with the main prize (a certificate) and prize money of 2 million yen per organization.

Awardees (in geographical order)

Norte Japón (Cosquín en Japón Executive Committee)

(Kawamata City, Fukushima)
Hiroyuki Saito, Director
Year of Establishment
Website External link
Social Media Accounts External link
Image picture of Norte Japón  (Cosquín en Japón Executive Committee)

<Activity Outline>
Cosquín en Japón (which means “Cosquín in Japan”) is a South American folklore festival that began in 1975, when 13 groups across Japan gathered in Kawamata Town, Fukushima Prefecture to emulate the global Andean folklore festival originating in Cosquín, Argentina. The year 2016 marked its 42nd anniversary, which has expanded over the years to become Japan’s largest folklore festival featuring 180 groups of musicians from around the country playing continuously over three days. The participants include groups from not only Japan, but also professional musicians from as far as Argentina, Bolivia, and Peru.
On the festival’s opening day, all attendees, including the Argentine Ambassador from the Embassy of the Argentine Republic in Japan, enjoy a welcome parade put on by around 1,300 residents in Kawamata from children to the elderly. Twenty years ago, town’s elementary schools started teaching the quena (Andean flute) in the music classes. This learning and performing of the quena led to children of the Colegio Hideyo Noguchi in Peru experiencing a homestay in Kawamata. Also, when the J-Village in Fukushima was chosen as the location for the Argentinian national team’s camp during the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan, Kawamata held a welcome ceremony for the team, featuring musical performances from Central and South America. Auditions for Japan representatives of Argentina’s Cosquín Festival have been held since 1999, and Cosquín en Japón performers are frequently selected to perform there.
In 2006, a group of delegations from Kawamata, including the mayor and the town’s elementary and junior high school students in the quena club, travelled to Cosquín to interact with the locals through music. And since 2009, musical groups performing at the festival have been receiving the Embassy of the Argentine Republic in Japan Award for their contributions to Argentinian music culture and Cosquín en Japón.

<Reasons for the Prize>
In 1975, the Northern Japan South American Music Alliance Norte Japón acted on its love of South American folklore and established Cosquín en Japón based on the Cosquín Fesitval in Argentina; the Japanese version has been held every year since then.
Initially the residents of Kawamata did not accept this unfamiliar style of music. However, once the local children started learning the folk instrument known as the quena, and when Kawamata Town received the NHK Tohoku Furusato Prize in 1986, the townspeople gradually began to appreciate South American folklore. Then in 1997, the Executive Committee for Creating a Town with the Sounds of the Quena was launched, comprising mainly members of Norte Japón; and upon the request of the Kawamata Education Committee, it started teaching the quena at all elementary schools. This means that many of Kawamata’s youth can play the quena, having learnt it as an elementary school student.
In 1999, Kawamata started sending the winners of Cosquín en Japón to represent Japan at Cosquín Fesitval in Argentina, and it also began a parade of locals learning the Argentinian dance Chacarera. Now the Cosquín en Japón festival features 180 groups of musicians and 1,300 participants, with around 10,000 people gathering to attend what has become Japan’s largest folklore festival Kawamata’s population is 13,700 people, just for the record). Sending the Kawamata festival winners to perform at Argentina’s Cosquín Fesitval has raised the profile of Cosquín en Japón there. Recently, famous professional musicians from Argentina and other South American countries have been travelling to Japan at their own expense to take part in Cosquín en Japón, which the Argentine Ambassador also attends every year. There is clearly an ongoing lively interaction of musicians and audience members between the two festivals.
The Norte Japón members once taught the quena to a folklore group in Namie Town in Fukushima prefecture. However, the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011 forced the group to disband and evacuate to nearby areas. Despite this, the group continues to rehearse monthly, and every year without fail they participate in Cosquín en Japón. This is one example of how folklore has kept community bonds strong.
Kawamata Town illustrates how South American folklore has taken root in a community as a local culture to be proud of. It is considered as a leading example of community development through international cultural exchanges spanning 41 years of cross-cultural interaction and acceptance. The evacuation order on the Yamakiya District of Kawamata will be lifted in March 2017. To commemorate this new opportunity for further cultural exchanges through music, and to pray for the area’s swift restoration after the 2011 earthquake, we have awarded Norte Japón the 2016 Japan Foundation Prize for Global Citizenship.

<Comments from the Awardee>
Forty-one years ago in a small town in the mountains of Tohoku, we launched a festival of playing folklore from countries on the other side of the world. Cosquín en Japón began as a small music festival of 13 groups assembled nationwide, and now it has grown to become Japan’s largest folkloric music festival also featuring many musicians from overseas. The success of this festival illustrates how culture can be such a powerful force that even a small mountain town like ours can send out a message to the world. As an honored recipient of this year’s Japan Foundation Prize for Global Citizenship, we will continue to speak the global language of music and make our small town sparkle with its vitality. Think globally, act locally.

Kumamoto International Foundation

(Kumamoto City, Kumamoto)
Ryoji Yoshimaru, Chairperson
Year of Establishment
Website External link
Social Media Accounts External link
Image picture of Kumamoto International Foundation

<Activity Outline>
Communities are becoming more globalized these days, and its residents are showing a greater interest in international affairs and enthusiasm for taking part in exchanges with other countries. In response to this, the Kumamoto International Foundation (KIF) was established in 1993 to carry out international exchange projects at the citizen level that will revitalize and further develop Kumamoto City. For over 20 years, the KIF has been fostering friendly relations and facilitating international exchanges with sister cities overseas. Japan is currently seeing a rise in the number of its foreign residents and overseas visitors, while at the same time the world continues to face many issues such as poverty, conflicts, and global warming. The KIF is running the following projects to address and resolve these global issues and respond to the globalization of communities.
(1) The Multicultural Society Promotion Project
Based in the Kumamoto City International Center, the KIF offers multilingual consultation services and Japanese language assistance volunteers for foreign residents through the Kurashi no Nihongo Club, which is a Japanese conversation exchange group. This project helps Japanese and foreign residents to build “bonds” in their daily lives, and also makes Kumamoto into a multicultural society that is easy and comfortable for foreigners to live in.
(2) Global-citizen Education Project
With the aim of leaving a better and brighter society for future generations, this project focuses on nurturing the “vitality” of Kumamoto’s young citizens. The project includes the Volunteer Work Camp in Aso, which is for high school and foreign students and has been running for over decade by local high school students.
(3) Internationalization Promotion Project
The aim of this project is to make Kumamoto citizens more international through a range of initiatives, such as a comprehensive global college offering courses on the city’s history and culture as studied from an international perspective, and promoting Fair Trade products as an easy way to be more of a global citizen in your daily shopping.
(4) Cultural Facilities Management and Community Development Promotion Project When the 2016 Kumamoto Earthquake occurred, the KIF set up an evacuation center for foreign residents. Also, with the assistance of Recognized Local International Exchange Associations in Kyushu and the National Managerial Council for Multicultural Information & Assistance, it ran a disaster relief-multilingual and multicultural support center and distributed disaster information in many different languages, as well as patrolling evacuation centers to check on the foreign residents there. The Kumamoto Earthquake widely reaffirmed the importance of community bonds in daily life to help realize disaster prevention and mitigation. Through this experience, the KIF has chosen “multicultural power” and “community strength” as the keywords for its activities.

<Reasons for the Prize>
Since its establishment in 1993, the Kumamoto International Foundation (KIF) has been running the following four projects: The Multicultural Society Promotion Project, Global-citizen Education Project, Internationalization Promotion Project, and Cultural Facilities Management and Community Development Promotion Project.
The Multicultural Society Promotion Project provides a range of services for foreign residents including multilingual consultations, home visits and assistance provided by multicultural social workers, medical interpreting, Japanese-language support, and disaster-prevention programs for non-Japanese citizens.
This Project is run with the assistance of resident volunteers and outside experts. As of 2015, a total of 1,136 registered volunteers were providing Japanese-language support and other services. A range of professionals from various fields also offer their cooperation and skills to help run the Project’s many services, including: multilingual consultations (by key persons in the foreign community), legal consultations (bar association), immigration and status of residence consultations (by administrative procedures legal specialists’ association), medical interpreting (by those who finished medical interpreting courses), intensive Japanese language courses (by university professors).
After the Kumamoto Earthquake that struck in April 2016, with the assistance from within and outside Kumamoto, the KIF set up the disaster relief-multilingual and multicultural support center to assist foreign disaster victims. Its activities included translating disaster information into many languages or rewriting them in simpler Japanese, and patrolling evacuation centers to check on the foreign residents there. During the patrols, the volunteers would carefully listen to the concerns of foreigners at the evacuation centers, and then seek assistance on the Internet to meet their needs, such as asking hotels and private organizations to run a soup kitchen and provide Halal food. Kumamoto’s foreign residents also helped each other by relaying important information to others from their own country, and preparing meals and fetching water for the elderly.
The unity shown among foreign residents in providing assistance to other disaster victims is attributable to the close cooperation with the foreign community formed through the volunteer-run Multicultural Society Project, which all residents recognize as a base for foreigners living in Kumamoto.
The KIF’s response during the Kumamoto Earthquake garnered attention from international associations nationwide, and from July to November 2016 it held lectures in 19 cities across Japan on its disaster relief efforts. This is also how the KIF Multicultural Society Promotion Project has become a model for other organizations. Although the disaster relief-multilingual and multicultural support center was closed at the end of November 2016, foreign residents in Kumamoto still face difficulties in their daily lives. We have awarded the 2016 Japan Foundation Prize for Global Citizenship to the KIF in anticipation of its efforts to further develop the Multicultural Society Promotion Project, and to express our hope for the swift recovery of Kumamoto from the 2016 earthquake.

<Comments from the Awardee>
The Kumamoto International Foundation (KIF) is deeply honored to receive the 2016 Japan Foundation Prize for Global Citizenship.
We received assistance from many people and organizations throughout Japan that helped us provide support to foreign victims of the Kumamoto Earthquake, as well as many warm words of encouragement from around the world. The foreigners affected by the disaster helped each other at the evacuation centers by organizing things there and preparing meals. The 2016 Kumamoto Earthquake was a devastating incident, but from it emerged borderless bonds between people. We would like to share our joy in receiving this prize with all those who made it possible.

Iōjima District Board

(Mishima Village, Kagoshima)
Takashi Yasunaga, Director
Image picture of Iōjima District Board

<Activity Outline>
Mishima Village is one of Japan’s smallest municipalities with a population of just under 400, comprising residents of the three inhabited islands of Takeshima, Iōjima and Kuroshima scattered in the southern sea of Kagoshima prefecture’s Satsuma Peninsula. The village-operated Ferry Mishima runs four times a week and connects the three islands with Kagoshima City, where the Mishima Village Office is located; it is one of only three atypical municipalities in Japan that have their office located outside the administrative area. Located in the middle of the three islands is Iōjima, with a population of around 120 people living against the backdrop of the active volcano Iōdake that still profusely billows smoke into the sky.
In 1994, the international djembe player Mamady Keïta started teaching the djembe to children of Mishima Village as he himself comes from a similar small village in Guinea.
This exchange continued for several years, and in 1999, four children of Mishima Village travelled to Mamady Keïta’s home town of Balandugu in Guinea to meet and play with the children there. Then in 2000, Mamady Keïta and 16 children of Mishima Village played the djembe in Germany. Since first being introduced to this instrument in 1994 by Mamady Keïta, every year Iōjima has welcomed him and other famous djembe players, who visit the island to jam with its djembe group and teach the local children how to play. These exchanges have deepened the friendship between the two villages and nations.
In 2004, Iōjima opened the first djembe school in Asia, and the following year it started accepting students from across Japan. The students and local djembe group perform to mark important occasions on the island, such as when the Ferry Mishima docks at port, and to welcome and send off tourists, appointed teachers and permanent residents who are arriving and leaving there. The djembe is also played whenever there is a village event or municipal function, such as a respect-for-the aged-meeting. Everyone in on the island, from local residents to community leaders, come together to play the djembe.
The Iōjima djembe group has won the top prize at the Kagoshima Prefecture Junior High School Summer Music Contest for 12 years running, and the instrument itself is being increasingly incorporated into the local schools’ curriculum. It's clear that the djembe has become an integral part of the lives of Iōjima’s residents, and also a new source of international cultural exchanges.

<Reasons for the Prize>
The island of Iōjima in the Mishima Village of Kagoshima prefecture is well known as the island of the djembe, a traditional drum from Guinea. The djembe was first introduced on Iōjima in 1994, when Mamady Keïta, known as the “god of djembe,” visited Japan with a hope to interact with local children from a small village. Mishima Village accepted his request, and the international exchanges began: An active and warm friendship has continued since then, with Mamady Keïta visiting Iōjima every year and the local children also visiting Guinea.
In 2004, Iōjima started to incorporate the djembe into the local schools’ curriculum, and it also opened the first djembe school in Asia. The following year it started accepting students from outside Kagoshima Prefecture, who come to learn the djembe together with local residents. Many of Iōjima’s children and young people can play the djembe quite well and readily. For instance, when the local ferry departs or docks at port, the island’s djembe group assemble there to welcome and send off the passengers. Iōjima also holds an international djmebe workshop every August, which is attended by many participants from around the world. It is clear that the djembe has become an integral part of the lives of Iōjima’s residents.
The Iōjima District Board is a neighborhood council comprising 127 residents of the island. The Board has central roles in running the island: putting on traditional events, managing local shrines, maintaining basic infrastructure, such as garbage collection, and liaising between the village office, schools, post office, residential police box, and other organizations.
The Iōjima District Board also co-runs the island’s djembe school with Ken Tokuda, Japan’s only djembe instructor certified by Mamady Keïta. The school, which is located in a village-owned building, is a Mishima Village project to encourage students to settle permanently on Iōjima. The Board is in charge of the schools day-to-day running and involved in all areas of its operation, from accepting djembe students to organizing international workshops. For instance, the workshop participants also join in the island’s traditional events put on by the Board and interact with local residents there, and the outcomes of the workshop are presented at a social gathering held by the Board.
The djembe is now firmly rooted in the island’s culture, and the active international exchanges centering on this instrument have united the Iōjima District Board, djembe school and residents, with all parties interacting harmoniously and happily through the djembe. The story of Iōjima and the djembe is a model of international cultural exchanges in a small community. Therefore, in recognition of this and with the hope for further such exchanges, we have awarded the Iōjima District Board the 2016 Japan Foundation Prize for Global Citizenship.

<Comments from the Awardee>
Iōjima is a small island with a population of about 120 people. Since meeting the international djembe player Mamady Keïta in 1994, the Iōjima District Board has been mainly in charge of carrying on over 20 years of international exchanges with the distant West African nation of Guinea.
The Board is deeply grateful to receive the prestigious Global Citizenship Prize in recognition of Iōjima’s international cultural exchanges at the community level.
We would also like to express our sincere appreciation to Mamady Keïta and all others who have played a part in these community-level international exchanges through the djembe. The Iōjima District Board is committed to continuing such exchanges from hereon.

What We Do