October 2018

Our monthly online newsletter,"L'ESPACE".
L'ESPACE is a diverse French word that means place,area,cosmos,and gap.

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International Cultural Exchange Associations (ICEA)

~Offering friendly cultural and sporting exchanges with people from around the world~

In Close Up this month, we introduce the International Cultural Exchange Associations (ICEA). Mr. Hiroto Homma, the proponent for the establishment of ICEA, is a former member of JICA’s Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers program. Upon his return as a volunteer in Burkina Faso in West Africa, he became involved in a project to invite judokas from Burkina Faso to Japan, which led him to found ICEA as a organization to promote cultural and sports exchanges between Japan and other countries. On this occasion we spoke to him and to Ms. Naoko Fujita, an account planner at Sunkleio TSUBASA Inc., a supporter of ICEA activities, about the “Burkina Judo Project” and the “Corporate Internship” program which welcomes students from Africa.

Mr. Hiroto Homma of ICEA and Ms. Naoko Fujita of Sunkleio TSUBASA Inc.

Please tell us what led to the establishment of ICEA.

Mr. Homma

While working as a JOCV volunteer in Burkino Faso, I met a Japanese judoka who expressed his desire to invite local judo enthusiasts to the Kodokan Judo Institute, a revered site of judo. This gave me the idea to establish ICEA. Just as judo is widely practiced in France and Belgium, it is also popular in the West African regions they had colonized, and many people in Burkina Faso practice the sport. In addition, untranslated judo terms are used, such as “Rei”, “Hajime”, “Hikiwake”, and “Ippon”, and so to a degree judokas in Burkina Faso show an interest in the Japanese language and the country. I also wanted to invite them in order to offer my fellow citizens an opportunity to learn about Burkina Faso. It was for these reasons the “Burkina Faso Project” was begun and I founded the organization to develop this project. I received moral support from the president and personnel of Sunkleio TSUBASA Inc., with whom I had done several video productions, my profession, and I founded ICEA within the company in 2015. Currently, all company personnel are ICEA members and together we undertake ICEA activities.

Judokas from Burkina Faso in Japan
©International Cultural Exchange Associations

Experiencing Japanese life through home stays.
©International Cultural Exchange Associations

How did the “Burkina Judo Project” subsequently develop?

Mr. Homma

We sought public donations and in November 2017, were able to invite five judokas to Japan. Three minors and two instructors from the remote West African country of Burkina Faso spent 2 weeks experiencing Japan with friendly meetings in elementary schools, home-stays, and of course practicing judo and attending judo matches. As might be expected, the minors at times behaved like typical modern children, such as playing with their smart phones non-stop when in a Wi-Fi hotspot, and being fascinated by discount stores. But on the other hand, a senior instructor was emotional and teary eyed when visiting Kodokan. The end goal of this project is to elaborate a documentary incorporating video recordings of their 2-week stay in Japan, presenting the esteemed founder of judo, Jigoro Kano, along with interviews of judokas from various countries. Upon completion of the documentary, Japanese subtitles will be added to the English and French narration so as to debut it both inside and outside of Japan.

Please tell us about the corporate internship program which welcomes students from Africa.

Mr. Homma

As a company registered under JICA’s “ABE Initiative” project, ICEA accepts intern students. The “ABE Initiative”, or the “African Business Education Initiative for Youth”, proposed by Prime Minister Abe during the fifth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD V) in 2013, offered to 1000 young Africans within the following 5 years the opportunity to study in universities and graduate schools in Japan as well as to intern in Japanese companies. To date, ICEA has accepted intern students from South Africa, Egypt, Mozambique and Burundi who have gained experience in video and website productions. This year we will soon receive an intern student from South Africa.

An intern student from Egypt working
on a scene as a video production assistant.
©International Cultural Exchange Associations

An intern student from
Mozambique working as a cameraman.
©International Cultural Exchange Associations

What is the goal of ICEA in dedicating itself to internships?

Mr. Homma

The main objective of the ABE Initiative is to develop business connections between Japan and Africa, but I personally, more than business development, want to offer international students the opportunity to see themselves in a new light through social interactions with the Japanese people. ICEA intern students engage in activities such as, participating in a local festival or performing a man-on-the-street interview in Shinjuku. Then, they compile a video or a website to present their experiences from their unique perspectives. We offer enjoyable programs and it gives us much pleasure to hear comments like, “The program was quite useful and fun!”. One student remarked, “In university we tend to only associate with international students and the only Japanese people we meet are students. Through the internship, it was stimulating to meet working adults.”

Intern student from Mozambique reporting
from a Japanese traditional festival.
©International Cultural Exchange Associations

A South African student practicing swordplay
©International Cultural Exchange Associations

Are you experiencing any difficulties with the activities?

Mr. Homma

How to secure funding for the activities. One way or another, we currently carry out ICEA activities with donations from the public and Sunkleio TSUBASA. Though we have no intention of managing our organization as a business, I think it will be challenging to maintain and grow the organization if we don’t find a way to secure a certain degree of funding.

Ms. Fujita

We are now designing a mascot for the organization. Once our mascot design will be completed, we will begin to elaborate novelty items to distribute at events and offer them to potential partners so that the broader public can learn about ICEA. We will move steadily forward with a public relations campaign in order to expand, little by little, the supporters and friends of ICEA activities.

"Ale-kun" of ICEA image mascot.
He was completed after this interview.
©International Cultural Exchange Associations

What future activities are planned?

Mr. Homma

Above all, we would like to complete and debut the documentary film of “The Burkina Judo Project”. We want to offer, especially to Africans, the opportunity to relive the visit of Burkina Faso’s judokas to Japan. Furthermore, we want to offer people around the world the chance to interact not only through judo, but any sport. It would give me great pleasure to present nationals from around the world to the Japanese people, especially from the lesser known countries in Africa where there is very little chance to visit. ICEA has also joined the “Sports for Tomorrow”, an international sports contribution initiative promoted by the government, which led to our participation in the Sports Tag event and gave us the opportunity to offer advice on the spread of Japanese “UNDOKAI” (sports day) in Asia. We would like to actively participate in various initiatives when invited to do so.

A presentation on Burkina Faso, Africa,
in an elementary school.
©International Cultural Exchange Associations

Mr. Homma presenting a lecture at the Global Seminar held
at Waseda University.
©International Cultural Exchange Associations

Tokyo International Communication Committee

Ono Bldg. 3F, 17-15 Kandamatsunagacho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 101-0023
TEL:03-5294-6542 FAX:03-5294-6540