The 14th Euro-Japan English Dialogue took place this November at Ljubljana University in Slovenia, and Juraj Dobrila University of Pula in Croatia. Slovenia and Croatia, two relatively new EU nations, became the latest countries to play host to the program for the first time. Undergraduate students from the Department of Economics met in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, on November 5th, and carried out presentations and engaged in discussion over a week introducing Japanese society and culture, and exploring the topics ‘Music’, ‘Marriage’ and ‘Over-tourism’ from an economics viewpoint.
At University of Ljubljana, founded in 1919, presentations on ‘New Music Trends in Japan’ and ‘Marriage’ were given by the YNU group in the university’s Department of Asian Studies. On music, the YNU cohort presented on Japan’s rental system of music media, the sub-culture of vocaloids, and the structure and economics of the ‘idol’ business. The Ljubljana students presented on such topics as lesser-known idols, the ‘city pop’ genre of the 1980s, and Japanese ska, provoking discussion on various musical sub-cultures of Japan. On the topic of marriage, the YNU cohort focused on konkatsu, outlining the shift from omiai-based marriages and the rise of various apps that have facilitated the growth of the konkatsu business. The Slovenian students presented in Japanese on wedding ceremonies and marriage customs in their country. The discussion continued with an evening meal of traditional Slovenian fare in a nearby restaurant.
Other activities in Ljubljana included a visit to the embassy of Japan. First Secretary Sayaka Yamashita, responsible for Public Relations and Culture, gave a briefing on Slovenian society and culture, and her own career as a diplomat. First Secretary Yuki Tanaka talked about Japan-Slovenia relations. Ambassador Masaharu Yoshida joined the session to talk about diplomatic relations with Slovenia in particular, and more generally about his long career as a diplomat including stints in China and Zambia. The presentations on social, educational and economic ties between Slovenia and Japan, and the insights offered on a career in diplomacy, brought forth various questions for discussion from the YNU cohort. On the cultural side, the YNU group visited a traditional puppet show. Despite the language barrier, the cohort were able to enjoy the skill and dark humor of these artists.
On November 8th the venue shifted from Slovenia to Croatia. The YNU group made a brief visit to Plitvice National Park, to learn about the conservation and economic role of this UNESCO World Heritage site. On November 10th the group moved to Pula to begin the Euro-Japan Dialogue with Juraj Dobrila University of Pula. Visiting the Department of Asian Studies, both the Japanese and European students presented on the issue of ‘Over-tourism.’ With Croatia enjoying a boom in tourism in recent years, the Pula students presentation stressed the importance of tourism to the Croatian economy, pointing out both the benefits and drawbacks of increased tourism. Having just spent time in Plitvice, the YNU cohort were able to bring first-hand observations to the discussion. A discussion on Japan’s approach to dealing unmannerly behavior by tourists (both domestic and international) was particularly lively.
Euro-Japan Dialogue aims to improve English in an academic setting, promote intercultural communication skills and develop knowledge of issues related to economics. The 2019 program met all these aims. Evaluation and critical reflection essays will be available in a detailed report on the YNU website soon.
After the Euro-Japan Dialogue session, the YNU students were given a historical tour of Pula by Professor Matsuno and his students. The university, founded in 2006, is a relatively recent addition to Pula’s long history. Ruins that date back to the town’s role in the Roman Empire in the 1st century AD dot the town, including the impressive Ampitheater.
Euro-Japan Dialogue is an integral part of the ‘Global Studies in Economics’ program in College of Economics. Professor Alexander McAulay and Associate Professor Keiko Ishiwata first worked jointly on the program in 2009, and together they have developed the program to the point where it has now visited 27 universities in 18 countries. We are extremely grateful to Professor Klara Hrvatin and her colleagues at Ljubljana University, and Professors Irena Srdanovic, Stefani Silli, Naoyuki Matsuno and colleagues at Juraj Dobrila University of Pula, for their hard work and hospitality extended to Euro-Japan Dialogue.
During the eight-day sojourn to Slovenia and Croatia, students created friendships and could communicate across cultures and mixing languages in various academic, cultural and social settings. The students gave presentations on the challenges and achievements of Euro-Japan Dialogue in presentations at a critical reflection session on Friday, November 28 in the International Lounge. Attention now turns to the 15th Euro-Japan Dialogue, to be held in Russia. Applications will be accepted in April 2020.