BENGALURU: Dressed in traditional attire – yukatas, kimonos and sarees – with a free flow of Japanese food, sake and Umeshu (plum wine), Friday evening saw the Japanese community in Bengaluru come together to celebrate the birthday of the recently-crowned Japanese emperor, Naruhito. Making the announcement of his step-down next month, Consul-General Takayuki Kitagawa, who will be returning to Ministry of Foreign Affairs where he will serve for a while before his retirement, pointed out at the increasing interest in Japanese culture in Bengaluru through Japanese speaking events, food festivals and a direct flight that will take off by March-end.
He said when he took over three years ago as the first Consul-General of Japan in Bengaluru in 2017, there were 470 Japanese companies, which has now increased to 550, a rise by 60 per cent. Kitagawa felt one of his biggest successes of promoting Japanese culture has been the speaking events held at his official residence every three months. “There are 18 schools that teach Japanese in the city, and when the first Japanese speaking event was held in 2017, there were a total of 1,600 people who participated, while in 2019, this number tripled, going up to 4,500. Getting more people interested in the langauge was a way of promoting the culture,” said Kitagawa.
He added that the Banga roll, similar to the California roll, was also an attempt to enter a foreign culture through food. “It’s completely vegetarian to suit local tastes and sensibilities, and has the colours of the Karnataka flag,” he said. The evening-- with choir Royal Echo playing popular tunes – saw the who’s who of Bengaluru – Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw and husband John Shaw, retired top police official Jija Harisingh, Consul General of France Dr Marjorie Vanbaelinghem, British Deputy High Commissioner Jeremy Pilmore-Bedford and German Deputy Consul General Karl Ehlerding – in attendance.
A delegation of Japanese and Indian entrepreneurs participated in the India-Japan Next Leaders Programme, which is being held for the first time. The four-day ongoing programme has 11 Japanese and six Indians, who attended a bootcamp at The Indian Institute of Management, Bengaluru, and pitched their game-changing business ideas aimed at partnerships, joint business or open innovation between the two countries. “The idea of this initiative is to encourage business in India,” said Takuji Okubo from Japan Macro Advisors, a coordinator of the programme.
The top four ideas will be presented at the Embassy in Delhi, where the group is headed. For instance, Kunihiro Nishimura, founder, Xcoo, will be pitching his idea on sharpening the diagnosis and treatment of cancer with the use of Artificial Intelligence. “The idea is to check genomic data, based on which drugs and treatment methods will be suggested to patients,” said Nishimura. Media person from Tokyo, Yuki Kawamura is working on creating new animation shows for Indian children using Japanese technology.
“India has great stories, but there aren’t many shows in the kids’ segment, and there’s a lot of dependance on foreign content – Peppa Pig and Doraemon,” said Kawamura, adding that his attempt is to engage children with local content.