Exclusive interview Kyoto International Tourism Ambassador

Exclusive interview Kyoto International Tourism Ambassador, Miss Hoshino Tsuji for The Progress Time

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Ambassador Ms. Hoshino Tsuji

What is your role in the Fondazione Romualdo Del Bianco®? Can you tell us about your work to promote cultural relations between Japan and Italy.

«In 1995 I have visited Florence as part of a delegation of the Rotary Club Kyoto Rakuhoku for the activity of restoration of some works – paintings of the Uffizi Gallery. It was for me an important input to begin my present activity, to promote the dialogue among the cultures of both Countries as an intermediary, and to know President Paolo Del Bianco of the Fondazione Romualdo Del Bianco®. After this experience I participated in the activities of the Fondazione Romualdo Del Bianco®– Life Beyond Tourism® representing in Europe the traditional Japanese culture with its context and regional values to promote intercultural dialogue, hospitality, mutual understanding among different countries and conservation and preservation of heritage.

Regarding my main job, I’m representative and heiress of the company “Kyokane Co. Ltd.” of Kyoto, that my family owns since more than a hundred years. We plan and organize traditional ceremonies such as marriage rituals at Buddhist or Shinto temples, that have a glorious history of more than 1200 years.

My hometown, Kyoto, is an historical city like Florence, and also its twin city. In 2015 we celebrated the 50th anniversary of twin city between the two cities, and in that occasion the Exhibition “Colours of Kyoto – 京の彩” took place in Palazzo Coppini and in the Auditorium al Duomo of Florence. The initiative was promoted thanks to the Foudazione Romualdo Del Bianco®.- Life Beyond Tourism with the patronage of both cities. Thanks to various artists from Kyoto, the traditional craftsmanship and art of the city was displayed, including bamboo handicraft, silver and tin, costumes for marriages (Uchikake), dolls (Hinaningyo), gold threads, Japanese paper, miniatures (Netsuke), furniture for the tea ceremony, paintings in both Japanese and European style, drawings of 300 children of nursery school, photography, fashion, tea ceremony, flower arrangement. Many visitors and relevant personalities attended the ceremony. Among them there was the Mayor of Kyoto, Daisaku Kadokawa, the Chairman of Kyoto City Council, Taizo Tsuda, the Vice Mayor of the City of Florence, Nicoletta Mantovani and the Japanese Ambassador for Italy, Kazuyoshi Umemoto. Additionally, the Higaki ballet company made a performance at the Teatro Verdi of Florence, we had a fashion show of men’s traditional clothes and the Kyokane performance at Palazzo Coppini, and I am convinced that the collaboration between the Foundation and the City of Kyoto became stronger due to these cultural events which aimed to intercultural dialogue.

Since 2016 is the 150th Anniversary of the relations between Japan and Italy, a “Japanese Art Exhibition” was held from June 17th to 19th at the Auditorium al Duomo. Following the project of the previous year, we held the second edition of the exhibition “Kodomono Tenrankai” in collaboration with some nursery schools of Kyoto, and we presented my watercolour paintings with the title “Resonance and Reflection”. The exhibition “Kodomono Tenrankai” had a great success with the visitors and it represented the vision of the children of ten different nursery schools on Japanese legends, traditional events, Jizo and Buddha, temples and shrines. It was the first chance of cultural exchange for the children, and I hope that they will be interested in it even while growing up. This event was officially added among the celebrations to commemorate the 150th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and Italy with the patronage by the City of Florence, the City of Kyoto and the Rotary Club Florence Amerigo Vespucci. At the opening ceremony of the exhibition we held the tea ceremony in front of the citizens of Florence, an association from Japan, a Russian Cultural Foundation and a Canadian Art Association Representative; also we were interviewed by Toscana TV and some local newspaper, and I was able to bring the spirit of Japanese culture and Kyoto to the world as well as to over 200 visitors. We are always very grateful to the Foundation for spreading its “harmony” and we hope to keep building a good relationships between foreign countries, strengthen further cultural activities, and share the spirit of a warm innovation».

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The relations between Japan and Italy are now 150 years old; what is your impression of it, considering the economical and cultural situation in Italy at the moment?

«I feel that Italy, and especially Florence, is similar to Kyoto. I think that many people feel that they want to cherish old things, learn from history, and acquire good manners. Discovering and protecting historical value is not easy. However, I wonder if despite having the same feelings, both sides are walking towards the same future. As the presence of Hitachi, Asahi and the other Japanese big companies in Italy is increasing, it also seems that the exchange has become active from Italy too, with visits to capital explanatory meetings for foreign capital in Japan. Japan has also requested a base in Europe, and this is a proof that the mutual economic activity of Japan and Italy is developing».

The city of Kyoto in 1994 celebrated 1200 years of history and now it is the most representative centre of Japanese traditional architecture; what strategies is the government applying to improve tourism?

«The city of Kyoto was the first Japanese city to be, for two years in a row, first in the world ranking of the cities that people most want to travel to, as announced by the major travel magazine “Travel + Leisure” issued in the United States in one million copies. The Tokyo Olympic Games will be held in 2020. The Japanese Government has formulated a “Tourism Vision to Support the Japan of Tomorrow” to create an environment that allows foreign travellers who visit Japan to enjoy sightseeing comfortably without stress, in preparation for the creation of a new country for “Tourism Developed Countries”. Together with this new tourism vision, the government is focusing on inbound, but the situation is not yet overtaking. As in the life philosophy of Life Beyond Tourism promoted by the Foundation, for tourists who do not know Japanese culture, it is important to touch the culture rooted in the area, to understand its background and to utilize it, and since also the same word “Tourism – 観光” has the original meaning of “see the light of the place”, I think that it is necessary to provide to the travellers a place where they can find a value that is not just consumerist. Also, I think that the language barrier is still high, and we should build a system to welcome citizens with various problems.

In this perspective, since 2015, in Tokyo, Japan, at the Josai International University ‘Life Beyond Tourism’ is taught every year in a one week intensive course. Other universities and institutions were also showing their interest and hosting seminars and presentation on Life Beyond Tourism. The Yamagata Prefecture also wanted to host a seminar and nominated me and Corinna Del Bianco, ambassadors of the prefecture for tourism and Tsuyahime rice».

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The city of Kyoto hosts many universities. What projects of intercultural exchanges are planned for 2017 with Italy?

«We are conducting the intensive course titled “Travel & Dialogue” with the Foundation and International Institute Life Beyond Tourism in the universities with a Japanese department of tourism. With the aim of making tourism a strong opportunity for intercultural dialogue with a mutual approach, this workshop is being held thanks to the results of 25 years of research activity of the Foundation to convey the original meaning of a non-consuming tourism. In addition, we hold the conference “Costume Colloquium” once every two years with colleges and vocational schools related to clothing, and we are promoting presentations, clothing exhibitions, workshops, etc. in line with the theme of the year, with other students led by their teachers in each country. Moreover we are carrying out cultural exchange with the cooking event “Saperi e sapori”, held with food related universities and vocational schools, in which each student learns Italian cousine and presents their traditional dishes. We are all engaged in an intercultural exchange through our diversities in various fields, such as in this food workshop».

Kyoto hosts the main branches of many companies of high technology such as the Nintendo, but also industries of precision engineering, electrical engineering, chemistry and metallurgy. What opportunities are there for Italian companies?

«Japan has considerable interest in Italy and accepts it with familiarity. Even though Japan is very confident in the worldwide diffusion of its car industry, there are many Japanese people who love Italian cars and so this year there were many collaboration events held at historical shrines and temples with Ferrari, Lamborghini etc. Additionally, also the game industry and the size of the cartoon market is increasing year by year. Japanese quality control and quality improvement helped the development of each industry, starting from the high-tech one, and I think that on this point of view Japanese and Italians share the same way of thinking and can sympathize with each other.

It is also possible to understand the degree of interest Japanese have in Italy from the number of Italian restaurants in Japan. However, there are also big differences. Japanese food was registered as Unesco’s Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2013. It is said that “Japanese people eat with their eyes. Western people eat with their nose. Chinese people taste food with their tongue”, and just like that we cherish the materials to their maximum with light tastes compared to the stronger western cooking. In order to enjoy the meal with the eyes, the food is arranged in beautiful bowls, representing the season with cherry blossom petals in the spring and falling red leaves in autumn, and it hides the dedication to surprise the spirit both before and after the meal. I believe that Japanese people will bring their emphasis and that delicate potential to all things, improving also technologies with their hard work while mutually exchanging with others their good points in the future».

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Which sectors of the Italian industry are, at the moment, interesting for potential investors from Kyoto?

«I think it would be the sector of traditional art and clothing, rooted in the Italian history and culture. In Japan we treasure the artisans’ handmade work very much. Also, regarding the clothing, we have kept our own national costume, the Kimono, which is also a fine art work. With the company Kyokane, we are producing the Japanese dress “Japam” aiming for avant-garde innovation while continuing to protect culture. This fusion of Japanese and Western style is an article of rare beauty completed by sharpening a new intuition. Italy too has great brands, such as Ferragamo, Gucci, Pucci etc. and there are technologies developed during the history to learn from and follow. I think that a collaboration of Italian manufacturing method with traditional Japanese technology would create a new work which will remain in the next generation».