Freedom Day celebrated in Tokyo, Japan
How do Japanese high school students view South Africa? In celebrating its National Day, the South African Embassy in Tokyo, through its ‘20th Anniversary of Freedom School Essay Writing Competition’, invited Japanese high school students in the Tokyo region to express their views on topics such as what South Africa’s 20 years of freedom means to them and to the world. They also addressed areas in which the youth in Japan and in South Africa can work together for a better future.
The entries received were stimulating and wide-ranging and showed that the students not only researched their topics, but expressed their views eloquently. The three prize winners were announced at the National Day Reception on 27 April 2015.
Each of the prize winners was given an opportunity to read their essays. The first prize went to 17-year old Karin Hiramatsu of the Tokyo Metropolitan Koishikawa Secondary School, who shared her impressions on what can be learnt from the ‘Rainbow Nation.’ She wrote: “(A)s I began to read articles about South Africa, a picture in one newspaper caught my attention. ‘One Long Line to Freedom’ is what it said. It turns out that in 1994, the whole nation celebrated its first democratic election. This made me happy, and going deeper into that part of history, I discovered that overcoming apartheid was the most important and the most difficult event in its history.”
Karin added that “(O)ne thing we can learn from South Africa is that it is possible to love one’s country, while criticising it and trying to improve it. That South Africa faced up to its problems and worked to solve them should inspire us all to face our own country’s problems.”
The winning prize comprises a round trip ticket for two from Japan to South Africa, sponsored by Qatar Air, including a week-long holiday package in South Africa, sponsored by Sun International, Legacy Hotels & Resorts, Your Africa, and South African Tourism.
The second prize went to Hikaru Ito of Hongo High School, who focused on the concept of sportsmanship in his experience of playing rugby against South African teams, saying this is “a tool for knowing each other, as well as a style and an attitude that can have a positive influence on everyone around us.”
The third prize was awarded to Kyoko Ishiguro Konodai Girls School for her reflective overview of apartheid and pointing out that the democratization that was achieved 20 years ago, has given hope to all humankind. By rethinking South Africa’s accomplishment, she wrote, “we can follow the soul of South Africans and make the world a better place to live in.”
Media publicity prior to the reception ensured unusually good coverage of the event. Local TV channel NHK World aired an English clip of the event under the title “Bridge between Japan and South Africa”, to 273 million households in more than 140 countries. A Japanese clip was simultaneously aired throughout Japan. In a brief interview with Ambassador Pheko, she termed the essay contest as a great opportunity for the next generation to learn about South Africa and for South Africans to see South Africa through their eyes. She added that the initiative was a great tool for building and expanding relations for the future.
The Embassy believes that the initiative has contributed to the strengthening of ties between Japan and South Africa at school level as well as to promoting the use of English amongst Japanese youth, which is a declared goal of the local government as Japan prepared to host the World Rugby Cup in 2019 and the Olympic Games in 2020.
South African Embassy in Tokyo, Japan