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Campus inSaint Petersburg

Russian and Japanese Souls Have Something in Common

On March 11th, 2016, Yoshihiro Yamamura, Consul General of Japan in Saint Petersburg, visited the HSE campus in St. Petersburg. It turned out he loves Chekhov and Tchaikovsky, and took part in a performance on Blok’s works as a schoolboy.

On March 11th, 2016, Yoshihiro Yamamura, Consul General of Japan in Saint Petersburg, visited the HSE campus in St. Petersburg. It turned out he loves Chekhov and Tchaikovsky, and took part in a performance on Blok’s works as a schoolboy.

This academic year, the students of Asian and African Studies had the opportunity to learn Japanese as a second Asian language, and this is how Japanese studies started at HSE in St. Petersburg. In addition to Japanese language classes, the undergraduate programmes now include geography, history, and culture, as well as the social, economic, and political specifics of Japan from ancient times to today. The next step is enrolment in a major in Japanese Studies, where Japanese will be the primary language, and Chinese or Vietnamese will be the second elective foreign language.

Mr. Yoshihiro Yamamura started his lecture on cultural relations between Russia and Japan by talking about the history of their evolution. The first recorded Japanese person to visit Russia was named Dembei. He was a survivor in a shipwreck near the Japanese shore in 1699. He managed to reach Kamchatka, traveled within Russia, and in 1702 was invited to Moscow, where he was received by Peter the Great himself. Soon, the Tsar issued a decree about the teaching of Japanese to Russian children. Russia and Japan started communicating, and this process developed during the 18th and 19th centuries. Unfortunately, military intervention and WWII helped to form a feeling of mutual distrust, which, according to surveys, still exists.

‘I believe that this attitude has, among other things, to do with the fact that the Japanese know very little about your country,’ the consul general said, ‘But at the same time, Russia for the Japanese is not only a military power possessing nuclear weapons and raw resources, but also a country of great culture and arts, which can’t fail to be respected by the Japanese, who are known for their love of beautiful things. Even in their everyday life, our people understand that Russia is a country with a rich cultural heritage and traditions.’

Speaking about prospective areas for cooperation, Mr. Yamamura specified medicine, agriculture, urban environment, and transport. He said that the ties between the two countries are developing, although probably not as fast as they could.