2021 Activity Report

June Activity Report

30 June 2021
Global Japan Office Coordinator
Anita Devchand

File photo: Pic: Seen here is Prof Takeuchi, Prof Schoeman and Mrs Devchand

The Global Japan Office was officially opened on 13 September 2018 at the University of Pretoria by Professor Shinichi Takeuchi from TUFS. In a formal ceremony he is seen here handing over the GJO name plate.

At that ceremony, the Global Japan Office Name Plate was officially handed over to the Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, Professor Maxi Schoeman. Mrs Anita Devchand was introduced as the GJO Coordinator at the University of Pretoria. Mrs Devchand was also handed a set of business cards from Professor Takeuchi.

File Photo; Seated in the Centre is Mrs Tomoko Kawakita (JICA Expert assigned to CJS) surrounded by students who were interested in the Exchange Programs with Japan.

The Global Japan Office was first located at the Graduate Centre at the University of Pretoria and quickly became a popular meeting place for all students who were interested in visiting Japanese Universities as exchange students.

TUFS in handover discussions of the Global Japan Office

Tokyo University of Foreign Studies (TUFS) had a meeting with the International Students Division of the University of Pretoria regarding the possibility of handing over the Global Japan Office.

The office was located at the Centre for Japanese Studies and upon its closure it has to be relocated.

A GJO Coordinator has also to be appointed at the International Division and this was also discussed. Professor Takeuchi (from TUFS) went to great lengths to explain the process and what all was involved.

The meeting went off well and the Division was very open to the idea of the GJO moving across to them. They were going to have discussions with senior executive members of the university regarding this as well as the appointment of the GJO Coordinator and re-engage with TUFS on this matter.

Remembering…in pictures

My son, Vittesh and daughter, Mishka, seen here with me at the Centre for Japanese Studies table at the “Choose UP Day”.

Both my children helped me at the centre and befriended the exchange students from Japan. They also assisted them whenever they experienced difficulties in their studies and chatted to them on life in South Africa, tourist places to visit and various other topics.

Vittesh Devchand, Anita Devchand and Arsenio Botha at the CJS desk on “Choose UP Day”. Arsenio was always willing to help out at all CJS events and loved visiting the centre.

Mr Arsenio Botha, a third year BSc Medical Science student in 2018 went to Hokkaido University on the HUSTEP exchange program from the University of Pretoria. He spoke highly of Japan, its culture and people. He was most impressed with their practice of “Ubuntu”, which is a South African term loosely translated as brotherhood. He felt that although we speak about it, it is actually practiced by the Japanese people as “we live for each other.”

He found Sapporo, a city in Hokkaido to be amazing with a feeling of calm that set him at ease the moment he got there. Meeting other International students and forging close bonds with them and the Japanese students proved to be invaluable. He was so taken in by his experience that he wishes to return to Japan sometime in the future.

Pic; Prof Shinichi Takeuchi seen her with Dr Mabutho Shangese and Ms Tomoko Kawakita

Prof Takeuchi came to University of Pretoria to see the venue for the SAJU conference which was held at the Future Africa campus of the University of Pretoria.

Below are pictures of the Japan stall that I set up as at the time we only had 2 students from Japan on the campus. We borrowed costumes and together with my son and daughter we put up the stall. Incidentally, our stall won 1st prize for the best stall.

I made lots of the posters from the Niponica magazines which I had got from the Embassy of Japan. Other items like the sushi making set came from my own private collection.

A sad farewell for “All Things Japan”

For me working at the Centre for Japanese Studies, was not just a career. As this chapter of my life comes to an end, I would like to share what it means to me.

My earliest recollection of the word ” Japan” was the Toyota cars that my father and his brother’s all drove…40 odd years ago and I remember them saying that it was the most reliable car to drive and like the advert said…Everything keeps going right…Toyota!

So it was no wonder that my first car was a Toyota Corolla, which I had since 1991 and which was hijacked very violently in 2009. Last week my son bought his first car, after waiting for over a year because his heart was set on it…… a Toyota Fortuna. The cycle is continues. Toyota carries on making quality products.

I then found myself being employed at the Centre for Japanese Studies in 2017 and everyone I knew asked me if I spoke Japanese and how did I come to be employed there without speaking the language.

Looking back at my first ever event, JETRO (Japan External Trade Organisation) brought a professor from Japan to talk about the concept and practice of “Kaizen”. I was hooked. Here, I thought was definitely something we South Africans need to adopt because “service” was totally lacking in every sphere of our lives and not only in government. The same theme came up last month in a book discussion on the ‘Convenience Store” with the Tokyo Christian Women’s University. It was still amazing that to be a shop assistant, it is expected of you to have such intensive training. Here in South Africa you don’t have to have any training whatsoever to be a shop assistant.

This was just the beginning. As time went on I met the highest caliber of people from Japan. Among them the previous Ambassador of Japan to South Africa, Mr Hiroki who treated my husband and I to a traditional tea ceremony at his residence, all dressed up in traditional attire. What an experience it was. I will always recall the close friendships that I made with the staff of the Embassy of Japan and especially my visits with Mr Kota Toba and his willingness to assist me.

I met professors and other academics from Japan and spent time with students whom I was instrumental in sending to Japan on exchange programs. They all spoke of the wonderful culture and people who were so different to us.

I learnt that there was very little crime in Japan and barely any violent crime. I learnt of square shaped watermelons and school children cleaning their on schools and decided that I would create a series of huge posters of “Did You Know” on these interesting facts on Japan. I spoke to every student who visited my office about the unique opportunities to go to TUFS and Hokkaido Universities. I told them that when I was a student, we had no such opportunities and especially under the apartheid system.

The more I was exposed to the Japanese visitors and culture, the more I admired their dignity, selflessness and work ethic.

As I learnt of the JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) volunteers, I was even more impressed with the sharing of knowledge that they so freely gave and especially to the poorest of poor. They loved Africa and its people.

I saw, and mostly by coincidence, anime movies that Japan is so famous for, documentaries on Ninjas, Sumo wrestlers amongst others on TV and I came to realise just how much Japan gave to the world. By now I had seen pictures of the many shrines and cherry blossom trees and of the picturesque Kyoto and felt a deep sense of peace.

Japan had touched my heart and I will never be the same. Had anyone told me some 30 odd years ago that I would meet Japanese people and work so closely with them, I would not have believed it.

Thank you to Professor Shinichi Takeuchi from TUFS especially for giving me the opportunity to serve as the GJO Coordinator and to Igarashi Kodai-san and his predecessor at TUFS Office for International Affairs for accepting my reports and to all the wonderful people of Japan, for enriching my life in an indescribable manner! I feel truly humbled by the experience.

I will surely miss…all things Japan.

With heartfelt gratitude
Anita Devchand

May Activity Report

31 May 2021
Global Japan Office Coordinator
Anita Devchand

Japanese Language Course

The Japanese language course is still being offered at the University of Pretoria but now falls under the Department of Ancient and Modern Languages.

The course is offered online and this makes it more accessible for people located anywhere in South Africa to learn basic Japanese Language and a bit about the Japanese culture. We offer both Part 1 and Part 2.

For the first semester we had 12 enrollments for the Part 1 and Part 2 was not offered.

A meeting was held in May between the Organisation, Enterprises at UP and the Embassy of Japan in South Africa to create more exposure to the course by involving the Embassy who can also advertise the course. We also advertise with the Consulate of Japan which is based in Cape Town.

We are confident that this course will become more popular as word gets around.

Handover process of Sophia University Exchange Program

The University of Pretoria has an MoU with Sophia University in Japan to facilitate the exchange of students from both sides.

Although no UP student has been to Sophia University, UP has had a few students from Sophia University prior to the lockdown.

Sophia University also offers a short term exchange program and this year saw 3 UP students partake in this month long program. The program was conducted online and our students felt it was a very positive experience.

The Centre for Japanese Studies set up a meeting with the International Students Division of UP to hand over the process to them on 20 May 2021 and the meeting was a huge success with much enthusiasm from both sides to this new partnership.

Pic; Sophia University students with a UP student at a residence.

Sophia University Study Tour

A travel agency, based in South Africa has been since 2018 bringing between 10 to 15 students from Sophia University to South Africa for a study tour on an annual basis.

As part of the study tour, the Centre for Japanese Studies organizes a lecture on South African History as well as one on Political Sciences. The students are also treated to a tour of the campus. The next day we organize a tour guide to take them to local tourist attractions.

On the third day they are taken to the Mamelodi Campus where they get o to chat with the ladies from the local community who run a sewing project on the campus. They have out of this tour been getting orders for African print bags from Japan.

That evening we arrange for a discussion for them with a group of students living at one of the residences. Here they meet and chat informally about their respective experiences and are treated to a traditional African Meal.

The students then depart for Cape Town for the final leg of their tour.

File photo: Mr Yuho Isobe on the far right with Miss Anju Hirayama next to him with UP students Mishka Devchand and Vittesh Devchand.

An exchange student from Japan shares his thoughts of UP and South Africa

Mr Yuho Isobe came to the University of Pretoria (UP) in July 2019 for six month. His stay in South Africa and tuition was paid for by his parents.

He came from Sophia University and was studying African Studies there. AT UP because we don’t offer that course he chose to do:

Supply Chain Management
International Relations
Economics 1

All the courses are offered in English at UP so he found studying in English a challenge.

He stayed at one of the university’s residences called Tuks Dorp. He found it easier to settle in because lots of people helped him settle in.

Tuks Dorp is where the International students are housed. Most of the students are from Europe, France, Holland and Sweden. Tuks is incidentally the nick name of the University of Pretoria.

He found most of these students to be noisy and said that they liked to drink so he felt the cultural differences keenly.

He found the local students to have lots of passion. He found the people were very different compared to Japanese people and that they were very friendly.

Although he came in the South African winter, it wasn’t too cold for him. He cooked his own food mostly and like most students he ate a lot of 2 minute noodles, pizza and pasta.

He also tasted traditional African food of pap, spinach and beans.

He will recommend Japanese students to come not only to South Africa but Africa. He would like to come back to South Africa one day with his older sister.

April Activity Report

30 April 2021
Global Japan Office Coordinator
Anita Devchand

Book Cover Competition

Towards the end of last year the Centre for Japanese Studies hosted a webinar to launch a book called the Open Mind of Lafcadio Hearn: Light from the East. This book was written by an English Department lecturer at the University of Pretoria on a Japanese gentlemen whose life was very interesting and who wrote of his experiences, Lafcadio Hearn. The book launch coincided with the 10th year anniversary of the Centre for Japanese Studies. It was decided to combine the events and also to invite the great grand son of Lafcadio Hearn, Professor Bon Koisumi, who is a director of the museum that houses of the works of his great grandfather, to make a presentation at the event. This museum is located in Japan.

The webinar was a huge success and we had a lot of participation and interest from all over the world. In light of this CJS embarked on a project to publish a book on this event called “The Open Mind of Lafcadio Hearn: 10th Anniversary Webinar”.

CJS decided to give an opportunity to the University of Pretoria Arts Students to design a cover for this publication. This will give the student a platform to showcase their talent as well.

Closure Letters of the Centre for Japanese Studies

The University of Pretoria made a decision towards the end of 2020 to close the Centre for Japanese Studies. The Centre has from the beginning of January to June 2021 to dis- establish its activities.

One of the key activities is to inform all our partners and contributors officially by means of a letter. Letters have been sent out to all our Japanese university contacts.

Lots of responses were received that echoed peoples sadness and disappointment at this news.

We hope that the interest that the centre created around Japan grows and that students and the general public actively look for other opportunities to enhance their knowledge and experience of Japan.

JICA Staff returns to SA from Japan

At the end of March 2021, Ms Keiko Arai, the Executive Management Advisor assigned from the Japan International Cooperation Agency JICA), returned to South Africa after being in Japan for a year.

Ms Arai, just like her predecessor, was assigned to the Centre for Japanese Studies to assist with the running of the Centre. She is instrumental in sourcing and making contact with academics from Japanese Universities and arranging for Professors to come to the University of Pretoria in South Africa.

These arrivals then translate into seminars which are normally held in the evenings in one of the auditoriums on the Campus. They are open to the public and are usually well attended by University of Pretoria staff, students, academics, the public as well as Embassy of Japan officials.

Following the evening event, the next day usually sees a networking session with academics from the university in a related field of study. This is followed with a discussion session with postgraduate students.

The Centre for Japanese Studies arranges all these activities with the help of the 2 JICA staff members and also organizes a tour of the beautiful campus.