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Interview

Monaco Friends of Japan: “Japan intrigues and attracts in equal measure”

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Association Monaco Friends Of Japan

Monaco Friends of Japan introduces nippon culture to Monaco residents.

Since Japan opened up political and commercial relations with foreign countries in 1853, the West has always been curious about the unique culture of the Land of the Rising Sun. With the advent of mangas, video games, sushi, ramen and tonkatsu, Japan has become a trendy country that everyone dreams of visiting. The birthplace of Zen, close to nature and at the same time at the forefront of technology, Japan “intrigues and attracts in equal measure” according to Annie-Claire Benchimol, member of the Association Monaco Friends of Japan (AMJF) non-profit organisation, and wife of its President.

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In Monaco, the Japanese Garden, commissioned by Prince Rainier III in 1994, has helped to generate interest in the land that is famous for its cherry trees. Now, the Monaco Friends of Japan Association, created in 2019, plays a complementary role, contributing to the spread of Japan’s rich culture as well as strengthening relations between the Principality and Japan.

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The AMFJ wishes to share its love of Japan through the arts, customs, sports and business, and organises at least one activity each month. In three years, the non-profit has created classes in Ikebana, a Japanese floral art, manga, calligraphy or an introduction to Japanese for children, which take place at the Maison des Associations.

And that’s not all! On Saturday May 7, a children’s party was held at the Japanese Garden. Many activities were organised, such as a Japanese drum show, a tea ceremony and several fun workshops for children.

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The AMFJ also puts on concerts where the classics of yesterday and today are performed, in particular by the Ensemble Iris, which is made up of two sopranos, Yukako Custo Hiramori and Chinatsu Saito de Lagasnerie, a harpist, Mutsuko Uematsu and a pianist, Sabine Bernardi. The emotion generated by the music is universal and can be sensed intuitively. However, the translated lyrics are displayed in the background, for those who wish to grasp their true meaning.

Finally, in 2021, the first edition of the Monaco Sake Award was launched at the Monaco Yacht Club. The idea was to introduce sake to a panel of prestigious juries such as Stéphane Valéri, President of the National Council, Christian Garcia, Head Chef at the Prince’s Palace, and Patrice Frank, Head Sommelier at the Hôtel de Paris. The winning products were then made available to the general public during the Ensemble Iris concert. Building on its success, a new edition is already planned and should take place in October 2022.

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© Association Monaco Friends of Japan

Many projects planned

Unfortunately hampered by Covid-19 right from its inception, the organisation is very resourceful and can count on a dynamic team with lots of ideas and one aim in mind: to help the Principality’s residents discover Japanese culture. Yukako Custo Hiramori, deputy secretary of the association, particularly appreciates how “open-minded” and multicultural Monaco is.

The association has no intention of resting on its laurels and is already thinking about new projects such as extending the Japanese classes to adults, cinema-related activities and perhaps even Japanese cooking classes.

To find out more: Association Monaco Friends of Japan