St Petersburg University has held a ceremony to open the Japanese Cabinet in honour of the Russia-Japan cross-year and a meeting with the world’s renowned Japanese writer Kaori Ekuni.

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The events were visited by SPbU’s partners: Mitsui&Co, JTI, Panasonic, Consulate General, Embassy of Japan in Russia, and Committee for External Affairs of St Petersburg.

“The recent years have seen a dramatic rise in our relationships with Japan”, — said Nikolay Kropachev. Some years ago, the University could not boast such a great number of Japanese partners, exchanges, and joint publications.

I would like to express my gratitude to everyone who are actively engaged in propelling Russia-Japan relationships in St Petersburg University. Due to our joint efforts, our collaboration is on the rise.

SPbU Rector Nikolay Kropachev

Japanese studies has always been among the popular fields of study at the University. The challenge that the University should respond to is expand a range of educational programmes with a specific focus on Japan. In 2018, the University is to open an undergraduate programme in law with a focus on Japanese language and law. How successful we will be depends on how active our Japanese partners are: public and business sectors the representatives of which can be the members of the councils of the educational programmes.

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“I was in Japan several years ago, and now when I enter the Cabinet I feel like I am in Japan. This Cabinet reflects both the image and atmosphere of Japan”, — said SPbU Rector. In 2016, Nikolay Kropachev was awarded by the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star by the Japanese Prime-Minister Shinzō Abe in the Tokyo Imperial Palace. The Japanese Cabinet is expected to attract and cement the ties between Russia and Japan, said Rector.

The Director of the Department of Japanese Culture of the Japan Foundation and Advisor at the Embassy of Japan in Russia Masakazu Takahashi spoke on behalf of the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan in Russia Kozuki Toyohisa. Kozuki Toyohisa said that it was St Petersburg where Russian people started to study Japanese in the epoch of Peter the Great, and later it was spread across Russia: Moscow and Vladivostok. “It is important that it is St Petersburg University that opens the Japanese Cabinet as the University is rich in history of teaching Japanese language and culture. In other words, it is St Petersburg where the Russian Japanese studies came from, — said Kozuki Toyohisa. — I hope that the Cabinet will produce plenty of young specialists who will develop Russia-Japan relationships in future”. The Ambassador of Japan also thanked SPbU and its partner that contributed to opening the Cabinet.

The Consul General of Japan in St Petersburg Masanori Fukushima said in his greeting speech that St Petersburg University was just the right place to open the Cabinet and the Cabinet is a fair reflection of the spirit and soul of Japan.

St Petersburg University is the first university in the world to start teaching the Japanese language. In this respect, opening the Cabinet is a historic moment.

Consul General of Japan in St Petersburg Masanori Fukushima

The interior of the Cabinet was designed by SPbU staff and students who pursue the programme in Landscape Design. The fourth-year students suggested their interior designs while Associate Professor Evgenia Petrashen and senior lecturer Aleksandra Tolstova implemented their best ideas. The designers use warm wood colours, rather than black-and-white palette that is so typical to Japan, that are ideal for interior of the study room. Just at the centre is a wall-sized interactive whiteboard covered by a magnetic paint. The shelves are adorned by the reproductions of the traditional Japanese engravings that were stored in the Russian Museum.

There was another event at the same day: a meeting with the Japanese writer Kaori Ekuni.

I am glad to be at the university that looks like a museum. It is my first trip to Russia and St Petersburg, I fell like that I am a hero of a novel or a film.

Japanese writer Kaori Ekuni

Kaori Ekuni made a confession that she would like to reflect her impressions about St Petersburg in her books.

Her books are studied at the classes on the Japanese literature at SPbU. The meeting is a unique opportunity for students to delve into her books that are to a certain extent, as the writer said, influenced by the Russian literature.

“There was a time when I was greatly impressed by Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and Turgenev and their complicated and long books. Then I adored Chekhov and Mayakovsky: many of my books are inspired by their concise and fresh books. Today I like Ludmila Ulitskaia”, — said Kaori Ekuni.

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The age of long novels has been replaced by the age of short and light stories. “Today the readers are more likely to pick up a book that is short and easy to read. Most of them just want to know how the book ends and they read short descriptions of the books, — said the writer. — Yet the time of the novels is not over: it is more a question of taste. The matter it how much time it will take”. Japanese people prefer short and easy stories, but Kaori Ekuni is eager to make long novels once again popular that can deeply affect the readers. “In Japan, there is a tendency to be always happy and glad. It seems strange to me. The essence of life is to feel it to the full”, — said Kaori Ekuni.

Kaori Ekuni is awarded by eight prestigious prizes, including Murasaki Shikibu Literary Prize for the novel Twinkle Twinkle (1992). In Russia, it is known as Tы сияй, звезда ночная and was published in 2007. In 2013, another her novel God’s Boat appeared in Russia.