Exploring Icelandic culture and languageTue, Nov 26, 2019
Japan-Iceland relations span over five decades. Since 1956, both countries have created and strengthened many avenues for exchange. On October 25th, the Embassy of Iceland in Japan, the University of Iceland and Waseda University organized a conference to introduce and explore the Icelandic culture and language at Waseda’s International Conference Center. The event was an opportunity for exchange between academics from Iceland and Japan, who encouraged the audience to further bridge the two countries.
The seminar comprised three sessions. President Aiji Tanaka first gave a speech to introduce the event. Then, Jón Atli Benediktsson, rector of the University of Iceland, discussed how academic exchanges and research opportunities between Iceland and Japan could be fostered. Speakers from various institutions emphasized the importance of literature in Icelandic diplomacy, which has enhanced cultural exchanges between Iceland and Japan as well. Two graduate students from the University of Iceland read Nobel Prize laureate Halldór Laxness ́work in both Icelandic and Japanese. Some students expressed their wish to join the Society for Icelandic Studies of Japan to promote languages and translate Icelandic pieces.
Today, opportunities for exchange are available to students and faculty from both countries. Nikken CEO Toshizo Watanabe has given donations to the Watanabe Trust Fund, founded at the University of Iceland in 2008, which, grants scholarships to students pursuing undergraduate and post graduates opportunities to study in Iceland or Japan. The Japanese government, too, has provided exchanges for Icelandic studies.
During the last session, experts shared their views on the importance of literature and exchanges. The speakers included Kristín Ingvarsdóttir from the University of Iceland; Sayaka Matsumoto from the Society for Icelandic Studies of Japan; Nobuyoshi Mori from Tokai University; Makoto Murai from Waseda University; Shohei Watanabe, an MA student at the University of Iceland; Yuriko Shibayama, a Junior Associate Professor at Tokai University; Sayaka Matsumoto, Society for Icelandic Studies of Japan. Professor Maji Christin Rhee, the Dean of International Division at Waseda University, made the closing remarks, pulling up an article in a Japanese newspaper she had found the night before, which featured Iceland’s gender equality. Iceland prides itself on the first country in the world to have elected a female President: Vigdís Finnbogadóttir . “We have an advanced gender studies program here in Iceland,” she said. The panelists encouraged the audience to get involved in Icelandic literature and cultures by studying abroad or joining a community to learn about Iceland.
The event ended with a reception hosted by (H.E.) Ambassador Elín Flygenrin and the Embassy of Iceland in Japan. The event participants gathered to eat traditional Icelandic foods, which featured seafood, Flatbread—Flatbrauð—with salmon and cream cheese, meat, and yogurt dessert. The meal wrapped up one informative and engaging event that encouraged deeper ties between Japan and Iceland.
*This article was written and contributed by the following student.
Marina Yoshimura (4th Year Student)
School of International Liberal Studies