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"Goethe and Nietzsche and Kahn, Oh My!"gDoitsu Nenh in Kyoto

Doitsu Nen

What does "Germany" mean to the Japanese? This is a question of particular interest at the moment, especially to those who have an eye on the international relations section of the daily newspapers, because the Japanese and German governments have designated the period from spring 2005 to 2006 as "Doitsu Nen" or "Germany Year in JapanE Last year Russia had its chance to shine, now the opportunity has come for gThe country of poets and thinkersh to show what its lifestyle, culture and history is all about. So, when seeking an answer to the question posed above, one approach might be to randomly accost students on the campus of Kyoto University, one of Japan's elite facilities of higher education, and put some simple questions to the test: "Have you heard of 'Doitsu Nen'?", "What image do you have of Germany?" and "Name three famous Germans, dead or alive." One might be quite surprised by the replies. But then again, maybe not.



A survey of roughly 100 students showed that in the minds of Kyoto's finest, Germany is a country of good soccer, fast cars, beer, quaint picturesque villages, delicious sausages, tall blondes, beer, diligence, seriousness and more beer. These replies seemed to confirm the prejudice some non-Japanese have, that Japanese people sometimes stereotype foreign countries. To most of them, Germans give the impression of a race of people who are simultaneously earnest yet light-hearted in character, and whose efficiency, graveness and perfectionism can be compared to that of the Japanese. They are also known for their concern about the environment, are said to have good heads on their shoulders and according to some students, still live like they did back in the olden days of the Goethe and Schiller. One girl, in a short and sweet reply, even claimed that Germany appeared to have missed the Industrial Revolution!

The stereotypes and misperceptions of Germany encountered during these interviews indicate that in spite of600+ Germany-related events being organized on a national basisthroughout the year, many intelligent young Japanese people still hold a slightly biased and inaccurate view of the country. More the reason to try even harder. And with all the different cultural, scientific, political and economic events taking place all over Japan this year, one can easily conclude that the challenge has been accepted.

An everyday scene in the German Alps

An everyday scene in the German Alps

In reply to 1999/2000's Japan Year in Germany, the Japanese and German governments have chosen the years 2005/2006 to return the favor, creating an opportunity to show that Germany has quite a lot to offer the youth of Japan. A variety of events are being hosted nationwide, with many taking place in Kyoto.

The artistic and entertainment aspects of Doitsu Nen are being administrated by the Goethe-Institut, a German Culture Center with offices in Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto. Art exhibitions, contemporary dance and music performances, movie screenings and other media presentations are all taking place under the banner of Doitsu Nen.

But how could anything other than Germany's beloved national sport of soccer dominate the goings-on, especially with the 2006 World Cup being hosted in Germany? Oliver Kahn, the imposingly bear-like soccer goalie, ranked as the best-known German in Japan nowadays, followed at some distance by historical heroes and villains Hitler, Bismarck and Beethoven in second to fourth place. The present German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder ranked fifth. A student wearing a punk rock T-shirt adorned with a skull and cross-bones and bizarre gothic letters, delivered a surprisingly long list of names including Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Leibniz, Bach, Wagner and Schubert. It turned out he was a closet specialist of German studies. Incidentally, many of the replies to the famous Germans question seemed to have an underlying theme along the lines of "Oh, I know many famous foreign people. I'm just not sure whether they're German or not." The Russian dictator Stalin and famous author Dostoyevsky were both mentioned in this context.

So what exactly is necessary to rid students of their uncertainty and deepen the knowledge of contemporary Germany? Generally speaking, there is nothing like first-hand experience to make a matter memorable. The Goethe-Institut on Kawabata Street is the ideal place for such an undertaking. In addition to standard German language lessons beginning in September (for serious students as well as those who just want to survive in Germany during the Soccer World Cup 2006), the Goethe- Institut will sponsor wine tastings, art film screenings and a hearty Oktoberfest in, yes,

October! A recent new addition to the center is a shelf of German manga comics in the well-stocked library, which will surely appeal to Japanese youth.

Numerous Germany-related events are being organized outside of the Goethe-Institut as well, ranging from thought-provoking lectures at Doshisha University to Beethoven Symphonies at the Kyoto Concert Hall, to international meetings on dealing with the past and reparations at Kansai Seminar House, to dance academy workshops at Kyoto Art Center. Otani University will host an exhibition on Goethe's "Faust", the play that coined the term "Faustian deal", Prefectural Hall ALTI is set to stage a series of guest performances by famous dancers, and the ancient halls of Kenninji Temple will be filled with an exhibition on German modern design, an event that should not be missed. For a closer look at the colorful array of Doitsu Nen events coming up, you can visit the Kyoto Goethe-Institut's website at or the Doitsu Nen homepage at, displaying a selection that should to appeal to even the most refined of tastes. There is so much to see, and so little time! Go have a peek.

A Selection of Doitsu Nen Events in Kyoto


September 23rd EOctober 23rd
Dieter Rams EDesign gWeniger, aber besserh gLess but betterh Exhibition at Kenninji-Temple, Kyoto


September 13th ESeptember 18th
Woodprint Exhibition: Christoph Loos gChiasma IIh atGallery Maronie, Kyoto


January 6th EFebruary 12th 2006
gWorking on Reality: Positions of German Photography in the Presenth Exhibition at National Museum of Modern Art Kyoto


October 6th EOctober 25th
gAnimated Film from Germanyh Animated films, drawings, paintings, scenes, puppets exhibition at Gallery Fleur (Kyoto Seika University)

German Language/ Literature

October 1st E30th
Goethe gFausth Exhibition at Otani University

Theatre / Dance

February 21st / 22ndand 25th/26th(2006)
Guest Performance Folkwang Dance Studio presents gLakenhalh Dance in Germany- The Next Generation at ALTI Prefectural Hall, Kyoto


October 9thand 10th
gDealing with the Past and Reparations in Germany after 1945: Meeting of German and Japanese pedagogues School Projecth at Kansai Seminar House

Lecture Series at Doshisha University
October 6th
gNew Developments in European Civil Lawh Professor Pruetting, University of Cologne

-Article by Sabine Brink (With thanks to the Kyoto Goethe-Institut)

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Sayonara to Kyoto

Bianca Jarvis

Bianca Jarvis

Three years ago, I was writing a similar article from the perspective of a newcomer, taking over Life In Kyoto from my JET Program predecessor, Tristan Grey. Three years later, I have reached the end of my time as the last JET Program editor of Life In Kyoto. The times are changing, and Life In Kyoto will be on hiatus for a while until a new system is developed.

In my time as editor, it has been my goal to produce the best magazine possible for our readers. Over three years there have been changes in design, articles by writers from all over the world, the occasional foreign language article, and finally the big split to a bilingual English/Japanese format. Hopefully Life In Kyoto has been able to expand its readership beyond English speakers to a wider audience of foreigners living in Japan.

Editing Life In Kyoto has brought many lessons for me. In the beginning I lacked confidence in my own Japanese language ability and knowledge of a city I had just barely begun to call home. The responsibility of coordinating a group of Japanese-speaking volunteers was daunting, but over the course of three years, I gained confidence, Japanese ability, and an indepth knowledge of Kyoto. I frequently surprised my Japanese friends with obscure facts about Japanese culture, leading them to accuse me of being "more Japanese than the Japanese".And so, Kyoto has truly become a place I can call home, and the United States I am returning to seems like an exotic land!

I'd like to extend thanks to all who have given me support over the years: the staff of the Kyoto International Community House, the volunteers who have helped coordinate and produce the magazine, the busy professionals who shared their time for the gKyoto Interview Seriesh and the readers who have been kind enough to give us feedback over the years. You have all enriched my life, and I hope that I have been able to give something back in return.

- Bianca Jarvis

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