JET Program CIR Report





CIR Report from Kanazawa 5

By Werner Vanhorenbeeck
(Coordinator for International Relations)


It’s been quite a while since my last report.

Just like last year, the EU Forum Kanazawa was held at the Tokyu Hotel Kanazawa. Delegates from the Belgian, German, French embassies and a representative from the EU attended this meeting to talk about Europe, Japan and their cultural differences. A few professors also attended this forum. It was a great opportunity to talk and exchange ideas with them.

In May 2015, the annual UNESCO Creative City Network was to be held, this time in Kanazawa. Cities registered in the Network from all over the world would attend this meeting. Considering the fact that it would be the first meeting after the enlargement of the Network, it was bound to be a special one. Currently, there are 69 cities from 32 different countries enlisted in the Network. Creating a schedule for representatives of a large number of cities is a lot of work. With the preparations of the meeting in mind, I went to France to visit the UNESCO Headquarters with colleagues from the Policy Planning and Coordination Section of the city of Kanazawa. We had some kebab before going back to the hotel.

On the second day, we went to the city of Saint Etienne, a UNESCO Creative City for Design. We were afraid we weren’t going to make it due to a train strike being held on that day. We made it on time because the impact of the strike was minimal. People from the Cité du Design, gave us a nice tour and a lot of explanation about their current and future projects. The city of Saint Etienne played a major role during the industrial revolution and flourished thanks to their heavy industry; such as metal works and coal mining. The city was also very important for the weapons industry. Today, many of those industries have faded away in many parts of Europe. Many of those cities find it difficult to find a new path, but the city of Saint Etienne managed to adjust their infrastructure and find new purposes for many buildings. The Cité du Design has many interesting projects, such as a database of materials where students or companies can go to look up and study materials.
Eventually it wasn’t the strikes of that day that was our main obstacle, but the weather. A river flooded due to the heavy rain; it prevented us to take the train back to Paris. Fortunately enough, the people from the Cité du Design were kind enough to help us to find someone who could take us all the way to the city of Lyon, where we could still get a train back to Paris.

On the third, and last day, of our business trip to France, we visited Enghien-les-Bains, a Unesco Creative City for Media Arts. Not knowing anything about the field of Media Arts, I did not know what to expect. I was surprised by how passionate and proud the people of Enghien-les-Bains spoke about their projects. Although our time was limited, we received a brief but informative tour around the city.

Although I was planning to go back to Fukushima for the holidays, I decided to go to Belgium for a few days instead. I only stayed for three days, I was able to meet quite a few friends and I even found some time to wander through the streets of Brussels and spending an evening at my favourite cafe. I got on the plane on new years’ day.

A few weeks later, I went back to Belgium and France to promote the Kanazawa Marathon which will be held in November this year. We spent one night in Brussels to meet people from the Japanese embassy at the yearly Travel Fair in Brussels. Of course a trip to Brussels is not complete without doing some sightseeing. I couldn’t help noticing the brand new Starbucks on the Grand Place square. Seeing that made me wonder how people from Kanazawa would feel if a chain store opened its doors in the middle of the Kenrokuen garden… I think they would feel the same way I did.

After spending one night in Brussels, we headed for Ghent where we met people from GentLoopt and had a lunch meeting with the mayor. The city of Ghent was Nice enough to provide us with a guide to show us around.

Our stay in Belgium was short. The next day we took the train to Nancy, the other European sister city of Kanazawa. The objective in Nancy was similar to the objective in Ghent; promotion for the Kanazawa Marathon 2015. Also in Nancy, we met people from the local sport clubs and had a brief meeting with the mayor.

I started working at the Policy Planning and Coordination Section shortly after I returned from France. I was to stay there until the UNESCO Creative Cities Network Meeting 2015.
My new main duties were taking care of the UNESCO-related correspondence, the translations and helping with the planning of the yearly meeting. It is always refreshing and challenging to get new responsibilities. I will write more about this event in my next report.