“AI-CHAN” – A BRIDGE FROM JAPAN TO THE REST OF THE WORLD
It has been hot, but now it’s October. Finally, full-fledged fall has come. In this fall, we also keep writing about “Kakehashi”, or “a bridge to Japan from the rest of the world”. That will be our theme as we give our vision and thoughts!
This time, we focus on the Japanese athletes who are active as literally a, “bridge to the world”. One of them is Ai Fukuhara, the Olympic Games athlete. “Ai-chan” is making headlines.
With her cute appearance and fluent Chinese, she is hugely popular in both Japan and China. Her presence is connecting Japan and the rest of the world.
Fukuhara started playing table tennis at the age of 4, and was known as a table tennis genius. She lived up to that name by eventually participating in an international tournament and the Olympics. As a teenager she began table tennis training in China (where it is said that the best table tennis players in the world can be found). One of things in particular that Chinese fans love about her is that she speaks with a fluent Chinese Northern accent.
Fukuhara is a popular player overseas, but particularly in China, where she is hugely popular. I think there are two big reasons for this.
One reason is courage – she is not afraid to play globally. Her playing at the Olympics impressively suppressed global tension. Also, when the former Chinese President Hu Jintao visited Japan in 2008, he played table tennis with her at Waseda University.
The second reason is, her language skills and high ability to communicate. While sports globalization is spreading, the majority of the tennis world is Chinese, and the majority of the football world is English, Italian, and German. There has been an increase of athletes talking in interviews using the language of the country that they are in. During press conferences, Ichiro speaks in Japanese and uses an interpreter, but it has been said that he does this because he is very sensitive to the nuances of words.
While the relationship is complex at this time, people’s impression of the Japanese often changes when they hear the Chinese speaking of Fukuhara. In fact, even when the relationship between two countries reached its lowest level in China, Ai-chan maintained her long-lasting popularity. That is exactly what connects Japan and the rest of the world!
Top athletes always represent their country to the world. “This country (China) isn’t home for me, but also not completely foreign country”, Fukuhara said during an interview at the Beijing Olympics. Accepting a different country while having pride in being Japanese. Is this another sign of being a bridge to the world?
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