In 2011, Japan and Germany commemorated the 150th anniversary of the 1861 Treaty of Amity, Commerce and Navigation between Japan and Prussia. To raise the curtain on a series of events celebrating a century and a half of exchange, in January 2011 performances of Noh, a traditional Japanese form of drama, were presented in Berlin, Munich, and two other locations in Germany. Mazda was proud to support these performances, as well as an exhibition of Noh costumes at the Museum of Oriental Art of the National Museum in Berlin.
In preparing for the commemorative events, Yoichi Shimizu, Deputy Secretary General of the Japanese-German Center Berlin, asked himself in Germany how best to celebrate the two countries' longstanding friendship. He realized that Noh drama was the perfect fit for the opening of the celebration. "The refined gestures and costumes of this dramatic form with 650 years of history will captivate audiences, bringing enjoyment to people across the bounds of time, distance, and national borders," he thought.
Shimizu worried, however, that if the Noh dramas were presented in a large theater, he might have some empty seats.
On the day the tickets went on sale, all Shimizu's apprehensions were dispelled as all performances sold out in minutes. In five performances at four venues, some 4,000 people attended in total, including many young people. Shimizu took great pains to provide explanatory notes and subtitles in advance on the significance of the Noh masks, the gestures, the styles of walking, and the costumes. At the conclusion of each performance, the theaters rang with applause.
"I gained a new appreciation for the German people's enormous interest in Japanese culture," Shimizu remarked afterward. "There is so much that Germany and Japan can learn from each other." Shimizu hopes that Germany and Japan will draw still closer and better understand each other in the years to come.
Kazuo Ito, Assistant Manager of Mazda's General Affairs Department, is a man who strongly believes in the importance of international exchange. Having temporarily transferred to the Hiroshima Cultural Exchange Center for about two years in the past, Ito played a vital role in fostering an international outlook among the residents of Hiroshima Prefecture and providing valuable support for Hiroshima Prefecture residents of foreign nationality. "For Mazda, a Japanese company with a global business profile, building greater understanding of Japan among people in other countries is a precondition for success," Ito asserts. "Active support for international and cultural exchange is essential to Mazda's mission." Through international exchange activities such as these, Mazda is building new opportunities to bring people together across national boundaries.