India Japan Cultural Relations

India and Japan have long cultural and civilizational ties. The cultural ties go back to 6th century when the Buddhism spread to Japan through China and Korea. Buddhism had been introduced to Japan in 538 AD by a Korean king. In 752 AD, Bodhisena, an Indian monk performed consecration or eye-opening of a statue of the Buddha Sakyamuni at the Todaiji Temple in Nara.

In the modern-era, many Indian personalities like Swami Vivekananda, Rabindranath Tagore, Subhas Chandra Bose and JRD Tata are closely associated with the Japan. The Japan-India Association, set up in 1903, is the oldest international friendship body in Japan. After independence, Jawaharlal Nehru presented an Indian elephant to the Ueno Zoo in Tokyo as a special gift.

The first official cultural agreement between the two countries was signed in 1956 by establishing a scholarship system for young Japanese scholars to study in India. It was followed by a visit of Japanese Prime Minister to India and then Indian Prime Minister to Japan. Cultural relations between the two countries picked up in 1980s with the local governments in Japan started exchanging activities with their Indian counterparts.

In 1988, Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi attended the opening ceremony of the Festival of India. The Japan Foundation, which is actively promoting the cultural exchanges, opened its office in New Delhi in 1994. The 50th anniversary of the Indo-Japan Cultural Agreement in 2007 was announced as the year of Indo-Japan friendship and tourism promotion. Both the countries hold cultural events. In 2009, India Cultural Centre was formally inaugurated in Tokyo to offer classes on Yoga, Tabla, Indian classical dances, Hindi and Bengali languages. Japan also extends cultural grant-in-aid to research institutes, universities, and cultural faculties to encourage their activities. The UNESCO/Japan Trust Fund for Preservation of the World Cultural Heritage is helping with the preservation and restoration of the Buddhist monuments of Sanchi and Satdhara. Japan has also extended its support in reconstruction of  Nalanda University. Since July 2014, Japan started issuing multiple entry visas for the short term stay of Indian nationals.

Indian cultural influence on Japan

Though Hinduism is little practiced in Japan, it has a significant indirect role in the formation of Japanese culture. Many of the Hindu deities are actively worshipped in Japan with different names like Benzaiten (Saraswati), Bishamon (Kubera), Daikoku (Shiva) etc. Other deities like Garuda, Vayu, Indra, Brahma and Ganesha are also worshipped in Japan. The spread of Buddhism in Japan may be indirect but Buddhist teachings and philosophy has a great impact on Japanese life and culture. Many of the Buddhist Sanskrit words were introduced in to Japanese language. The art and dance forms in Japan also influenced by Indian culture.

Japanese cultural influence on India

Traditionally, India was not influenced by the East Asian cultures. The spread of Buddhism from India to Japan is one way only. Physical distance is the one main factor. The influence of Japanese culture comes from Chinese cuisine. As the ethnic and culture of North-East India is more similar to South East Asia than mainland India, they are influenced by the Korean and Japanese culture. In the 19th century, many of Indian intellectuals like Rabindranath Tagore were admired by the Japan. Recently, Japanese popular culture started to permeate India, especially among its urbanites and young people.  Japanese cuisine is gradually spreading all over India.

Indians in Japan

The number of Indians in Japan is around 24 to 25 thousand. Most of them are expatriate IT professionals working in Japan. They are mainly concentrated in Tokyo and Kobe.

Japanese in India

The Japanese people in India are very few in numbers (around 8000 to 9000). They are expatriates from Japan or Indian-born with Japanese ancestry. Their concentration is found mainly in metros where they work in Japan based corporate like Toyota, Honda and Hitachi etc. Haldia is the only city to have a Japan town.

The increased cultural relations between the two countries along with economic and strategic partnerships will help for progress in ‘Act East’ policy of India.


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