Japan, China launch 'cartoon' diplomacy

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The Independent Culture

Putting aside their diplomatic rivalry, Japan and China agreed on Monday to hold joint animation and TV drama festivals to promote grassroots cultural exchange.

China's Premier Wen Jiabao reached the accord with Japanese counterpart Yukio Hatoyama during a visit to Tokyo, where he was also given a kimono-clad Hello Kitty doll, the country's icon of cute.

The two leaders agreed that each country will hold a festival or a special week next year to showcase the other's screen offerings, such as animation and TV drama series, a Japanese official said.

"We accepted the Chinese proposal because it's a good offer," the official said after the summit meeting. "It will be a good opportunity for both of us to promote our cultural exchange."

As part of his own effort to boost cultural understanding, Wen said he had enjoyed watching Japan's Oscar-winning film "Departures", which had been recommended to him by Hatoyama.

The film, "Okuribito" in Japanese, depicting the esoteric practices of an undertaker who works to preserve a person's dignity after death, was named Best Foreign Language Film at the 2009 Academy Awards.

Japanese screen cartoons, known as "anime", have won a progressively larger audience around the world, including in China.

A previous administration in Tokyo set up an annual prize for foreign comics to promote "manga", as they are known in Japan, as an international artform.

Wen also attended a meeting of leading figures in arts and culture from both countries, held at a Tokyo hotel, where he received the Hello Kitty doll from manufacturer Sanrio's president Shintaro Tsuji.

"I hope Chinese children will make friends with Japanese through this little Kitty," said Tsuji, pointing out that Hello Kitty dolls are designed in Japan but made in China.

Wen said his grandchild would be happy with the gift.

A Chinese participant showed off cartoon portraits of both Wen and Hatoyama, who was depicted looking like Astro Boy, a classic robot character created by manga legend Osamu Tezuka.