In 2006, Australia and Japan celebrated the 30th anniversary of the signing of the ‘Nara’ Basic Treaty of Friendship. Over 470 events, organised by a variety of groups, were held across Australia to mark the occasion. The ACT and Nara governments held several special events in 2006 as part of the Year of Exchange.
Art Exhibition in Nara
In September 2006, the ACT government held its first international art exhibition at the Nara City Museum of Art. The exhibition featured around 50 prints drawn from the Studio One Print Collection of the Canberra Museum and Gallery. Operating from 1983-2000, Canberra’s Studio One was known as a centre of excellence in printmaking. The prints displayed in Nara were by a variety of local or Canberra-connected artists.
The exhibition was complemented by Canberra tourism promotion and a display of hand crafted objects presented as official gifts by the Chief Minister to the Mayor of Nara over the course of the sister-city relationship. Around 2000 people visited the exhibition over a two week period.
Nara Citizens Delegation
Another highlight of the Year of Exchange event program was the visit to Canberra by a delegation of 30 citizens led by Mr Shigetaka Fukui, Deputy Mayor of Nara, Chief Minister Mr Jon Stanhope MLA hosted a formal reception for the group on their arrival in Canberra. The delegation visited some of Canberra’s national attractions including the National Botanic Gardens, the Australian War Memorial and Parliament House.
After departing Canberra, the delegation went by coach to Cowra, NSW where a memorial service was held at the Japanese War Cemetery. The service was led by three Buddhist monks travelling with the delegation.
Nara University High School Delegation
Canberra families hosted a group of 42 school children from Nara University High School. The students performed the classic Australian folk song, 'Click go the Shears' and Kendo martial arts at the Candle Festival.
Canberra Nara Candle Festival
The annual Canberra Nara Candle Festival held on Saturday 21 October, featured performances throughout the afternoon and evening. The highlight of the Festival is the lighting of 2000 candles as an expression of peace and goodwill between nations.
Thousands of Canberrans attended the Festival, and approximately 200 local students performed at the event. They included the ACT Senior Schools Band, school choirs and dance groups.
Spectators enjoyed displays of Japanese martial arts including Aikido (a form of self-defence) and Kendo, in which armoured combatants challenge each other to bouts of sword-fighting using bamboo swords. Buddhist monks from Nara presented a display of ‘Iaido’, or Japanese swordsmanship. Nara citizens performed ritual rice pounding, known as 'mochi'.
Wadaiko Rindo entertained the crowds with high-energy Japanese drumming. Traditional music also included performances of the Japanese flute or 'shakuhachi'.
Indigenous Australia was represented by the Aboriginal dance group, Wiradjuri Echoes, who performed a series of traditional songs and dances. Students of the Australian National University, Drumatix percussion group presented contemporary drumming fused with traditional Japanese elements.
Photo and Storybook competition
A competition invited school students to engage with the theme of the Australia- Japan Year of Exchange. Primary school students could enter a story-writing and picture-book competition, while high school students participated in a photography competition. Competition entries were exhibited at Old Parliament House after the festival.