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A Québec culture minister visits Japan for the first time

Québec’s Minister of Culture, Communications and the Status of Women, Christine St-Pierre, was in Japan for a mission from September 29 to October 4, 2008. It was the first visit by a Québec culture minister since the Québec Government Office opened in Tokyo 35 years ago. The mission brought the minister to Kyoto and Tokyo to promote Québec culture and strengthen ties between cultural networks in Québec and Japan.

Minister St-Pierre attended the premiere of Cirque du Soleil’s latest show, ZED, in the Japanese capital. The production is slated to run for the next ten years in a new theater built at a cost of $100 million at the Tokyo Disney Resort. The evening brought together over 2,000 guests, including Cirque founder Guy Laliberté. The press release notes that “the minister said she was amazed by ZED and confident that the production would appeal to the Japanese public. She said she was delighted at Cirque du Soleil’s decision to expand its presence in Japan and Asia.” The circus has been performing on tour in Japan for a number of years now, and its shows have already attracted more than five million viewers. It recently unveiled its ZAIA show at the Venitian Macao resort hotel in China and is considering bringing its work to Shanghai.

According to the release, one of the mission’s goals was to launch the cultural component to the joint declaration of cooperation between Québec and the Kyoto Prefecture signed in Québec City last April. Minister St-Pierre met with Kyoto governor Yamada Keiji to explore avenues of cultural cooperation, particularly with regard to museums. “In addition to culture, these newly created cooperative relations would cover areas such as the fight against climate change and forest management.”

In Tokyo, Minister St-Pierre gave a speech to more than 125 guests of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Japan. She stressed “the importance of international trade to the Québec economy and the role of culture in Québec exports.” She also mentioned that Québec productions generated half of Canada’s cultural revenues abroad. Minister St-Pierre stated that “the Japanese are major consumers of international culture and are curious about unusual productions because they go off the beaten path,” pointing out that this was Québec’s exact niche. She also talked about the strategy of the Québec Government Office in Tokyo, which intends to increase the presence of Québec artists in Japan, especially in its capital.

The minister also took advantage of the opportunity presented by her speech to announce the opening of a studio for Québec artists and writers in Japan in 2009. This studio will be set up in the top Asian market for Québec cultural products in partnership with Minster of International Relations, Monique Gagnon-Tremblay. Japan will join the cities of Berlin, New York, Paris, Rome, and soon London, where research and artist residencies have been created to give artists an opportunity to make use of resources from dynamic cultural environments. Minister St-Pierre also confirmed that a Québec film festival will be held in the fall of 2009 in a well-known concert hall in Chofu, Tokyo.

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