8 December 2022

Cross-Cultural Transmission in Motion: ASEAN-Japan Virtual Cultural Exchange Programme 2022 (AUN-SUN/SixERS Cross-Cultural Event) Ends on a Successful Note

AUN Writer Team

By: Waritsara Tiraronnakul, AUN Intern

ASEAN-Japan Virtual Cultural Exchange Programme 2022 (AUN-SUN/SixERS Cross-Cultural Event) was successfully co-organised on 29 November - 1 December 2022. The three-day virtual programme was intended to provide continuity to past cultural exchange programme collaborations between the AUN and SUN/SixERS. 

The theme of this event was “ The Importance of Storytelling in Preserving Self-Identity and Building a Resilient Community” which aimed to explore the vast transmission and perseveration of knowledge, customs, and cultures through the act of storytelling through the generations and for ASEAN and Japan students to share amongst themselves through a virtual platform. To emphasize, this three-day programme consisted of several activities, such as Cultural Dialogue by an expert student researcher, an immersive Virtual ASEAN Culture Heritage Tour, ASEAN-Japan Traditional Fables and Cultural Workshop. 

The first day of the programme began with an opening session on Zoom, joined by the honourable Prof. Takayoshi Suzuki, Director of SUN/SixERS and Vice-President of Okayama University, and Dr. Choltis Dhirathiti, AUN Executive Director. Following the opening session, the students were divided into groups and participated in an ice-breaking session in which the participants learned about one another through a game called ‘two truths and a lie.’ Afterwards, there was a  Cultural Dialogue about “The Epic Storytelling Journey of One Piece and Buddhist Values” from distinguished guest Naphon Petplai, an expert student researcher from the Soka University of America. The students were then sent to breakout room functions on Zoom to discuss the similarities and differences in the transmission of religious values and perform self-reflection. They discussed what kinds of sentiments arise from this activity regarding the connection between the Buddhist concept of enlightenment, the foolish character of the main character, Monkey D. Luffy, and the participants themselves.

The magnificent presentation was full of insightful insights with reference to the famous anime, One Piece, and Buddhism session with our experts, subsequently leading to another session titled “ASEAN Immersive Cultural Heritage Tour.” The participants relocated to the Gather Town platform – a virtual meeting platform where the participants got to create their own 2D avatars to join in activities and interact with one another in a virtual town. In this session, the participants assembled on the Gather Town platform and were set to explore the virtual town and museum created by the AUN team, featuring exhibitions of several famous folktales in Japan and the ASEAN region, before engaging in the last activity of the day, which was the Museum Tour Quiz in Cafeteria area.

On Day 2, the students first joined together on Zoom in the session “ASEAN-Japan Traditional Fables and Tales,” which was an epic two-hour activity for small groups of 8–10 participants to plan, discuss, and perform a storytelling presentation of an iconic fable or tale of a selected country. This task was able to enhance participants' communication skills, soft skills, and ability to work with people from different cultures. The results were shown during the working section of the activity, in which the students were able to collaborate well in research, giving out knowledge and insights/lessons in Folktales from Japan and ASEAN countries. The second day of the event concluded with the “Cross-Cultural Meal” session, where the students brought a traditional dish of their cultures to the virtual table and had dinner together. During this session, the students got to relax and connect while also sharing information and the background of their traditional food.

On the last day of the programme, the students joined together on Zoom to participate in a cultural workshop that is divided into two different sections “Arts and Crafts: Zodiac paper cutting: Tung Tue Pueng” and “Loy Krathong Lotus Lantern.” In the first activity, AUN interns gave out brief information about the origin story of the Chinese Zodiac sign, the beliefs behind Lanna Craft: Tung Tue Pueng and the methods of Handicraft respectively. In the second activity, Benyasiri Eimviriyapong, the AUN officer who led this cross-cultural event, taught participants about the history of rivers and beliefs surrounding water in the ASEAN region and Japan through Southeast Asia’s picturesque Loy Krathong Festival along with simple Origami of Loy Krathong Lotus Lantern. It was encouraged for the participants to put their concerns and worries into the water lantern and let the river take them all away. 

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Figure 1: Following a cultural workshop with AUN staff, the students displayed their handcrafted Tung Tue Pueng and Loy Krathong Lotus Lanterns.

This cultural workshop on a virtual platform proved to be highly successful, with the students togetting to spend some quality time together crafting and showcasing their handmade crafts. The students showed interest in learning more about Thai culture and history behind these activities and actively engaged in conversation and discussion. 

The programme concluded with closing remarks by representatives from SUN/SixERS and AUN. This event astonishingly ended with a good impression and memories that carved on all of the organisers’ and participants' hearts and minds. 

“For me, it would have to be the power of stories. Like, not just the content of the folklore from the ASEAN + Japan nations or the presentation by Golf on his final year project (which was super fascinating and I'll never look at One Piece the same again). But also, how we told our own, swapped our life stories... It goes to show that no matter the subtle or acute variations between the cultures. Deep down and maybe on the surface as well, we are one and the same! That hit me hard!! I believe it's a message that needs to be reinforced with the rest of the world~” from Darren Ying Chen Yi

“The fact that, despite being in a virtual environment, it felt so real to interact with everyone just amazed me. It was a very amazing get together with people from different backgrounds and helped us all learn a lot from each other. It was totally emotional at the end when the session was closing, as we felt it hard to say goodbye to each other. I would definitely go for another event like this.” from Aale Muhammad

The comments received from the students will be used as motivation for the staff to continue organising a better version of the cross-cultural events in the future for greater impact and stronger connections among the participants.