Contest winners to take Khmer smile to Japan

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The Embassy of Japan and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport held a performance competition as part of the JENESYS 2017 youth exchange programme at the Cambodia Japan Cooperation Centre recently. After a screening process, 72 groups were whittled down to 12 (48 students). Six of the groups performing were selected to take part in the exchange programme.

The JENESYS programme was launched by the Japanese government in 2007 to allow students to participate in exchange visits Japan. So far, more than 2,000 Cambodian youths have gone on study trips to the country.

According to Kaori Tanabe, first secretary of the Embassy of Japan, the topic “My Best Cambodia” was chosen to help Cambodian students understand more about Japan and to promote Cambodian culture among the Japanese.

After watching performances by the 12 groups of students, Ms Tanabe said she was really happy to see the creative way Cambodian youth chose to express their amazing country’s unique culture. She said she learned much about Khmer culture from these youths.

“I am very interested in Angkor architecture and Khmer musical kites. This the first time I have heard the sound of the Khmer kite,” Ms Tanabe said.

One of the judges, H.E. Chek Lim, deputy director general for youth at the Education minister and a member of one of the programme’s three committees, said he looked for three things in judging the contest.

“There are three main points that I look for: creativity, originality and teamwork,” Mr Lim said.

Of the six groups selected, he said they were all really creative and worked well as teams. He said one group’s theme was “Smile as a way to say hello,” and their demonstration of the Khmer Kite showed the greatness of the Khmer people.

“Cambodians are appreciated around the world for the honest smile with which they greet tourists. Also, the Khmer kite is an icon of Cambodia, so we understand its value and special qualities,” Mr Lim said.

Mr Lim said all selected students will represent the whole university student population of Cambodia, and he hoped they will share their customs, culture, traditions and many other great things with the Japanese.

Leak Sophavotey, a member of the “Smile as a way to say hello” group, said that her team chose this topic because they wanted to show that Cambodians still keep smiling although they have faced years of war.

“We wanted our dance performance to show the golden age of Cambodia in the 1960s, and we have presented the real meaning behind it, as well as pictures of Khmer people smiling,” Ms Sophavotey said.

Ms Sophavotey added that Cambodians value an honest smile. Her team will share their heartfelt smiles, Khmer culture and arts, and the greatness of Cambodia with the Japanese once they arrive there, she said.

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