Tokyo, Sept.29 : Cultural ties between India and Japan have taken a giant leap forward with Tokyo hosting the two-day Namaste India 2008 festival at the weekend.
Vaibhav Kant Upadhyay, the Chairman of the India Center Foundation (ICF), which organized the event in the Yoyogi-koen park of Central Tokyo on Saturday and Sunday, said the objective of the festival was to showcase India's culture, society and economy and to provide an opportunity for the Japanese to connect with India.
He said that the ICF has been constantly working towards creating better relations between India and Japan.
'Namaste India' is a platform that allows people of India and Japan to interact and understand each other's rich culture. It is ultimately the people-to-people dialogue that fosters confidence in the ability to work together and strengthen bilateral ties, Upadhyay said.
Over 100,000 visitors, most of them Japanese, experienced a variety of cultural performances from artists not only from India, but from Japan as well.
Displaying a cultural synergy, Japanese artistes performed classical Indian dances and contemporary Indian music.
Kathak and dance performances by Bollywood dancers were the major attractions of the event.
"This is a very good experience, Japanese people are the best. I am telling you from the core of my heart that Japanese are the best people in the world" an Indian tourist said.
Bollywood diva Vidya Malavade was the Namaste India Cultural Icon for the year 2008. She distributed autographed DVDs' of her film Chak De India to winners of the Karaoke competition.
"Thank you so much for making me come here and honoring me. I am very obliged," said Malvade.
The two-day carnival also had other special guests from India.
Magician Ugesh Sarcar mesmerized the audience with his unbelievable tricks, while media guru and ad filmmaker Prahlad Kakkar hosted a special tea tasting session and introduced Indian Darjeeling Tea to the Japanese.
Classical Indian dance recitals by Japanese performers Kimiko Maruhashi, Hiromi Maruhashi and Sachiyo Kubota Kaltatawa Ainu were the highlight of the programme on the second day.
For the first time a special Indian Fashion extravaganza was organized at the event where Japanese models displayed the best of Indian contemporary fashion.
Sonam Dubal's "Sanskar" and Poonam Bhagat's "Taika" projected and promoted modern trends in Indian fashion.
Namaste India 2008 created special spaces for Japanese visitors. They were given an opportunity to experience India's march towards economic development, especially in Gujarat and Lakshadweep.
Different stalls from India showcased different aspects of Indian culture. The onlookers also had an opportunity to taste Indian food and also buy Indian handicrafts.
In its 16th year, 'Namaste India', which was initiated by a Japanese Indophile in 1992, celebrated the very best of Indian culture, cuisine, entertainment and business.
A music recital titled "Ladhak" organized by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations was also featured.
The ICCR's rock band Speech, led by Haribhatt played live while a dance-drama, "India and Indian-I", featured Ayako Sakurai on the tabla and dancers from ICCR.
"The India Centre Foundation, founded in 1996 as a non-profit organisation, has been a catalyst in strengthening India-Japanese relation by building bridges at a socio-economic level.
The foundation, which began showcasing India through Bollywood 12 years ago, now has a permanent mission in Tokyo and Beijing.
"We initially screened movies like 'Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge', 'Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman' and other Shah Rukh Khan starrers to acquaint the people of Japan to the cultural diversity, ethos and colours of India. After it grabbed eyeballs, we started promoting Indian culture seriously," Upadhyay said.
The foundation, unlike other India-Japanese official initiatives, sets a theme to promote cultural exchanges, Upadhayay said. As a result, several soft economic segments like tourism and education have benefited.
Citing tourism figures, Upadhayay said while in 1996, only 50,000 visas were issued for Japanese tourists visiting India, by 2002 it shot up to 150,000, three times the number primarily because of the Indian culture road shows.
"Indian mathematics is also very popular in Japan. At least 20 books on ancient Vedic math have been authored by Japanese experts and they are taught in schools," Upadhyay said.
A Japanese citizen aptly summed up the ethos of the festival stating that Buddha said; cause suffering to none, non-violence is the greatest religion. He touched the hearts of all and sundry present there.