The 2006 Chinese Culture Festival started at a ceremony in Japan Friday afternoon, followed by a concert offered by the Chinese National Symphony Orchestra in central Tokyo.
Those present at the opening ceremony were more than 2,000 Chinese representatives in Japan and Japanese friends from all walks of life, including several Japanese former prime ministers and a Japanese royal member.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent their letters of congratulation respectively to the festival, which is jointly sponsored by the Chinese Culture Ministry and the Chinese Embassy in Japan.
In his letter of congratulation, which was read out by Chinese ambassador to Japan Wang Yi, Wen described the festival as the prelude to the 35th anniversary of the normalization of the Sino-Japanese diplomatic relations in 2007, and expressed his expectation that the cultural event will further promote mutual understanding and friendship between the Chinese and the Japanese people.
Abe wrote in his letter that "Japan and China have agreed to push both of the political and the economic wheel to promote the Japan-China relations to an upper grade."
The two sides have reached a consensus to build up a "relationship of mutual benefit based on common strategic interests," Abe wrote, adding that he believes the festival, which is planned at the right time, will definitely inspire the people of both sides and further strengthen the bilateral communication, andlead the Japan-China relations to a higher level.
Chinese Culture Minister Sun Jiazheng said at the ceremony that China and Japan are close neighbors geographically, enjoy frequentcontacts historically, and learn from each other and interact culturally.
He said the festival will show Chinese modern culture in an all-round way to let more Japanese know about today's China and Chinese people. He said one of the aims of the cultural event is to achieve mutual understanding and mutual appreciation between the two peoples.
Japanese House of Representatives Speaker Yohei Kono, House of Councilors Speaker Chikage Ogi and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki also addressed the opening ceremony.
A banquet was held on Friday night for Sun and his entourage bythe Japanese foreign ministry, the culture ministry and some of Japan's friendship organizations.
(Xinhua News Agency November 18, 2006)