This is part of
a series of interviews in which
people with wide cross-cultural
experience in Japan and China discuss
their work, problems and hopes for
Duan Yue Zhong was
working as a senior editor at one
of China's most influential newspapers
when he gave it up to join his wife
That was 15 years
ago, and now Duan runs a publishing
business in Tokyo's Ikebukuro district.
In the time he has lived here, he
has seen the relationship between
Japan and China become more tense
than it has been in decades.
Duan, 48, puts out
a newsletter covering activities
by Chinese expatriates and has published
more than 130 books. He has also
become something of an unofficial
spokesman for the Chinese community
"There are so
many accumulated exchanges between
our two countries over the last
30 years, but the problem is that
they have not directly translated
into better mutual understanding,"
Duan said. "I want to help
Japanese people know what's happening
in the Chinese community.
"Take my neighborhood,
the Ikebukuro district, for example.
I have done some research on Chinese
who graduated from [the area's]
Rikkyo University, and I've found
out some of them now hold senior
government posts in China.
good Chinese bookstores, many Chinese-language
publications, Chinese-run Internet
cafes and restaurants, so this should
be promoted in an organized way."
Duan currently is
preparing to set up a study group
to promote the concept of an Ikebukuro
Chinatown. He has gotten some officials
of Rikkyo University on board along
with local politicians, shop owners
and community members, Duan said.
Duan, who worked for
the state-run China Youth Daily
before coming to Japan 15 years
ago, made a name for himself here
in the late 1990s when he published
the "Data Book of Chinese."
The publication, the first of its
kind in Japan, listed about 10,000
Chinese in Japan, including business
people, academics and journalists.
It also has 50,000 entries about
business here. The book was the
product of six years collecting
information from newspapers, magazines
and other published material.
His small publishing
house, Nihon Kyohosha (The Duan
Press), specializes in books on
Japan-China relations. Many of the
books are by Chinese authors and
have been translated into Japanese.
Duan decided to set up the company
in 1999 as an extension of a monthly
magazine on Chinese expatriates
he had started as a graduate student
in Niigata Prefecture.
He also puts out a
weekly e-mail magazine about Chinese
expatriates in Japan, and updates
his Web site duan.exblog.jp/>
nearly every day. The blog covers
a wide range of events related to
It is in Japan, the
journalist and publisher says, that
he enjoys the greatest freedom to
"I would not
be allowed to publish books freely
on delicate subjects related to
bilateral ties [in China] because
there is not yet much freedom of
speech in China," said the
Hunan province native.
The business doesn't
always pay enough to support his
wife and two children, and Duan
occasionally puts in stints teaching
Chinese language at universities
to supplement his income.
is a major headache because major
distributors do not deal with a
small company like mine," Duan
said. "The Internet is now
a major sales tool."
Duan was 33 with no
knowledge of Japanese when he first
came here in 1991.
"Since my Chinese
wife was studying at a Japanese
university, she asked me to come
to live in Japan for one year, which
was my original plan," he said.
His bosses at the China Youth Daily
granted him a year's leave from
"Since I was
a journalist, my interest naturally
turned to the Chinese-language media
in Japan, which then helped me get
interested in activities by Chinese
residents in Japan," Duan said.
In the end, he decided
to stay in Japan to earn a doctorate
at Niigata University, writing his
thesis on the history of contemporary
Chinese who studied in Japan.
As a key exchange
project, he is promoting a Japanese-language
essay contest for Chinese and a
Chinese-language version for Japanese,
both of which are now in their second
In March, he made
a set of proposals to promote mutual
understanding between the two countries.
One of them is to
create a new discussion forum for
politicians from both countries
who have experience studying in
each other's country. He is personally
contacting individual politicians
and organizations involved in Japan-China
exchanges to seek support for the
idea. "I am getting some positive
feedback and I am hopeful we will
be able to establish the forum next
But his personal campaign
for better mutual understanding
sometimes looks like a drop in the
bucket. Hostilities between Japan
and China have flared in recent
years over issues such as Prime
Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visits
to Yasukuni Shrine, where war criminals
are honored along with the rest
of Japan's war dead, and over textbooks
criticized by China as whitewashing
Japan's militarist past.
"The worse the
situation becomes, the more effort
I should make," Duan said.
"I am sure the more people
understand the history of the relationship,
the more we can understand each
other."(IHT/Asahi: May 15,2006)