In Japan: 2 months
Identity: Institut français du Japon – Kyushu (Director)
Francine Méoule, the new Director of the Institut français du Japon – Kyushu, is keen to get started in her new role bridging France and Kyushu through culture. Francine has spent nine years of her career in Asia and loves it! She sees much potential in Fukuoka and Kyushu and thinks the institute could diversify to include more pop culture such as manga and technology. She plans to visit many places around Kyushu to familiarize herself with the region and develop networks from which the institute can initiate new events and also broaden awareness of their existing activities. In addition to events by French artists and musicians and a monthly cinema night at Nishitetsu Hall, the institute also operates the area’s largest French language school complete with a resource library of books and DVDs. This year marks the 30th anniversary of sister city relations between Bordeaux and Fukuoka. The institute has many events already planned, details of which can be found on their website in French and Japanese. On a personal level, Francine is looking forward to biking around the city, joining a yoga school and getting settled in!
Fukuoka Now reporter Nicole Okimura chatted with Francine about arriving in Fukuoka, the journey that brought her here, and what she has planned for the future in her new role at the Institut français du Japon – Kyushu. Read the full interview below…
When did you arrive in Fukuoka?
I arrived on September 8, and I love this amazing city. I have found it so busy and full of young people.
Where are you from?
I am from Paris, France. But I have spent about 10 years in Asia. I was in Singapore from 1994 to ‘95, Thailand from ‘96 to 2000 and South Korea from 2000 to 2004. During my time in Korea, I visited Tokyo and Kyoto but never had a chance to get to Fukuoka.
You’ve spent many years promoting French and European culture in Asia. What changes have you seen?
Previously, we saw more Asians interested in going to France and Europe however recently more French are travelling to Asia to participate in projects. In the past many Asians began their interest in France and Europe with language study. Today we see more and more people coming to our center to study cooking, fashion, and other aspects of French culture directly and not necessarily with French language ability.
Tell me about where you work?
I am the Director of the Institut français du Japon – Kyushu. The institute recently changed its name from l’Institut franco-japonais du Kyushu, to make it simple within our organization. The public won’t notice any big changes though. Our institute is located just steps from the Akasaka Subway Station.
When it comes to appealing to younger generations, what are France’s strongest cultural assets?
The younger generations enjoy technology and we must promote that. Smartphone application development and video game creation are becoming popular in France. Animation schools are also opening up all the time. The institute often showcases animated films, design, architecture, cooking, art, film and music projects.
What do you like the most about your job?
I love that I get to meet many people. I am very curious about different cultures and people.
This year is the 30th anniversary of the sister city relationship between Bordeaux and Fukuoka. What are you doing to celebrate this?
We have many events on to celebrate the relationship. A detailed booklet can be picked up at the institute or found online in French and Japanese on our website (http://www.ifj-kyushu.org/jp/). Many of the events are free including an exhibition on Bordeaux wine at the Fukuoka City Public Library November 1~December 9.
What direction do you see the institute taking?
I intend to broaden the institute’s direction to involve more of Kyushu. I plan to visit many places around Kyushu and see first hand what people are interested in. I hope to learn about their cultures and use that input to develop projects which I hope will appeal to them more. We also must expand the institute’s influence further out and beyond the institute’s walls. We are already working with universities and want to continue this kind of collaboration. While the institute will continue to diversify we are not going to neglect some of our basic functions such as French language instruction.
Do you have anything new to introduce to Fukuoka?
I plan to start an artist residency project, not for only visual arts, but possibly other fields such as dance, literature, and music.
Are you an artist yourself?
I used to draw, paint and sculpt, but I just don’t have time now. I don’t necessarily miss it as I am still constantly around artists and art. And sharing art with others keeps my creativity flowing and is also very satisfying.
How do you spend your time off?
I love to cycle, do yoga, watch films, cook and see exhibitions. I am excited to do these in Fukuoka once I get settled.
Originally published in Fukuoka Now Magazine (fn167, Nov. 2012)