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ASIA

Hollande applauds anti-austerity Abe in Japan

The success of Japanese PM Shinzo Abe's big-spending, austerity-busting economic policies in recent times is "good news" for Europe, French President François Hollande said on Friday on an official visit to the country.

Hollande applauds anti-austerity Abe in Japan
Is Japanese PM Shinzo Abe (R) "leading the way" for French President François Hollande (L) with his austerity-bashing policies? Photo: Toru Yamanaka/AFP

French President Francois Hollande said Friday the big spending and ultra-loose money aimed at boosting Japan's flagging economy was "good news" for austerity-weary Europe.

Speaking in Tokyo, where he is on a three day visit, he noted the apparent early success of policies implemented by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in his bid to end 15 years of growth-sapping deflation.

"The Japanese government has taken a number of measures since Mr Abe's team came to power," he told reporters. "It is not for me to judge them, they are a matter for Japan.

"But the priority given to growth and the fight against deflation, along with the emphasis on competitiveness for business… is good news for Europe, because in Europe we also have to give priority to growth."

France is leading a growing charge in Europe against Germany's insistence on fiscal discipline as the eurozone tries to dig itself out from under a mountain of uninspiring economic news.

In a draft document released in April, Hollande's Socialist Party pilloried German Chancellor Angela Merkel for her "selfish" insistence on austerity as the solution to Europe's debt crisis.

It said she was obsessed with "Berlin's trade balance and her electoral future".

Since his election a year ago, Hollande has vowed to tip the main focus of Europe's economic recovery efforts towards growth rather than austerity.

Japan's Abe announced huge fiscal stimulus measures and pressed the country's central bank into a huge easing programme as he tries to get the economy moving after years of its treading water.

Although the sheen has somewhat dulled after steep falls in the last two weeks, the Tokyo stock market had lapped up the moves, rising by around 80 percent at its highest point.

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FESTIVAL

Japan the star of huge eight-month festival in France

The largest celebration of Japanese culture ever to take place outside the country starts this weekend in France.

Japan the star of huge eight-month festival in France
"Throne" by Japanese sculptor Kohei Nawa on display at the Louvre Pyramid during the opening of the exhibition "Japonismes 2018". Photo: AFP

The eight-month-long festival “Japonismes 2018” features everything from prehistoric art to what the organisers bill as the first virtual reality concert staged in Europe.

“It's the largest extravaganza of its kind ever held outside Japan,” its director Korehito Masuda told AFP.

Paris' most famous sites will become windows to Japanese culture during the festival. The Eiffel Tower will be lit up in the colours of the Japanese flag for the first time in September, while artist Kohei Nawa has installed a monumental hanging gold throne in the pyramid of the Louvre museum until November.

Other events across France aim to show the immense global influence of the Land of the Rising Sun.

French President Emmanuel Macron said Japanese culture has influenced generations of French artists from Monet and the Impressionists to the present.

France is the biggest overseas market for Japanese manga comics.

“The French, more than all of the other nations, know Japanese culture best,” said Masuda.

Another highlight of the season, whose 30 million-euro ($35-million) budget is being entirely met by Tokyo, is the “first virtual reality concert” in Europe.

Hatsune Miku, which translates literally as “the first sound of the future”, is a 3D singer created thanks to virtual reality technology.

Miku has already won hearts and filled stadiums in Asia and North America with her manga-influenced style, and will take to the stage in Paris in December.

“We wanted to show the continuity of Japanese tradition up to the present day through the integration of traditional art and technology,” Masuda said.

An interactive child-friendly exhibition in Paris immerses visitors in a wonderland of samurai and the bucolic Japanese countryside created by Hayao Miyazaki for his animated classics like “Spirited Away”, “My Neighbour Totoro” and “Howl's Moving Castle”, juxtaposed with a 11-metre-high virtual waterfall which moves in step with visitors' feet.

Japanese cinema also comes under the spotlight, with a retrospective for the country's best known female director, Naomi Kawase, famed for her documentary “Embracing”, about her search for her father who abandoned her as a child.

The high-profile events are a part of Japan's cultural offensive against the rising star of neighbouring China, which is making major strides to modernise its own artistic output.

France competed against Russia and Spain to host the season, winning out, the organisers said, because of its obsession with all things Japanese.

The festival, subtitled “Souls in Synergy”, seeks to strengthen the cultural ties between France and Japan as the two nations celebrate 160 years of diplomatic relations.

READ ALSO: Japanese manga strip fetches record price at Paris auction

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