A new 13-part web series, which debuted on YouTube in April, takes an exciting look at the deep and mutually beneficial relationship that has blossomed between South Africa and Japan.
Titled Sharing the Sun, the series is hosted by Japanese-South African TV host, entrepreneur, DJ and entertainment journalist, Lalla Hirayama, and explores the long-standing relationship between the Land of the Rising Sun and sunny South Africa.
“The sun is a common motif in both Japan and South Africa,” she says, “and is the perfect symbol to represent the cordial and fruitful relationship between the two countries,”explains Lalla
Full diplomatic relations were re-established in 1992 and, since then, the bond between the countries has been deepening. Over nearly three decades, Japan’s public, private and non-profit sectors have been closely involved in a wide range of initiatives in South Africa, from business and cultural exchanges to the construction of schools and the establishment of job-creation and skills-development programmes.
Sharing the Sun showcases the way in which cooperation between the two countries has contributed to reconstruction and development in South Africa, not least through a number of successful economic partnerships.
The first episode features the inspirational singer/songwriter and Princess of Africa, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, who has harnessed the power of music to transcend boundaries and support positive social change. In this episode, she discusses how, in her role as UNICEF Regional Ambassador for Africa, she collaborated with a leading Japanese company to distribute life-saving mosquito nets in Tanzania. The prevention of the scourge of malaria is a special focus of Yvonne and she actively advocates for the elimination of the disease, which is endemic to 14 out of the 16 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
The second episode examines the activities of UN Women in South Africa, which is particularly active in addressing gender-based violence (GBV). In collaboration with partner countries, including Japan, UN Women has demonstrated how important education and awareness are in breaking this cycle of violence. We also learn about how a project funded by the Japanese government allows organisations such as the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference to continue to have an impact in their communities.
Lalla says she is delighted to be headlining the series, which uncovers the often-overlooked relationship between Japan and South Africa. Born in Hiratsuka to a Japanese mother and a South African father, the subject matter is particularly close to her heart.
The series delves into topics as varied as Japanese cuisine, the hugely popular cultural phenomenon of anime, Japan’s contribution to the response to Covid-19 in South Africa, and the role that South African players are playing in the surge in popularity of rugby in the East Asian country. It also introduces two projects designed to expand and strengthen South Africa’s skills base: the Smallholder Horticulture Empowerment and Promotion (SHEP Approach) programme and the technical cooperation programme with the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) College. The series ends by touching on the 2021 Olympics and Paralympics, which are scheduled to be held in Tokyo later this year.
Interview with Lalla
GLAMOUR: Please share one of your special memories about growing up in Hiratsuka, in Japan?
Lalla: Some of my most cherished memories growing up in Hiratsuka were going to all the street festivals in my Yukata (summer kimono) Eating the amazing street food, traditional dancing and all the lanterns at night.
How was it for you and your family relocating and fitting in in South Africa?
To be honest relocating to South Africa was interesting. I was usually the only East Asian child in class.
In certain scenarios it was tricky to navigate but I do feel it has taught me a lot about tolerance, finding harmony and similarities in all cultures, races and creeds.
Some of the things whether lifestyle or culture South Africa have in common with Japan?
It’s pretty clear that both countries love their food, especially their meat.
Music and dance are at the epicenter of people/ families or communities getting together and celebrating for both South Africa and Japan.
Interestingly there is commonality in the ceremony in weddings.
Not forgetting the love of rugby both countries share and overall passion for sport.
Please tell us a little about the “Sharing The Sun “ series and some of the personalities or highlights we can look forward to?
‘Sharing the Sun’ gives some great insight into the incredible relationship that has blossomed between South Africa and Japan and the phenomenal success stories that have come from it. Enriching lives, developing communities, passing on skills, inspiring the gifted and building legacy.
I think it’s so important to hear more positive stories and be in the know of all the good that is occurring in South Africa especially during this time.
It is a challenging period for the world, but as it’s been said before, you can only handle pain and sadness as long as you experience an equal amount of joy and happiness. Perhaps that is not scientifically correct but I do feel any good story is an important commodity right now.
How important is culture to you?
Japanese society is built upon culture and tradition. My mother raised me to respect where I come from and even though I am a modern day girl, I have come to learn to appreciate the way things were done before. I try to incorporate as much of that as possible into my daily life.
Not wearing shoes inside the house is an important Japanese custom, having a home shrine for our ancestors and praying to them daily. We offer them rice, water, green tea, fruit and sake. We also burn candles and incense.
Our diet is mainly Japanese. Culturally eating rice at all 3 meals of the day.
We offer the first helping of food to our ancestors especially on special occasions.
Going to Shirine is also a big part of life. Unfortunately we do not have a Shintō Shirine here but we visit the Buddhist temple.
Tell us about your South African and Japanese favourite food, music and pop-culture?
In Japanese my favourite food is Yakinikku. In SA I’d say a good Durban curry is hard to beat!
Musically SA has so much talent it’s hard to choose. From hip hop, R&B to Jazz. In Japan J-pop is huge. Yaosobi is one of my FAVES right now.
You are quite an avid traveller, what do you enjoy most about travelling?
Travelling has been a great gift. It has enabled me to see so many different places, meet interesting people and experience a vast array of different cultures. This has shaped my view of the world, and helped me to be more appreciative, more understanding and completely in awe of the incredible world we live in.
Watch the Sharing the Sun series on YouTube:
Photography: Obakeng Molepe
Makeup: Tammi Mbambo
Stylist: Sir Abner, (Kimono: Model’s own)
Model: Lalla Hirayama