Jakarta. Leaders of Islamic boarding schools and representatives from the two largest Islamic organizations in Indonesia, Nahdlatul Ulama, or NU, and Muhammadiyah, are set visit Japan on Tuesday (03/10), as part of two exchange programs to strengthen relations between Indonesia and Japan, and to showcase a distinctly Indonesian brand of Islam.
"Even though cooperation between Indonesia and Japan is largely focused on the economy, citizen exchange between the two countries also plays an important role," deputy chief of mission at the Embassy of Japan in Indonesia, Kozo Honsei, said on Monday.
Honsei added both programs aim to strengthen understanding between the people of Japan and Indonesian Muslims.
The first program, which will bring leaders from Indonesian Islamic boarding schools to Japan, has been held every year since 2004 with a total number of 148 participants.
The second program, held under the aegis of the Asean-Japan East Asia Network of Exchange for Students and Youths (Jenesys), is sending 10 youth representatives from NU and another 10 from Muhammadiyah to Japan.
All 30 participants will be taken on trips to cultural and government institutions, and will experience living with Japanese families.
"Participants will be able to deepen their understanding about Japanese culture and tradition. We hope the people of Japan will also better understand Indonesia, as well as Islam in this country," Honsei said.
Indonesia and Japan will celebrate their 60th year of formal diplomatic relations next year, and Honsei expressed hopes that the exchange programs will contribute to not only better people-to-people relations but also increase cooperation between the two countries.
Imam Pituduh, a representative from NU, said his organization will also invite Japanese leaders to Indonesia to learn more about Islam in the country soon through its "Reinventing Islam Nusantara" program, also with hopes that the exchange will continue the close relations between NU and Japan.