The International School Network visited the Diplomatic Archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) of Japan to interview the Director, Ms. Kayoko Fukushima on August 28, 2019.
Ms. Fukushima explained that the mission of the Diplomatic Archives is to preserve and manage diplomatic records and make them available to the public.
In the main building, the institution stores the original diplomatic documents. Ms. Fukushima noted that researchers, students, and recently foreign nationals visit them.
In the annex, there is an exhibition room where there are permanent and special exhibitions. The permanent exhibition displays documents from the late Edo to the post-war period. The special temporary exhibition changes three to four times per year and presents precious materials. At the time of the interview, the display was especially exceptional, celebrating the 150th anniversary of the establishment of the MOFA.
Finally, the Diplomatic Archives works on compiling documents; Japanese diplomatic history experts collect materials to be printed. Ms. Fukushima explained that they choose, format, and publish the documents, which are old and hard to read due to traditional language and handwriting styles. The documents are put in chronological order and also by theme (such as the Japanese entry and participation of the UN, which is a post-war topic).
Recently, the Diplomatic Archives have been engaging in online activities- a recent development in the Archives (since the end of last year). The Diplomatic Archives created a search engine for showcasing documents online. What is especially astounding about this service is that users can search for keywords in the contents of the documents! Images of the materials can be found from the online database through such a sophisticated search engine.
Materials at the Diplomatic Archives
Ms. Fukushima explained some examples of the main and also unique types of documents held by the Diplomatic Archives.
(1) Records of MOFA
MOFA first keeps such records, but after a period, they are judged for whether they should be kept in the Archives, or deleted with the consent of the Prime Minister.
(2) Old records from Tokugawa Shogunate
Ms. Fukushima noted that the Archives holds Japan's exchanges with foreign countries from the time that they had closed their doors. This includes documents from the time of Commodore Perry's arrival).
Diplomatic and Multilateral treaties are stored in robust environments, with constant temperatures and humidities.
(4) Letters and Messages from Heads of States
Ms. Fukushima noted that this includes letters to Japan from Napoleon and Lincoln!
(5) Documents of late Prime Minister Yoshida Shigeru
Finally, Ms. Fukushima noted that late Prime Minister Yoshida Shigeru's documents are displayed in a room.
Japan's Globalization Experience
Ms. Fukushima noted that Japan has been opening doors to trade and treaties since the Edo period. Then, since World War II, Japan has become determined to be a peaceful nation and aided developing countries with global efforts and close focus on the SDGs.
Ms. Fukushima believes that the first step towards world peace is first to build peace within our minds. Societies need to develop mutual respect and trust, founded on the principles of equality.
Ms. Fukushima's Background
Ms. Fukushima has been working in the MOFA since 1981 and has worked occasionally at the United Nations University and UN Women. The International School Network has previously interviewed her at UN Women.
Initially, Ms. Fukushima felt a change when she came back to MOFA because of the difference in office environments. UN Women was a small and new office, which started with only two staff! In comparison, the Diplomatic Archives is older and larger, having been build 50 years ago, operating with over 50 staff. Nevertheless, both of her positions have been involving management and outreach activities, so Ms. Fukushima noted that her experiences at both offices had a lot in common.
Ms. Fukushima also explained to us her challenges in balancing her work life and private life as a working woman. She noted that Japan had come a long way in maternal care. When she had her first daughter, there was no childcare leave, but when she had her second daughter, she got a one year leave. Now, the Ministry can take up to three years of childcare leave.
Ms. Fukushima's message to students is to come to the Diplomatic Archives and to learn more about the international world and diplomacy. She hopes that more students can contact the Archives, and is willing to hold seminars and group tours for students.
Ms. Fukushima also expressed that she would appreciate further cooperation, inquiries, and visits from Embassies.
As for her future goal, she is working to make the Diplomatic Archives more user friendly and accessible. She aspires for more people to find the information and services provided by the Diplomatic Archives useful.