SHIZUOKA, 20 March 2017 – The first ASEAN-Japan Youth Rugby Exchange, which marked deepened ties between ASEAN and Japan youth, concluded today. Held on 14-19 March in the Shizouka prefecture, Japan, the rugby exchange was attended by 264 students from ASEAN Member States and Timor Leste.

It was the first of its kind for ASEAN-Japan cooperation as ASEAN students was introduced to tag rugby, a modified rugby game set by the Government of Japan as a youth programme to promote respect and understanding towards diverse culture. If rugby is commonly perceived as a physical sport, tag rugby models the opposite character of the game as it requires team work and a mutual respect for each of the players.

Ayu Amrizal, Malaysian Rugby Union Association Development Officer, reiterated that the ASEAN-Japan Youth Rugby Exchange Programme gave the students the opportunity to understand the good values of rugby and brought them closer as the youth of ASEAN throughout the programme.

The programme of the Youth Rugby Exchange concluded with a friendly game between the participating students from ASEAN Member States, Japan and Timor Leste. They were placed in groups based on non-home country order, which encouraged them to interact comprehensively with friends from other countries.

With the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games in the horizon, sport has been envisaged as a focus of the Government of Japan for its cooperation with ASEAN. This is also reflected through the outcome of the 32nd ASEAN-Japan Forum in Bandar Seri Begawan, which articulates education, youth and sports as the main sectors of their cooperation.

The Youth Rugby Exchange also reflected the heart-to-heart partnership ASEAN and Japan share through people-to-people contact to increase cultural awareness and understanding. Tommy from Japanese Rugby Football Union who coached the participants throughout the programme said that tag rugby is a sport that allows everyone to join and interact regardless of their background. He also believes that tag rugby is a sport for everyone.

As ASEAN turns 50 this year, ASEAN and Japan are celebrating their 44 years of dialogue relations. With these milestones to celebrate, ASEAN and Japan look forward to closer and deeper cooperation on youth.

The Youth Rugby Exchange is part of the Japan-East Asia Network of Exchange for Students and Youths (JENESYS) 2016 Programme, a project advanced by the Government of Japan to provide good foundation for strong solidarity within Asia through large-scale youth exchanges involving ASEAN, Japan and beyond.

Since 2007, JENESYS has contributed to youth development by mobilizing more than 20,000 young people across the ASEAN region and Japan.