Japanese singer-songwriter Shinji Tanimura on Friday sang enthusiastically in China's capital for the first time in 10 years, carrying his hope for further improvement in relations between the two countries.
At a concert to celebrate the 40th anniversary of signing the Japan-China peace and friendship treaty, Tanimura, 69, captured the heart of thousands of Chinese people as heavy rain fell outside the Beijing Exhibition Center.
Tanimura has become popular in China as he sang "Subaru" (Star) at the opening ceremony of the Shanghai World Expo in 2010. After the event, many of the country's internet users posted on blogs or SNS comments that they were moved by one of his biggest hit songs.
"Music and culture have played a significant role in promoting exchanges between Japan and China," Tanimura said at a group interview in Beijing on Thursday, expressing hope that bilateral relations will improve further.
Tanimura, who served as a professor at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music for five years from 2004, has given several concerts in China since the 1980s, when overseas music started to spread in the nation after it adopted the reform and opening-up policy in 1978.
In late 2012, Tanimura was forced to cancel a concert in Beijing, as ties between Japan and China markedly deteriorated over a territorial dispute.
"Countries often conflict with each other over political and economic issues, but we should not break exchanges among people," Tanimura said.
At the concert hall, Yu Haijan, a 31-year-old company worker, said, "I'm very excited today."
"I learned Japanese through Japanese songs. Mr. Tanimura is one of my favorite Japanese singers," he added.
For years, Tokyo and Beijing had been mired in a territorial row over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. The group of uninhabited islets, which are called Diaoyu in China, are controlled by Japan but claimed by Beijing.
The dispute particularly intensified after the Japanese government of former Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's predecessor, decided to bring the Senkakus under state control in September 2012.
Since late last year, however, the situation has drastically changed, as this year marks the 40th anniversary of the signing and taking effect of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Japan and China.
Abe is expected to visit Beijing on Oct. 23, which falls on the 40th anniversary of the coming into effect of the treaty.