Hong Kong should not let anti-Japan sentiment on the mainland affect cultural exchanges, a Tokyo representative says. Morio Matsumoto, director of public relations and cultural affairs at the Japanese consulate, said more such exchanges could help mend relations between the two sides. He said one Hong Kong school had cancelled a visit to the consulate at the height of the tensions in April, though this was an isolated case. 'Hong Kong people still have great interest in Japanese culture. We feel that the political tension didn't have much influence' on that, Mr Matsumoto said. 'Cultural exchanges are important as they help us understand each other.' The school that cancelled was one of 10 taking part in 'Japan-Hong Kong Year 2005', a programme also involving the University of Hong Kong and Chinese University. Mr Matsumoto also felt the current wave of South Korean culture in Hong Kong would not shake the popularity of Japanese culture. He said more than 30,000 Hong Kong people were studying Japanese. 'There are always ups and downs in terms of a culture's popularity. Japanese culture has deep roots in Hong Kong. It has a much longer history in Hong Kong and much more diversity. 'You can't position South Korea as a competitor in this case. One culture can't replace another.' More than 20 activities were held in the first half of the programme. In the past, a Japanese festival had been held every three years, Mr Matsumoto said. 'But those activities were mainly organised by Japanese groups. This time we are getting different organisations from the community to work together.' Forthcoming activities include a karaoke contest between Hongkongers and Japanese organised by the Japan Universities Alumni Society Hong Kong on June 26. Non-Japanese are required to sing Japanese songs, while Japanese have to perform songs in Cantonese, Putonghua or English. A workshop on kabuki, a traditional performance art, will be given next month by acclaimed artist Ichimura Manjiro, who performed in Hong Kong in 2002. The first Hong Kong-Japanese Film Festival will also be held in August.