Monday, October 11, 2010

Japanese diplomat recounts happy memories here ..!!!

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Japanese diplomat recounts happy memories here
by Sapumali GALAGODA

Minister and Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy of Japan, Kaoru Shimazaki spoke on his diplomatic career and outlined happy memories about his life and the ties between the two countries. Here are excerpts of the interview:

Q: Do you have happy memories of your childhood?

A: I have lots of happy memories with my family. Besides my father and mother I have an elder brother and an elder sister. Playing sports such as baseball, cards, visiting traditional and cultural places with my family were some of the interesting things in my childhood in Japan. I'm a great fan of music, especially the classical music.

Q: What is your educational background?

A: After my secondary education I entered Keio University in 1977 and graduated in law in 1981.

Then as a trainee diplomat I studied at the Philipps University Marburg in Germany from 1983 to 1985.

Since September 2008 I have been attached to the Embassy of Japan in Sri Lanka as the Minister, Deputy Chief of Mission. As a music lover I listen to music and play the flute. I had an opportunity to play with some of the leading members of the Symphony Orchestra and the Chamber Orchestra of Sri Lanka and this is a good chance to pursue my hobby.

Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy of Japan, Kaoru Shimazaki

Last weekend I also watched a Kyogen-play by the students of the Kelaniya University which was a Japanese Language play with a Sinhalese translation at the "Punchi Theatre" in Borella. Japanese cultural events performed by Sri Lankan artistes are also impressive.

Q:Have the ties between Japan and Sri Lanka developed during the years?

A:Japan and Sri Lanka have enjoyed extremely friendly relations. Japan's cordial relations with Sri Lanka date back to 1952 when Japan established diplomatic relations with Sri Lanka. Japan has provided relief and rehabilitation assistance in times of need for conflict affected communities and those affected by tsunami as well.

The Japanese government has provided assistance and donations to construct the Mannar bridge, Agro-well construction under the GGP (Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Projects) and support for medium and Long-term development such as improvement of Anuradhapura Teaching Hospital, Upper Kotmale Hydro Power Project and the Southern Transport Development Project.Japan has also assisted in livelihood and development projects in the North and the East.

The Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO) is playing an important role in promoting trade between our two countries by providing information and developing the private sector as well. In August last year the Government-Private Joint Forum was launched and the 15th joint Meeting of the Sri Lanka-Japan and Japan-Sri Lanka Business Co-operation Committee was held in November 2009. These efforts by the Japanese businessmen with their Sri Lankan counterparts and the Government of Sri Lanka will create a conducive environment to promote trade and investment between our two countries.

The Japanese Government has also supported us to protect and develop cultural sites which have also strengthened the bonds. The highlight in this field was the opening of the Sigiriya Museum in July 2009 by President Mahinda Rajapaksa and former Prime Minister of Japan Yasuo Fukuda.

Q: Are there similarities between the two countries?

A: Geographically there are similarities such as Japan's being an island country like Sri Lanka. At the times Japan suffers natural disasters such as earthquakes and typhoons and Sri Lanka experienced a tsunami in 2006. I personally feel that the mentality between the two people's are quite similar. People in Sri Lanka and Japan are usually smiling friendly.

Both countries are not so rich in natural resources, therefore the most important is the human resource for both countries.

Q: What are the interesting things that took place during your diplomatic career?

A: As a member of the German School of Japanese Foreign Ministry , being in Germany on three different occasions adds to 11 years.

From 1985 to 1985 I was a Vice Consul in Berlin. Ten years thereafter I was attached to the Embassy in Bonn as the First Secretary and by that time Germany was united. I was again posted to Germany as a Minister in 2005 where I worked until September 2008. During this period the Embassy was moved to Berlin following the shifting of the capital. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany were memorable.

I was in Jakarta, in Indonesia from March 1998 to September 2000 and two months later after my arrival in Jakarta, Suharto regime was overthrown. I was in Indonesia in the midst of the East Asian monetary crisis. During that time my task was very hard because I was in charge of Japanese ODA to Indonesia, but it was also a very good experience.

One of the most impressive events in Sri Lanka was the end of the 30-year conflict.

Q: How do you spend your leisure?

A: Listen to classical music, play the flute and the violin. I also read music scores and books on history, literature, biographies of famous artistes and statesmen of Japan and those the world over. I am now reading a book about Sri Lankan history.

Q: What are your favourite books among all the biographies you have read?

A: As a diplomat who served in Germany for more than 10 years, I would like to mention biographies and memoirs of German artistes and statesmen such as Bach, Beethoven, Furtwaengler, Bismarck and former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl who contributed to the German reunification and the European integration.

I am now reading the autobiography of Margaret Thatcher with great interest.

Q: What do you think of Sri Lanka and its people?

A: Sri Lanka is wonderful and beautiful. After the end of the conflict the country is peaceful with great potential. There are various kinds of animals. Sri Lankans are very friendly and are always beaming with smiles. Anuradhapura, Sigiriya, Hikkaduwa, Horton Plains and Sripada are very beautiful.

Q: How can Sri Lankans understand the Japanese people better since there is a language barrier?

A: I think if we have mutual understanding and respect, we can overcome the language barrier. Despite the language barrier Sri Lankans can understand the Japanese people. At the same time over 12,000 Sri Lankans are now learning the Japanese language. There is a marked increase in the number of Sri Lankans learning Japanese. They are very good at learning. Many people of Japanese origin have great interest in Sri Lankan culture. For example, two years ago Sri Lanka's cultural heritage exhibition which displayed about 150 artifacts including some of Sri Lanka's national treasures was held in Tokyo. The average number of visitors to the exhibition exceeded 1,200 daily. The Emperor and Empress of Japan also visited it. I think the exhibition was very successful and a good opportunity for the Japanese people to learn more about Sri Lankans history and its tradition.

Produced by Lake House Copyright © 2010 The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd.

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