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The Embassy of Japan will host a series of events to honour the 100th anniversary of the South Africa/Japan bilateral relationship. The events are aimed at raising awareness about Japan and its century-long ties with South Africa.

Japan ambassador to South Africa, Shigeyuki Hiroki, says in the same year Nelson Mandela was born in Qunu in the Eastern Cape, the first Japanese official mission was dispatched to South Africa. “The Consulate of Japan was established in Cape Town in 1918, becoming Japan’s first mission on the African continent.”

“I imagine those Japanese diplomats coming to South Africa, only about 30 years after the first democratic constitution of Japan, the Meiji Constitution, was established and a generation after the opening of Japan to the world, struggling with both the challenges of international relations in a new world, and learning about this new country they had been sent to.”

“Each generation of Japanese diplomats posted here over the past 100 years has followed in their footsteps, learning a little more about this beautiful country and its people, with the objective of deepening the mutual understanding between South Africa and Japan. As part of this momentous anniversary, I have reaffirmed my commitment to further strengthening the bilateral relationship,”“We are honoured that Nelson Mandela visited Japan three times, including the official state visit in 1995. With great respect for Nelson Mandela’s great achievements and celebrating the 100th anniversary of his birth, we would like to continue working together with South Africa towards further prosperity and enhanced mutual understanding.” adds Hiroki

The Embassy of Japan will host a Japan Cultural Expo Brooklyn Mall in Tshwane on 1, 2 and 3 March. Visitors will experience various aspects of Japanese culture, such as Ikebana (flower arrangement), bonsai (ornamental trees), Japanese traditional costumes and martial arts.

In addition, the embassy has planned activities such as classical music, washoku (traditional Japanese cuisine) and pop-culture events; academic and research exchanges at university level; and business and investment interactions.

“By making the most of these upcoming events, we wish to make 2018 a significant year in bringing Japan closer to the people of South Africa,” continues Hiroki.

He says as a country that overcame the hardships of post-war reconstruction from scratch through the transformation of its economy, Japan has been offering expertise, insights and empowerment to help its African partners in developing their economies.

“Japan launched its Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) in 1993. The highlight was in 2016 when TICAD VI took place on African soil in Kenya for the first time, where Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, announced a new three-year US$30-billion Japanese investment programme in Africa’s future. He also announced the establishment of Japan-Africa Public and Private Economic Forum aimed at further promoting investment by Japan into Africa.”

Hiroki says as the Ambassador of Japan to South Africa, he has witnessed many initiatives by Japan that are aimed at assisting South Africa. “About 140 Japanese companies operate in South Africa alone, contributing to more than 150,000 jobs opportunities locally.

To date, the Government of Japan has provided grassroots grants for over 600 projects, focusing on human security in the areas of health, welfare, education and the agriculture.

Through a five-year African Business Education (ABE) Initiative for Youth, 103 South Africans have been afforded the opportunity to study master’s courses at Japanese universities as well as gain valuable work experience through internships at Japanese corporations.

“We expect the participants in the programme to make great contributions to the development of industries in Africa. In addition, since 1997, 610 South Africans have participated in the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme (JET), which provides learners with the skills they need to teach English to young students at schools in Japan. Furthermore, this year we will launch a new project aimed at developing quality technicians and artisans, with Japanese experts and volunteers being dispatched to TVET colleges and other related institutions. Japan is keen to promote these people-to-people exchanges, particularly in areas that align with the national interests and priorities of South Africa such as education and human security,” adds Hiroki.

Japan will be hosting the Rugby World Cup in 2019, as well as the Tokyo Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020. Hiroki says the embassy hopes many South Africans will attend the events in Japan. “I know that the Japanese visitors to South Africa for the 2010 FIFA World Cup enjoyed themselves immensely, therefore we look forward to returning the hospitality.”

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