– Your Excellency, first of all, Nine O’Clock would like to extend you a warm “welcome”, to wish you a very pleasant stay in Romania and a very fruitful tenure here as Japan’s Ambassador. Please, reveal us the priorities of your mandate.
– Compared to my previous expectations, Romania is a very big country, in size and also in population, with big potential. I think Japan should focus more on Romania. From our discussion with President Iohannis and the Foreign Affairs Minister, Romania’s position in Central and Eastern Europe is far more important from the point of its economic and political situation as well as its military aspect.
Until 1989, Romania was a communist country and after that, you changed the political structure and became a democratic country. So this is another surprise for me, that your country perceives very strongly the democracy you respect so much as it was represented in demonstrations recently. And also, Japan and Romania have a long history of diplomacy over approximately 100 years.
With such a long history, my first impression is that there is room for more bilateral relations. Other smaller countries such as Croatia, Austria or Hungary, which are far away from home, became very familiar to the Japanese in recent years and many people visited them and many companies have offices and factories in these countries. So, my sincere feeling is that the relationship of our two countries needs further development.
– This is the first National Day of Japan you are celebrating here. What message would you like to convey to Japanese living in Romania, but also to the Romanian people who value very much the friendship close ties with Japan?
– Before coming to Romania, I read many tourist books about Romanian food, culture, but at the same time the issue of unattended dogs, the atrocity experienced by that female Japanese student, poor security and so on. But the things I found in Bucharest were different. At least in Bucharest I’ve never seen unattended dogs.
I have visited many Asian countries where there are a lot more unattended dogs. So, they are much more dangerous than Bucharest. And the security here is very good. I live near Piata Romana and I sometimes go to the Athenaeum, the National Theatre and other places. At first, I asked my driver to take me to the residence but now, in good weather conditions, I will walk back to my residence with my wife, enjoying dropping by café or shops.
So, as any other Japanese living here, I’m happy to walk in Bucharest. So from these points of view I need to make a change of Romania’s image in Japan. And also the number of the Japanese people in Romania is only four hundred persons, but on the occasion of the “Colectiv” tragedy they collected donations and on December 16, the Japanese Association and the Japan Business Association handed them over to the State Secretary of the Ministry of Health, Mr. Sandesc, as a sign of solidarity.
So even though our number is very small, the Japanese managed to collect money for the victims of the tragedy. I arrived here in Bucharest on October 22, the accident happened on October 30 and two days after, my wife and I visited the site and I saw many people praying there and we were very impressed with the people who felt deeply touched by the tragedy and also by the movement which eventually resulted in changing the Cabinet.
So, the Japanese living in Romania are empathetic with Romanians, they are saddened by this kind of tragedy and also always try to change the situation for the better.
“It is very important for people to visit Romania, to meet Romanians, to taste their cuisine and to make investments”
– Romania and Japan have special relations based on friendship, mutual understanding and convergence of interests in international affairs. What can do both governments in your opinion in order to further enhance this steady development of the bilateral dialogue and cooperation in various fields?
– As I said about the scarce information and also about the somehow little bit outdated image about Romania, before promoting the economic mutual activities I think that the most important thing to be done is the information exchanges so that each country could understand more about the other one.
One necessary thing would be to provide correct information to Japanese tourist agencies. It’s both countries’ duty to get the correct information and to send it to the Japanese tourist agencies. Also, the very vigorous economic activities in Romania are unknown. Almost nobody knows about the fact that Romania achieved one of the highest economic growth in Central and Eastern European countries and about the fact that the Romanian market has such big potential. The real investments should be placed in emerging markets rather than in mature markets.
In this regard, the information about Romania is not good enough to attract Japanese investors. This, of course, is a matter which has to be addressed by the Romanian Government and by economic agencies but it is also our duty to get information from the Romanian Government and from economical bureaus or business federations and send it to Japanese companies and to Japanese people.
Also, it is very important for the people to visit Romania, to come to meet Romanians and to taste their cuisine. As for the Romanians’ visiting Japan, Romanian citizens who hold an ordinary passport have been able to enter the country without visa for the purpose of traveling/business in the last years under a temporary program. Up until now, Japan has not admitted visa waiver for Romanians who hold a temporary passport, which cannot record biometric data, for security reasons.
However, given that this type of passports are broadly used in Romania, the Embassy of Japan requested the relevant Ministry in Japan to understand the state of facts. I am glad to tell you that the visa waiver program will be extended for three years (2016-2018) and temporary passport holders will no longer be an exception.
Therefore, this will accelerate the travels between the two countries. I think not only information exchanges but also personal exchanges with real experience are very important. Seeing is believing. And also eating. As to the National Day, I asked some of the Japanese restaurants to help us and they provided sushi and Japanese sake.
This kind of communication, the communication over food, is very important and it is very easy for everybody to access. Establishing a committee would contribute to further promote Japanese culture, people and its beautiful sceneries. And the committee should include major Japanese restaurants present in Romania.
It is very important for everyone including ordinary people to get easy access to Japanese culture so as to strengthen their understanding and hopefully they will visit Japan. I will support and I will ask the people I know in Japan, since I previously worked in the Ministry of Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, to help with this in Tokyo so that ordinary people have the chance to meet and to see other people and experience their culture.
– The latest bilateral dialogue at high level between the two countries took place in New York in September on the sidelines of the UN Summit, when Romania’s President Mr. Klaus Iohannis had a meeting with Japan’s Prime Minister Mr. Shinzo Abe. It was a new excellent opportunity to notice once again that Romania and Japan share common points of view on global affairs. What’s next?
– President Iohannis’ wife works as a teacher and also Prime Minister’s Abe wife is very active in various fields and also she runs a Japanese food restaurant so I think is a mutually good timing to have a dialogue on the empowerment of women. President Iohannis’ recent activities show he is so eager to share the values of democracy, to share this kind of values in other countries and also I think he is trying to communicate to other countries not only about Romania’s own economical growth but he also he is trying to enhance the economic cooperation between countries, especially EU countries. So this somehow resembles Mr. Abe’s attitude in Asia.
– Japanese companies operating in Romania are actively contributing to boost the economical development of this country, by increasing their production capacities and the exports to EU countries, but also by creating new jobs. How does the future of the Japanese investments in Romania look like, in your opinion? What do the Japanese investors expect more in terms of economic stability and predictability on this market?
– Up until now, the Japanese investments in Romania have in most of the cases been based on labour intensive factories. I visited several factories and I found that, until two or three years ago, they imported most of the materials and the components sometimes from far away, from China for example, but now some of them can acquire materials inside Romania so that means that the level of the factories in this country is increasing and that is very cost efficient.
Another thing I found out, from the statistics of direct investments to Romania is that in most of the cases the companies did not invest directly in Romania but they use other countries, probably because of the tax related issues. So I think that we need to closely look at the data, at the statistics. Also, the market of those companies is not Romania – more than 90% they export to other European countries because of the fact that the market here is not big enough compare to their production capacity. This country has a very good position, being a member of the EU.
Very friendly people with good language skill of English and French are also one of Romania’s asset. Looking at the downside, you need better infrastructure and good road networks. For example, if there’s a hole in the road and the truck has a problem, it will block the road and it will be a nuisance to other drivers. Construction of new highways and ensuring smooth traffic especially inside cities with proper traffic management are of high importance for Romania’s further development. These will also benefit the investors.
– Cultural exchanges have a special role in boosting the friendship ties between Romania and Japan, and from this point of view, the Embassy of Japan in Romania has been very active in promoting very interesting cultural events such as Japanese film festivals, concerts and performances of Japanese artists, etc. What future pleasant surprises of this kind will delight the Romanian public?
– Another surprise is that the Romanian people know a lot about Japanese culture. I found famous Japanese novels in a bookstore in Bucharest. But the scene is changing very dramatically in
Japan with new novels/comics being released, which are not yet so familiar in Romania. I think now is the time to introduce some of the new tendencies in Japanese culture. The Romanians may not like them very much from the beginning, but it’s OK. Also, Japanese cuisine is becoming very popular in the Western European countries such as France and England, and I am happy that sushi has become very popular in Bucharest too. But I would like to introduce other kinds of Japanese food here, too, from the new era of Japanese cuisine.
– You spoke so nicely about Bucharest. Have you visited other cities in Romania?
– Yes, but only a few so far. I have visited the cultural city of Sibiu and also the industrial city Ploiesti. I also visited Alexandria, a little bit country side, where I saw big wheat fields, very rich scenery. I’m a little bit busy now but from now on I’d like to visit more places.