OMAN, JAPAN SHARE STRONG TIES: H E HISAEDA

MUSCAT: H E George Hisaeda, Japan’s Ambassador to the sultanate on Monday held a reception at his residence. As his tenure comes to an end, the ambassador has issued a statement:

“Excellencies, ambassadors, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, Good evening, and thank you all for being here tonight.

“After four years of diplomatic service in the Sultanate of Oman, the time has come for me to return to Tokyo, Japan. I am so honoured to be the longest-serving Ambassador of Japan to Oman among 11 Japanese Ambassadors accredited to Oman since the establishment of Japan-Oman diplomatic relations in 1972.

“I feel privileged and thrilled that my tenure marks a very important period in the history of bilateral relations between our two friendly countries. I would like to express my utmost appreciation to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said and the government and people of the Sultanate of Oman for making this possible with their cooperation in all areas. I would also like to thank the diplomatic and business community in Oman for their friendship and support, including all of you here tonight.

“I am also highly grateful to the Japanese community in Oman, and to my embassy staff. I couldn’t have completed such a successful tenure without this strong support.

“Happily, my ambassadorship began on a historic note. 2012 marked the 40th anniversary of Japan-Oman diplomatic relations, which was celebrated with a wide variety of exhibitions, stage performances and sports exchanges. That same year, other Japanese embassies in the region celebrated their 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations with other GCC countries, however the quality and quantity of events in Oman was unique among them. It is rare to see such a large number of events focused on one anniversary.

“There were too many cultural events to recount here tonight, but highlights included traditional Japanese drum concerts by legendary artiste Eitetsu Hayashi and his troupe, popular Japanese folk duo Billy BanBan, and one of the most famous ‘Gagaku’ or traditional court music players in Japan, Hideki Togi. But what impressed me the most was the visit of my friend, the famous Japanese pop star ‘May-J’, who I invited personally. May-J and I first met in 2011 when I was consul general in Chicago. I invited her to the US for her first ever overseas concert. When she accepted, I got a taste of success, so I called May-J a second time. This time, I invited May-J for her first ever concert in the Middle East.

“I believe some of you remember her beautiful voice and well-received performance. May-J’s visit here was aired by Japan’s largest broadcaster, exposing the beauty and hospitality of Oman to hundreds of thousands of viewers in Japan and throughout the world via satellite.

“The year 2014 was the highlight of my diplomatic career. The epoch-making official visit of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the Sultanate of Oman in January marked the first visit of a Japanese premier to Oman in 24 years. It would be a long story to tell you how hard I tried to make the Prime Minister’s visit happen. After being appointed Japan’s Ambassador to Oman, I met Mr Abe, who is honorary chairman of the Japan-Oman Society, three times. Each time, I asked him to visit Oman.

“By the way, my three meetings with Mr Abe all took place during the summer, which is hot in Japan too. Officials work in offices with a set temperature of 28 degrees to save energy. Since this is quite warm, Japanese officials wear energy-saving attire to work in the summer months, popularly known as “cool-biz” in Japan. We take off our jackets and ties.

“During my first summer meeting with Mr Abe, I wasn’t wearing a tie. This made me feel a little uncomfortable, since Mr Abe was wearing his. So I made sure to wear a tie to our second meeting, only to find that Mr Abe wasn’t wearing his. It was third time lucky for our last meeting, since we both wore ties! Finally, we agreed upon our tropical climate attire!I was, therefore, optimistic that there would be good news about his visit to Oman in the future.

“Indeed, there was good news. I think you can imagine what a proud and unforgettable moment it was for me when I escorted Prime Minister Abe and his wife down the ramp and introduced them to H H Sayyid Fahd bin Mahmoud al Said, Deputy Prime Minister for the Council of Ministers.

“During his visit, Prime Minister Abe enjoyed a highly fruitful meeting and banquet with His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said at Barka Palace. The meeting was attended by many senior ministers, advisors and high-ranking officials from both sides and, of course, myself.

“Prime Minister Abe went on to visit Africa from Oman, and on the return leg of his journey, he made a highly unusual move,opting to return to Muscat for refueling before his final flight to Japan. In other words, the Prime Minister made two visits to Oman in one trip.

“During the Prime Minister’s second visit to Oman, I was fortunate enough to host him here at my residence for dinner. In the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, when an embassy has the rare honour of two visits in one trip, it is known by senior diplomats as a “double kiss”.

“I had the privilege to spend a lot of time with Prime Minister and Mrs Abe during both visits, hearing their thoughts. They were deeply impressed by Oman’s beauty, history, tradition, and the warmth of its people. During the Prime Minister’s visit to Barka Palace, His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said showed him historic national treasures. Afterwards, Mr Abe commented to me how struck he was by the stunning aesthetics, gracefulness, dignity, and sense of history that he encountered. The Prime Minister of Japan considers Oman to be an outstanding part of the Arab world.

“I believe, in short, that the greatest outcome of Mr Abe’s visit to the sultanate is that he loves Oman even more than he did before. A joint communique was issued during the visit. Both governments expressed the importance of strengthening bilateral cooperation in multiple areas. One area mentioned was education and, in particular, the Japanese language. I was incredibly proud to see the introduction of a Japanese language course at Sultan Qaboos University this year, reflecting the historic meeting. I believe the course will make another valuable contribution to the Japan-Oman relationship.

“Happily, history has also been made during my assignment here on the economic front. Last year, on the morning of the Prime Minister’s arrival in Muscat, I signed the Japan-Oman Bilateral Tax Agreement with H E Darwish bin Ismail bin Ali al Balushi, Minister Responsible for Financial Affairs of the Sultanate of Oman. Then this year the Japan-Oman Bilateral Investment Agreement was signed in Tokyo. These are bilateral relations milestones. It is my sincerest hope that the agreements enable Japan-Oman economic cooperation and trade to reach new peaks.

“Another dream came true for me here in Oman. The ‘Hiroshima, City of Peace’ photography exhibition at Muscat Grand Mall in 2014 showcased Hiroshima’s post World War II path to peace. I had wanted to see the exhibition realised since becoming ambassador to Oman. When I visited Hiroshima last year, I personally asked the city’s Mayor for his support. The ‘Hiroshima, City of Peace’ exhibition had deep personal significance for me. My parents are from Hiroshima, and my mother was an atomic bomb survivor. I have presented many exhibitions in Oman, but this one was the most politically and personally important. I believe that holding the ‘Hiroshima, City of Peace’exhibition in Muscat was of great significance, as Muscat is also a city of peace. The Sultanate of Oman plays an important role in maintaining peace in the Middle East.

“These are just some examples of how I have been bringing Japan and Oman closer together. I couldn’t have done this without all of you.

“From the first day I arrived in Oman in October 2011, I have been fascinated by this beautiful country. But the main reason both my wife, Midori, and I are sorry to leave is because of you. Midori and I will depart Oman on 20th of this month. If you ask us what our greatest highlight has been, we would say it has been becoming friends with so many people like you. You have made living in Muscat and the Middle East an absolute joy for us.

“Saying goodbye is never easy. And this time it is incredibly difficult. We will miss Muscat. We will miss this great nation. And, most of all, we will miss you.

“For everything that you have done for us and for your warm friendship, Midori and I thank you so very much! We wish you all the very best! I am certain that you will be as kind to my successor as you have been to me.

“In closing, the Japan-Oman relationship is one of trusted friendship, and I hope I am leaving it stronger than ever. I also hope it won’t be another quarter of a century before a Japanese Prime Minister visits this wonderful place again.

“Thank you, and enjoy the rest of the evening.”

SOURCE: MUSCAT DAILY