The Celebration of the birthday of His Majesty the Emperor of Japan was held at the Japanese Ambassador's residence on Wednesday, December 5, 2012. His Excellency Yoshimasa Tezuka hosted this reception which was attended by more than 210 guests, including the Honourable Chief Justice Ivor Archie, the Honourable Winston Dookeran, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. the Honourable Lincoln Douglas, Minister of the Arts and Multiculturalism, Dr. the Honourable Tim Gopeesingh, Minister of Education, Senator the Honourable Kevin Ramnarine, Minister of Energy and Energy Affairs, Senator the Honourable Christlyn Moore, Minister of Justice, and Senator the Honourable Vasant Bharath, Minister of Trade and Industry.
His Excellency addressed the gathering and outlined the cordial mutual relations between Trinidad and Tobago and Japan in the economic and cultural arenas (see speech below), after which a toast was made in honour of the President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. This was followed by remarks by the Minister of Foreign Affairs the Honourable Winston Dookeran, who also commented on the strong ties between both countries and commended the Japanese people for their resilient spirit in the face of adversity. Minister Dookeran also toasted in honour of His Majesty the Emperor of Japan.
The reception featured a variety of Japanese cultural presentations including the Kagami Biraki Ceremony, a ceremony which commemorates new beginnings and involves the breaking of a wooden cask filled with sake (a Japanese fermented beverage made of rice wine) which is then served to guests. This ceremony was conducted by His Excellency, the Honourable Chief Justice and the aforementioned Ministers. At the end of the formalities, guests were treated to an origami and sushi-making demonstration respectively, as well as various types of sake to enjoy.
STATEMENT BY HIS EXCELLENCY YOSHIMASA TEZUKA
The Honourable Winston Dookeran, Minister of Foreign Affairs
The Honourable Chief Justice Ivor Archie
Honourable Ministers of Government
Members of the Media
Ladies and Gentlemen
Good evening. It is my pleasure to be here with you today on the occasion of the birthday of His Majesty the Emperor of Japan. I am very pleased that I have been assigned here to Trinidad and Tobago during this historical year which marks 50 years of Trinidad and Tobago’s independence, and I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate T&T on winning Olympic gold in the year of its golden jubilee celebrations.
I would like to acknowledge the Honourable Minister Dookeran’s recent visit to Japan to attend the 2012 Annual Meeting of the International Monetary Fund/World Bank Group, which was held in Tokyo in October. I hope that the Honourable Minister had a productive trip with many good experiences in Japan.
For my part, I have enjoyed many good experiences in your country since my arrival here at the end of last February. My only regret is that I missed Carnival this year, but I expect to make up for this when next year’s Carnival comes around in a few months.
So far, I have found that Japan and T&T enjoy many good relations in a number of areas. For instance, I was pleasantly surprised to learn of the deep relationship in steelpan and animation. In fact, Mr. Duvone Stewart, who performed the national anthems for us earlier, was introduced to me by the president of the company that exports around 100 steelpans to Japan annually.
Just recently, I visited the steelpan factory in Port of Spain which exports around 100 steelpans to Japan annually.
We have seen more and more steelpan bands being formed in Japan despite the great distance from T&T. I have also noted the rise of animation as an emerging industry in T&T, and I am pleased to have recently participated in this year’s Animae Caribe Festival held in November. Indeed, Japanese anime and comics have a long and influential history throughout the world, and I welcome the opportunity to cooperate with those who are working to develop this creative industry.
With regard to people to people exchanges, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) continues to provide technical training in essential areas. In the Eastern Caribbean region, more than 560 persons, including 73 Trinbagonians, have participated in JICA programmes over the last 10 years. And in an effort to further deepen our relations, we are now in the process of establishing an Alumni Society for those who have participated in the training programs offered by JICA.
Cultural exchange already exists between Japan and T&T in the form of the Japan Exchange Teaching programme. Over the past ten years, about 100 persons from the Eastern Caribbean, including 77 T&T nationals, have participated, with more participants expected in the coming year.
Ladies and gentlemen, I truly believe that Japan and Trinidad and Tobago share the same values, in terms of our commitment to democracy and a market-oriented economy. In terms of trade, Trinidad and Tobago has become an even more important partner as a supplier of LNG, especially after last year’s Great Earthquake disaster in Japan.
I would also like to note that we have a major presence here as a Japanese company is deeply involved in the local supply of electricity, which is a key industry that supports many other areas. In fact, I have observed that Japanese companies in various countries seek the long-term interests of those countries in which they operate, making contributions in increasing employment, and cultivating a corporate culture that fosters a sense of togetherness among staff and that delivers sophisticated services to customers. Our companies also have high technological expertise in many areas, including in the downstream industry, and I expect that they will have the opportunity to make valuable contributions in your country.
Talking about the region, Japan has been providing assistance in the area of climate change and disaster prevention over the last 10 years. In August of this year, Japan and CARICOM members continued to deepen relations at the convening of the 15th Japan-CARICOM Consultation Meeting in Guyana. I certainly look forward to the strengthening the relationship between Japan and CARICOM.
Finally, I would like to introduce you to another cultural interest; Japanese sake, which is a popular Japanese beverage made from fermented rice. Sake comes in a wide variety, from crystal clear to milky white colours, from very sour to very sweet flavours. Sake not only compliments Japanese cuisine but also Western and local dishes as well. This evening there are several sake varieties to be enjoyed, so I encourage you to please partake of this beverage. I assure you that sake is not a strong drink and has almost the same concentration of alcohol as Western wines, so don’t be afraid to try it. I have no doubt that you will take a keen interest in a ceremony that is performed in Japan on special or joyous occasions. The ceremony involves breaking a wooden barrel containing sake. At the end of this evening’s formalities, you will witness this ceremony as we celebrate the very special occasion of the Emperor’s birthday.
Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you for sharing in this evening’s celebration, and I invite you to make a toast to the President, His Excellency Professor George Maxwell Richards, the Government and the remarkable People of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. May your nation continue to grow in prosperity.