The birthday of the emperor of Japan, Emperor Akihito, was celebrated in splendid fashion in Herzliya, in an extravagant celebration held in the home of Ambassador Koji Tomita and his wife Norika. Live music, dance, authentic cuisine, and guest celebrities all enhanced the remarkable party.
The evening featured a variety of Japanese dishes prepared by restaurants in Israel which have been certified by the Japanese embassy as using authentic imported Japanese products. Japanese and Israeli musicians, including the Taiko Life musical group, put on a spectacular performance.
The evening was educational as well--tables provided information about the technological innovations and successes of Japanese industry, in particular companies which cooperate with Israeli companies. Other tables featured information on touring Japan or preparing traditional Japanese dishes. There was also a section devoted to Chiune Sugihara, the Japanese consul based in Lithuania who saved thousands of Jewish lives during World War II by issuing travel visas.
Following the national anthems, Ambassador Tomita welcomed the guests. He mentioned the great suceesses in bilateral cooperation over the last year, position 2017 as a “watershed year” in Israeli-Japanese relations, with six Israeli ministers visiting Japan, and three Japanese ministers visiting Israel. He also cited the business cooperation, punctuated by Mitsubishi’s acquisition of Israeli firm NeuroDerm for more than a billion dollars, and a rise in tourism, with Israeli tourism to Japan increasing by 20%, and Japanese tourism to Israel increasing by 45%.
In closing, the ambassador expressed his hope for peace and stability in the region, commending Israel for success in building a strong democracy despite adversity and calling on it to undertake renewed efforts for peace, pledging Japan’s support in such endeavors.
The Israeli Minister of Justice, Ayelet Shaked, spoke on behalf of the Israeli government. Offering congratulations on the festive occasion, Minister Shaked recalled her own visit to Japan earlier in the year, and how she had been smitten with the people, food, and culture of Japan. During the trip she went to the port city of Tusruga, where Jews saved by the heroism of consul Suihara were then greated by the compassion and generoisity of the people of Tusruga.
Minister Shaked praised the strong cooperation between Japan and Israel on a number of fronts, with four billion dollars in trade, and agreements on sports, innovation and technological cooperation recently signed. She called for this to increase in the future, including a wish for direct flights between Tel Aviv and Tokyo, and her hope that her Japanese counterpart, Minister of Justice Uriko Kamikawa, would be able to attend a conference in Israel in the beginning of 2018 on “The Struggle Against Slanderous and Antisemitic Speech on the Internet.” In closing, Minister Shaked wished the emperor a joyous birthday, and the Japanese people peace, security, prosperity and success.
Following the remarks, guests continued to enjoy the authentic Japanese buffet and live music. Among the many distinguished guests were Olympic athletes Ayumi Nakamura (Japanese volleyball player) and Yarden Gerbi (Israeli judoka), Yehuda Meshi Zahav, the head of the ZAKA emergency response services, Middle East studies professor Dr. Nirit Ofir, and numerous diplomats, business, religious and civil society leaders.
Diplomacy.co.il wishes Emperor Akihito a happy birthday, and a year of success and prosperity to the Japanese people.