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On December 8, 2016, the embassy of Japan in Israel hosted a reception at its mission in honor of the 83rd birthday of Japanese Emperor Akihito. The reception was attended by members of the diplomatic corps in Israel and distinguished guests.


Following the playing of the national anthems of Japan and Israel, guests were addressed by the ambassador of Japan, H.E. Mr. Koji Tomita. The full text of the ambassador’s remarks appears below.


The State of Israel was represented by Ayoob Kara, Deputy Minister of Regional Cooperation, who praised Japan’s contributions to projects undertaken jointly by Israel and the Palestinian Authority, such as the Jericho Agro Industrial Park. Deputy Minister Kara’s complete remarks appear below.   



Among the VIP guests in attendance was Yarden Gerbi, Olympic bronze medalist at the 2016 summer games in Rio de Janeiro. In brief remarks to attendees, Ms. Gerbi spoke of her deep appreciation of Japanese culture, gained during her visits to that country in the framework of her sport.


Following the evening’s speeches, the emperor was toasted and guests enjoyed a buffet of Japanese food, as well as premium sake. Entertainment was provided by an ensemble of drummers, Taiko Life, performing on traditional Japanese drums.  





Following is the text of the remarks made by Ambassador Tomita:


Thank you all very much for coming to my residence to celebrate the 83rd birthday of His Majesty the Emperor Akihito.


At the outset, I wish to express my deepest appreciation to His Excellency Mr. Ayoob Kara, Deputy Minister of Regional Cooperation, who is here to represent the Israeli Government. Thank you very much, Mr. Minister, for gracing this reception with your presence. I am not going to acknowledge the presence of other distinguished guests and diplomatic colleagues, although I know I should, because the list is simply too long. But you all have my sincere gratitude.


I arrived in Israel at the end of last year, so I am about to conclude the first year of my assignment here. Time flies, doesn’t it? But the time seems to fly much faster here in Israel than anywhere else I have served in my professional life.



That impression is, of course, due to the fact that Israel is a very dynamic country with dynamic people. Not a dull moment, as you like to say. But another reason why my time here has been so intense is things are happening in our bilateral relations.


In 2014, Prime Minister Netanyahu visited Japan, which was followed by the return visit of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in January last year. The exchange of visits has turned out to be a big catalyst for the progress in all aspects of our relationship. In fact I think I can say with much confidence that we are raising our game to a completely different level.


And this is particularly true on the economic front, where we have been seeing a flurry of activities---delegations, exhibitions, seminars---almost every week both in here and in Japan, reflecting growing mutual interests in a stronger economic partnership. Some major Japanese companies have taken steps to establish R&D hubs. We also have been seeing the deepening business alliance including acquisitions and joint ventures with a result that the Japanese direct investment to Israel has shown more than a 4 times increase over the past two years. And we are not done yet. There is a world of opportunities out there waiting to be exploited.



Next year, in 2016, we will be celebrating the sixty fifth anniversary of our diplomatic relations. As we stand at this historic juncture, I am very optimistic about our future. I am optimistic not only because things are happening, as I explained, but also because I believe our two peoples are natural partners.


Why? After all, the Japanese and the Israelis are two different peoples with different histories, different cultural backgrounds, and different temperaments. But we have proved that, by bringing together our unique talents, we can produce something special.



I give you an example.


If you look back our history, the area where we made the first real connections was in the area of martial arts. Many Israelis came to appreciate our culture through Judo, Karate, Aikido and so forth. And they didn’t just learn our arts, but injected their own spirits of daring and tenacity, creating their unique playing style and producing in time the world-class athletes in these events. I am very pleased to welcome some of your Olympic medalists tonight, including Ms. Yarden Gerbi, who just won the bronze medal in the Rio Games. My only complaint is she won the medal by beating the Japanese player.


As we did in the area of martial arts, we can produce a unique partnership in other areas as well. In business, the Israelis are well-known for their capacity to come up with a brilliant idea. The Japanese have the renowned prowess to develop such an idea into a high-quality product. By combining our unique talents, we can produce a partnership which benefits not only each other but also the international society as a whole.



Now I know you are getting hungry. You are in a mood for sushi rather than for long speeches. So let me conclude my remarks with one final thought.


I have been in diplomatic service for thirty five years, and what I have learned during all these years is that a relationship between countries ultimately comes down to human contacts. The main reason why I have found my time here so rewarding is that I have been able to meet with some great people. My biggest ambition as Ambassador is to dramatically enhance people-to-people exchanges to create a solid foundation of friendship, which would bring our partnership to its fullest potential. And I am counting on your continued understanding and support in this endeavor.


So thank you all very much, once again, for coming tonight, and hope you will have a pleasant evening.





Following is the text of the remarks made by Deputy Minister Kara:


His Excellency Ambassador Tomita, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,


2017 will mark the 65th year of full diplomatic relations between Israel and Japan. Japan was the first country in Asia that had diplomatic ties with Israel; and Israel was the first Middle Eastern country to do so with Japan. Over the last few years our bilateral ties have developed substantially in many fields - economy, science and technology, culture and people to people.  Much of this is due to the investment and hard work of both our leaders – Prime Minister Netanyahu and Prime Minister Abe, who have also paid visits to Japan and Israel respectively.



During those visits the two leaders decided to take the relations to an even higher level and announced a "New Comprehensive Partnership" between our two countries.


Israel is proud to be a friend and partner of Japan.


There is great interest and respect in Israel for Japan - in the business community, in cultural and academic circles and in the government. We are also happy to see the growing interest about Israel in Japan; especially as a center of innovative technologies and a like-minded country.



Both sides complement each other - Japan is a world economic leader, Israel is the Startup Nation; Israel is known as a source of innovation, Japan is known as the country of long lasting tradition of quality manufacturing and advanced technologies.


An agreement for cooperation in joint industrial R&D was signed and is being implemented these very days. Many Japanese business delegations are visiting Israel and Israelis are visiting Japan, finding it to be a reliable long-term partner. We are about to sign an investment agreement which will help promote investments from both sides. Tourism is growing and we hope that in the near future direct flights will bring our countries even closer. 



Last year The government of Israel passed a special resolution calling for the strengthening of our ties with Japan. All government ministries were encouraged to promote cooperation with Japan and budgets were allocated towards this end. As a part of this resolution, delegations of 'Young Leadership' from different fields in the Japanese society, are coming to Israel throughout the year, under the hospitality of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel, and are discovering our country and the potential for cooperation between us in many varied fields. These young leaders are Japan's future and they also hold the key to the continued expansion and strengthening of our bilateral relationship.



On this special day, on the occasion of  the birthday of His Majesty the Emperor and Japan's national day, I would like to convey, on behalf of the government of Israel, our warmest congratulations to His Majesty and wish him good health and much happiness. I would also like to convey our best wishes for the peace, well-being and prosperity of Japan and its people. 


To the His Majesty the Emperor of Japan, to the people of Japan and to Israel -Japan friendship and cooperation. 

Lechaim!  Campai!!



Photos  Silvia Golan