Sat | Feb 27, 2021

Masaya Fujiwara | Strengthening the pillars of Japan-Jamaica friendship

Published:Sunday | January 17, 2021 | 12:11 AM
Ambassador Masaya Fujiwara
Ambassador Masaya Fujiwara

People walk past the Olympic rings near the New National Stadium in Tokyo.
People walk past the Olympic rings near the New National Stadium in Tokyo.

A panoramic view of the metropolis of Tokyo with the Tokyo Skytree standing tall over the city
A panoramic view of the metropolis of Tokyo with the Tokyo Skytree standing tall over the city

Ambassador Masaya Fujiwara (centre) with Ryan Foster (right), secretary general/CEO, and Christopher Samuda, president of Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA), during a courtesy call at JOA office in September 2020.
Ambassador Masaya Fujiwara (centre) with Ryan Foster (right), secretary general/CEO, and Christopher Samuda, president of Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA), during a courtesy call at JOA office in September 2020.
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Japan and Jamaica have a long history of friendship since the establishment of the diplomatic relationship in 1964. The two countries have common values of freedom, democracy, market economy, and we have been collaborating on issues such as world peace and stability, the rule of law, and climate change. Our relationship has been developing steadily in recent years through the first Japan-CARICOM Summit Meeting in 2014, Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe’s visit to Jamaica in 2015, and Prime Minister of Jamaica Andrew Holness’ visit to Japan in 2019.

Now, our relationship has matured to be called the J-J partnership. In 2020, our exchanges were affected by the COVID19 pandemic, however, this situation reminds us of the importance of further strengthening our partnership. Jamaica and Japan have great potential to further develop our relationship bilaterally and globally and, therefore, from 2021 and beyond, based on our existing friendship, I would like to work together with my Jamaican friends to expand our cooperation in the coming years, including in new fields.

AREAS OF DEVELOPMENT

Our relationship has developed in many areas, including trade, tourism, investment, financial and technical cooperation, and cultural and educational exchanges, over half a century. The development of Blue Mountain Coffee by UCC is an exemplary case of our cooperation. Today, high-quality Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee is much in demand in the world of which Japan imports 70 per cent.

The North Coast Roads Development Project and the Water Supply Project in the Kingston Metropolitan Area and Montego Bay are other good examples realised by capitalising on the use of Japanese technology.

I believe that under Jamaica’s Vision 2030, there are a lot of fields and projects that Japan can help to achieve by using its technology and knowledge. These include the fields of industrial diversification, energy security and conservation, plans for the logistics hub, and digital transformation. I would like to endeavour to invite more Japanese companies to become aware of and interested in Jamaica and Jamaican markets. In my previous post (General Executive Director of Institute of Construction Economy in Japan), I was involved in the Japanese government’s policy to export high-quality infrastructure system abroad. It is my hope and expectation that more Japanese general contractors will come to Jamaica to engage in infrastructure development projects in Jamaica as they have a reputation for their technology and high-quality work.

COOPERATION AND COLLABORATIONS

Japan and Jamaica have many similarities as maritime nations and land rich in natural diversity. We also have common challenges as both countries are susceptible to natural disasters, including hurricanes, floods, and landslides. Therefore, as we agreed at the Japan-CARICOM Summit Meeting, we have been strengthening cooperation towards sustainable development, including overcoming vulnerabilities particular to Small Island Developing States.

Disaster prevention and environmental protection are, and will continue to be, two key areas of our cooperation. In this area, one grant aid project amounting to approximately US$13 million is going to improve emergency communication systems to help reduce the impact of disaster throughout Jamaica. We move forward to provide vessels for strengthening maritime security and disaster-prevention capabilities, which was agreed between our two countries in December 2019. We are now preparing to launch new projects to tackle the issue of plastic waste in the ocean and are ready to discuss other priority projects like an afforestation project.

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is also implementing a technical cooperation project to help improve energy security through the introduction of renewable energy and the promotion of energy efficiency. In 2020, the JICA continued to implement the concessional Official Development Assistance Loans project of US$15 million, and the Energy Management and Efficiency Programme, which is co-financed with the IDB.

In the private sector, Japanese trading house Marubeni has invested in the JPS and is working for new energy efficiency, energy-saving technology, and diversified sources of energy in order to ensure a stable and efficient power supply. Japanese Prime Minister Suga declared in October 2020 that by 2050, Japan would reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero to realise a carbon-neutral society. Japan is accelerating green transformation with technological innovations such as next-generation solar cells and carbon recycling. Therefore, we are pleased to cooperate with Marubeni in pursuing energy efficiency and introducing more renewable-energy sources in Jamaica.

The spread of COVID-19 has shifted the priority of every country in the world. Every country is now focused on the measures containing this virus and increasing their resources in the health and medical area to save people’s life. It has changed our lifestyle and made us recognise the importance of digitalisation as well as global cooperation to fight against the virus. At the same time, it reminds us of the critical importance of constructing a sustainable and resilient society in order to address the planetary health issue, which is considered the root cause of the continuous emergence of these infectious diseases.

DONATIONS

The Japanese government has been focusing on cooperation in the medical area to overcome the COVID19 pandemic based on the “Human Security” and SDGs’ philosophy of “No one will be left behind”. Early next year, medical equipment and materials worth approximately US$2 million will arrive in Jamaica. We have endeavoured to make other donations such as the provision of ambulances to local hospitals through the embassy’s grass roots human security grant projects.

I would like to stress that while making every effort in the medical field, including provision of a vaccination, addressing the sustainable development issues in order to construct a resilient society is nothing less than our priority. We need to accelerate our efforts – including new technological development in the area of health care, education, disaster prevention and protection of the environment - for that purpose.

In this connection, in 2025, the Osaka International Exposition will be held with the theme “Designing Future Society for Our Lives”. It will be a good occasion in which to create and disseminate various ideas for humankind’s common issues after COVID-19. The participation of Jamaica in this expo will be a good occasion for Japanese people to come to know better Jamaica, thus triggering new exchanges and investments between our two countries.

While the Tokyo Olympics in 1964 was a symbol of recovery from World War II, the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics will be remarkable symbols of humankind overcoming this pandemic. Tottori prefecture, which has a sister-city relationship with the parish of Westmoreland, will host the Jamaican team.

There have been many exchanges between Westmoreland and Tottori in sports, culture, and among high school students. Moreover, exchanges among athletic associations through the JICA are also active. I wish that the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics will be a trigger for an expansion into new chapters of exchanges not only among athletes, but for people from all layers between our two nations. It provides a precious opportunity to multiply people-to-people contacts and promote cultural exchange. I hope that more Jamaicans will visit Japan and more Japanese will visit Jamaica. I would like to cheer for the Jamaican athletes to obtain many medals in the coming Games.

COLLABORATIONS FOR DEVELOPMENT

Deepening and expanding fraternal bonds of cooperation and friendship is another pillar of Japan’s CARICOM policy. In order to deepen mutual understanding, it is important to establish relationships among local communities such as Tottori and Westmoreland and the universities. A collaboration, with the theme of sustainable development of island countries, between The University of the West Indies (UWI) and Sophia University in Japan is ongoing. Furthermore, an initiative to introduce a course of Japanese development studies is being advanced at the UWI. At the University of Technology, there is a Japanese language course along with the movement to deepen collaboration with Japanese universities in the animation field. Through the MEXT (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology) scholarship, Jamaican students can pursue a master’s or PhD degree at universities in Japan. The JET programme, which, in 2020, celebrated its 20th anniversary in Jamaica, is significant in further promoting mutual understanding between our countries. Additionally, through various programmes of the Japan-CARICOM Friendship and Cooperation Fund (JCFCF) Jamaicans visit and learn about Japan every year.

It is my first time working in Jamaica, however, as I was accustomed to listening to Bob Marley in my school years, Jamaica is not a country unknown to me. I can see beautiful mountains from my residence and feel at home as if I am in a mountainous resort area in Japan.

I arrived on August 4, 2020, with jerk chicken being my first lunch. In Japan, yakitori (grilled skewered chicken) is popular, but the different sauces and spices of the jerk chicken were new and delicious.

In December, I visited Westmoreland as my first official trip in the island. I was impressed by colourful enriched nature like the bamboo tunnel, greens in the mountains, and blue in the ocean. In Savanna-la-Mar, people welcomed me and my delegation, singing Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds. During my tenure in Jamaica, I would like to visit as many parishes as possible to encounter diverse nature and people.

Our exchanges, which have been affected by the pandemic since last March, are currently on the way to recovery. Last November, two MEXT scholarship students departed to Japan, and this year, 16 participants of the JET Programme will leave for Japan. Apart from JET, in 2019, more than 130 Jamaican teachers of English visited Japan. A young generation of Jamaicans are active in English education in Japan. Regarding JOCV (Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers), who went back to Japan in March due to COVID-19, they are expected to return gradually to Jamaica, taking into consideration the COVID-19 situation.

Japan is a unique country that maintains our own traditional culture while having been modernised by learning technology from European countries (we say this is “Wakon Yousai” – Japanese spirit and Western learning). I am happy to recognise that there is great interest in Japanese traditional and modern culture, including Japanese Anime in Jamaica. The Embassy of Japan will continue to present Japanese culture such as Japanese films, music, food, ikebana, tea ceremonies, and anime in various ways. I do hope many Jamaicans will participate in these events in the future.

- Masaya Fujiwara is ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of Japan to Jamaica. Send feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.