Aristides Alafouzos, president of Kathimerini, was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette at a ceremony at the Japanese Embassy in Athens yesterday for his distinctive service to the Asian country. The presentation, which was attended by a select group of guests, was made by Japan’s ambassador to Greece, Takanori Kitamura. «It is a great honor for me to be with you here today, to accept this award from a country that I admire greatly for its advanced civilization, its history and its traditions,» Mr Alafouzos said upon receiving the award. «Today’s honor, awarded by His Majesty the Emperor of Japan, is a great honor that is even greater because it is awarded by a country with which I have so much in common,» he said. An exceptionally prestigious honor, the Order of the Rising Sun is Japan’s oldest national decoration and was introduced back in 1875 by Emperor Meiji. The badge features rays of sunlight from a rising sun, and symbolizes the sun’s energy and power. Mr Alafouzos, the president of Kathimerini’s board of directors since 1989, has been active in the shipping industry since the 1960s. He has entrusted most of his fleet to the Japanese shipbuilding industry, which he yesterday praised for its high level of professionalism and production standards. «For the first time, I encountered another level of professional culture where – with great care – people met specifications and honored their professional commitments with pride. This is obvious in the quality of all ships built in Japan,» said Mr Alafouzos, who first had contact with the Japanese shipbuilding industry when he placed his first foreign orders in 1967. «Since then, I have built ships exclusively in Japan. And I hope to be able to continue this cooperation with the new orders that we are planning,» he said. Ambassador Kitamura, who handed over the prestigious order to Mr Alafouzos, hailed the latter’s role in enhancing understanding and promoting ties between the two nations. «The order is conferred in recognition of the great contributions that Mr Alafouzos has made toward strengthening Greek-Japanese economic ties, namely in the shipping industry, and enhancing bilateral friendly ties by way of mass media,» Ambassador Kitamoura said. The ambassador praised the role of the Kathimerini media group in providing information, connecting society and mobilizing opinions for a better society. «Our bilateral relationship is also a beneficiary of such activities. We have recognized that Kathimerini has paid due and kind attention to reporting on Japan and our mutual ties,» Mr Kitamura said. The two countries last month celebrated 110 years of diplomatic relations. The anniversary was marked with a series of events, including concerts, performances, seminars and exhibitions, which culminated in Japan Week at the Athens Concert Hall. The ambassador thanked Kathimerini and Athens Plus for reporting extensively on the events. «I find it extremely timely and meaningful that His Majesty the Emperor of Japan has recognized the dedication and contribution of Mr Alafouzos in this commemorative year of the 110th anniversary of Greek-Japanese relations,» Mr Kitamuri said. Mr Alafouzos, who was born in Oia, a village at the northern tip of the island of Santorini, before moving to Piraeus in 1925, has operated an office in Tokyo for about 30 years. «I honor and thank your nation for all that it taught me and all that it has given me,» Mr Alafouzos said.