This year marks the 120th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and Greece.
On June 1, 1899 in Athens, the then Greek minister of foreign affairs, Athos Romanos, and the minister plenipotentiary of Japan, Nobuaki Makino, signed the Treaty of Amity, Commerce and Navigation between Japan and Greece. This was the commencement of our bilateral relations. Since then, we have fostered strong bonds of friendship and cooperation in many fields.
In the field of political affairs, the two countries continue to cooperate and exchange high-level visits, sharing common values such as democracy, rule of law, freedom of speech and human rights. For example, in 2017, the speaker of Japan’s House of Councilors visited Athens and exchanged views with members of the Greek Parliament. Early last year, the foreign ministers of the two countries had constructive discussions in a bilateral meeting. This April, His Majesty the Emperor Akihito will abdicate from his duties and the enthronement ceremony of his successor, His Imperial Highness Crown Prince Naruhito, will take place in October. On this occasion, heads of state from around the world will be invited to Tokyo. Finally, next year, Tokyo will host the Olympic and Paralympic Games, which will be another opportunity for high-level bilateral meetings.
In the field of economic affairs, various Japanese firms are present in Greece. Apart from the Japanese shipping industry, which has a strong presence here, Japanese companies are active in other sectors such as automobile, electronics, pharmaceuticals and tobacco. More than half of these companies or agents have Greek leadership in the top executive positions. Coincidentally, the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) has just come into effect this month. This agreement could bring substantial benefits to the Greek economy, protecting the regional identification of feta cheese and removing tariffs on various products and services. I strongly expect bilateral commercial trade to increase not only in agricultural products, but also in other industries such as manufacturing and machinery.
In the field of cultural relations, the ancient Greek culture has always been deeply respected among people in Japan. I am very impressed that some aspects of Japanese culture such as the cuisine, martial arts and pop culture have become a part of Greek life.
This year, the Embassy of Japan in Greece is organizing a series of events in order to celebrate the anniversary and to further promote our bilateral relations.
In January, a delegation of 12 young Greeks traveled to Japan to participate in the Ship for World Youth, an international youth exchange program. A photo exhibition of Buddha statues was also organized, which revealed the influence of Hellenistic art on the Buddha statues created in Japan in the 8th century AD. In addition, other events, such as the Japan Film Festival and exhibitions on Japanese traditional dolls and toys and on contemporary printmaking in Japan and Greece are taking place in February and March. In the summer and autumn, there will be performances of Japanese traditional theater as well as an exhibition of traditional art and crafts. Subsequently, the final and largest event, Japan Week, will be organized in November in cooperation with the Japan Friendship Foundation and the City of Athens.
I hope that many people here in Greece will attend these cultural events in order to watch, experience and taste different aspects of Japan. I also sincerely hope that we will be able to make the most of these opportunities to further promote and strengthen our bilateral ties, in cooperation with the people, the business community as well as the government of Greece.
Yasuhiro Shimizu is the ambassador of Japan to Greece.