Diplomatic Bluebook 2015

Chapter 2

Japan’s Foreign Policy that Takes a Panoramic Perspective of the World Map

1.Situation of European Region

(1) European Union

The European Union (EU) is a political and economic unit consisting of 28 member countries with a total population of about 500 million and producing about 24% of the world’s GDP. Sharing basic values and principles with Japan, the EU is an important partner for Japan to tackle global issues.

Japan-EU Relations

In 2014, there was a major development toward strengthening Japan-EU relations in a comprehensive manner. In particular, five summit meetings were held during the year, which strengthened the close bonds of trust among the leaders.

Prime Minister Abe visited Brussels in May, and the 22nd Japan-EU summit was held for talks with President Van Rompuy of the European Council and President Barroso of the European Commission. They shared the view to promote concrete cooperation activities in the three fields of economy, security and global interests including realization of “a society in which women shine.” In the consultation, the leaders concurred on the importance of the early conclusion of the Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) and Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA), the negotiations of which started in 2013. At the Japan-EU Summit Meeting held during the G20 Brisbane Summit in November, they also shared the view to accelerate the negotiations, aiming to reach agreement in principle on the Japan-EU EPA during 2015.

In this context, five Japan-EU EPA and three Japan-EU SPA negotiations were held during 2014. In the area of security, there was progress in concrete collaboration between the EU’s activities for a security sector reform in Mali and Niger and Japan’s assistance for them. In addition, a Japan-EU joint anti-piracy exercise was carried out off the Coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden three times from October to November. The first Japan-EU dialogues on space policy and cyber were held also in October.

Furthermore, Prime Minister Abe met with President Van Rompuy of the European Council and President Barroso of the European Commission and exchanged opinions on Japan-EU relations and regional issues such as Ukraine taking the opportunity of the Nuclear Security Summit (Hague) in March, G7 Summit (Brussels) in June and the ASEM 10 Summit Meeting (Milan) in October. During the G20 Brisbane Summit in November, the Prime Minister Abe also talked with President Junker of the European Commission who had just taken office and exchanged opinions on Japan-EU relations and regional and international issues.

Foreign Minister Kishida met with EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Ashton at the time of the Geneva 2 International Conference in January and had a telephone talks with her in April agreeing on Japan-EU coordination in Iranian nuclear and Ukraine issues. The Foreign Minister visited Belgium in January 2015, met with the new leadership including EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Mogherini and agreed to promote Japan-EU relations while forging a relationship with the new leadership.

The 22nd Japan-EU Summit (joint press conference) (Brussels, May 7; Source: Cabinet Public Relations Office) The 22nd Japan-EU Summit (joint press conference) (Brussels, May 7; Source: Cabinet Public Relations Office)
Recent development of the EU

A European Parliamentary election was held in 2014 renewing the EU regime with changes of two heads: President of the European Council and President of the European Commission. The election in May was the first European Parliamentary election where parties put up their candidates to the President of the European Commission. After coordination based on the election result, former prime minister Junker of Luxemburg assumed the presidency of the European Commission in November. Prime Minister Tusk of Poland was elected President of the European Council at the special meeting of the European Council held in August and took office in December. Toward expansion of European integration, accession negotiations with Serbia started in January and Albania was designated as a candidate in June. In terms of deepening of European integration, currency unification in particular, Lithuania became the 19th country to introduce the Euro in January 2015. On the other hand, Eurosceptic parties and candidates expressing caution or opposition against European integration took a leap in the European Parliamentary elections in some countries.

On the diplomatic front, the EU addressed various international challenges starting from EU3+3 consultation negotiations on the Iranian nuclear issue and Ukraine issue. Concerning Ukraine, in particular, in response to “annexation” of Crimea and destabilization due to the separatist force in eastern Ukraine, the EU implemented a ban on travel and freezing of assets of specified individuals, sanctions in financial, defense and energy fields and other measures. For Ukraine, the EU provided political and financial support including deployment of a mission to security sector reform.

In the security area, the EU adopted a maritime security strategy and a framework for cyber defense policy toward strengthening of Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP), and deployed a military mission to restore public order in Central Africa and a civilian mission to support the police of Mali.

In economy, a recovery trend continued in the EU as a whole but the tendency to low inflation became evident. In response, the European Central Bank (ECB) introduced negative interest and decided on the introduction of quantitative easing measures in January 2015. Spain and Portugal successfully exited the EU/IMF assistance program in January and May 2014, respectively. Greece and Cyprus for which assistance still continues issued government bonds for the first time in several years, but long-term interest rates have been rising again due to political instability in Greece since September. Efforts toward the Economic and Monetary Union have made steady progress including the start of bank supervision by the ECB in November.

(2) United Kingdom

The Cameron Administration is continuing efforts for fiscal construction. The UK economy is in good shape and faring well including the declining unemployment rate and the real growth rate estimated to be around 3% in 2014. On the other hand, its politics has reached a turning point. A referendum concerning independence of Scotland was held in September: the independence was rejected by 55% to 45%. Because three major parties including Liberal Democrats promised further transfer of power to Scotland before the voting, the country is now proceeding with the preparations for further devolution. Furthermore, the United Kingdom Independence Party won more seats than the two major parties, Conservative and Labor, in elections for the European Parliament held in May, and won the first seat in the British parliament in the House of Commons by-election held in October. If the ruling Conservative Party wins the general election in May 2015, a national referendum to ask whether to withdraw from or remain in the EU will be held by the end of 2017. The results and the future of the long-standing two-party system is worthy of attention Prime Minister Abe visited the United Kingdom in May and met with Prime Minister Cameron. They agreed to cooperate in the security area, including the holding of a Foreign and Defense Ministers’ Meeting and the starting of negotiations toward conclusion of the Acquisition and Cross-Serving Agreement (ACSA). Cultural and economic exchanges were also strengthened during Prime Minister Abe’s visit to United Kingdom, through agreeing on cooperation toward the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games and Prime Minister Abe’s attendance in a seminar to call for investment in Japan. Based on the results of the summit, Foreign Minister Kishida and Defence Minister Nakatani visited the United Kingdom to hold the first Japan-UK Foreign and Defense Ministers’ Meeting, security and defense cooperation between the two countries was further strengthened. In addition, Lord Speaker D’Souza of the House of Lords visited Japan, on the invitation by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in October 2014, and exchanged views with the Speaker of the House of Representatives and President of the House of Councilors of Japan.

Prime Minister Abe giving a speech at the welcome dinner held by the City (London, May 1; Source: Cabinet Public Relations Office) Prime Minister Abe giving a speech at the welcome dinner held by the City (London, May 1; Source: Cabinet Public Relations Office)

(3) France

President Hollande is working for economic recovery and job creation while continuing efforts for fiscal consolidation, but in its economic conditions have not been improved with the unemployment rate exceeding 10%.

With the defeat of the ruling party (Socialist Party) in the local assembly member election in March 2014, Prime Minister Ayrault resigned and Prime Minister Valls was appointed. However, the ruling party experienced further defeats in the election to the European Parliament in May and the Senate election in September.

On the diplomatic front, France and Iraq jointly held “the Conference on Security and Peace in Iraq” attended by 24 countries and 3 organizations from around the world. France has been making active contributions to solve the Ukraine issue, Iranian Nuclear issue, terrorist attack in the Sahel region of Africa, Ebola hemorrhagic fever and other problems. Furthermore, France plays an important role in anti-terrorist measures including its participation in air strikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Iraq and holding international conferences on anti-terrorist measures inviting European countries and the United State in response to a shooting incidence in Paris in January 2015.

Foreign Minister Kishida and Defense Minister Onodera visited France in January 2014 to attend the first Foreign and Defence Ministers’ Meeting between the two countries and confirmed further strengthening of cooperation in the areas of security and defense. In May, Prime Minister Abe visited France and had a summit with President Hollande. The leaders agreed to promote concrete cooperative activities in a range of area to promote the “exceptional partnership” of the two countries. On this occasion, the two heads participated in a Japanese food promotion event held in the Japanese Ambassador’s residence in France thus demonstrating the exchange of culinary cltures between the two countries.

Following the three foreign ministers’ meetings in 2014, Foreign Minister Kishida visited France in January 2015 and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development Fabius came to Japan in March to hold a foreign ministers’ meeting in each occasion. At these meeting held in 2015, the two ministers agreed to jointly tackle climate change and other challenges based on the strong relationship of trust built through the eight sessions in total.

Prime Minister Abe shaking hands with President Hollande (Elysee Palace (Presidential Palace), Paris, May 5; Source: Cabinet Public Relations Office) Prime Minister Abe shaking hands with President Hollande (Elysee Palace (Presidential Palace), Paris, May 5; Source: Cabinet Public Relations Office)

(4) Germany

The third Merkel administration launched in 2013 based on the grand coalition of the Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU) and Social Democratic Party (SPD) has been stably managing government affairs including start of the introduction of a legal minimum wage. As 2014 marked the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, a large-scale commemorative event to look back on the peaceful revolution was held in Berlin in December with the slogan of “Courage for Freedom.” At the states level, a coalition administration of the Left, SPD and the Greens was installed in the State of Thuringen in December as a result of the state election, and the first Minister President from the Left took office.

On the diplomatic front, the country set forth the attitudes to actively contribute to the peace and stability of the international society and implemented assistance including provision of weapons to Kurds in northern Iraq. In response to the situation in Ukraine, Germany took over the G7 presidency in July six months ahead of schedule and has been leading the G7 response to the situation in Ukraine and discussion on the situation in the Middle East. In terms of economy, the country maintains a stable economy also after the European debt crisis and has been increasing its political and economic influence not only in the EU but also in the international society.

As to its relations with Japan, Prime Minister Abe visited Germany in April, met with Chancellor Merkel and agreed to promote dialogues and cooperation in security, economic and social areas, regional situations and human/intellectual exchange. Furthermore, Foreign Minister Kishida visited Germany in September and met with Foreign Minister Steinmeier. The two ministers exchanged opinions on the relationship between the two countries, partnership in multilateral frameworks including for disarmament and non-proliferation and other matters. In addition to the above, the two countries had multiple summit and foreign ministers’ meetings at the time of international conferences and other occasions, which deepened the trusting relationships between the leaders and foreign ministers and rapidly increased the closeness of the relationship between the two countries over the past year.

(5) Italy and Spain

In Italy, Prime Minister Renzi who took office in February is working on structural reform including amendment to the constitution and election law, Senate house reform and labor market reform. The country assumed the chair of the EU in the latter half of 2014 and held the 10th ASEM Summit in Milan in October. Prime Minister Abe had three meetings with Prime Minister Renzi including those held during his visit to Italy in June and October. Foreign Minister Kishida had a foreign ministers’ meeting with Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Mogherini in September. The two countries will strengthen their cooperation toward the 150th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic relations in 2016.

The Rajoy administration of Spain has been working on fiscal and structural reform and its economy is making a gradual recovery though the unemployment rate for young people remains high. On the other hand, the approval ratings of the ruling party “Partido Popular (People’s Party) and the largest opposition party “Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE)” have declined due to the allegations of illegal fund operation and other factors. In June, King Juan Carlos I abdicated and Felipe VI succeeded to the throne. In Catalonia, a “non-binding vote” was held in November following the Supreme Court order to suspend execution of the referendum on independence of the autonomous community. Attention is to be paid to its future development and effect on other regions in Europe.

In relations with Japan, various commemorative events marking the “400th anniversary of exchanges between Spain and Japan were held up to July.” Prime Minister Abe met with Prime Minister Rajoy at his hometown Santiago de Compostela in May and confirmed further promotion of cooperation in security and defense, tourism and other areas. Foreign Minister Kishida visited Madrid in January and met with Foreign Minister García-Margallo.

Prime Minister Abe, his wife and Prime Minister Rajoy smiling before Parador (national accommodation facilities) (Santiago de Compostela, Spain, May 4) Prime Minister Abe, his wife and Prime Minister Rajoy smiling before Parador (national accommodation facilities) (Santiago de Compostela, Spain, May 4)

(6) Ukraine

In Ukraine, the large-scale anti-government rally started in November, 2013 against the decision to postpone of signing of the Association Agreement with the EU, and continued even after the beginning of 2014. In February, Yanukovych’s administration fell apart. As a result, pro-Russian groups in Ukraine started armed activities seeking separation from Ukraine. In Crimea, after government buildings, were taken over in March, “the referendum” for “incorporation” of Crimea into Russia was conducted, and Crimea was illegally “annexed” to Russia. Meanwhile the situation in eastern Ukraine has been destabilized by armed separatists since April, shooting down of the aircraft of Malaysia Airlines in July further escalated the international community’s concern over the situation in Ukraine. The presidential election in May and parliamentary election in October gave birth to President Poroshenko, a government and parliaments, which took pro-European policies. However, the country is fraught with challenges including stabilization of the situation in the eastern region and overcoming of the serious fiscal conditions.

As to its relations with Japan, Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Makino, Foreign Minister Kishida and Minister for Economy, Trade and Industry Motegi visited Ukraine in June, July and August, respectively. The first Japan-Ukraine summit since the inauguration of the Abe administration was held in Milan in October and opinions were exchanged with focus on the situation in Ukraine and assistance to the country (for details of Japan’s assistance to Ukraine, see Special Feature on page 126).

Japan’s Assistance to Ukraine

Japanese aid being received at eastern Ukraine Japanese aid being received at eastern Ukraine
1.Significance of Japan’s Assistance to Ukraine

The worsening situation of political distress and armed conflict in eastern Ukraine has many negative effects such as the exhaustion of the domestic economy1, increase of internally displaced persons (IDPs) coming from eastern Ukraine and the Crimean Peninsula2, insufficiency of social services, and destruction of important infrastructure such as schools and hospitals.

Regarding Ukraine’s situation not only as a regional issue but rather an issue of the whole international community, Japan has been implementing a specific policy toward Ukraine. (See Chapter 2, Section 4 for details). From this point of view, in order to back up efforts by the Government of Ukraine towards reforms (fiscal reconstruction and institutional reforms) and stabilization, Japan is proactively assisting the country. The assistance is focused on 1) improving economic situation, 2) restoration of democracy, and 3) promotion of a nation-wide dialogue and national integrity.

  • 1 GDP growth rate in 2014: -6.5% (IMF estimate)
  • 2 633,523 people (as of January 9, 2015, announced by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA))
2.Japan’s Main Assistance to Ukraine
Sheremeta, Minister of Economic Development and Trade of Ukraine, and Kishida, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan (on the left), signing a document related to the Fiscal Consolidation Development Policy Loan (July 17, Kiev) Sheremeta, Minister of Economic Development and Trade of Ukraine, and Kishida, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan (on the left), signing a document related to the Fiscal Consolidation Development Policy Loan (July 17, Kiev)

In March 2014, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced a financial aid up to 1.5 billion US dollars to Ukraine. After that, in cooperation with the G7 and international organizations, Japan is also steadily implementing additional assistance measures in a variety of fields such as humanitarian aid and dispatching Japanese election observers. In January 2015, Japan announced a financial aid of 300 million US dollars for economy stabilization, a new aid of around 16.6 million US dollars for recovery of eastern regions, and an additional financial contribution of 1.5 million euros to the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM). As a result, looking at the amount of financial aid given to Ukraine by country3, Japan has announced financial aid of largest scale (up to almost 1.83 billion US dollars4). The main assistance measures are as follows.

  • (1) ‌Assistance for improvement of the economic situation
    • ‌Bortnychi Sewage Treatment Plant Modernization Project
    • ‌The Fiscal Consolidation Development Policy Loan as a parallel lending with the World Bank
    • ‌Nippon Export and Investment Insurance (NEXI)’s credit line of trade insurance5
  • (2) Assistance for restoration of democracy
    • ‌Japan dispatched Japanese experts and Japanese Embassy staffs as observers to the election observation missions organized by OSCE and the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) during the presidential election in May 2014 and parliamentary election in October 2014.
  • (3) Assistance for encouragement of a nation-wide dialogue for promotion of national integrity
    • ‌Assistance to OSCE project on national dialogue and missions monitoring human rights of ethnical minorities and for the Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM).
    • ‌Assistance for internally displaced persons (IDPs) through international organizations such as the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the International Red Cross and International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC) (water, hygiene, shelter, etc.)
    • ‌Assistance through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in response to the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in eastern regions (healthcare and procurement of relief goods other than food)
    • ‌Assistance in coordination with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for early recovery of social services in eastern regions. (Restoration of schools, maternity hospitals, etc., and strengthening capacity of local authorities for providing services of social care)

  • 3 Based on announcements made after March 2014
  • 4 As of January 20, 2015
〈”Being Part of the Election Observation Missions” (Shinkichi Fujimori, researcher at Hokkaido University Slavic-Eurasian Research Center)〉

I participated in the international election observation missions organized by the OSCE as an observer dispatched by the Government of Japan at the presidential election in May and the parliamentary election in October. The missions observed election process in Lviv Oblast in western Ukraine and Kirovohrad Oblast of central Ukraine respectively. On both occasions, I could feel the enthusiasm of the voters, willing to bring national stability and integrity through the elections. Observers from OSCE member states shared a strong belief in democracy, making me also feel that the implementation of free and democratic elections are the first step for Ukraine to be accepted by Europe and the international community.

We, Japanese, stood out among the observation mission, and were asked not only by the locals but also by other members of the observation mission about the reasons that brought us there, that gave me a good opportunity to explain the purpose and importance of Japan’s assistance to Ukraine.

Opening of the ballot boxes at Kirovohrad Oblast, Oleksandriia (October 27) Opening of the ballot boxes at Kirovohrad Oblast, Oleksandriia (October 27)

  • 5 Nippon Export and Investment Insurance (NEXI) will continue to undertake short-term trade insurance and build a credit line up to 30 billion yen for 2 years so as to support import of goods and services required for stabilization of the Ukrainian national life.
Other European Regions

The Netherlands’ Royal Couple Visits Japan

Do you know that the Japanese words randoseru (school bag) and ponzu (citrus-based vineger) are words that mimic the pronunciation of the Dutch words?

The name “Yaesu,” in Tokyo, originated from the place where the house of Jan Joosten, a member of a Dutch ship crew in the Edo era was originally located. The interaction between Japan and the Netherlands has begun in 1600, when the Dutch vessel carrying Jan Joosten, De Liefde, drifted to the coast of Usuki in Oita Prefecture.

Over 400 years, the two countries have been deepened their relationship in various fields against the background of a long history of friendship. For example, the Netherlands is Japan’s largest European investment source and destination, while many Japanese corporations are active in the Netherlands. The Netherlands, which ranks second in the world for the value of its agricultural exports, is also making effort to cooperate with Japan in the application of IT technologies to the agricultural sector.

Their Majesties the King and Queen are welcomed by Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress at the Imperial Palace (October 29) Their Majesties the King and Queen are welcomed by Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress at the Imperial Palace (October 29)

In 2014, a new page was added to the history of Japan-Netherlands relations. His Majesty King Willem-Alexander and Her Majesty Queen Máxima paid a State Visit to Japan from October 28 to 31 and stayed in the country until November 2. On October 29, Tokyo Tower was beautifully lit up with the colors of the national flag of the Netherlands. The King, after his accession to the throne in 2013, chose Japan as the first country outside Europe to visit as a State Guest, and the Japanese Imperial Family and the Dutch Royal Family have kept a very close relationship up to this day. Since 1991, when he accompanied his mother, the Queen Beatrix, on her State Visit as the Crown Prince, the King has visited Japan many times. Also, in 2000, the year of the 400th anniversary of Japan-Netherlands relations, Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress of Japan visited the Netherlands as State Guests.

Meeting with Prime Minister Abe and Mrs. Abe at the State Guest House (October 30) (Source: Cabinet Public Relations Office) Meeting with Prime Minister Abe and Mrs. Abe at the State Guest House (October 30) (Source: Cabinet Public Relations Office)

The King, together with the Queen, attended a State Banquet at the Imperial Palace as well as a dinner hosted by Prime Minister Abe and Mrs. Abe. They also participated in an event on initiatives for an ageing population, which is a problem confronting both countries, Japan-Netherlands cooperation toward the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, seminars that discussed energy and innovation, and other topics. The King and Queen commented that they hoped to strengthen cooperation in areas such as agriculture, renewable energy, and measures against declining birthrates and ageing populations. The King, who wished to further strengthen bilateral relations, was joined by Foreign Minister Koenders and Minister of Economic Affairs Kamp on an economic mission that comprised about 100 people, to enhance exchanges with Japanese corporations and local governments. Japan and the Netherlands have walked hand-in-hand over a long stretch of history, and the future is expected to open new possibilities for cooperation between the two countries.

The visit by Their Majesties the King and Queen of the Netherlands to Japan not only provided an opportunity to further strengthen friendly relations between the Royal and the Imperial Family, but also created a chance to open a new chapter toward the future in the long and extensive history of exchange between Japan and the Netherlands.


150th Anniversary of the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations between Japan and Switzerland

Japan and Switzerland entered into diplomatic relations in 1864 before the Meiji Restoration. A mission led by Aimé Humbert, the President of the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry, concluded the Treaty of Friendship and Commerce with Japan on February 6, 1864, after spending five months sailing across the sea and 10 months negotiating with Japan. Switzerland is the eighth country with which Japan established diplomatic relations following the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, the Netherlands, Portugal and Germany. All of these seven countries that preceded Switzerland face the sea, already possessed navies at that time, and had well developed shipping industries. In consideration of the fact that Switzerland, a small landlocked country, lacked any of these characteristics, its early establishment of diplomatic relations with Japan is proof that Switzerland was very interested in Japan and had a strong desire to build a good partnership with Japan.

Students of the aikido club in Neuchatel welcoming the His Imperial Highness Crown Prince of Japan (Source: EPA = Jiji) Students of the aikido club in Neuchatel welcoming the His Imperial Highness Crown Prince of Japan (Source: EPA = Jiji)
Trains that display famous sightseeing spots in Japan are in operation across Switzerland (Source: Johannes Lüthy) Trains that display famous sightseeing spots in Japan are in operation across Switzerland (Source: Johannes Lüthy)

The year 2014 marks the 150th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between the two countries, and in this milestone year, Swiss President Didier Burkhalter visited Japan in February, and His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince of Japan visited Switzerland in June. Despite their busy schedule fulfilling their official duties to promote bilateral friendly relations, President Burkhalter visited Kamakura and Fujisawa where he learned about Japanese history and culture, while His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince visited various parts of Switzerland including the Bernese Oberland highlands, which are famous for the gorgeous Alps, situated in the Canton of Bern in the west part of the country where he experienced magnificent nature. Both national representatives took part in the long tradition of bilateral exchanges. Furthermore, they extended friendly relations by interacting with many people.

In addition to the visits by these leading figures, various events took place one after another throughout 2014. For example, during the Montreux Jazz Festival which is held every July, a Japan Day event was specially arranged, thanks to the courtesy of the Swiss partners . In Switzerland, moreover, musical performances were also presented by top Japanese pianists and violinists, Nogaku and Bunraku were performed, and many exhibitions were held. Through these activities, Japan was thus able to introduce Japanese culture, including many talented Japanese artists, Japanese tradition and history to the Swiss people.

In order to build friendly relations between two countries, people-to people exchanges are vital. Currently, about 25,000 Swiss tourists visit Japan every year. For this number to increase, it is important to encourage more Swiss people to learn about Japan. Once a person gains knowledge of a new country, his or her interest in and motivation to visit that country may grow. The 150th anniversary project in 2014 provided a variety of opportunities for the Swiss people to become more familiar with Japan. From this point of view, 2014 turned out to be an extraordinary year in terms of promoting exchange between Japan and Switzerland.

Ryuhei Maeda,

Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary,

Embassy of Japan in Switzerland


“V4 + Japan” Exchange Year 2014
The author at the Liszt Ferenc Memorial Museum (Budapest), May 2014 The author at the Liszt Ferenc Memorial Museum (Budapest), May 2014

If I were to seek career in music, I definitely would want to visit the central European countries and cities where the composers I admire such as Chopin, Liszt and Smetana were born! That has been my dream since I was a little girl.

Recently, as a Goodwill Ambassador for the “V4 + Japan” Exchange Year 2014, I had an opportunity to visit Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary. During the trip, my heart was filled with joy and I said to myself, “My dream has finally come true.” All the countries and cities I visited were shining and beautiful. The three countries also had many world heritage sites, which stimulated my interest and I even felt regret for having not visited these places before. It made a great impression on me that people in these places love music and art, which are a part of their lives, very deeply. Out of my desire to convey the wonderful feeling I felt during these visits to the people of Japan in a tangible manner, I wrote music for the “V4 + Japan” titled “Shine — concerto for VISEGRAD —,” reflecting on my affectionate feelings toward Central Europe.

I had a really delightful time when I performed this piece at a live concert in November 2014, welcoming Anna Maria Jopek, the Polish Goodwill Ambassador, and Mate Kamaras, the Hungarian Goodwill Ambassador as the special guest performers. I felt a connection with them beyond national boundaries through music even though we spoke different languages.

I reconfirmed the joy of self-expression as I went through many new experiences and met many new people. I am truly thankful for having had such wonderful opportunities.

Next time, I would like to visit Central Europe privately.

Nao Matsushita,

“V4 + Japan” Goodwill Ambassador for the Exchange Year