Healthy Japan-Kenya ties spur growth



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In a historically significant event, the Japanese Cabinet on April 1 decided that the new Japanese era will be named “Reiwa”.

Today, with the accession of His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince to the Imperial throne, the era of “Heisei” comes to an end, and the era of “Reiwa” begins.

This is in keeping with the ancient Japanese tradition, which is held in reverence by the people of Japan and appreciated all over the world.

We define our eras by the Emperor who is on the Chrysanthemum throne, and we also give each era a name, which is expected to define the new Emperor’s reign.

Not all Japanese words allow for easy translation into English. “Reiwa” consists of two kanji characters.

“Rei” means “beautiful” and “Wa” means “harmony”. “Reiwa” implies that culture will be nurtured as people bring their hearts together in a beautiful manner.

Of particular interest and relevance to Kenya at this time is that His Majesty, who has now ascended to the imperial throne, visited Kenya in 2010, as the Crown Prince.

He met with high-level Kenyan dignitaries such as Professor Wangari Maathai, the Nobel laureate, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, and retired President Mwai Kibaki.

This was in addition to interacting with many ordinary Kenyans, as well as visiting Sweetwaters Game Reserve and Mt Kenya National Park.

He appreciated his time in Kenya very much, and the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful scenery of the country.

The Crown Prince also visited Mwea Irrigation Scheme, which is one of the signature development projects that symbolise the long-standing economic cooperation between Japan and Kenya.

As most Kenyans know, rice is the staple food of the Japanese people. It is our ugali, and we take pride in our advanced agricultural research, which is responsible for our highly productive agricultural sector.

We have been sharing our rice growing technology with the Kenyan rice farmers for many years, so as to ensure that they achieve greater production and thus improve their income and standard of living.

However, this was not the only time when Kenya hosted the Japanese royal family.

Much earlier, back in 1983, in their capacity as Emperor and Empress of Japan, His Majesty the Emperor Emeritus and Her Majesty the Empress Emerita visited Kenya.

This makes Kenya one of the very few African nations that has been visited by both the Japanese Emperors in the two peaceful eras of “Heisei” and “Reiwa”.

These visits by both Emperors symbolise the deep ties and mutual friendship between Japan and Kenya, which have existed since Kenya’s independence in 1964.

It also points to the great expectations on the future of Kenya as a leading nation on the African continent.

The close links between the two countries have laid the foundation for the many investments made here by Japanese companies.

These firms have shown their steadfast commitment to Kenya, and they now play a key role in national development.

Such new and ongoing investments, the results of which can be seen all over the country, have also helped in promoting the Kenya government’s agenda in job creation and infrastructure development.

We can all look back with pride on the achievements that have been made possible through the rich history and diverse relationship between Japan and Kenya.

We could indeed say that it has contributed to the process of laying a strong foundation for the development of Kenya.

It is important to mention that the special relationship between Japan and Kenya would be incomplete without a reference to the historic Tokyo International Conference on African Development – Ticad VI – which was held in Nairobi in 2016.

This was the first time ever that the Ticad summit was held on the African continent. The previous five Ticad conferences were held in Japan, and in August 2019, Ticad VII will, once again, be held in Yokohama, Japan.

We would like to underline Japan’s determination to maintain and further develop this unique and inclusive Ticad process in close collaboration with the Kenyan people to achieve a peaceful and prosperous society in our everyday life.

Japan will continue to promote peace and harmony in the world for the happiness of all people along the lines of the meaning of Reiwa (Beautiful Harmony).

Mr Katayama is the Chargé d’Affaires ad interim of Japan to Kenya


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