Remarks of Ambassador Kitano at the Annual Dinner of the Ireland Japan Association


Friends and colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Good evening.

Actually, it is already quite long into the night and I would like to first of all apologise for my late arrival in joining you all here at the Ireland Japan Association Annual Dinner. I want to thank Raymond for his kind introduction. Please allow me at the outset to introduce myself briefly. I came to Ireland at the end of August last year so it has been five and a half months I have been here now. As a new Ambassador, I am often asked how I feel to be here. My answer is quite simple – I enjoy it! Being here, I have found out lots of things in common between Ireland and Japan and how our relationship is complimentary with each other. I have learned a lot from this country already during my short time here.

Speaking of our bilateral relationship, I suppose I do not have to mention how successful last year was, including the much-debated Rugby World Cup. It might perhaps be more meaningful to talk about 2020. I am convinced this year will be another great year, and I would like to elaborate on why I say so.
It has been a month and a half since the start of the year and already there have been many positive developments. The Working Holiday Programme was expanded with the maximum issuance of visas raised to 800 from the previous 400 from the start of this year. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade launched a new Asia Pacific Strategy on 9 January with a strong focus on Japan. Noh performances were organised with the generous support of the IJA on 1 February in Kilkenny and 2 February in Wexford. I was able to enjoy the latter performance in person. Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture was inaugurated on 8 February and Japan is a strong partner for this great cultural occasion. Mr MIYASHITA Ichiro, State Minister of Cabinet Office in charge of Economic and Fiscal Policy, visited Dublin earlier this week to attend the European Financial Forum. I am happy to say, within this short period of time, a lot of things have happened and it is a good indication for the rest of the year.

Looking ahead, I am happy to say there is more to come. As in previous years, you can expect such events as Experience Japan and the Japanese Film Festival. At the same time, this year will see something special taking place. As you are well aware, the Tokyo Olympic Games will be organised from 24 July to 9 August. I am very much interested in each of the sporting disciplines, but especially field hockey, cycling, equestrian, sailing, rowing, gymnastics and boxing. As you know, the Olympics will be followed by the Paralympic Games from 26 August to 6 September.

Before these great sporting events, the Chester Beatty Library is organising a large scale exhibition titled “Edo in Colour: Prints from Japan’s Metropolis”, which will be held from June 2020 to January 2021.

Now, I would like to touch upon rugby. Japan’s national team, the Brave Blossoms, will come to Dublin to have a rematch with the Irish rugby team on 21 November. I hope this will be a good opportunity to renew our friendship nurtured last year. Frankly speaking, I do not care about who will win, but for the men in the green jerseys it might be an opportunity to take revenge. For rugby, this is not the only occasion where we are expecting a showdown between our two countries. The U-20 World Championships will be held in Italy in July and yet again Japan and Ireland have been drawn in the same pool. The match between the two teams will take place on 8 July in Verona.

Last but not least, on the diplomatic front, we have been discussing with our colleagues in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, with regard to having a new policy document between the two countries. Looking back, it was in 2013 that the heads of our two Governments, Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Prime Minister ABE Shinzo, formulated a joint declaration to lay out the future vision of the relationship between Japan and Ireland at that time. This was seven years ago, and I suppose it is high time for us to think about the next declaration and vision planning. I do not have a clear idea when and how this will take place, but my wish is to incorporate all the positive elements between our two countries into a new document to bring our bilateral relationship to even higher levels.

In conclusion, I have high expectations for the year 2020 and, with the strong assistance and support of the members of the IJA, I hope to make this year as fruitful as possible.

Thank you for your kind attention.