What makes Japan so similar to Georgia?
15 October, 2018
Japanese people know Georgia and the Georgians well enough thanks to the Georgian Sumo wrestler Levan Gorgadze, also known as Tochinoshin. His victories at the tournaments made him very popular among Sumo fans and many Japanese support the Georgian during bouts. Another Georgian wrestler Teimuraz Jugheli or Gagamaru is also quite famous in Japan.

But there are other people who introduce Georgia to the Japanese people and some of them are natives, like Naoko Tachibana, Japanese photographer who fell in love
with Georgia and does everything to share as much information about Georgia among fellow-countryman as possible.

So what similarities does she see between Georgia and Japan and why does she love Georgia so much? Naoko speaks about herself and her story with Georgian Journal.

How Naoko found information about Georgia?

Naoko found out about Georgia through her Twitter account – she saw traditional Georgian cloths made by the Georgian sewing shop Samoseli Pirveli. She was enchanted with the Georgian traditional cloths and got interested from which country did they come from. It has been her fourth visit to Georgia since then.

On Twitter she is known as aunt in love with Georgia and publishes information about the country every day. She regrets scarcity of information about Georgia written in the Japanese. She established a club that summons other Japanese interested in Georgia and regularly holds various events. Naoko actively cooperates with the Embassy of Georgia in Tokyo and with Japanese language and culture center here in Tbilisi.

Nino Chanturia, representative of the center says that events organized by Naoko in Tokyo are dedicated to the Georgian cuisine, Georgian wine and exhibition of photos of Tbilisi. Naoko wears the Georgian dress at the events and prepares Georgian dishes.

Georgian hosts of Naoko say that she loves Georgia so much that she bursts into tears to whatever they show her in the country. Naoko plans to open Georgian restaurant in Japan because there is not one.

What does the Japanese photographer like in Georgia?

“Since from the first time my impression about Georgia was like I was in a fairy tale. The historic Georgian national dresses are just magnificent! I could not even imagine that it was real and people really wear it! I have arrived to attend national costumes day and wore Japanese kimono at the event. Then I tried the Georgian dress and felt that I was turned into a very proud gentlewoman. Impression by the dress was very positive”.

Naoko wears a Saint Nino cross on her chest. She says that when she visited Jvari monastery in Mtskheta, overlooked the city, saw a meeting point of two rivers (Mtkvari and Aragvi) she was burst into tears unconsciously. “I am not Christian but I can feel your religion very well though” – she says.

“That is why I wear a cross. The name of the first Georgian I spoke with is Nino Chanturia. It was also symbolic. On one hand, on a nail I have an icon of Saint Nino, on the other – the Georgian flag. I believe that when I am in Georgia Saint Nino will protect me” – Naoko says.

Similarities between Georgia and Japan

Naoko says that she heard lots of stories about the Georgian cross and vine. She likes chant called “Thou Art a Vineyard” (Georgian hymn written by King Demetrius I of Georgia (1093–1156)).

“While reading about history of the country I saw many similarities between Georgia and Japan. Both of the countries are small, surrounded by other states who consider them from a different perspective and try to take after them” – says Naoko. “I love Georgia so much for its proud people, the people who say that they love Georgia and will protect it. I like that and it makes me feel excited! I am glad that we have such conversation”.

For Naoko Georgian dishes were strange in the beginning, but soon, after she tried them, she loved them. She likes Khinkali, Khachapuri but she cannot make it in Japan though, because there is no Georgian cheese. “But I have still made Adjarian Khachapuri that was in a heart shape” – she says.

What Japanese about Georgia?

Naoko makes Georgian Pkhali (Georgian dish of chopped and minced vegetables) and Japanese like it very much. “We wear the Georgian dresses, make Georgian dishes, drink Georgian wine and speak about Georgia” – she says.

The Japanese photographer wishes there was charter flights between Georgian and Japan, but before that she will try to make as many Japanese interested in Georgia as possible. Naoko’s boyfriend is Japanese, but for her Georgian family is ideal.

“Japanese also lived like Georgians in the past. Life of Japanese and Georgian families were similar to each other, but due to modern lifestyle we have lost many. There is no such warmth as there was before” – says Naoko and adds that her boyfriend is also interested in Georgia and next time she will arrive with him.

Author: Lali Patsia

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