‘We Never Show When We Are Sad’
26 January, 2012
‘We Never Show When We Are Sad’

Interview with Ambassador of Japan in Georgia

Georgian Journal would like to invite you to the mesmerizing and mysterious eastern world. It is Japan, the ‘Land of Rising Sun’, which also happens to be the world of Samurais, Haiku and Tanka poetry and Sushi. Let us see how the representative of this beautiful country lives in faraway Georgia and how it feels to be the first diplomat ever. This is Masayoshi Kamohara, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan.  

 

G.J: As far

as I know, the mission of the Japanese government was opened three years ago in Georgia.

M.K: Yes, in 2009. Before that, we had our embassy in Baku, Azerbaijan.

G.J: Japan is a faraway country and it is very interesting what kind of information you possessed about Georgia?

M.K: In fact, I had visited Georgia two times before I came here as an ambassador. The first time was in 1985 during the era of the Soviet Union and I got a very good impression. It appeared to me that Georgia was a very rich region because at that time in winter it was impossible to get vegetables in Russia. I came here at the end of May. True, it was no longer a winter season, but still, your market was full of vegetables and fruit. My second visit was at the end of 1999 and my impressions were quite the opposite  - everything was dark. Three years ago, when I arrived as a diplomat it was a very pleasant surprise. Tbilisi is developing every day.

G.J: What can you say about this country as a person and as a diplomat?

M. K: I love Georgia. It’s a very interesting country although it still faces difficulties. We are supporting its goal to become a member of the European Union. I have visited almost all regions of Georgia. Honestly, it is not a very big country but the landscape differs so much from one place to the other. I have spent most of my time in Europe. Of course, every country has its own merit. My main way of thinking is to find something which you cannot find in other countries. I spent nearly 12 years in Western Europe. So, I know that region quite well. Apart from Italy, the main attraction is European culture of 18-19th centuries but in Georgia many things go back to the times before Christ or the 4th and 5th century B.C, and this is fascinating. Also the climate is quite different. Before I came here, I was in Vladivostok. I enjoyed my life there but winter there is very severe. In Georgia the summer is hot and winter is cold but not as cold as in Russia. And you have good ski resorts now.

G.J: The Michelin Guide has awarded Japanese cities more Michelin stars than the rest of the world combined. What can you say about the Georgian cuisine?

M.K:  I like the Georgian cuisine, but it’s a bit too heavy for me to eat it every day. But every week when I go out to the countryside I enjoy the Georgian food. If you doubt, my driver can be the witness. When I was working in Moscow and when I had a delegation from Baku or somewhere else, we usually chose the Georgian restaurant. By the way, it was after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Now I see that there are more and more Georgian restaurants in Moscow but unfortunately, without Georgian wine –  a stupid situation (he laughs). Together with Khinkali, Khachapuri and Shashlik (Mtsvadi in Georgian) I like Georgian salad of tomatoes and cucumbers with walnuts. I like the dishes with walnuts very much – eggplant, paprika and spinach with walnut, I like them all. Your Japanese restaurants are acceptable but the problem is that to have good Sushi you absolutely need to have good fish market, which does not exist in Georgia. We eat almost all sorts of local fish. Of course, there are some good ones, but this is not what we call Sushi. I have to tell you that besides fish we eat almost everything that comes from the sea.

G.J: Does the Georgian wine enter your market?

M.K: Yes, we are the 16th biggest importer of Georgian wine, after Turkey (these are the non-Christian countries without the wine-making and wine-drinking traditions). We did not drink wine a lot in the past. But from 1980s young people started to drink wine. We are drinking more and more. It’s fashionable now, especially young ladies prefer to go to the European type of restaurant and have wine. We have also started to produce wine, even before the World War II we had small wine- makers. Our wine- like national drink is called Sake - a drink made of rice.

G.J: What can you say about Georgian culture?

M.K: I am fascinated, especially by the chorus - polyphony, ballet and national dances. Even small children dance very well. I am mesmerized by your musicians, most of whom are performing in Europe. I don’t remember the names of the painters but you have a very high-standard art of painting. Pirosmani is very famous in Japan as well. If there was no Georgian culture, I couldn’t have worked here for such a long time, because life without culture means almost nothing. I rarely go to the theatres as I don’t understand the language, but I have been to the Pantomime theatre a couple of times. I once saw the piece by Yukio Mishima at the Music and Drama Theatre. Of course, I did not understand the discussions, as they were in Georgian but the actors performed very well.

G.J: How does your everyday schedule look like?

M.K: I am quite busy, but in the evenings we often meet – me and my diplomat friends – I am either invited by the others or I invite them myself. Sometimes, if I have time and I have nothing to read, I go to the countryside. My favorite places are Kazbegi and Sighnaghi.

G.J: What can you say about Georgian political culture? What are its week points and how do your recommendations sound?

M.K: I have heard that the budget for the agriculture has been cut several years ago. I hear that they are going to gradually raise it again, but what I want to say is that farmers are really a very important part of the country. If they are well-organized, nobody will move to the town and they will be happy to live in their own houses. Nobody will ever quit their villages if they have normal living conditions. Here, in Georgia, you have marvelous products but you don’t use them properly. What I mean is that you have a very big potential but you import most of the products while you could freely export them and have a benefit. What I note here is that Georgian farmers are too conservative compared to the Japans. For instance, we cultivate new species of fruits and vegetables from China, etc. and therefore, our national menu is constantly changing. But Georgians seem to be eating the same food that they were eating centuries ago. (Although, there are exceptions – for instance, Kiwi, which for Japan is also a comparatively new culture). Japan is really opened to all the cuisines too. In Tokyo one can find all kinds of restaurants, except for the British ones, I guess. There was one Georgian restaurant too but unfortunately it got closed. Once, I was watching BBC and a journalist said: ‘Tokyo has a Croatian restaurant’. We love new things.

G.J: But what about the globalization? There are many talks about its pros and cons. Do you believe that it is dangerous for your country and if so, do you fight it?

M.K: There is some part of the Japanese society that opposes it and another part that welcomes it. Of course, many things are changing.

G.J: The whole world was really stricken by the Tsunami events, which was the fifth-largest earthquake in the world since 1900 and most powerful in Japan. But one thing that really fascinated me was the unusual strength and resistance of Japanese people to this terrible natural disaster that caused the death of nearly 20 thousand and an unrecoverable damage. From some scenes that we saw, they were even smiling. Is it a part of your culture?

M.K: Of course, it was a disaster that happens only once in a millennium. We usually hide our emotions; at least we try to do so. For instance, if we have a sporting  tournament, the winner and the loser behave themselves the same way – the principle is that the winner must not make the loser feel his/her privilege and the contrary, the loser must not make the winner feel sorry for him/her. Just the contrary happens in the west, where emotions are shown at full swing. We don’t usually show what we feel – you can show your joy, but a bit moderately as showing your joy like mad is not viewed as very nice in our culture; but we especially hide our negative emotions and never demonstrate that we are sad.

G.J: Are you so reserved everywhere? I guess at least you are open with your families…

M.K: Yes, we are open, but in the families of Samurais people are reserved in their families too. However, there is a limited quantity of Samurais nowadays and they only live in small groups in the provinces.

G.J: What is your opinion about the Georgian media?

M.K: I don’t watch TV, I only can read some translated publications. From the locals I hear that there are still many things to be improved. Once, I was invited to the theatre and the journalists approached me and asked: ‘Why are you here?’ I was really confused and I could only answer: “Because I have been invited!”

G.J: What about our juridical authorities and penitential system?

M.K: Georgia strives to join EU and therefore, it is of utmost importance to have the free court of justice. I see that the trust towards court is not very high among the population, as they don’t think it is completely free. But of course if you don’t commit a crime, nobody is going to arrest you. As for the police, it has been changed – nobody trusted it and now people trust it. Policemen were taking money from people and now they don’t. Previously, surveys were made in the town of Kutaisi and almost all small boys said that they wanted to become the members of mafia and the girls said that they wanted to become their wives. But now the situation has dramatically changed and now small kids say that they want to become policemen.

G.J: You happen to be the first Asian ambassador as a guest of our journal. Do you agree that Georgia is Eurasia – i.e. neither fully Europe nor fully Asia?

M.K: Yes, I think it is so. You of course have the Persian and Turkish influence due to your history, but I think that you are more European and therefore, you strive so strongly towards European structures, which we fully support.

 

P.S. The Japanese spirit is well seen and felt in the entire staff of the embassy – smiling and feeling happy all the time. We want to say thank you to His Excellency, the Ambassador of Japan in Georgia and his entire team for warm and cordial reception.

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