Cultural exchange key to promote Saudi-Japan ties

Japanese Calligraphy & Tea Ceremony artist Wakako Yamaguchi speaking to Arab News in Riyadh (AN Photo by Ali Aldhahri)
Updated 31 October 2019

Cultural exchange key to promote Saudi-Japan ties

  • ‘Leadership in both the countries share a great understanding for each other’

RIYADH: Mutual cultural exchange is significant in promoting bilateral ties, according to Wakako Yamaguchi, visiting Japanese calligraphy and tea ceremony artist.

Yamaguchi, who is the vice president of the Institute for Japanese Culture Experience and Education in Tokyo, attended workshops in Riyadh at the Saudi Arabian Society for Culture and Arts (SASCA) on Monday and the Art and Skills Institute (ASI) on Tuesday. The lecture was followed by a performance on Japan calligraphy, and interaction with the art-loving audience. 

Speaking to Arab News during her trip to Riyadh, Yamaguchi explained the purpose of the trip: “My aim is to introduce Japanese culture, especially calligraphy and ink art.

“I also want to show the philosophy of the tea ceremony,” she said. “We drink tea and have this ceremony, and I hope this might be of interest to everybody.”

Asked how it evolved from tea as a drink to tea as a piece of art, Yamaguchi said: “It was started as a monastic custom of Zen and attracted a lot of Samurai or the noble class people, because tea suggests to us how to live. So with just a cup of tea, we can understand mutual love and respect.”

The Japanese tea ceremony is an elaborate ritual, she said. It is a spiritual ceremony, an interlude in which one leads oneself for the moment to the spirit of beauty, quietude, and politeness toward others.

The formal tea ceremony is an iconic representation of Japanese culture. It is even more ingrained in the Japanese lifestyle than in China, whence the ceremony was borrowed nearly 900 years ago, although the Japanese use it in a different way. The tea ceremony is in many ways synonymous with Zen since both arrived in Japan from China at the same time.

On the cultural affinity, she hoped that such sessions will help to bring people from the two countries closer as both peoples have the same feeling for art.

With Saudi Arabia and Japan’s relationship developing through the Saudi-Japan Vision 2030 partnership, the two countries are looking at ways to strengthen their cultural ties, she added.

She also said that the leadership in both the countries share a great understanding for each other and referred to the ceremony when Japan’s Emperor Naruhito formally completed his ascension to the Chrysanthemum Throne at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on Oct. 22.

Saudi Arabia was represented at the ceremony by Minister of State Prince Turki bin Mohammed bin Fahd bin Abdul Aziz, who conveyed greetings from King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the Japanese people.

Agreeing that art and culture serve as a bridge to bring people from different countries closer, she expressed the hope that more such visits by art lovers from the two countries will further enhance cultural ties.


Organization of Islamic Cooperation to adopt Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam

Updated 28 February 2020

Organization of Islamic Cooperation to adopt Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam

  • OIC secretary-general notes that the organization continues to condemn the ideological rhetoric adopted by terrorist groups

JEDDAH: Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Dr. Yousef bin Ahmad Al-Othaimeen announced on Wednesday that the OIC will adopt the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam (CDHRI) after it is revised in accordance with international human-rights standards. The foreign ministers of the OIC member states are expected to approve the CDHRI at their meeting in Niamey, Niger in April.

 Al-Othaimeen was speaking at the 43rd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC), held in Geneva on Wednesday, where he highlighted some of the efforts the OIC has made to fight racism and xenophobia — including Islamophobia — claiming that they are the result of “intellectual and political resistance to cultural pluralism.”

He said the OIC, in cooperation with its partners, has prepared “a comprehensive and consensual approach to address incitement to hatred, discrimination and violence on the basis of religion.”

Al-Othaimeen’s speech, which was delivered on his behalf by OIC Geneva Permanent Representative Nassima Baghli, stressed that terrorism, including religious extremism, is a major source of concern for the international community. He pointed out that the OIC continues to condemn the ideological rhetoric adopted by terrorist groups and has established the Sawt Al-Hikma (Voice of Wisdom) Center, which focuses on addressing the ideological rhetoric of extremists.

His speech also reviewed the most common human-rights violations suffered by Muslims, referring to the detailed documentation from the UN’s own human rights bodies and the OIC of discrimination and violence against the Rohingya Muslims.

Al-Othaimeen explained that America’s actions in Palestine in recent months required the OIC to stress that any peace initiative between Israel and Palestine must be consistent with legitimate rights, foremost among which is the right to self-determination.

He also stressed the OIC’s support for Kashmiris in their pursuit of their legitimate right to self-determination in accordance with international resolutions and highlighted the OIC’s condemnation of Armenia’s continued occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven regions bordering Azerbaijan.