How love of Arabic changed a Japanese man’s life

Riyo Ishikawa, a Japanese national studying in Saudi Arabia
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Updated 13 January 2020

How love of Arabic changed a Japanese man’s life

  • A 28-year-old Japanese man recalls his journey of pursuing Arabic studies after high school
  • Riyo Ishikawa joined the Arab Islamic Institute in Tokyo to teach Arabic to Japanese citizens

RIYADH: Riyo Ishikawa, 28, had completed high school education in Japan when he was spurred by his interest in the cultures of other countries to join the Arab Islamic Institute in Tokyo to teach Arabic to Japanese citizens.
From there, his passion for Arabic led him to travel to Arab countries, notably Egypt and Saudi Arabia, to learn and master the language that seemed to occupy his mind constantly.
Ishikawa taught Arabic at various language institutes in Egypt, thanks to the recommendation of one of his teachers at the Arab Islamic Institute in Tokyo.
Then he moved to Saudi Arabia, where he joined the Arabic-language department of the College of Arts at King Saud University in Riyadh. He embraced Islam and settled down in the Kingdom.
His story is exemplary of the contribution of the Arab Islamic Institute in Tokyo to the strengthening of cultural ties between Saudi Arabia and Japan.
It is the only institution of its kind in Japan that gives individuals an opportunity to enrol in intensive programs in Arabic by teachers specialized in the language.
The institute also regularly offers introductory lectures and religious seminars on Arab culture and Islam. 
Dozens of Japanese students take advantage of this program every year by completing their courses in Arabic studies.
The origins of the Arab Islamic Institute in Tokyo date back to the official visit to Japan by the late King Faisal in 1971, which boosted relations between the two countries.
Following the successful visit, the Saudi government decided to present a gift to the Japanese people that could make a lasting impact. 
In 1983, the Arab Islamic Institute in Tokyo, affiliated with the Imam Muhammad bin Saud Islamic University in Riyadh, came into existence.
Since its inception, the institute has sought to fulfil its foundational goal by conducting courses that offer local people an opportunity to learn Arabic for free.
Ishikawa said from the moment he commenced his studies in Egypt, he realized that mastering Arabic was no mere academic exercise.
It would require him to engage deeply with Arab people so he could get adequate practice and develop fluency in the language.
To Ishikawa, mastering Arabic was a great challenge not just because it is among the languages considered by the US Foreign Service Institute as “super-hard.” 
He realized that Japanese and Arabic differ significantly in their structure of grammar and spelling.
But this led him to redouble his effort to master Arabic. He enrolled in three language-education institutes while in Alexandria, before moving on to Saudi Arabia to perfect his command of Arabic.
During this time, the persistence that Ishikawa had shown in learning Arabic language and literature began to show in his efforts to develop a grasp of classical Arabic poetry.
He said the reason behind his new interest was the fact that Arabic poetry uses classical vocabulary, as opposed to the colloquial Arabic used in daily conversations across the Arab world.
During the course of his journey from Japan to Saudi Arabia via Egypt, he was overwhelmed by the tolerance he saw in the Islamic faith, and by the values it advocated. He decided to embrace Islam and change his name to Osama Ishikawa.


Saudi Cabinet voices support for the territorial sovereignty of Cyprus

King Salman chairs the Cabinet session on Tuesday. The meeting reviewed the Kingdom’s economic progress. (SPA)
Updated 20 min 26 sec ago

Saudi Cabinet voices support for the territorial sovereignty of Cyprus

  • Kingdom calls for security to be maintained in the region

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has voiced its support for Cyprus’ territorial sovereignty amid growing tensions following the discovery of oil and gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean.

The Saudi Cabinet, chaired by King Salman, on Tuesday said it was watching developments in the eastern Mediterranean “with great interest,” and called for security and stability to be maintained in the region.
The Cabinet also reviewed the Kingdom’s progress among 190 economies in the World Bank’s Women, Business and the Law 2020 report, which placed it first among GCC countries and second in the Arab world on legislative reforms relating to women.
Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 program supports the implementation of reforms that enhance women’s role in economic development, raising the Kingdom’s competitiveness regionally and globally.
Minister of Media Turki bin Abdullah Al-Shabanah said the Cabinet reviewed several reports on developments in regional and international arenas.
The Cabinet reiterated the Kingdom’s assertion during the fourth session of the Arab Parliament in Cairo that its policy is based on the principles of peaceful coexistence and good neighborliness, full respect for the sovereignty and independence of states, noninterference in their internal affairs, and its belief that these principles are capable of resolving all conflicts, foremost the Arab-Israeli conflict.

HIGHLIGHT

The Cabinet reviewed efforts to promote political solutions to crises in Syria, Yemen, Libya and Sudan, calling on all to take action to address destabilizing foreign threats and interventions.

The Cabinet also reviewed efforts to promote political solutions to crises in Syria, Yemen, Libya and Sudan, calling on all to take action to address destabilizing foreign threats and interventions and to “move forward toward the aspirations of security, stability and development of Arab countries and their peoples.”
On regional affairs, the Cabinet condemned an attack on a military site in Niger, the bombing of a security checkpoint and a tax collection center in Somalia, and the terrorist strike by Houthi militia on a mosque in the Marib governorate, which resulted in dozens of deaths and injuries.
The Cabinet session also authorized the minister of foreign affairs or his deputy to sign a draft protocol on establishing diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Zimbabwe.
An agreement on social development between the the Kingdom and Tunisia was also approved along with a memorandum of understanding for scientific and technical cooperation with Spain.
The Cabinet also approved an agreement for scientific and geological cooperation between the Saudi Geological Survey and the Russian State Geological Company.