Japan, Saudi Arabia growing ties at time of celebration
It is a great honor to celebrate the occasion of the birthday of Japan’s Emperor Naruhito. On Feb. 23, Naruhito turns 62. I would like to take this opportunity to highlight the ongoing friendly relations between Japan and Saudi Arabia.
For a long time, the Saudi royal family and the Japanese imperial family have forged a heart-to-heart friendship that has stayed at the center of the evolving bilateral relations between Japan and the Kingdom. The beautiful story of the royal friendship dates back almost 70 years, to the occasion of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth of the UK in 1953, which was two years before the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two nations. The coronation ceremony was attended by many heads of states and royal family members from around the world.
Emperor Emeritus Akihito, then crown prince, represented the Japanese imperial family, while King Fahd, then a prince, attended on behalf of Saudi Arabia. At the ceremony, Prince Fahd showed his kindness by giving his place to Akihito against the designated protocol.
Against the background of the long-lasting bond between the two royal families, Naruhito and Empress Masako — then as crown prince and crown princess — paid an official visit to the Kingdom for the first time in 1994, following their marriage in the same year. After that, Naruhito visited Saudi Arabia five times during his time as crown prince.
In recent years, the bilateral relationship has grown, especially after the launch of the Saudi-Japan Vision 2030 in the year 2017, during the visit of King Salman to Japan. The number of projects has increased from 30 to more than 80 since this joint vision was launched. One such project is the Megaton water system, which is a desalination plant in Tabuk. It aims to cut the cost of the desalination process in half, using cutting-edge Japanese technology.
In addition, the blue ammonia project is also evolving. The Institute of Energy Economics of Japan imported 40 tons of blue ammonia from the Kingdom in September 2020 and the Japanese company IHI then successfully conducted a blue ammonia combustion experiment at a 2,000 KW gas turbine in Yokohama. Despite the difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, both the Kingdom and Japan have made every effort to accomplish these projects and ensure that their bilateral relations flourish.
In the field of culture, many events and activities have been held recently in various Saudi cities that are rich in cultural diversity. It is also worth mentioning that many Saudi people love Japanese culture, especially the food and animation. Even with the travel and transportation difficulties in the current situation, I hope that tourism will return to normal in both countries in the near future so that Saudi citizens can enjoy visiting Japan and vice versa.
I hope that tourism will return to normal in both countries in the near future so that Saudi citizens can enjoy visiting Japan and vice versa.
Since beginning my assignment as the ambassador of Japan in the Kingdom, I have visited nearly half of its provinces: Riyadh, Eastern, Makkah, Madinah, Qassim, Tabuk and, recently, Jazan. It is also interesting to me to visit heritage sites during my trips. This heritage illustrates the historical pathway of the people in this country, as well as delivering stories of ancient generations. Listening to such ancestral stories deepens my knowledge and understanding of the Kingdom’s society and history. I am determined to visit the remaining regions during my stay.
Last but not least, I wish health and wellness to all citizens of the Kingdom and further prosperity to the society under the leadership of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
- Iwai Fumio is the Japanese ambassador to Saudi Arabia. Twitter: @FumioIwai