December 9, 2023

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50th anniversary of Japan-UAE ties usher new era of cultural relations: Japanese envoy

ABU DHABI – Increased official and cultural interactions have enriched the 50th anniversary celebrations of Japan-UAE diplomatic relations, a top Japanese diplomat told the Emirates News Agency (WAM).

While mutual visits of high-ranking officials, and growing energy and trade transactions throughout this year have further strengthened the bilateral strategic partnership, Emiratis’ increasing interest in various elements of Japanese culture has opened up a new era in cultural relations, said Akio Isomata, the Japanese Ambassador to the UAE.

Widening Emirati interest in Japan

“I am so glad to learn that an increasing number of Emiratis are interested in Japan. There are many Emiratis who are attracted to not only manga, anime, and sushi, but traditional Japanese activities such as tea ceremony, flower arrangement, and martial arts such as Judo,” he said in an interview in the capital.

Emirati participation in several events throughout the year as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations that culminated with “Japan Festival” at Manarat Al Saadiyat last week has revealed their rising interest in Japan, especially among the youth, the envoy said.

“I am amazed by so many Emiratis being fond of Japanese food, too,” Isomata added.

As WAM recently reported, the number of food outlets offering Japanese foods in the UAE has made a quantum leap of 163.4 percent in the past decade. This is quite extraordinary, considering that the number of Japanese expatriates living in the UAE is currently estimated at 4300.

Cooperation in UAE’s cultural strategy

The ambassador emphasised that one of the focused areas of cooperation ahead is education and culture. The Youth Ambassadors Programme (YAP) that started this year will see Japan assisting Emirati undergraduates to study degree courses in Japan, he noted.

The Japanese embassy in Abu Dhabi is currently working with the UAE government to engage Japanese experts and artists in the UAE’s National Strategy for the Cultural and Creative Industries that was launched last year, Isomata revealed.

The UAE’s strategy aims to promote the growth of the cultural and creative industries sector and place it among the top ten economic sectors in the country, amounting to five percent of the national GDP.

A milestone development has helped expanding tourism and people-to-people exchange between Japan and the UAE, the envoy pointed out. Starting from November 1, 2022, Emiratis no longer need a visa to visit Japan. “I have been approached by so many Emirati friends with great passion to visit Japan,” he said.

High-level visits and strategic partnership

There were many high-level visits during this “milestone year” and the visit by H.H. Sheikh Khaled bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Member of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council and Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Executive Office, to Tokyo in September was significant, the diplomat noted.

During his visit, a Joint Declaration on the Implementation of Comprehensive Strategic Partnership Initiative (CSPI) was signed. The establishment of a ministerial committee and five subcommittees was also announced, which will promote concrete cooperative projects over the broad spectrum of bilateral relations towards the next 50 years and beyond, Isomata noted.

Global climate agenda, oil supply

As host of COP28, the UN Climate Conference in 2023, the UAE has a crucial role to play in setting the global agenda for a sustainable, affordable, and realistic future, especially in the face of current global energy crisis, the diplomat suggested.

Japan-UAE joint decarbonisation projects will contribute to both countries’ climate agenda, he said.

The ambassador appreciated the UAE’s role in ensuring stable supply of oil and gas to the global market as the stability of the energy market is now more important than ever before because of the supply chain disruptions caused by the Ukraine crisis.

“The UAE has also been a critically important partner for the energy security of Japan,” the envoy emphasised.

The latest bilateral trade figures show steady progress, Isomata noted.

UAE as largest source of oil

The most recent data show that for September 2022, the UAE was the largest source of crude oil import for Japan, accounting for 45 percent, which is a 38 percent year-on-year increase, he said.

In 2021, the exports from the UAE to Japan were to the tune of US$27 billion, and imports from Japan to the UAE US$7 billion, he said. He added that major exports from Japan to the UAE were automobiles and machineries.

“The UAE is an excellent gateway to deploy business activities in the MENA market, and with the visionary policy of the leadership, the UAE has grown to be an ideal destination for attracting new businesses in such areas as digital economy, artificial intelligence, food-tech, and healthcare. I will continue to encourage more Japanese companies to come to the UAE to explore fresh opportunities the country is offering and, hopefully, to make investment decisions to the mutual benefit of both countries,” Isomata said.

Expo Dubai to Osaka-Kasai

The success of Expo 2020 Dubai symbolised the UAE’s determination and efforts to connect the world together during the difficult time of global pandemic, the diplomat said.

“Following in the footsteps of the UAE, Japan is determined to make Osaka-Kansai Expo 2025 a great success, too. I am happy that the UAE is participating in the Osaka-Kasai Expo, and I hope this relaying of baton from Dubai to Osaka-Kasai will further strengthen our bilateral cooperation for designing and creating the future,” Isomata said.