Interview with Consul-General of Japan, Hasegawa

-It has been a year and a half. What do you think when you look back on this time?

My honest impression is that a year and a half has passed quickly and it has been busy. One of the things I have started since taking office is to create an open Consulate-General by placing pictures and reports of our activities, as well as various information on the Consulate-General homepage. I imagine many people do not know how the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the Consulate-General functions on a day-to-day basis. I believe that informing the public of our activities is of prime importance at the Consulate-General. One of my most important duties is to hold business lunches and dinners at the official residence about twice a week, in order to cultivate further communications with a wide range of people, such as Australian politicians, financial experts and intellectuals. These (see below) are pictures of premiers, ministers and the governors of Tasmania and South Australia, and here are a number of thank-you letters from those whom we have invited to dine with us to date. Furthermore, there have been many opportunities to make speeches or address the public, and the number of such occasions has exceeded sixty over the past year and a half. It is hard work as I write almost all the speech drafts myself.


-The global financial situation has dramatically changed in the year and a half since your appointment. As the Consul-General, what do you think of it from a bureaucratic point of view?

In relation to economics, it was announced during Prime Minister Rudd’s visit to Japan in 2008 that Toyota Australia would start producing a hybrid Camry in 2010, but Japan’s car and electronics related industries currently face a severe situation due to the economic crisis. We hear from those in Japanese industries that things are difficult. However, despite such situations, investment from Japan is as prevalent as ever when you look at the economic relations between Japan and Australia. In relation to Victoria, in 2009 alone, Nippon Paper bought Australian Paper, Asahi Beer bought Schweppes Australia, and quite recently Itochu invested in the desalination project. Even after the hit of the economic crisis, investment in Australia is very active. In addition, the Latrobe area has a great amount of lignite (brown coal) reserve and The Commonwealth and State governments provide financial assistance to the Clean Coal Project, with Japanese industries showing interest in this as well.

-What has made the biggest impression in the past year and a half?

That would be “hito to hito no kouryu” which in English you might say, “People to people links”. I have gained the impression that Australia and Japan have a deep relationship with each other. As a part of my job I meet a variety of people, many of whom have some connections to Japan. Some have sons and daughters who have been working in Japan or have lived in Japan themselves, or have a member of their family who is married to a Japanese person. The number of such people surprised me. According to statistics, the number of tourists from Japan to Australia is about 450,000 a year, which comes third following those from New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Furthermore, in relation to the number of Japanese people living in foreign countries, Australia comes fourth following the United States of America, China and the U.K. This data is from 2007, and considering that the difference between the number of those living in the U.K. compared with Australia at that time was only slight, it may only be a matter of time before Australia reaches third place. The economic relations between Australia and Japan are also close. While China has become the leading customer of Australia’s total imports exports in 2007, japan returned to the leading position in 2008. in march we held a reception at the official residence called “Japan Night”. This was to further promote networks for Australian people who have worked or lived in Japan and who now work for government departments or in educational fields. We took this initiative with an intention to maintain and facilitate the bonds with such people.

-In Victoria more than 400 schools teach Japanese, and I wonder if that plays a role in our interactions. As I recall, you make an appearance at educational settings.

One thing that moved me was a play of the Kaguyahime (The Moon Princess) which was performed at Huntingdale Primary School, which provides Japanese-English bilingual education, in September 2008. I was deeply moved by the fact that local children appeared in a play in Japanese. They practiced hard and spent more than half a year in preparation, and it seems a school in Caulfield is going to hold a play in Japanese as well. I think you will all be moved upon seeing it. I would like to encourage you to see it if you have a chance.

-Now please tell us your feeling or feedback on the tea ceremony held last month as the Consul-General.

To give you some background, I have a lot of experience with sado (tea ceremony/the way of tea) and I had always wanted to demonstrate my performance to the local people at a fine place such as the NGV. It wasn’t easy to bring about this event. However, one day when I attended a dinner party in relation to Asian art at the NGV, the director of the NGV happened to be there and gave me a favourable response to my idea. I consider the ceremony we held to be a success. An exhibition called Tea and Zen is going to be held at the NGV in April in 2010 and shows tea utensils and so forth. I may have an opportunity to demonstrate sado again then.

-Are there any hobbies that you are devoted to other than sado?

Let’s see, perhaps it’s Australian wine, which I have been studying for the past year. I do choose wine to go with meals at work. When I have time at night, I do research, reading books on wine.

-What kind of wine do you prefer?

I like chardonnay for white and pinot noir from Burgundy for red, but pinot noir here seems to have less punch compared to wine from France as someone pointed out. However, I think Shiraz, which is widely known here, has depth to its flavor.

-Do you have any recommended labels?

I recommend Penfolds, which is available anywhere. The price is also reasonable. Among the ones that are not so easily available, I recommend BASS Phillip. Their red wine is rather pricy, but you can buy their white wine, chardonnay, for about 36 dollars. I think it is reasonable considering the quality of the wine. It is possibly a good idea to buy it directly at the winery considering its availability. However, I am busy myself and can rarely visit wineries.

-I hear that you have a strong interest in war and peace, but what are your thoughts on the recent movement for nuclear arms reduction?

My previous post was in Vienna, and the job was in relation to the international nuclear power facility, IAEA. My immediate superior at that time, Ambassador Amano, was elected as IAEA Secretary General. The election of a Secretary General from Japan, the only victim of a nuclear bombing, was very moving. IAEA is deeply involved with the nuclear weapon issues in Iran and North Korea. In addition, I understand that security, as a process to prevent war, is of extreme importance. There is no need to use armed strength including nuclear weapons without a war in the first place. Furthermore, in relation to security, both Australia and Japan are America’s allies through the Japan-US Alliance and Australia-US Alliance, and both countries are deeply involved in the peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region. Japan holds ministerial conferences, with both the foreign minister and the defense minister in attendance, only with the United States of America and Australia. Australia has these ministerial conferences only with three countries, the United States of America, the United Kingdom and Japan. From an economic standpoint, China has been noticeable, but both Japan and Australia have been establishing very close relations in terms of politics and security treaties, which is the reason why Japan and Australia are called strategic partners.

-On a final note, please give a message to the Japanese people who reside in Victoria.

Victoria experienced a major bush fire this year as well as an epidemic of the new strain of influenza. I dealt with these situations with a sense of crisis, but fortunately there weren’t any Japanese bush fire victims. In addition, the impact of influenza has not reached a critical level at this stage. I intend to continue handling the situations to the best of my abilities for the safety of Japanese people and their protection on such occasions as natural disasters like this or incidents and accidents which may involve Japanese people.

On another note, there are about 10,000 Japanese people in Melbourne at the moment. This is the 16th largest number of Japanese people in foreign countries. This number is from 2007, but in Europe, only London and Paris have more Japanese people than Melbourne. To reflect this, Melbourne holds a number of events related to Japan. However, it does not seem as if many Japanese people attend such events. Perhaps there is no opportunity to obtain information about these events, but I would like you all to keep an eye out for the websites of the Consulate-General or Go Go Melbourne. Attending such events will enable you to widen your views and further enrich your life in Melbourne. Interactions with sister cities are also popular. Osaka and Melbourne celebrated their 30th anniversary in 2008 while Aichi prefecture and Victoria will have their 30th anniversary in 2010. To mark the occasion, a group of representatives from the Aichi prefectural assembly are to visit at the beginning of 2010. At the Consulate-General we would like to continue to support interactions like these.

-Thank you very much.

Be first to comment