60 Years and Beyond: The 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and Ireland

Pictured above: Mr Yuichi Yamada, First Secretary, Press and Cultural Affairs, Embassy of Japan.

During 2017, Ireland and Japan will celebrate 60 years of formal diplomatic relations. Since the first diplomatic exchanges took place in 1957, the relationship between the two countries has gone from strength to strength.

Japan is now Ireland’s 11th largest trading partner and the two nations share increasingly important political, economic, educational and cultural ties.

Sixty years is a very significant milestone in the Japanese tradition. It is known as kanreki in Japanese and is considered a time for reflection and celebration, symbolising both the end of one cycle and the beginning of another.

To mark this tradition, both the Irish government and the Embassy of Japan, located in the Merrion Centre in the heart of Dublin 4, have prepared an exciting programme of events which will take place throughout Ireland during 2017.

The year’s celebrations got off to a great start with an official ceremony, hosted by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Mr. Charles Flanagan, at the Department of Foreign Affairs in Iveagh House.
Mr. Fumio Kishida, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, attended the event as the guest of honour.

Minister Flanagan paid a reciprocal visit to Japan on the invitation of the Japanese Government from February 26th to March 4th, where he was warmly received.

To mark the anniversary, An Post issued a special commemorative stamp on February 9th, which celebrates W.B. Yeats and the Noh Tradition. Designed by Dublin-based Zinc Design Consultants, the stamp features a red sun symbol with a gold mask and wings on a black backdrop in the Japanese style.

Yeats had a passionate interest in Japanese culture and adapted the highly-stylised form of Japanese Noh theatre tradition into a number of his plays, most notably, The Death of Cuchulainn and At the Hawk’s Well. The commemorative stamp is based on At The Hawk’s Well, which was first performed in Dublin in 1916.

One of the highlights of the festivities will no doubt be the annual Japanese Film Festival, already a popular element of the Irish film scene. Now in its ninth year, the festival will once again showcase the best of Japanese cinema for Irish audiences and will play at venues around the country. It starts on April 5th in the Lighthouse Cinema, Dublin. Details about this year’s Film Festival will be revealed at a special screening of A Silent Voice in partnership with the Lighthouse Cinema on Sunday March 26th.

If you would like to sample a taste of the Japanese way of life. you can do so at the ‘Experience Japan Festival Day’ which will be held at Farmleigh House on April 23rd from 12pm – 4pm. This is a big cultural event with open-air performances, food stalls, lectures about Japanese culture and history and lots more interesting Japanese-themed activities.

If that doesn’t take your fancy, there are friendly Japan versus. Ireland rugby fixtures, Japanese traditional storytelling events, Tea Ceremony demonstrations, a live art show and a Japanese fashion show to be enjoyed. Or you can pop into the Chester Beatty Library, where eighty stunning prints went on display on March 3rd. The Art of Friendship: Japanese Surimono Prints exhibition will be open to the public until August 31st and is well worth a visit.

Mr Yuichi Yamada, First Secretary, Press and Cultural Affairs, Embassy of Japan in Ireland, told NewsFour that these cultural exchanges play an important role in deepening the ties between Japan and Ireland.

He is happy to report that during his four years at the embassy he has seen an increasing interest in Japanese culture, particularly amongst younger people. This is evidenced by the number of Irish students who are now studying the Japanese language at both Leaving Cert’ and at university level, which has increased significantly in recent years.

One reason for this trend he believes, is the current popularity of Manga, Anime and Japanese pop culture, which serve as a “very good entrance to Japanese culture and can lead to an interest in more traditional Japanese culture.”

The people of Japan are very interested in Irish culture too. Mr Yamada says, “Ireland is famous in Japan for your contribution to literature. The four Nobel Laureates (Literature) Shaw, Beckett, Yeats and Heaney are very well-known and widely read there.”

Pictured above: Stamp issued for WB Yeats and the Noh tradition which inspired him.

The celebrations this year are called: 60 Years and Beyond: The 60th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations between Japan and Ireland, and the ambassador and staff at the Embassy of Japan are already looking beyond this year’s festivities and forward to the next phase in the warm relationship that has developed between the two countries.

Mr Yamada said that they hope to see many Irish visitors make their way to Japan for the Rugby World Cup in 2019 and for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympics Games. All will be assured of a warm welcome and an opportunity to experience the endlessly fascinating culture of Japan for themselves.

By Jennifer Reddin