| Lyna Mohamad |
JAPAN will soon witness the dawn of a new era, with His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince of Japan Naruhito set to take over the throne from his father Emperor Akihito; the latter announcing his desire to abdicate in April, the first Japanese Emperor to do so in over 200 years.
Speaking at a dinner reception to celebrate His Majesty the Emperor of Japan’s 85th birthday at the Indera Samudra Grand Hall of The Empire Hotel & Country Club on Monday, Japanese Ambassador to Brunei Darussalam Motohiko Kato said that a new emperor and empress herald a new opportunity for the relationship between Brunei and Japan to grow ever stronger.
Present were Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and Minister of Finance and Economy II Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew bin Abdullah as the guest of honour and his spouse, Pengiran Datin Hajah Noor Yashimah binti Pengiran Anak Haji Hashim.
The emperor, the ambassador said, is a symbol of Japan and the unity of its people, and “moves forward, hand in hand with the people of Japan, showing great humility and is deeply loved and respected”.
He noted that the reception will be the last celebration for the current emperor before His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince of Japan Naruhito succeeds his father as the next emperor.
“The Emperor of Japan attaches great importance to Japan-Brunei relations, having met His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam many times. Unfortunately, Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress were unable to attend His Majesty’s recent Golden Jubilee Celebration,” Kato said.
This new era will coincide with Japan hosting a number of exciting sporting events, including the ninth Rugby World Cup next year and the Summer Olympics and Paralympic Games in Tokyo in 2020.
The ambassador highlighted that through the Japan-ASEAN Youth Sports Exchange under the JENESYS programme, Japan is hosting rugby practice sessions and friendly matches for young Bruneian rugby players – both male and female – in the country.
Local badminton and football players will also be visiting Japan under the programme, with Ambassador Kato adding that he expects a good number from this pool to go on to compete in the Olympics.
“Bruneians should take great pride in those athletes heading to the Olympic Games. Their involvement is a great honour. Japan is determined to host these Olympics in an eco-friendly manner and many Japanese green technologies will be used,” he said.
“This sends a message to the world on the need to respect our natural environment. Japanese people have even been encouraged to donate their old mobile phones for this cause. We will also reclaim the gold used in these unused technologies and recycle it for use in the creation of the Olympic medals.”
Various efforts to enhance Brunei-Japan relations even further have been made in Brunei this year, the ambassador added, including the establishment of the Brunei Darussalam National Judo Federation (BDNJF).
Other contributors to the blossoming relationship between the two countries include Brunei’s key role in Japan’s efforts to increase hydrogen usage in its energy sector, part of its green economy drive.
“Energy is probably the most important focus when considering green issues. Brunei has contributed towards Japan’s energy security for decades, with shipments of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Japan beginning in 1972, and we are very grateful for this,” Kato said.
The ambassador noted that the Japanese government is planning to use hydrogen-fuelled buses to transport athletes and visitors during the 2020 Summer Olympics.
Construction for a liquid hydrogen production facility at Sungai Liang Industrial Park (SPARK) in Belait – a collaborative project between the governments of Brunei and Japan – is also currently underway, with the plant expected to be completed by the end of next year.
Japanese engineers are at the same time looking at how they can further assist Brunei on environmental issues using hydrogen technologies – one of this is developing Temburong via eco-friendly methods.
“I do hope Japanese green technologies will be used to preserve the beautiful environment of Temburong during its development. Japan has presented proposals for an eco-friendly solution for this process,” Ambassador Kato said.
“Japanese companies are now working in the country in various sectors, from traditional oil and gas to manufacturing, methanol production, biotech, and fish processing. Japan is actively contributing to the diversification of the Bruneian economy.”
The dinner included a performance on basic skills in classic Japanese martial arts by members of the BDNJF, as well as a traditional Japanese dance by the UTB Chapter of the Brunei-Japan Friendship Association.
There was also a mini exhibition showcasing several aspects of Japanese culture and the personal relationships that exist between Brunei and Japan.