By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
There were no endless trays of freshly rolled sushi, no live performances of traditional Japanese drum shows, and no social intermingling in the residence’s ample gardens while sipping warm sake, but whatever the Japanese Embassy in Mexico’s first-ever virtual national day reception on Wednesday, Feb. 24, lacked in fanfare, it more than made up for in hospitality, warmth and originality.
In a one-hour, online event, Japanese Ambassador to Mexico Yasushi Takase opened his home to fellow diplomats, members of the local Japanese community and friends of Japan with a modified afternoon reception to mark the 61st birthday of Emperor Naruhito, who took over the Chrysanthemum Throne in May 2019, following the abdication of his father, Akihito.
In lieu of live entertainment, Takase offered his virtual guests a series of videos on Japanese history and culture, including one that outlined the life of Japan’s 126th monarch and his commitment to helping his people to overcome the social and economic difficulties that have arisen as a result of the global covid-19 pandemic.
Echoing his Oxford-educated emperor, who one day earlier (Naruhito’s actual birthday) expressed sorrow over the human losses to the disease, the promise of a slow but eventual victory over the coronavirus, and the hope of a brighter future for all his people, Takase began his national day speech by offering condolences to all those who have lost loved ones over the course of the last 12 months.
“Here in Mexico, I have been profoundly hurt to learn of the deaths of so many close and dear friends of Japan … whose memory will remain in our hearts forever,” he said.
“As the pandemic continues to take its toll … we have all tried to adapt to a new normal.”
Takase went on to say that, thanks to modern technology, the world has been able to find new ways of conducting business and maintaining social interaction.
One such example of this, he said, was the Japanese Embassy’s Nippon Matsuri Online outreach program in November, through which it projected a series of cultural events remotely.
He also pointed out how the Japanese government, through the auspices of the embassy here, helped Mexico adapt and strengthen its medical infrastructure to handle the flux of covid patients.
Takase added that he hoped that everyone would soon have access to a covid-19 vaccine and that the world would overcome the plague of covid.
And while bilateral cooperation between Japan and Mexico has undergone changes as a result of the pandemic, the ambassador said that the 400-year-old two-way friendship continues to encourage binational interchange.
In January, Japanese Foreign Minister Motegi Toshimitsu came to Mexico on an official visit to promote broader bilateral cooperation in a number of fields, Takase said.
On the economic front, he said, the number of Japanese firms with capital holdings in Mexico have increased to more than 1,300, thanks in great part to an now-15-year-old binational trade agreement and the promise of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), also known as the TPP11.
Takase said that there have also been advances in bilateral cooperation in the areas of human resource development, and that Japan will take an active roll in participating in Mexico’s 2021 independence celebrations.
The envoy likewise noted that Japan is working to ensure a safe and secure setting for the twice-delayed Olympic and Paralympic Games, now slated to take place in Tokyo this summer.
Takase concluded by saying that he and his government are committed to expanding Japanese-Mexican relations in the year ahead.
Also speaking during the Japanese national day event were Héctor Vasconcelos, head of the Mexican Senate’s foreign relations committee, and Silvia Giorguli, president of the Colegio de México, both of whom congratulated the ambassador and his country on this auspicious occasion.
Interior Secretary Olga Sánchez Cordero, on behalf of Mexican President Andrés Manual López Obrador, and Senate President Oscar Eduardo Ramírez sent video messages of congratulations to the ambassador, which were also played during the event.
..March 1, 2021