The Tokyo Summer Olympics aim to do two things - to prove that people can overcome the COVID-19 pandemic as long as they are united,

and to show the world how our country has recovered from the great earthquake in eastern Japan

       - Economic measures aimed at digitalisation and a green society are one of the pillars of the post-pandemic development plan of the COVID-19 pandemic that the current Japanese government is considering

       - We presented to our investors the Bulgarian companies of the IT and biotechnology sector

       - The promotion of bilateral tourism in Japan and Bulgaria has great potential

       - In addition to traditional Japanese culture, I would like to introduce Japanese folk psychology, along with business philosophy. I also work towards promoting Japanese cuisine

       - The holding of the Olympics in Tokyo has the full support of the leaders of the G7 and G20 countries... Consulting the opinion of experts from the WHO and others, the organisers of the Games are taking measures against the virus and are making solid preparations for the implementation of the safe competition

       - Ten years after the accident at the Fukushima 1 nuclear power plant, it has become possible for many asylum seekers in other regions to return to their native places, says H. E. Mr. Narahira Hiroshi in an interview with the Standard newspaper

E. Mr. Narahira Hiroshi presented his credentials for Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to the Republic of Bulgaria on August 24, 2020. He previously held senior positions in Japan. He has worked in the Ministry of Tourism, in the Ministry of Finance, in the Ministry of Transport. Ambassador Narahira was Deputy Minister for international affairs in the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, Counselor at the Embassy of Japan in Great Britain. He holds a law degree from the University of Tokyo, a master's degree in public administration from Harvard University, and a master's degree in management from Stanford University. H. E. Mr. Narahira Hiroshi began his term in Bulgaria with fresh ideas for the development of friendly relations between the Land of the Rising Sun and Bulgaria.

- Your Excellency, nine months ago, when you were accredited as Ambassador of Japan to Bulgaria, you shared your intention to make efforts to strengthen friendly relations between the two countries, built over 100 years. Did the pandemic create difficulties for your ambitious intentions?

- It is true that the corona virus has a great influence on the work of the embassy. But this complex situation does not concern only us, but all countries in the world. That is why I believe that we must work together to overcome it. In the current circumstances, video conferencing has proven to be a convenient and effective way to do our job. In this way we keep in touch with both people from the country and Japan. This type of communication may remain widespread after the end of the epidemic. In addition, complying with all the orders of the Minister of Health, we held several face-to-face meetings, where I was lucky enough to meet in person with amazing Bulgarians. I appreciate these opportunities, thanks to them I felt what it is like to work in this wonderful country.

- Japan is also severely affected by the pandemic. How do the authorities and the population deal with the new problems?

- A state of emergency has been declared in Japan in Tokyo and three neighbouring prefectures, and it was lifted on March 21st. People need to be careful to prevent the virus from spreading again. The Japanese are trying to adapt to the new way of life, following basic anti-epidemic measures. Self-control and restraint are entirely in the name of the common good. An anti-epidemic measure by the government was the reduced working hours of establishments during the state of emergency. Balancing economic measures, some of which include an additional budget and campaigns such as Go To Travel (currently suspended), the country is doing its best to act carefully and effectively. In this way, both through meaningful and timely policy measures and through self-control and a willingness to cooperate with the population, Japan is working to prevent the spread of the disease.

- What is Japan's specific program for economic recovery after the epidemic subsides?

- The tasks that Japan needs to work harder on are digitalisation, the transition to a green society, meeting new health and medical needs and creating more flexible supply chains. Economic measures aimed at digitalisation and a "green" society are one of the pillars of the development plan that the current government is considering. In the current situation of coronavirus, digitalization in business and administration is something very significant. In order for every citizen to benefit from the convenience of digitalisation, the government is investing in the maintenance of infrastructure to serve as a base. Japan intends to take the initiative as a free trade leader amid the current collapse of the world economy. At last year's G20 summit, Japan announced its intention to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050, thus achieving carbon neutrality. This readiness was also highly appreciated at the individual meetings with the leaders of each country. Taking proactive measures to combat global warming is expected to lead to more investment in Japanese companies and global cooperation. In this way, the need to create a "green" society would attract even more attention. Greening would be impossible without a well-developed digital infrastructure to support it. That is why the current government sees the above two circumstances as important components of the economic development strategy and focuses its efforts on them.

- At the beginning of your mandate you stated that you intend to work to improve the conditions in the economic Bulgarian-Japanese relations, in order to increase the interest of Japanese companies in investing in Bulgaria and cooperation with Bulgarian companies. What concrete actions will you take?

- Due to the pandemic, international travel is currently difficult, including for business. Therefore, our main work in this area is done online. In February, in cooperation with JETRO, we presented several new Bulgarian companies from the IT and biotechnology sectors to potential Japanese investors, and several business meetings were held within two days. Once international visits become possible again, we could organize various face-to-face meetings. I will continue my efforts to make future investments of Japanese companies in Bulgaria.

- The development of close relations between Bulgaria and Japan encourages the increase in the number of Japanese tourists in our country, as well as Bulgarian in Japan. What measures and initiatives should be taken by tourism companies and government agencies to stimulate two-way tourism?

- The promotion of bilateral tourism in Japan and Bulgaria has great potential. Although in Japan Bulgaria is seen as a "close" country, not much is known about it, except for roses, yogurt and sumo coach Naruto Oyakata (known as Kotooshu). Your country has many different charms, from nature, mineral springs, historical heritage to wine cellars, cuisine and music. I have a great desire with the help of the Bulgarian government and various tourist organisations to make sure that these beauties reach all the Japanese people. Collaborating with JNTO (Japan National Tourism Organization), I intend to introduce Bulgarians even more thoroughly to tourism in Japan, presenting the sights of each region and offering options for cheaper travel in the country.

- It is interesting to understand what are the plans of the embassy to promote in Bulgaria the events of Japanese culture, which are highly valued by the Bulgarian public?

- Events related to the culture of Japan have been presented in Bulgaria for over 30 years, with the Days of Japanese Culture taking center stage. In 2020, due to the corona virus, about half of the originally planned events had to be postponed or canceled. We presented online content, including video messages sent to us by Japanese artists who during these 30 years were associated with the Days of Japanese Culture in Bulgaria. In addition to the traditional Japanese culture, I would like to present the Japanese folk psychology, along with the business philosophy typical for the country. I also work to promote Japanese cuisine. It is like a mirror that vividly reflects Japanese culture and soul. It includes not only sushi, tempura and sukiyaki, but also a wide variety of menus - from home-cooked food to sophisticated kaiseki cuisine. I would like to present recipes with these various dishes that could be prepared with Bulgarian products. Along with the cuisine, I would like to introduce people to the characteristics that are woven into the Japanese food culture, such as seasonality and hospitality to the guest.

- How is Japan preparing for the Summer Olympics and Paralympics in July, which were postponed in 2020 due to the pandemic?

- The Tokyo Olympics aim at two main things - to prove that humans can defeat the corona virus as long as they are united, and to show the rest of the world how the country has recovered from the great earthquake in eastern Japan. The holding of this year's Olympics has the full support of the leaders of the G7 and G20 countries. Consulting the opinion of experts from the WHO and others, the organisers of the games take measures against the infection and conduct stable preparations for a safe race. Consider comprehensive measures such as necessary tests, response to different scenarios, without necessarily requiring vaccination. In order to be able to provide the most favorable environment in which the competitors can present themselves in their best form, all measures have been prepared - from the moment of their arrival in the country until their departure. Japan has notified the International Olympic Committee and the International Paraolympic Committee of its decision not to accept spectators from abroad. The two committees expressed respect and adopted the decision.

- On March 11th, Japan marked 10 years since the accident at the Fukushima 1 nuclear power plant caused by a tsunami. What has been done during these years to secure the plant and to eliminate the damage in the area, the radioactive contamination at sea and the protection of the health of the people in the vicinity?

- In order to recover as soon as possible after the disaster, the Japanese government has established a Reconstruction Agency and over the past 10 years it has made every effort in the tasks it has set itself. Some of these tasks are: helping those affected by the earthquake, rebuilding infrastructure, industry and tourism, and recovering from a nuclear disaster. Putting people's health first, under the leadership of the Ministry of Environment, activities were carried out to neutralise the radiation from the living area to the surrounding forests. Ten years later, it has become possible for many asylum seekers in other regions to return to their homelands. And in order not to repeat the tragedy again, the Japanese government shares the facts and lessons from what happened with the population and the rest of the world. As far as food products from Japan are concerned, I would like to assure you that the country carries out inspections on the basis of extremely strict standards, even compared to those in other countries, thus ensuring the safety of the products.

The material was provided by Standart newspaper - and updated by Diplomatic Spectrum.

In the photo: H. E. Mr. Narahira Hiroshi, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to the Republic of Bulgaria