Japan’s Ambassador to Bhutan Kenji Hiramatsu, who was in the country to handover 353 power tillers to Bhutan, met with Kuensel’s Tshering Palden.  Excerpts from the interview.

What is the purpose of your visit this time?

This is my 10th visit since I assumed this post as the ambassador to Bhutan two years ago. It is always my duty to visit this country as frequently as possible to promote Japan-Bhutan bilateral relationship and to make sure that the people of Bhutan know more about Japan.

This time, I am here to attend the handover ceremony of 353 power tillers through our cooperation project for improvement of farm machinery for hiring services of tillage. I know that these power tillers play an important role in rural communities in enhancing productivity of agriculture and in improving the livelihood of the people.

As usual, I’ll meet several dignitaries in the government to talk about promoting iur bilateral relationship.

With the handing over of the 353 power tillers, could Japan provide any more in future?

This project, which started in 2015 has distributed 592 power tillers to date. This is not the end of this project. In view of the importance of this project, I have been talking with the ministers and the Prime Minister. So as you progress in training operators of power tillers and the power tillers being utilised, we will consider in a positive way to provide more power tillers. Agriculture is important to Bhutan’s development. Japan has a long tradition of collaborating with the Bhutanese government and people to improve the productivity of agriculture so we will continue to support especially farm mechanisation in the future.

We are ready to support any areas that Bhutanese government feels important and we can continue to have dialogue because Japan is Bhutan’s long time friend. We always stand ready to support with whatever we can do based on the requests coming from Bhutanese government.

What are some of the areas that Japan would provide support in the 12th Plan?

We would like to make sure that our support addresses the needs of the government. So we are studying carefully the development of the 12th Plan and we are going to provide assistance based on this plan. To name a few, infrastructure development including roads and bridges; we are keen to support environment related areas and urbanization is also becoming an issue even in this country. We are trying to address issues arising form urbanization and climate change. We will support in addressing climate change and disaster risk reductions. These are a few areas of interest but we will have to see what the Bhutanese government wants us to support in.

Climate change is likely to affect the two countries in a major way. How much of collaboration is underway in this area and how much is likely to occur in the future? What are some lessons Bhutan could learn from Japan?

Climate change is becoming a big issue. The international communities are working together to deal with the impacts of climate change. The weather is becoming more severe and harsh and we have more heavy rains and storms in various parts of the world. Japan and Bhutan are no exceptions.

We are pleased to support in tackling the affects of climate change. For instance, in December 2017, we signed an agreement to support a project, worth almost 1 Billion Japanese Yen, for the construction of disaster resilient emergency mobile network aimed to support backup system to support mobile network in the case of a disaster.

We have also started a technical cooperation project for capacity development for telecommunications business continuity planning and operations for disaster management.

Japan is also suffering from more severe weather conditions. We’ve been working hard to be better prepared for this kind of natural disasters. For that community level awareness is very important. We have to work with the local communities to come up with resilient buildings and communities. May be we can transfer our experience and technology to Bhutan by way of technical cooperation. We are happy to have more Bhutanese experts study in Japan in flood disaster risk reduction.

A batch of Bhutanese youth is in Japan to study and work. How many more of such groups is Japan going to take? What is the response in Japan to this lot?

It is always good to have people to people exchange. More people living in or visiting Japan will create better atmosphere for mutual understanding and mutual friendship. We always welcome Bhutanese especially the younger generation, be it on visits or to study Japanese language or to work in Japan. The Bhutanese living and working in Japan have a good reputation and they are polite and hard working. Japanese government is ready to provide any guidance and support to them. I can’t say how many more Bhutanese youth would study and work in Japan but I hope to discuss with Bhutanese authorities on how to have a fruitful and meaningful stay. We are now promoting Japanese language study around the world so I’m happy to note that more Bhutanese are interested in learning Japanese language and we would like to provide more opportunity for young aspiring Bhutanese to gain necessary skills and job opportunities. As an ambassador I am very serious on this and this is good for the future relationship between the two countries because our relationship depends on the young generation.

Would you like to add anything else?

As I said this is my 10th visit and I’m happy to note that the relationship between Japan and Bhutan is growing ever more and there is more interaction between the two countries. I like to encourage this positive trend to elevate to higher levels. This is my duty. I always see a strong good will in the Bhutanese people towards Japan. I feel at home here.


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