Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Delivering Stories of Progress


‘Magokoro’ keeps Japan-Philippine relationship enduring and stable

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Hotel Okura Manila
Hotel 101
The Manor at Camp John Hay
Novotel Manila
Taal Vista Hotel
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Texts and photos by Marinel Peroy 

The atmosphere at the National Day Celebration of Japan last Friday, February 23, reminds me of the Japan Fiesta, colorful, inspiring, and festive vibe as it showcased Japan’s Ichiban.

What was in store for the esteemed guests of the Japan Embassy in the Philippines were some revered Japanese brands that have been loved by Filipinos for years from food, airlines, cars, beers, whiskey, education, new retail shop from Japan like MITSUKOSHI BGC, the luxurious and elegant Japanese global brand hotel in the Philippines Hotel Okura Manila that will be turning two years on April, among others.

While walking around and visiting the 29 participating booths from various Japanese companies, it was a foretaste of Japan for me. Yes, I haven’t been to Japan but the experience I had yesterday made my ardent desire to go to Japan grows fonder. The warm hospitality of the people manning the booths was like a “tadaima” (I am home) for me, as they offered me some samples, for tasting and drinking, and generous takeaway, and that was a kind of shopping spree for me in the beautiful cities of Japan all in one location at the Grand Hyatt Manila, BGC.

When we entered the grand ballroom, we greeted and thanked Ambassador Kazuhiko Koshikawa and his lovely wife Madame Yuko Koshikawa, together with other Japanese embassy officials for inviting us to the celebration of His Majesty’s Emperor Naruhito’s 64th Birthday.

From left, Me, Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines H.E. Kazuhiko Koshikawa, Madame Yuko Koshikawa, the lovely wife of the Ambassador, and Monsi A. Serrano, the founder of The Philippine Business and News in a rare photo with the well-loved Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines and his wife.

Inside the grand ballroom, another set of Japan’s best and finest are showcased through different booths. Wine, sake, juice, soda, Kirin beer, whiskey and all the works left an impression of Japan’s unparalleled hospitality and discriminating taste.

Sushi, sashimi, wagyu beef and a lot more made me realize that Japan has a lot to offer. No wonder Filipinos are flocking and the Philippines is now the top ASEAN country for tourist arrivals in Japan.

When the program started, guests were welcomed by Karate Demonstration, traditional dances, bonsai displays, and a wide array of scrumptious dishes marking the celebration of His Majesty’s Emperor Naruhito’s 64th Birthday on February 23.

During his speech, Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines H.E. KOSHIKAWA Kazuhiko highlighted how the bilateral relations between Japan and the Philippines have strengthened in various areas like tourism, investment, security cooperation, and infrastructure projects, among others.

“In 2023, the number of tourists from the Philippines to Japan reached a record high of approximately 620,000. Last July, the number was the highest in ASEAN,” said Ambassador KOSHIKAWA. 

The Ambassador also emphasized the full commitment of Japan in contributing to the construction of infrastructure projects such as the Metro Manila Subway, North-South Commuter Railway, Davao Bypass, and some provision of additional brand-new patrol vessels for the Philippine Coast Guard. He also raised the importance of security cooperation, mentioning the Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA) that is under negotiation between Japan and the Philippines, and the Official Security Assistance (OSA). RAA is aimed at facilitating cooperation between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Japan Self-Defense Force (JSDF) while it has been agreed that the Philippines will be the first recipient of OSA with the provision of coastal radar systems.

From mutual visits such as the one made by Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to the Philippines last November 2023, to support the economic development plans, the envoy hopes that the heart-to-heart relationship will continue to prosper through the years.

From left, Monsi Serrano Founder of The Philippine Business and News, Addie Capindig, Sales and Marketing Director of Hotel Okura Manila, Klariza Rivero, Sales Manager of Hotel Okura Manila, Shigehiro MATSUDA Japan Embassy First Secretary and Director of the Japan Information and Culture Center, and me.

On the culture and arts aspect, the evening was made even more memorable with the talents of Ms. Pauline Therese D.V. Arejola, ACTION, and Alumni of the Okinawa Prefectural University of Arts. Arejola showcased her incredible voice by singing the Philippine and Japanese National Anthem, respectively. While ACTION displayed a vigorous Karate Demonstration. In addition, the Alumni of the Okinawa Prefectural University of Arts depicted the soul of Okinawa through their mesmerizing moves of RYUKYU BUYO: Okinawan Traditional Dance.

Those who graced the Japan National Day Reception were Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Charles Brown, House Speaker Martin Romualdez, Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo, and Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin. Also Former Prime Minister Cesar E. A. Virata, Cabinet Members including Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco, ICT Secretary Ivan John Uy, and Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation, and Unity Carlito Galvez, and other distinguished guests of Japan Embassy.

In closing, Ambassador KOSHIKAWA expressed his heartfelt gratitude to the Philippines and Filipino people as he also announced that it is his last term as Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines and that the national day reception for His Majesty Emperor last Friday was his last official diplomatic event as the envoy of Japan to the Philippines. 

“I look forward to Japan and the Philippines, who share heart-to-heart ties and fundamental values and principles, joining hands with like-minded countries to contribute to peace and prosperity in our region and the world,” added Ambassador KOSHIKAWA.

Indeed the Japan National Day celebration and the celebration of His Majesty’s Emperor Naruhito’s 64th Birthday is one for the books. It will certainly resonate with the guests as Ambassador Koshikawa concludes his call of duty in the Philippines.

For us members of the media covering the diplomatic beat, we will surely miss the dynamic Japanese ambassador. While many wanted to have a photo with him and missed that opportunity because of so many guests estimated at more than 700, we were fortunate to see him and Madame Yuko leaving the hotel and requested an ambush groupie photo courtesy of our media colleague from Fuji TV, Aricel Garcia, and they generously obliged.

Extreme left, Madame Yuko Koshikawa, Ambassador Kazuhiko Koshikawa, me, Froilan Garcia from The Sankei Shimbun, Monsi Serrano from The Philippine Business and News, and Aricel Garcia of Fuji TV

Indeed it was truly a memorable Japan National Day reception that I attended and met again Ambassador Koshikawa. My first meeting and second to the last was at his residence during the Shinnenkai celebration (Japanese New Year) celebration held at the Japanese Ambassador’s residence.

For me, it was a short and sweet meeting with the well-loved and hardworking Japanese envoy. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu, Ambassador Koshikawa. Doumo arigato gozaimasu.

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