The diplomatic corps, a collection of Jamaica’s top politicians, and specially invited guests congregated at the Upper St Andrew residence of the Ambassador of Japan to Jamaica, His Excellency Yasuhiro Atsumi, to celebrate the birthday of Emperor of Japan, Naruhito, on February 23.
“It is my distinct honour on behalf of the people and government of Jamaica to offer our best wishes to His Majesty and the Imperial Family, and to the government and people of Japan on this joyous occasion. We congratulate His Majesty Emperor Naruhito, on achieving another milestone and on another successful year on the throne,” said Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, Jamaica’s minister of foreign affairs and foreign trad, addressing the attendees.
Atsumi returned the kind comments in his own speech, adding there was more to celebrate than Emperor Naruhito’s birthday.
“This is my first Emperor’s birthday reception. I had heard that due to the pandemic we had to limit the number of guests in the past two years. I’m very happy that this year we are able to hold the reception as usual and that so many people attended today, including Foreign Minister Johnson Smith and the ambassadors of various countries. This year marks the 59th year of Japan-Jamaica relations since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1964,” said Atsumi.
In Japan, the Emperor’s birthday is an annual public holiday. For Emperor Naruhito, who ascended the throne in May of 2019, his birthday, February 23, is now that celebrated day as enshrined in Japanese law.
Previously, the recognised day was December 23. Sixty-three-year-old Emperor Naruhito’s ascension came when his father, Emperor Akihito, abdicated his throne, becoming the first to do so in two centuries.
With the new Emperor comes a new era, Reiwa. He is the 126th Japanese monarch, taking over the reins of the Imperial House of Japan, which is one of the oldest and oldest continuous hereditary monarchies in the world.
The day is celebrated by Ippan-sanga, a ceremony where the public is allowed into the inner grounds of the Tokyo Imperial Palace to see the Emperor and other members of the Imperial Family. The ceremony was cancelled in 2020 through 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As in many modern nations with a monarchy, Emperor Naruhito does not have a political function. He is considered a symbol of the State and of the unity of the people of Japan, without powers relating to government.
JAPANESE CUISINE WAS THE TALK OF THE NIGHT
Throughout the night, guests were given a taste of Japan, visually, aurally, and gastronomically. Upon entry, all were greeted by Atsumi and his wife, Tomoko, dressed in traditional Japanese garb. Surrounding them were the sounds of Maki Kawamito on the Koto, a traditional 13 stringed musical instrument, and a bamboo art piece created to symbolise the relationship between Japan and Jamaica.
“Bamboo is a lucky sign, it brings good fortune. It grows up fast, and rapidly, and it is very flexible and strong against a high wind. In sincerely hope that the Japan Jamaica partnership be like bamboo, growing fast and being strong,” Atsumi explained.
Once the opening speeches were dispensed with, Japanese cuisine was the talk of the night. Iconic sushi dishes delighted on the food front while those more interested in drink could sample saké to their pleasure and learn about it from the many informative displays accompanying each type of the traditional Japanese wine.
Atsumi, who took up the post in January after arriving in the island in December of last year, signalled a strong commitment to the island as he’s had a very strong connection with it having previously worked at the International Monetary Fund, where he was in charge of Jamaica.
When employed at the Inter-American Development Bank, his link to Jamaica continued as he covered all Latin American countries, which included Jamaica.
“The year 2024, next year, will mark the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and Jamaica. And that year, 2024 has been designated as the Japan-Caribbean Exchange Year. With this great momentum I’d like to make every effort to further enhance the relationship between Japan and Jamaica. This is to say, further develop J-J partnership. It is this very development of the J-J partnership that his majesty the Emperor directly requested me to do when I met the Emperor for the first time in my life at the Imperial Attestation Ceremony last November,” said Atsumi.