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You can believe in Russia

Noguchi Hideaki: "Compared to previous times, changes in your country are huge"

You can believe in Russia

Consul General of Japan in Khabarovsk Noguchi Hideaki, appointed to the post last fall, shared with Russia and Japan cooperation plans and impressions of Russia with EastRussia.Ru.

- Time flies imperceptibly, and since the moment I arrived in Khabarovsk, it has already passed almost 5 months. Immediately after assuming office, I paid courtesy visits to the governor of the Khabarovsk Territory Vyacheslav Shport, the chairman of the Legislative Assembly of the Khabarovsk Territory Viktor Chudov, the mayor of Khabarovsk Alexander Sokolov and other high-ranking officials, and met with lord Ignatius and scientists and cultural figures. In December, we held a traditional reception in honor of the birthday of the emperor of Japan, which was attended by many famous people of Khabarovsk and representatives of various fields of activity.

I had a very good impression of Khabarovsk and its inhabitants. Everywhere I am greeted cordially, and all with whom I managed to communicate, including ordinary townspeople, are very warm to Japan. I did not expect to meet such a great interest in Japan and Japanese culture. At the same time, I felt that people lack knowledge and information about our country, so I will try to ensure that the Consulate General provides as much information about it as possible. A great way to do this is to hold various cultural events.

- How would you briefly describe the state of today's Japanese-Russian contacts in the Far East regions?

- Relations between Japan and Russia are among the priority bilateral relations for Japan. After the visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Russia last year, political dialogues began to advance at an especially good pace. Thus, over the past 10 months, 5 has already held bilateral summits. Cooperation is also developing in the areas of trade and the economy, security, cultural exchange, etc. For example, last year trade volume increased by more than 4%. The volume of trade between Japan and the Far East of Russia also reached a record level, exceeding 10 billion dollars. The Japanese government attaches great importance to bilateral cooperation in the Far East of Russia. Cooperation continues in such traditional industries as energy, forestry and the fish industry. In addition, cooperation begins in new areas, such as agriculture, medicine, transport, urban ecology.

- You have a wealth of experience working "in the Russian direction". If we compare with previous times, in what direction are the main accents in the relations between Russia and Japan (including trade and economic) changing? What problems are especially important to overcome?

- I started working as a diplomat in 1978 at the Japanese Embassy in Moscow. Comparing our bilateral relations during the Soviet Union with the present, I can say that these are completely different things. Today, relations between our countries, as I have already noted, are developing in very different directions, and in comparison with the previous times, the scale and range of cooperation has significantly expanded. For example, in recent years, our cooperation in the field of security has advanced. Most recently, the Chief of Staff of the Land Forces of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces visited Khabarovsk, met with the commander of the Eastern Military District, General Surovikin, and attended the exercises of the Russian troops. In the old days, there was no question of such interaction between the military. The same can be said about trade and economic relations - the volume of trade over the past 10 years has grown 10 times, and the range of cooperation is simply incomparable with the previous one.

However, there is a problem that we need to overcome. Since the end of the Second World War, almost 70 years have passed, but, as you know, a peace treaty has not yet been signed between Japan and Russia. I think it is very important that both parties continue to work on the earliest possible resolution of the territorial problem and the conclusion of a peace treaty.

- So far, the share of Japanese investors in the economy, for example, of the Khabarovsk Territory does not exceed 1%, although 43 representative offices of Japanese firms operate here. Approximately the same situation in other regions. Immediately after taking office, you made a number of visits to the regions of the Far Eastern Federal District (Yakutia, Khabarovsk Territory, Jewish Autonomous Region, etc.) and in the course of conversations with the heads of these subjects of the Russian Federation a number of specific cooperation projects were discussed. Which of these ideas have already begun to be embodied or are under active preparation?

- During these 5 months, I visited the Jewish Autonomous Region, the Amur and Irkutsk regions, where I met with governors and other high-ranking officials and exchanged views with them on a wide range of issues, including the development of bilateral cooperation. As an example of successful cooperation of Japanese and Russian enterprises in the Khabarovsk Territory, it is possible to supply the Japanese line for the production of wood boards to a woodworking plant in the city of Amursk. In the Amur Region, on the initiative of the Bank of Hokkaido, work is underway on a joint project in the field of agriculture. So, in the past year, trial crops of soy and buckwheat were conducted. During the visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Russia in April of last year, the Amur Region and the Bank of Hokkaido signed a memorandum on cooperation in the field of agriculture. In the Irkutsk region, in addition to long-standing cooperation in the woodworking industry, the Japanese state corporation JOGMEC and the Irkutsk Oil Company have established a joint venture, INK Zapad, which conducts geological exploration.

At present, as we know, the Russian government has set the task of developing production and manufacturing in the Far East, as well as stimulating the export of products with a high degree of processing. The authorities of the Khabarovsk Territory also, as far as I know, try to attract Japanese companies to participate in various projects. You are right: for today, unfortunately, the volume of Japanese investments in the Khabarovsk Territory is small. To increase Japanese investment, we need to look for new areas of cooperation. The Khabarovsk Territory has the most developed industry in the Far East of Russia, and I hope for the emergence of new projects of mutually beneficial cooperation, in which the high technologies of Japanese companies will be used.

At the meeting of the leaders of our countries during the Sochi Olympics, medicine, agriculture, urban ecology, transport, etc. were named along with cooperation in the Far East as promising areas of Japanese-Russian economic cooperation. Thus, I think it is important not to Closing in on the resource industries, to seek and implement mutually beneficial projects in new areas.

- According to the Consulate General, published on its official website, the number of visas issued to Russians to enter Japan can reach 8 thousand per year. This is not too much, but not a little. Who mostly travels now from Russia to Japan, what are they interested in and what are the goals of their trips?

- By the time the information was published on the website of the Consulate General, we predicted that the number of visas issued for the year will reach 8 thousand, but by the end of the year their number significantly exceeded our forecasts, having crossed the level of 8700. If we exclude 2011 year, when due to the earthquake the number of tourists to Japan has sharply decreased, then the number of issued visas grows every year, having increased twice during the last 5 years. This indicates an increased level of mutual communication between people of our countries, as well as the activation of economic cooperation. Most of the citizens of Russia who have obtained a visa from us leave for Japan as tourists. Further, the purpose of visiting Japan is business, visiting relatives or acquaintances, participating in conferences or sports events, scientific exchange, etc.

- The Consulate General carries out a lot of educational work, concerning Japanese culture, history, national music, cuisine, as well as sports traditions. How is it planned to develop these contacts? What needs to be done so that not only Japanese tourists visit Russia more often, but also Russian tourists - Japan?

- There are always a lot of people coming to the cultural events held by the consulate. We try to take into account the opinion of experts and ordinary people to organize an interesting event for people. In March we plan to hold a Japanese Film Festival in Khabarovsk, a master class on Japanese cuisine, and also invite Japanese traditional music performers from Japan. At the film festival, we plan to show 4 films, the main theme of which is the family. The problems of the family have much in common in Japan and Russia, and I think that such films will help the viewer to feel Japan better.

As for attracting tourists, a well-functioning infrastructure and active promotional activities are important for the host country. Japan has recently been working to attract Russian tourists. For example, in January, a delegation from the Okinawa Prefecture visited Khabarovsk and held a presentation at the Japanese center, which was attended by representatives of more than 60 travel agencies of the region. According to the project of the delegation, in June of this year, Okinawa Prefecture, in cooperation with Japanese travel companies, plans to organize 4 direct charter flights from Khabarovsk to Okinawa Prefecture to attract Russian tourists. To this end, the host country in Okinawa intends to ensure the availability of Russian-speaking personnel. Those. to attract tourists, the receiving party must take active steps.

- The Consulate General develops programs to support Russian young scientists and inventors (for example, "Invitation of Young Russian Researchers", "JET" etc.). What are the selection criteria, what long-term results of such programs do you expect? Where are those who have passed these programs now - are they working in Russia or have they stayed in Japan?

- Each year our consulate conducts recruitment of participants for various types of internships and training programs. Within the framework of the youth exchange, students studying the Japanese language, as well as representatives of friendship societies with Japan, are invited to a short-term trip to Japan. During the trip, they have the opportunity to get to know Japanese culture more closely. The Japanese Foundation annually offers internship programs for teachers of the Japanese language. And under the programs of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan, several students from the regions of our consular district leave for a long-term or short-term internship each year. By the way, just the other day, in February, the exams for participation in this program were held, and two students who successfully passed them are preparing to leave for Japan in April as researchers.

Thus, many young people from Russia have already been trained or trained in Japan, many of them apply their knowledge and experience to their work. But I am sure that all of them will remember with warmth the time spent in Japan, and this thought makes me happy. Each of the participants in the programs has their own destiny - some remain in Japan to continue research, others return to Russia and work in the field related to Japan, and sometimes we work together. I think that such programs give us the opportunity to encourage people with an interest in Japan, and if thanks to this the number of specialists in Japan or simply people who consider Japan their second home will gradually increase, this will undoubtedly have a beneficial effect on the development of our bilateral relations.

- What impressions for you personally became new after the 15-year break between the first visit to Khabarovsk and the present life. Do you like your family here? Do you often go to the Motherland and do you happen to be in Moscow now? If we compare the Russian Far East with other countries of the Asia-Pacific Region - with which of them do our Far Eastern regions have the greatest similarity?

- The last time I was in Khabarovsk at the beginning of the 2000-ies, and since then the city has changed dramatically. Before, there were no high-rise buildings and such beautiful shops as now. On the other hand, in Khabarovsk well preserved and used beautiful historical buildings, which give the city a solid view of the capital of the Far East.

I periodically visit Japan, and come to Moscow at least once a year for work. Of the APR countries, I was only in China and South Korea, so I can not give an objective comparison, I can only say that China and South Korea are very different from the Russian Far East.

- Do you have any favorite Russian artists, writers or musicians? Or perhaps philosophers? Are you able to understand the "mysterious Russian soul" - or do not you consider it a special mystery?

- I still love Dostoevsky from Russian writers. I read almost all of his works, however, in Japanese translation. Several of his books I tried to read in the original, but all my attempts ended unsuccessfully because of the insufficient level of my Russian language. Nevertheless, it seems to me that Dostoevsky's works have some inexplicable appeal. In the midst of the Japanese intelligentsia, in my opinion, he is one of the most beloved writers.

The theme of the mysterious Russian soul is periodically discussed in Japan by specialists in Russia. I was also interested in this, and I read several books on this topic. I think that many of the heroes of Dostoevsky's novels are endowed with that very "mysterious Russian soul". For example, Prince Myshkin of the Idiot, Stavrogin from The Possessed, or the Karamazov brothers-each of them has his own "mysterious Russian soul." Any of these characters has "something special, Russian," which is not in Western European literature. What is it specifically, is extremely difficult to explain. Apparently, as Tjutchev said in his poems in the 19th century, "one can only believe in Russia."

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