Still curious, still learning about each other after 460 years
On June 10th, Portugal celebrates its national day. It’s neither our Independence Day (866 years ago), or the date of a great historical event or military victory. On this particular day we celebrate Portuguese Culture and identity, being the anniversary of the death, in 1580, of one of the greatest renaissance poets, Luís de Camões, author of “The Lusíadas”. The June 10th is a celebration of Portugal’s openness towards the world, to other cultures and a celebration of a multicultural vision of life and mutual learning and understanding, which corresponded on its time to the percussion of the globalization of our days.
Celebrating the 10th of June in Japan is the most perfect symbol of this vision of multiculturalism. More than four and a half centuries ago, the first ambassadors from “the West” to reach Japan came from Portugal (1543). They established a deep and broad cultural exchange and long-lasting friendship between our two Nations separated by more than 10,000 kilometers and a world apart in language, religion and lifestyle. It has been a remarkable process the one that has kept such different people and cultures so interested and curious about each other. Such interest and curiosity have survived – and indeed increased – up to the present days, when knowledge circulates at unprecedented speed: the abundant information has only made Portuguese and Japanese all more eager to discover more about each other, as it is evidenced in areas such as the rapidly growing tourism market or academic exchanges. Our History together sets an example to the world, proving that through tolerance, openness, mutual learning and understanding, different cultures and civilizations will thrive together and build a safer and prosperous world.
For Japan and its people, Portugal is a symbol of European History and tradition as well as of a modern and dynamic country with a vibrant culture, one that awakens the interest of many Japanese scholars and artists. A representative number of Portuguese contemporary artists have some of their works all over Japan. Also Japanese companies have long discovered the vast opportunities that Portugal offers for investment and trade and the number of those which choose to base their European businesses there is constantly increasing.
Sharing the same democratic and humanist values and principles, Portugal and Japan are trustful partners, keeping a regular and fruitful political dialogue at all levels. Indeed, both governments enthusiastically prepare the celebrations of the 150th anniversary of the Peace, Friendship and Commerce Treaty between the two countries, with events to be held both in Portugal and Japan, through all 2010.
The future in the relations between Portugal and Japan is bright. Although 466 years have passed since the two countries first met, the same curiosity, the same interest about the differences and the surprising similarities, the same strong willingness to learn from “the other”, the same respect and affection that are the very groundwork of this friendship prevails, thus showing that Portuguese and Japanese are deeply committed in further developing this strong centuries-old relation, looking ahead to the future and embracing modernity.
On the occasion of Portugal´s National Day I make my best wishes for an ever deepened and strengthened friendship with Japan for the coming future.
Joao Pedro Zanatti
Ambassador of Portugal
Japan Times, June 10th 2009