It is a privilege for me as the Ambassador of Japan to Kenya to mark on this day, February 21, our National Day, which celebrates our Emperor’s birthday.
His Majesty Emperor Naruhito ascended to the throne on May 1, 2019 as the 126th Emperor of Japan. He turns 60 on Sunday.
One of the pleasures of serving as ambassador to Nairobi is that I’ve found that many Kenyans take a very keen interest in Japanese history and culture.
As such, many Kenyans are well aware that the Japanese Imperial Family is the oldest continuous line of succession in the world. We are proud to have such a rich history spanning over 2,000 years.
At present, Japan uses the Gregorian calendar in parallel with the Japanese imperial year, which is based on the reigns of emperors and has been in use for the past 14 centuries.
The era of Reiwa began on the day Emperor Naruhito ascended to the throne. Reiwa means beautiful harmony in Japanese, which is drawn from “Manyoshu”, Japan’s oldest existing anthology of poetry.
Today marks the first ever Emperor’s birthday reception in the Reiwa era.
On October 22 last year, the Emperor’s enthronement ceremony was held in Tokyo. President Uhuru Kenyatta and the First Lady, Mrs Margaret Kenyatta, attended the ceremony alongside many other Heads of State from all over the world.
Prior to attending the enthronement ceremony, President Kenyatta participated in the 7th Tokyo International Conference on African Development (Ticad7).
This meeting was held following the historic Ticad6, which was successfully hosted by Nairobi in 2016. Therefore, President Kenyatta’s attendance was essential for the success of Ticad7.
During the bilateral meeting with President Kenyatta, Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, expressed our country’s intention to support regional development in Mombasa through the development of the Mombasa Special Economic Zone and the construction of the Mombasa Gate Bridge.
In September 2019, I signed the Exchange of Notes for these projects, amounting to Sh90 billion, with National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani.
In October, we had the groundbreaking ceremony for the Special Economic Zone and the launching of the construction work for the Dongo Kundu Bypass, which I attended together with President Kenyatta.
I’m pleased to say that the agreements made at the Ticad meeting are steadily taking shape.
Since Kenya gained independence in 1963, Japan has undertaken various development projects in the country, strictly in keeping with Kenyan priorities as defined by the Kenyan people and leadership.
BIG 4 AGENDA
I’m glad to note that most of these projects are very much aligned with President Kenyatta’s ‘Big Four Agenda’.
In the area of manufacturing, Japan has supported human resource development through the African Business Education Initiative for Youth (ABE Initiative) and the Project on Human Resource Development for Industrial Development.
In the area of food and nutrition security, we are building a dam for irrigation in Mwea and have conducted a smallholder horticulture empowerment and promotion approach to improve the incomes of small-scale farmers by spreading market-oriented agriculture.
The first project, which was initiated in 2006, doubled farmers’ incomes in the project area.
In universal health coverage (UHC), we have provided technical support to county governments to strengthen their healthcare system and provided a policy loan of Sh4 billion to the government for the realisation of UHC in Kenya.
We have also built numerous quality urban infrastructure in Nairobi that are essential for urban development.
There are many new apartments along the completed Ngong Road, whose Phase Two is under way. The project will be completed in the next few months.
It is quality infrastructure of this kind that attracts private sector investment in the housing sector.
This year, Japan will host the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and the 2020 Paralympic Games. I believe Kenya will win many medals since there are many great Kenyan athletes, such as Eliud Kipchoge, the reigning world marathon record holder.
Kenya is a key nation in East Africa and the gateway to all commerce in the region. As a trusted long-standing partner, Japan is willing to expand and strengthen its cooperation with Kenya for the further development of this prominent country.
Mr Horie is Japan’s Ambassador to Kenya. [email protected]