H.E.Mr. Nashida Kazuya The Japanese Ambassador to Thailand

by Kathleen Pokrud

Japan the “Land of Rising Sun” has always had a reputation for its distinctive culture and unique traditions. As an island nation with a long history, Japan developed its distinctive culture through adopting outside influences and making these uniquely their own. Modern Japan is well organised and a busy country. The Japanese people are well known for their politeness and exceptionally good manners. Strong work ethics are instilled to the young generation from an early age. The Japanese “Kaizen” (continuous improvement) business philosophy has been widely adopted globally for management improvement and competitiveness.

Renowned worldwide as a nation steeped in a culture that combines both tradition and modernity, Japanese culture has astounded the world with the blend of traditional concepts over the use of the latest technology and art. Pristine natural scenery, tantalising Japanese cuisine and a shoppers’ paradise are amongst the many reasons that Japan is now a favourable and popular tourist destination. Since his arrival in December 2019, the new Japanese Ambassador to Thailand H.E. Mr. Nashida Kazuya still eagerly awaits to present his credentials to King Maha Vajiralongkorn Phra Vajiraklaochaoyuhua. As Thailand slowly eases itself from the COVID-19 lockdown, Expat Life took the opportunity to sit down with Ambassador Nashida at their monumental and pristine embassy located on Witthayu Road for his plans and visions with the new role.

Career diplomat

With over 36 years of experience in the Foreign Service, Ambassador Nashida took the entry exams in 1984 and is a formidable career diplomat who has served the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Japan with diverse capacities such as international trade, economic policy, aid policy, financial affairs and management. In 2002, he was the Counsellor in the Embassy of Japan in Washington D.C. in the United States where he served for 2 years. His Excellency then served as Ambassador for three years in Iraq  between 2013-2015.

I asked Ambassador Nashida on his experience as Ambassador in Iraq. “I was Ambassador in Iraq during the time of strong IS Islamic State insurgents often with daily casualties in excess of 100. The situation then was a battlefield. The Embassy was located in the relatively safer “Green Zone”, I was only allowed to leave the Embassy for official engagements. Three vehicles in a convoy and armed bodyguards escorted every venture outside. We were required to wear helmets with bulletproof Kevlar vests and had wireless jammers on every patrol to protect us from remote controlled explosions.”

The family of the Ambassador, his wife and three grown up sons could not join him then and are sadly not with him now in his current posting in Thailand. He said “my wife has a job and my three sons 28, 25 and 20 are employed or in university” he added proudly. Ambassador Nashida was born and educated in Tokyo. His aspiration to join the Foreign Service came during his years at the University of Tokyo to fulfil the desire to work in an international environment.

Strong bilateral relations between Japan and Thailand

Japan is still the largest foreign investor in Thailand, accounting for 36.2% of total FDI by year-end 2016, followed by Singapore and the EU representing 14.8 and 14.3% respectively, according to Bank of Thailand data. It is still the third largest economy in the world. It is amongst Thailand’s oldest allies. This diplomatic friendship celebrated its 130th year in 2017. Ambassador Nashida explained the rationale behind the enduring relationship, “Japanese companies have long regarded Thailand as a favourable destination for foreign investment not only because of the cultural affinity between the two peoples but also due to labour costs and availability and the geographical closeness between the two countries. Also, Thailand as the centre of Mekong region offers a relatively stable political environment with constitutional democracy. Currently, there are over 5,500 Japanese companies operating in Thailand. Our official count of Japanese nationals surpasses 75,000 but we believe the figure to be more like 100/120,000 people in all.” In terms of cultural exchange and tourism aspects, Ambassador Nashida pointed out, “There are continuously sharp increases for visiting tourists amongst the two countries, in both ways. I found the quality of Japanese cuisine in Thailand is no different from what we are offered in Japan.” He added that another attribute to the amicable rapport is closely linked to the solid bond between the two Royal families, especially the special friendship shared by the two previous monarchs of both dynasties. The current Princesses are frequent visitors to Japan.

Dealing with COVID19

Prior to the lockdown situation due to COVID 19, his typical day was packed with numerous official and internal meetings, delegations, and lunches. “With the social distancing measure, our embassy has adopted alternative work days between two teams.”

Ambassador Nashida believes in people to people contact, and he is earnest to continue his work to maintain and further enhance the large-scale Japanese presence in Thailand by meeting and networking with local and foreign governments and businesses, as well as their communities here.

Students exchange programme

The Japanese government, in cooperation with the Thai government, implements four main projects according to the Japan Information Service from the Embassy of Japan.

1. Ship for SE Asia youth

Implemented since *FY1974. SE Asian countries and Japanese youths will take a boat for about a month to visit each country and deepen exchanges *FY: Japan’s fiscal year begins April 1st, ends March 31st next year. i.e. FY2020 begins from April 1st, 2020 ends March 31, 2021. Results so far (the number of participants from Thailand)
FY2017: 28 people
FY2018: 28 people
FY2019: 28 people
* Total up to FY2019:
1,520 people

2. JENESYS programme

Implemented from FY2007. Asian youths (high school students, university students and working people) are invited to Japan for 1-2 weeks by theme. The theme is Japanese culture, science and technology, sports exchange, etc.
Results so far (the number of participants from Thailand)
FY2015: 161 people
FY2016: 345 people
FY2017: 161 people
FY2018: 163 people
FY2019: 76 people
* Total up to FY2019: 940 people

3. ASIA KAKEHASHI Project

Implemented from FY2018. 1,000 high school students from Asia were invited to Japan over 5 years. They lived in Japan as high school students for 10 months.

Results so far (the number of participants from Thailand)
FY 2019: 16 people
FY 2020: 13 people
*Total up to FY 2019: 29 people

4. MEXT Scholarship (Japanese Government Scholarship)

Those are: Graduate school (master/doctor), undergraduate, technical college, vocational school, Japanese language/Japanese culture training (1 year), teacher training (1 year), Young Leaders Programme
(for government agency staff). *About 60 Thai people pass each year. In addition, there are other exchange programmes by the Japan Foundation, short-term exchange programmes conducted by each university, short-term dispatch programmes conducted by public interest groups are also offered to potential students.

Exploring Thailand

Since arriving in Thailand just five months ago, Ambassador Nashida has had limited opportunity to
explore the rest of Thailand due to the heavy workload in managing a large embassy compliment of 60 Japanese and over 100 Thai staff members.

Not unfamiliar with Bangkok, he has travelled to Thailand on many occasions previously as Director-General of SE and SW Asian Affairs Department. At his leisure, Ambassador Nashida enjoys daily exercise in the garden of his residence during the lockdown. New objectives As our interview is drawing to a close, Expat Life enquires what the new plans and visions Ambassador Nashida for his term in Thailand. Promote ‘win/win’ situations for mutual benefit in many top aspects of our relationships between the two countries. On the economic front, he understands that Thailand expects Japan to invest more so he will be seeking opportunities to put forward. However, the COVID19 situation has taught us all a significant lesson to review the production supply chain and the way that we work. Corona virus may suggest valuable fresh start opportunities to assess new production processes utilising newly available
technologies. 

Thailand has requested Japan to assist and support the training of highly skilled labour and Japan is ready to do so and help achieve Thailand 4.0 which is even more relevant after the COVID-19.” To sum up, Ambassador Nashida has mapped out three key objectives. He hopes to achieve more mutually beneficial business relationships between the two countries. The second vision is to offer a safe, fruitful and happier life for the many Japanese nationals in Thailand. His last objective is to continue the trend in the increase of visitors from Japan to Thailand and to Japan from the Thais so that two countries keep solidifying the bases of amicable relations though people to people exchanges.

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