Vietnam Time

10/27/2018 4:32:50 PM

Japan in the eyes of a Vietnamese diplomat (part I)

On occasion of the 45th anniversary of the Vietnam – Japan diplomatic relations, Vice President of the Vietnam-Japan Friendship Association, Nguyen Phu Binh recently dedicate an article to recall beautiful impression that the “rising sun” country leaves in his heart.   

Vice President of the Vietnam - Japan Friendship Association, former Ambassador of Vietnam to Japan Nguyen Phu Binh (source: VTC News)

In 1982, as Head of the Department of Japan (Ministry of Foreign Affairs), I visited Japan for the first time at the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs' invitation. From 2002 on, as the Vice Minister of Vietnam's Foreign Affairs, in charge of the Northeastern Asia region, my bonds with Japan started to be strengthened, thank to the increase of visits and contacts with the country. In later years, the Ambassador post gave me the chance to live nearly 4 years in Japan, a precious opportunity to gain insights of this amazing land and its people.

First impression: Japanese, early planner

I first came to my office as Ambassador of Vietnam to Japan on January 29, 2008. Arriving at the new workplace, I came across some documents lying on the desk and noticed an envelope on which my name was written. Inside it was an invitation to a conference on economics, which was scheduled on January 22.

“The event took place one week ago, I have missed it ”, I thought to myself and passed the invitation letter to my secretary, asking him to reply to the senders, conveying my thank to them and explain the reason I could not join the event.

To my surprise, my secretary looked at the invitation letter and told me: “Ambassador, this conference is scheduled on January 22 next year.” I was extremely astounded. Perhaps the event was a national or international level conference, therefore they planned it that early.

Actually, it seems like early and thorough planning is part of the Japanese working culture.

In 2010, I had the chance to meet Professor Natsume, President of the Japanese Cleft Palate Foundation, who has been unwaveringly taking part in charitable medical mission in Vietnam for 25 years. In the meeting, he informed me on the schedule of a conference on cleft palate/lips surgeries in Hanoi to be held 2 years later, and precisely followed the plan. 

Japanese’s saving habit

In Japan, there are several regulations which are not included in legal documents but are still strictly obeyed. In the first year of my post as Ambassador, I had a meeting with the then Japanese Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs. When I entered the building, I saw three lifters, of which one was not working. It was labeled “Electricity saving month, please don’t use this lifter”.

Entering the Vice Minister’s office, I noticed the window was left open, and the room was quite hot. “Sorry sir, air condition is not used at the beginning of summer”, said the Japanese diplomat.

That summer, I led a delegation of Vietnam's National Assembly Economic Committee to Japan to pay a courtesy visit to the then President of the Japan-Vietnam Friendship Parliamentary Alliance, Tsutomo Takebe.

When we came, he started the meeting with an apology: “Sorry that I didn’t tell you earlier: following the National Assembly’s regulation, air condition cannot be adjusted to lower than 28 Celsius degree”.

Kết quả hình ảnh cho japanese energy saving

Japanese's saving habit is worth learning. (illustration photo: The Japan Times)

There are many other stories which highlighted Japanese' saving habit. In 2009, the leaders of our Ministry of Finance went to Japan to sign an agreement on Official Development Assistance (ODA) with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). After the ceremony, Vice President of JICA cheerfully raised a cup of coffee, requesting a toast to congratulate on the successful signing and apologizing that according to new regulation of JICA, champagne will not be opened in celebration like this occasion.

In the year 2010, Hanoi celebrated its 1000 years of being the capital of Vietnam. At the same time, Nara city of Japan marked its 1,300th anniversary as the ancient capital of Japan. Together with a diplomatic delegation, I attended a ceremony to celebrate this special event. The Royal Emperor and Empress, the Prime Minister, members of Japanese cabinet office and distinguished guests attended the celebration. Apart from the banquet, the organizing board didn't sponsor expense on transportation and accomodation for the guests during their stay in Japan. All of these expenses were paid by themselves.

Japan’s GDP was 25 times of Vietnam’s, nonetheless, they still set strict regulations and rules on government spending and energy saving and strictly follow. This mindset and behavior is what people from a developing country like Vietnam, especially officers of governmental agencies should take into consideration./.

Vice Chairman of the Vietnam – Japan Friendship Association, Nguyen Phu Binh, was the ambassador of Vietnam to Japan from 2008 to 2012.

In January 2018, he was honored with the Order of the Rising Sun, awarded to individuals who have made distinguished achievements in international relations, promotion of Japanese culture.

According to ambassador of Japan to Vietnam, Kunio Umeda, Japan’s conferment of the Order to former ambassador Nguyen Phu Binh was in recognition of his contributions to building and developing the fine relations between Japan and Vietnam.

During his tenure in Japan, the Vietnamese diplomat played an important role in successully organizing meaningful exchange event such as"Vietnam Festival in Japan”. 

The former Ambassador was also known for his supports for Japan in both spiritual and material assistance after the 2011 Tsunami disaster.



  ( Translated by Phi Yen )
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