When I lived abroad I remember people thinking that Peru must have many people of Japanese descent as for many years the country had a President whose parents were Japanese – and, as it turns out, he was Japanese himself. No doubt, the Japanese immigration to Peru was an important one and rich in history. Its origins go back to 1899 when the ship Sakura Maru landed in the port of El Callao with 790 Japanese arriving as contract laborers, hired to work in the plantations along the coast. Since then, six generations have passed by; according to Japanese Ambassador, Tatsuya Kabutan, there are currently more than 100,000 Peruvians of Japanese descent – Nikkeis – living in Peru. Peru is the third country in the world after Brazil and the USA with the most people of Japanese descent, he says.
Diplomatic relations between the two countries, he adds, were established more than 140 years ago, and Peru was the first country in Latin America to establish relations with Japan, and the second to accept Japanese immigration. In fact, every April 3, Peru-Japan Friendship Day is largely celebrated.
_(Photo courtesy of Embassy of Japan)_
Strong commercial and economic ties also exist between the two countries: both are members of the Asia Pacific Economic Forum (APEC), both are in talks in relation to the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), and an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) signed back in May 2011 aims to promote trade and investment between the two countries. At present, the bilateral trade balance favors Peru as its exports of minerals and agricultural products to Japan outnumbers the imports of cars and electronics from the Asian country, the Ambassador tells us. In terms of investments, 80% of Japanese private investments are located in the mining sector, in particular in the exploration and extraction of copper.
Japan is a country with scarce mineral resources, although it wasn’t like this always – at this point he recalls that Italian explorer Marco Polo actually referred to Japan as the ‘country of gold’ in his memoirs. Coming back to Peru, he says it is the country in Latin America that receives the largest quantity of Japanese official development assistance, in particular in poverty reduction through access to water and infrastructure projects; environmental protection by way of water processing and residual treatment plants; and disaster prevention with capacity building and professional exchange programs. Not to forget, he adds, is that Peru was the first country in Latin America to receive Japanese investments back in 1889.
_(Photo courtesy of Embassy of Japan)_
Supporting education, art and culture are also important for the Japanese Embassy in Peru. Fifteen national scholarships were given to Peruvians last year, and a number of cultural activities were supported by the Embassy with the aim to promote Japanese culture and traditions in Peru. Earlier this year a Japanese Animation Festival was held in the Japanese-Peruvian Cultural Center ( Centro Cultural Peruano Japones and, in March, a famous Japanese Pianist, Fuzjko Hemming gave her first concert in Peru in cooperation with Ministry of Culture. The Ambassador reported on the upcoming visit of a renowned Orchestra Director who will be offering a concert in Peru in this July. And not to forget, the annual ‘Cultural Week of Japan’ celebrated every November where many interesting activities will be offered.
Ambassador Kabutan said a few words about tourism emphasizing that he would like to see more of his compatriots visiting Peru. According to the Ambassador, some 60,000 Japanese visited Peru in 2014. They are mainly tourists that come in organized groups to visit Cusco and Macchu Picchu – no wonder you hardly see them in Lima, I say. He adds that Macchu Picchu is the number one favorite destination of the Japanese people according to surveys done in the Asian country. Ambassador Kabutan sends a message to his compatriots to come and visit Peru, and make their wish come true. Do you know why Peru-Japan Friendship Day is celebrated annually? Read on and discover the close relationship and long history that connects the two countries.