What is the importance of Dubai for Japanese companies and the community?
Approximately 3,500 Japanese currently reside in Dubai, and around 300 Japanese companies are based in Dubai, making it the largest Japanese community in the Middle East and North Africa. Japanese companies in Dubai operate in a wide range of industries, including automotive, plant-related, wholesale/retail, transportation, and manufacturing, which we believe reflects the economic importance and presence of Dubai to Japan. Dubai has historically been a trading hub that has actively attracted world-class companies and embraced versatile and diverse foreign labour forces, thereby creating an environment that facilitates the entry of foreign companies into the market since the foundation of the UAE.
In addition, Dubai has a stable political situation, excellent public safety, and a good infrastructure including electricity, water, telecommunications, medical care, and education, as well as many free zones that are not subject to foreign investment restrictions and an environment where English is widely spoken. Dubai provides us such favourable environments. Another important element worth mentioning is that although Dubai is part of the Muslim country, non-halal food and alcoholic beverages are available at selected pre-authorised licensed outlets and the city has formed a diverse and tolerant society where people from different cultures can live respectfully and comfortably.
How does the Japanese community express its national identity in Dubai?
Among Japanese nationals residing in Dubai, there are those who have established roots in this country and are active in promoting and seek understanding traditional Japanese culture, such as ikebana, okoto, or the Japanese zither, wadaiko, or the Japanese drum and tea ceremony, etc. Further to that, “Washoku”, or the Japanese traditional cuisine, which was designated as an UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage, as well as Japanese desserts and Wagashi, or the traditional Japanese confection, enjoy the popularity in Dubai, with quite a number (about 300) of Japanese shops operating across the emirate.
Our Consulate-General has supported their activities and provided them with opportunities to perform. The annually-held Emperor's Birthday Reception in February in celebration of His Majesty the Emperor's birthday, as our national public holiday, has become an extremely important opportunity to demonstrate national prestige. In addition, in December last year, the Japan Festival in Dubai was held in success for the first time ever, with the support of the Japanese Association of Dubai and the Northern Emirates and our Consulate-General, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and the UAE. The second festival was held on December 10 this year, so I hope that this community event will be labelled as a seasonal Japanese tradition every year.
Is there any specific sector that you feel presents further potential to develop?
Since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1972, Japan and the UAE have traditionally focused on cooperation in energy fields. In 2018 , Prime Minister Abe visited the UAE and the Comprehensive and Strategic Partnership Initiative (CSPI) was launched as a new framework for bilateral cooperation. Since then, the two countries have sought to strengthen cooperation in 12 areas beyond traditional areas of cooperation, including advanced science and technology and the empowerment of women. In fact, cooperation in the field of space has emerged remarkable, and it is still fresh in our minds that the UAE's Mars probe HOPE, which literally gave people hope by becoming the first Arab country to reach the orbit of Mars in February 2021, was launched from the Tanegashima Space Centre in Japan by a Japanese-made rocket.
In addition to the space sector, in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), to which the UAE channels resources, the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) has recently established a research base in Dubai under its moonshot-type research and development project, Moonshot Target 1, and launched joint research and collaboration with the Dubai Future Labs (DFL) at the end of November. We strongly hope that efforts by both organizations would be conducive to resolving common social issues facing the world, and to that end as the Consul General of Japan in Dubai, I will continue to support them down the road.
Further to the above, Dubai is doubling down on welcoming start-ups. Under the New Capitalism, Japan formulated a five-year plan to foster start-ups in 2022 and has also been encouraging their business expansion into markets abroad, so we strongly hope start-up companies to launch their operations in Dubai.
We are very pleased that the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry opened an office in Roppongi, Tokyo, in mid-November, establishing a platform to promote trade, investment and business between Japan and the UAE.
What is your thought on the Osaka Kansai Expo in 2025?
The Emirate of Abu Dhabi participated in the 1970 Osaka Expo for the first time, which was held before the establishment of the UAE, and the Dubai Expo, held 50 years later, ended successfully at the end of March last year. As a testament to the special bond between the two countries, the Expo flag was passed on from Dubai to the Osaka-Kansai Expo in 2025. The Japanese government is now gearing up in preparation for the success of the Osaka-Kansai Expo, using the success of the Dubai Expo as a foundation for the Osaka-Kansai Expo in 2025.
The theme of the Expo is "Designing Future Society for Our Lives," with the following concepts in mind: (1) to "co-create" a future society through the exchange of ideas among 8 billion people in the world, not just exhibition to be witnessed; (2) to launch an online platform for sharing issues and solutions from around the world even prior to the Expo; and (3) to create a place where wisdom across the globe, including cutting-edge technology, can be gathered and new ideas can be created and disseminated to solve issues common to all humankind.
Today, as we are entering an unprecedented era of large-scale natural disasters, global fragmentation, confusion, and conflict, as well as rapid social transformation through the introduction of AI, hopefully this Expo would facilitate the establishment of mutual bonds for the people towards common goals for the sake of humanity under these circumstances. It would be an honour for Japan to welcome UAE nationals and foreign residents in Dubai and in the region will visit Japan in 2025 on the occasion of the Osaka-Kansai Expo.
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