In the year 2022, Japan and the Kingdom of Bahrain marked the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. This month, we spoke to the Ambassador of Japan to the Kingdom of Bahrain, HE Masayuki Miyamoto, who joined the Japanese Foreign Ministry in 1981. Given his outstanding political career rooted in the region, HE is determined to further promote friendly relations between Japan and Bahrain.
Having opted for Arabic as his specialty when joining the Japanese Foreign Ministry, HE Miyamoto was sent to Syria where he studied the language for three years as a diplomatic trainee. “Following that, I served in several Arab countries, from Iraq eastward to Mauritania westward,” he explains. “I visited Bahrain for the first time in 1994, as a member of the delegation of HM the Emperor and Empress during their visit. I’m very happy to now be Ambassador to this beautiful Kingdom and I am determined to promote friendly relations between Bahrain and Japan.”
SIGNIFICANT TRADE RELATIONS
Japan and Bahrain have enjoyed stable economic and trade relations for decades. The trade exchange volume has increased steadily over the years reaching JPY235 billion (USD1.8 billion) in 2022 - the highest level in their bilateral history. The value of Bahrain’s exports to Japan has reached around USD1.3 billion, which is the highest record as well.
“As for the nature of Bahrain’s exported products, it is worth mentioning that, compared with the figure from 2018 for example, the percentage of non-oil products has increased from four percent to 19 percent, reflecting the rapid development of the non-oil sector in Bahrain. In particular, aluminum has emerged as one of the top products imported from Bahrain, with 56,000 tonnes in volume and USD170 million in value,” he states.
“As for direct investment to Bahrain, Japan is the second biggest Asian investor following India, where the cumulative amount exceeded USD800 million as of the third quarter of 2022. The Japanese private sector has invested in several major projects, including two power plants that cover around 70 percent of the total demand of electricity and water in Bahrain,” he adds.
Around 160 Japanese citizens currently live in Bahrain. “They work in a variety of industries including manufacturing, engineering, finance, commerce and others,” he says.
Last year Japan and Bahrain signed an investment agreement which aims at protecting the investments of both countries for the future. This agreement is now in the process of ratification in both countries.
LEARNINGS FROM THE JAPAN-BAHRAIN SUMMIT
On September 28, 2022 the Japan and Bahrain Summit Meeting took place. HE Miyamota states that His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the Crown Prince and Prime Minister, had the first telephone conversation with HE Kishida Fumio, Japanese Prime Minister last February. This was in addition to a face-to-face meeting in Tokyo last September, on the occasion of HRH the Crown Prince’s visit to Japan to attend the national funeral of the late Prime Minister, HE Abe Shinzo.
“To summarise the two meetings, the two leaders agreed to further enhance the bilateral relationship in various fields on both governmental and private levels. Among the concrete measures to promote economic and business relations was the ‘Agreement on Investment’, which was signed last June,” he states.
In addition, the two leaders confirmed an early introduction of visa exemption for Bahraini officials. “HRH the Crown Prince expressed his hope to strengthen bilateral cooperation in science and technology, highlighting the success of launching ‘Light-1’ - Bahrain’s first artificial satellite in cooperation with the Japanese Space Agency,” he states.
Further, the two leaders exchanged views on the situation in Ukraine, agreed on the importance of international cooperation, and confirmed continuous close coordination between the two countries.
FURTHER IMPROVING RELATIONS
When asked which areas of business and diplomatic relations can be improved between Bahrain and Japan, he states that the two governments have been holding ‘Policy Consultations’ and ‘Security Dialogues’ on the undersecretary level for a decade with the latest ‘Policy Consultation’ being held in Tokyo last September.
“Through these consultations and dialogues, the two sides have discussed several bilateral and global issues across various areas: diplomatic, trade and investment, environment, science and technology, culture and others. The two countries expect to further strengthen their coordination to tackle global issues as well as expand the fields of bilateral cooperation,” he explains.
In March, a Japanese Parliamentarian delegation is expected to visit Bahrain to participate in the 146th Inter-Parliamentary Union, which will be hosted by the Kingdom. “The delegation will consist of four members of the House of Representatives and two members of the House of Councilors,” he states.
The role of cultural exchange is significant when creating an understanding of countries’ cultures and beliefs. During the Spring of Culture 2023, organised by the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities, the Japanese embassy hosted the Japanese Film Festival.
“We have hosted the Japanese Film Festival over several years in Bahrain, the last of which was held in February 2022, in cooperation with the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities to celebrate the 50th anniversary of establishment of the diplomatic relations between our two countries,” he says.
As part of this year’s festival, the embassy screened two movies: the fantasy drama ‘Destiny – the tale of Kamakura’ and the animated musical comedy film ‘On-gaku – Our sound’.
SIMILARITIES AND DIFFERENCES
HE Miyamoto believes that one of the biggest similarities between the two countries is the character of its people. “They respect seniors and their experience, attach high importance to courtesy and manners, and keep time and promise. These features are essential to earn reliability and trustworthiness among individuals and lay the foundation for advanced civil society,” he says.
Meanwhile, he believes one of the biggest differences between the two countries might be their climate. “Japan enjoys four seasons, which are characterised by spring of cherry-blossoms, autumn of coloured leaves, rainy summer and snowy winter. While Bahrain basically has two seasons; an extremely hot summer and a moderate summer,” he says.
“However, it seems that the climate of both countries has changed over the past decade or two, probably due to the global climate change, where the summer in Japan has become unbearably hot, and the moderate summer in Bahrain has become very cold. I guess this has reduced the difference between the two countries in this regard!” he adds.
For those wishing to visit Japan from Bahrain, HE advises visitors to obtain a valid visa and vaccination certificate or a PCR negative certificate within 72 hours of departure.
EVERLASTING DIPLOMATIC RELATION
To conclude, HE Miyamoto concludes: “The Bahraini Royal Family and the Japanese Imperial Family enjoy a traditionally close relationship, where HM King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa visited Japan in 2012 and HRH the Crown Prince and Prime Minister visited Japan three times; in 2013, 2019 and 2022, while HM Emperor Naruhito and the Empress visited Bahrain 1994 when they were Crown Prince and Princess. I pray for the prosperity of both royal families and everlasting diplomatic relations.”