Japan: The Country of Rising Sun

[1]. Speech delivered by Abdolrahim Gavahi on the occasion of receiving the Order of Rising Sun, Tokyo, May 7, 2010.


At the beginning, I would like to thank the esteemed Government and People of Japan, especially my old friend H.E. Ambassador Akio Shirota, for their kind decision and high efforts to prepare for this auspicious occasion.

As we all know, many countries of the world, including Iran and Japan, will honor foreign ambassadors with decorations upon the successful completion of their terms. The decision to honor me with the Order of Rising Sun indicates that the esteemed Government of Japan has considered my services as Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran to Japan and, later on, President of Iran-Japan Friendship Association, somehow successful.

Possible reasons for this assessment may be:

  1. During my term as ambassador (1960-1965) the volume of our bilateral relations tripled (from $ 2.4 billion to $ 7.2).
  2. During this period, each year we were receiving hundreds of delegations to Japan.
  3. Back in 1983, we had the head of state like a visit of the Speaker of Parliament Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani to Tokyo bringing in fruitful results.
  4. During my term, we initiated a new activity of collecting and editing useful articles about Japan’s outstanding development and growth and sending them to the Iranian officials for thoughtful consideration.
  5. In that period, in addition to promoting industrial relations, our mutual cooperation in all areas of culture, art, academic activities, mass-media, and else was also enhanced and promoted.

But, in spite of all these, my impression of Japan has been much more extensive and elaborative. I see Japan as the prototype of a successful combination of tradition and modernity, and the best Asian model of progress and development. Since my first arrival to Japan, almost three decades ago, I have always been impressed by Japanese discipline, politeness, kindness, perseverance, the spirit de Corp, devotion, cleanness, contentment, low national consumption and high national saving and investment, good management, and many other Japanese traits and characteristics, and I have to confess that this cardinal impression of mine has not only not died out, but has constantly deepened considerably.

On the other hand, I have always tried to keep and maintain my cultural relation’s with Japan anyway, so that during my term as deputy-minister at the Ministry of Heavy Industries, and then cultural advisor to then Foreign Ministers Velayati and Kharrazi, Secretary-General of the Chamber of Commerce and Secretary-General of Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), I have tried my best to always maintain and extend such relations.

Also, in this same area of cultural relations, I have played my role as the Iranian coordinator and participant in eight round of dialogue between the Islamic world and Japan, a continuous event producing many fruitful results to both sides. Furthermore, I have

authored many articles on Japanese culture and civilization delivered both in Tokyo and Tehran academic circles and hosted many cultural delegations arriving from Japan. Finally, I have published the first reference book on Shintoism in the Persian language for the students of foreign religions’ studies. In the light of all of these activities, one may say my share and contribution in promoting Japanese culture and civilization in the last twenty-five years, since the time I left my assignment as Ambassador of Iran to Japan, has by no means been less than that of my achievements during Embassy years.

Another point to be emphasized is that perhaps my case is a good example of someone being highly impressed and fascinated by a foreign culture without being able to speak its language perfectly; I mean grasping the very basics of that culture just through personal observation and or reading relevant translated books. This reminds me of the famous lines by Rumi, the great mystic-poet of thirteenth century Iran, Saying:

“Oh, many are the Indians and Turks that speak the same tongue; Oh, many the pair of Turks that are as strangers to each other. Therefore, the tongue of mutual understanding is different indeed: To be one in the heart is better than to be one in the tongue. (Rumi, Nicelson, I,1206-7).

Also, as a scholar of foreign religions and cultures, I have to confess that I appreciate all foreign religions and beliefs and, as the Holy Quran says, view them as the manifestation of “and we differentiated people into different tribes and nations, just to be known to each other” (Quran 49/13). In this respect, the whole human races are not but friends, colleagues, and true partners in making and promoting the very long human civilization. All individuals, societies, and religious communities are pursuing the shared goal of human prosperity and salvation, and so there is no meaningful contradiction or antagonism amongst them, let alone any “clash of civilizations”!

Unfortunately, during recent years, the very high spirit of mutual understanding and cooperation between Iran and Japan which existed when I served there as Ambassador has somehow waned, a matter which requires our full attention and intention for immediate correction. I am of the opinion that we should not let the Western misunderstanding and propaganda against the Islamic Republic of Iran’s peaceful nuclear program ruin the long-standing and historical good relations between our two nations and countries.

In addition to the book on Shintoism, I hope to get the chance of writing two more books, one on my political memories of the embassy years and the other on my observations and experiences during five years of stay in Japan. Naturally, the first book requires the approval of Iranian Foreign Ministry and is subject to their terms and conditions, but the second book I hope to start writing very soon and hopefully finish it during the current Iranian year.

Once again, I sincerely thank the Government and people of Japan and my good friend Ambassador Shirota for their kind decision of honoring me with this high Order.

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