100 Years of Japan-Czech Exchange

A message from Martin Tomčo, Ambassador of the Czech Republic to Japan on the Czech-Japan Memorial Year:

In January 2020, 100 years will have passed since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Czech Republic and Japan. However, mutual contacts go back to a deeper history. The first Czech in Japan was Jesuit priest Karel Spinola in 1602, who was later canonized. The first Japanese to settle in Europe was Mitsuko Aoyama, who married a Czech nobleman Henry Coudenhove-Kalergi and lived in Domazlice Chateau in southern Bohemia. By the way, the Czech Republic is famous for the highest density of castles and chateaus per capita in the world. There are more than 2,000 of them.

The Czechs have left many traces on the Japanese islands. Entrepreneur Jan Karel Hora became a director of Osaka Gas Light Company and contributed to the gasification of Osaka. Architect Jan Letzl designed the famous Atomic Dome, which withstood the bombing of Hiroshima and became its memorial. The founder of modern Japanese architecture is Antonin Raymond. The composers Bedrich Smetana and Antonin Dvorak and the painter Alfons Mucha are among many Czech artists whose works have gained wide recognition in Japan. Nearly seven hundred thousand people saw Mucha’s Slav Epic in 2017 in Tokyo.

The Czech Republic and Japan have a lot in common, as shown by the Olympic Games in Tokyo influenced by the robot-era. In 2020 it will be exactly 100 years since world-famous Czech writer Karel Capek invented and used the word “robot” in the famous play R.U.R. published many times in Japan. Czech-Japanese contacts in science, research, and innovation are prospering, the cooperation between the Technology Agency of the Czech Republic and NEDO has become a symbol of them. The Czech Republic is the fourth country in the world to develop joint projects with Japanese partners with the support of NEDO. Japan is one of the largest investors; currently, there are 260 Japanese companies operating in the Czech Republic, employing around 50,000 people. The interest of Czech companies in the Japanese market is also growing – not only established brands but also companies operating in modern industries, including the internationally successful Kiwi.com.

Like Japan, the Czech Republic is a highly industrialized country with a low unemployment rate. Last year it achieved the highest economic growth of the EU based on investment in innovation, science, and research. The Innovation Strategy of the Government of the Czech Republic until 2030 – the Country for the Future sets government priorities for funding science and research, supporting start-ups or implementing science and research in practice. It also takes into account 5G, e-mobility and autonomous mobility, and considers the AI area to be of high importance. The Czech Republic is building “Centers of Excellence” for AI development and in this respect, it is getting inspired by Japan. Following autonomous mobility, it builds 3 test polygons and supports the establishment of a 5G network. Czech scientific discoveries in the AI field are used, among others, by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory.

The excellent relations between the Czech Republic and Japan have a long-standing historical foundation; in recent years, the Joint Statement towards the Strategic Partnership between the two countries signed by prime ministers in 2003 has become their milestone. Besides the Embassy in Tokyo, the Czech Republic is expanding its network of honorary consulates in Japan, recently HK Sakai started operations. Yet, contacts between people are the most important prerequisites for a good relationship. There are seven associations of Japanese-Czech friendship, the Czech Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Japan (CCCIJ), and the Group of Friends of the Czech Republic in the Japanese Parliament consisted by 39 members of both chambers of the National Diet and all are strengthening great relationships. Thanks to the Department of Czech Studies at the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies tens of students learn the Czech language annually and thousands of others study Czech in various courses. Hundreds of Japanese study at universities in the Czech Republic, especially classical music but also medicine and Czech. I believe that the cooperation of our countries will continue to flourish in all areas. As a well-known Japanese proverb says, there is no long journey with a friend.

A message from Kaoru Shimazaki, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to the Czech Republic:

I would like to express my deepest gratitude to the Czech people for their faithful friendship. The founding father and first president of Czekoslovakia, Tomáš G. Masaryk, was a pioneer of this friendship between Japan and the Czech Republic.

In 1918, at the end of World War I, Masaryk visited Japan to get support from the Japanese Government for Czechoslovakia’s independence.

The coming 100 Years of Japan-Czech Exchange anniversary is a good opportunity to remind us of the great efforts of our predecessors who have shaped our strong and reliable relations based on shared values.

The Czech Republic is very rich culture and is surrounded by beautiful nature. At the same time the Czech people have a long tradition of engineering and manufacturing, which is the same in Japan. We both value technology and our innovations continue to drive our industries forward.

It is encouraging to see exports from the Czech Republic to Japan, such as Czech beer and wine increasing. White wine from the Moravian region is particularly delicious.

The Czech Republic continues to pioneer many important manufacturing technologies which appeal to Japanese investors. Japanese companies have chosen to have their facilities here because of the high level of trust for Czech engineers as well the investment-friendly environment and the support of the Czech Government.

Looking towards the future I hope to see more exchange between the Czech and Japanese youth.

The Czech Republic has established its status as the center of manufacturing in Europe for many Japanese companies due to its geographical advantage and productive reliability with its strong engineering background and highly-skilled workforce.

Leaders share more insight on the strengthening relations between the Czech Republic and Japan:

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