Bridges: How would you describe the current partnership between Japan and Indonesia?
Kanasugi: Today, Japan and Indonesia are strategic partners that share fundamental values such as democracy, human rights and rule of law. The relationship between our two countries has a long history of cooperation in many areas including economy, politics, and culture. We have extended support to each other as heart-to-heart friends.
Through our partnership, various infrastructure projects are being implemented. For example, MRT Jakarta is a strategic project to overcome social challenges such as traffic congestion, noise, and gas emissions, as well as a symbol of our bilateral cooperation that could change the lifestyle of the people in Jakarta. The newly developed Patimban Port, which is supported by Japan for its construction and operation, will enhance Indonesia’s logistic capacity and strengthen exports, especially automobiles.
The bilateral relations have also been supported by active trade and investment between the two countries.
In addition to the economic area, Japan and Indonesia are also enhancing political and security cooperation as well. There are a lot of synergies between “Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP)” which Japan has been promoting and “ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP)” which Indonesia took the leadership to formulate within ASEAN. Japan and ASEAN already identified four areas of cooperation, namely maritime security, connectivity, UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030, and other economic cooperation.
In terms of cultural exchanges, there is an annual event called “Jakarta-Japan Matsuri (Festival)” for introducing Japanese culture such as Anime and Judo to Indonesian people. The festival attracted around 44,000 people in 2019 and all visitors really enjoyed the vibe at the event. The festival, unfortunately, had to be suspended for the last two years due to the pandemic. But hopefully this year it will come back.
Our partnership now goes beyond bilateral cooperation, entering the phase to jointly address common global challenges. We have been working together in such fields as empowerment of democracy in the region, climate change, and assistance for Palestine.
How have you enjoyed your time in Indonesia and what aspects of Indonesian society have you appreciated most?
I arrived in Jakarta in the middle of January last year. So, I have spent one year and four months in this country. Yes, since my arrival I have been enjoying myself immensely. I am particularly impressed with diverse and energetic people and culture in Indonesia. Indonesia is really a country of “unity in diversity”. So many people with different cultural backgrounds live in harmony. I believe that this fact alone is an amazing achievement of this nation. Also, I am struck with warm and kind feeling of Indonesian people towards Japan. I am often surprised by the depth of knowledge of Indonesians about Japan, particularly its foods and culture. Interacting with these Indonesian people is a great fun for me and makes me more resolved about my future endeavors in enhancing our bilateral relationship.
In what areas is the Embassy helping to strengthen relations between the two countries?
Indonesia is striving to develop itself as a production and export hub in order not to fall into the “middle income trap” and achieve sustainable development. Japan, both the public and private sectors, has extended cooperation such as the construction and management of Patimban Port. We will continue to encourage investment from Japan to Indonesia.
Energy transition to achieve carbon neutrality is, amongst others, a huge common challenge for Japan and Indonesia. Both countries are heavily dependent on coal power electricity generation and have no choice but to continue using coal in the foreseeable future. We, therefore, must together develop new technologies such as co-firing with biomass, ammonia, and hydrogen, as well as CCS/CCUS (Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage).
As to the synergies between FOIP and AOIP, Japan and Indonesia as maritime archipelagic nations have special interest in pursuing practical and concreate cooperation in the area of maritime security.
We would also like to strengthen educational and cultural exchanges. The number of those who study Japanese language in Indonesia is more than 700,000 and this number ranks second in the world. The number of Japanese government-sponsored students from Indonesia amounts more than 800 and is the largest in the world in 2020. Japan is one of the most favourite destinations for Indonesian students who want to study abroad. I am convinced that enhancing educational and cultural exchanges is our responsibility for the future generations of our two countries.
How would you describe current economic and trade ties between Japan and Indonesia?
I think we are currently at a crossroad. Japan has been a most dominant economic partner with Indonesia for many years. But in recent years, many other countries are making efforts to strengthen their economic ties with this country. Yet, Japan is second to none in its economic cooperation with Indonesia in terms of job creation, human capacity building, and contribution to Indonesia’s export. Around 2000 Japanese companies have nurtured their business network in Indonesia and created about 7.2 million jobs, contributing to 8.5% of GDP and 25% of export of this country. Also, over 90% of these Japanese companies provide training for their Indonesian workers. Of course, we do not take for granted our past achievements. On the contrary, Japan and Indonesia have been trying to deepen and widen our economic cooperation. That is exactly the reason why Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio visited Indonesia at the end of April and discussed our future cooperation with President Joko Widodo.
What message do you have for our readers regarding the future of the Japan-Indonesia partnership?
I believe we have a bright future in our partnership. We can enhance our cooperation in many areas, including trade and investment, defense and maritime security, and various common global challenges.
At the same time, I want to urge younger generations of both Japan and Indonesia to interact more actively. One primary example is Mr. Pratama Arhan who joined Tokyo Verdy in February and is going to play in the Japan League succour. I wish him well and look forward to seeing more young generations like him will enhance interactions between our countries. For that purpose, I have Instagram account “@jpnambsindonesia” with a view to reaching out to younger generation of Indonesians. I hope we can interact more actively through social media exchanging opinions about what we do together right now and what we could do into the future.