Speech by CE at Japan Autumn Festival in Hong Kong - Rediscovering Nippon opening ceremony (English only) (with photos/video)
Ambassador Matsuda (Ambassador and Consul-General of Japan in Hong Kong, Kuninori Matsuda), Mr Nishimura (Chairman, Executive Committee, Japan Autumn Festival in Hong Kong, Soichi Nishimura), distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
Good evening. It is a pleasure to join you for the opening ceremony of the "Japan Autumn Festival in Hong Kong."
The Festival was launched last year, and with great success. I know because I was here for the opening ceremony this time last year in my capacity as the Acting Chief Executive, and in that same afternoon, in my capacity as the Chief Secretary for Administration, I officiated at another event showcasing Japanese arts and crafts and agricultural produce at the PMQ. And then as a friend of Ambassador and Mrs Matsuda, my husband and I attended a Japanese movie several days later so I saw for myself the enthusiasm that brought so many local and Japanese organisations and individuals together.
Ambassador Matsuda and Mr Nishimura have their versions of how this Festival came about. I have my own version. That casual conversation that Mr Nishimura referred to actually took place when we were sampling some very fine Japanese cuisine at the Ambassador's official residence here in Hong Kong. So while I was enjoying this fine Japanese cuisine and admiring the fine Japanese paintings in the Ambassador's residence, I thought what a wonderful idea and more people of Hong Kong could have this opportunity because while we have a lot of tourists from Hong Kong to Japan, not all people in Hong Kong could travel to Japan to appreciate what this country has to offer.
That inaugural Festival brought Hong Kong together, as well. Indeed, more than 180 000 people took in the 140 events over the course of the Festival's two-month run last year.
This year's Festival gets going today and continues through in the next two months, when the legendary Japanese rock band "Anzenchitai" (安全地帶) takes the stage at AsiaWorld-Expo as part of the group's 35th Anniversary Tour. In between, we'll get our full fill of Japanese culture, everything from art exhibitions and sports specials to events spotlighting the surpassing joys of Japanese food and beverages – the latter ranging from beer to sake to whiskey.
There's more, including a film festival devoted to a dozen of the great Akira Kurosawa's movies (黑澤明) which delights me as I am an admirer of this great master's films and have actually watched almost every one of them. And, of course, a wide range of Japanese brand products and services will be on show throughout Hong Kong.
For most of us, the Japan Festival never really ends. Japanese culture and lifestyle are embraced year-round here, and in so many ways – from the ever-popular sushi and ramen restaurants that call Hong Kong home, to Japanese performing arts groups, the automobiles that light on our roads, the appliances in our homes, and the wealth of Japanese food products that fill our fridges, tables and stomachs.
Our love for all things Japanese is visible, too, in the huge, and growing, number of Hong Kong people visiting Japan. Last year, more than 1.8 million of us took in the cultural delights of Japan.
That, I should add, was up some 21 per cent over the previous year, which was up a remarkable 65 per cent over the year before that. So Ambassador Matsuda, you have a wonderful scorecard during your two years of service here and I'm sure our numbers will continue to expand in the coming years, particularly with the Tokyo Olympic Games set for the summer of 2020.
The holiday mood is definitely two-way, I'm pleased to note. Hong Kong is among the favourite destinations of Japanese travellers. In the first half of this year, we welcomed about 580,000 Japanese visitors, up 17 per cent, year-on-year. This continuing stream only feeds the friendship and understanding that have long marked relations between our two peoples.
Business ties are no less important, no less rewarding. Last year, Japan was our fourth-largest trading partner and Hong Kong is Japan's eighth. The trading of Japanese food is perhaps the most noteworthy. With a population of only some 7 million, we have been Japan's largest export market for food and agricultural products for 10 years, accounting for about a quarter of Japan's total export.
And Japan was Hong Kong's ninth-largest source of inward direct investment in 2015, with a value amounting to US$29 billion. That investment speaks of capital, of course. But also of business strategy. And with well over 650 Japanese regional headquarters and regional offices here, that strategy is clear: Hong Kong is their gateway to business opportunity in the mainland of China and throughout the Asian region.
Autumn is a brilliant time to visit Japan, with the leaves in flashing colours as we can see from the backdrop and the country's popular hot springs that are much more alluring in the fresh seasonal air.
Autumn is no less attractive in Hong Kong. For hiking in the hills and along our seashores. For good-time events such as the international Wine and Dine Festival. For the return, in early December, of the Hong Kong ePrix, the opening event of the Formula E racing season. The Japan Autumn Festival in Hong Kong, the second year in a row, has naturally enriched our events calendar.
So my thanks to the Consul-General of Japan, Ambassador Matsuda, for organising this splendid cultural extravaganza in Hong Kong, and to the Japanese business community for their most enthusiastic participation.
I wish this year's Festival a resounding success and our distinguished guests from Japan a rewarding stay in Hong Kong and I hope to come back to this event year after year in future.
Thank you very much.
Ends/Tuesday, October 10, 2017
Issued at HKT 21:27
Issued at HKT 21:27