New Japanese ambassador is an old China hand

By Xing Xiaojing Source: Global Times Published: 2020/11/27 4:13:13

Japanese Ambassador to China Hideo Tarumi (left) and Duan Yuezhong in 2011. Photo: Courtesy of Duan Yuezhong.


Duan Yuezhong (left) and his wife (right) saw Hideo Tarumi (central) off in Tokyo in October before he took the post of new Japanese Ambassador in China. Photo: Courtesy of Duan Yuezhong

The new Japanese Ambassador to China, Hideo Tarumi, arrived in Beijing on Thursday, and will formally assume his new post after the quarantine period ends. Tarumi, who can speak fluent Chinese following periods of study and work in China, has many Chinese friends, which has raised expectations for China-Japan ties during his tenure.

Duan Yuezhong, one of Ambassador Tarumi’s Chinese friends, who is also the chief editor of The Duan Press in Japan, talked about his cross-border friendship with the new ambassador in an exclusive interview with the Global Times.

Around 2008, at an activity organized by Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Duan first met With Tarumi, who was then the head of the Southeast Asia department under the Asia and Oceania Bureau. They left a good impression on each other.

After Tarumi was appointed head of the China & Mongolia department, Duan proposed to have a celebration dinner with Tarumi and other friends, which started their friendship. 

Tarumi became a member of Japan’s foreign ministry after graduating from the Law Department of Kyoto University in 1985. In 1986, he was sent to Nanjing University, China, to extend his study for two years.

One of Tarumi’s roommates in Nanjing University was from Central China’s Hunan Province, and they still keep in contact. So it was no wonder that Tarumi became talkative with Duan, who is from Hunan as well. 

"He [Tarumi] is a man who values friendship and often recalls his experiences in China. He always says that the friends he made in Nanjing can have a heart-to-heart talk at any time,” Duan told the Global Times,

"Ambassador Tarumi was only about 25 when he first went to study in China. His feelings toward China were partly influenced by the exchanges he had with Chinese people…  He often said, ‘These Chinese friends are the treasure of life.’”

Before his departure to Beijing, Tarumi took part in a small farewell party for him, held by Duan and other friends in October. The ambassador revealed that he would like to take a trip to Hunan with Duan to see the scenery and catch up with old friends. Before his Beijing adventure, Ambassador Tarumi also went to Shiga Prefecture, which has established friendly relations with Hunan Province, to communicate with its governor.

The Global Times found that Tarumi is a quite an active man, who has had contact with many Chinese scholars and the media on different occasions, which was confirmed by Duan.

When cultural exchanges between China and Japan were organized in Japan, the China & Mongolia department where Tarumi served was always supportive.

Tarumi values friendships and connections, sending Chinese New Year greetings almost every year, often tailored to different people, said Duan. 

As a keen photographer, Ambassador Tarumi has won awards and held exhibitions for his work. 

According to Duan, Tarumi is probably the best photographer among Japanese ambassadors in China and he has many Chinese photographer friends. “He likes to photograph landscapes in China, and Chaoyang Park in Beijing, near the Japanese embassy, is one of his favorite sites.”

Tarumi has worked three times at the Japanese embassy in China before the recent appointment. In 1989, he worked in the Japanese Embassy in China as a second secretary. In 1995, he came to Beijing for the second time and served as the first secretary of the Japanese Embassy. And in 2011, he worked in Beijing for the third time as a minister of The Japanese Embassy in China.

Duan has never published a photo of the two of them and seldom talks about their stories, despite good personal ties with Tarumi. He told the Global Times that he cherishes the friendship and thus is afraid that he may bring unnecessary trouble to his old friend by some unintentional actions.

In fact, Duan treasures their friendship and told the Global Times he was still sorting out old photos of him with Tarumi. "We've all reached the age of graying hair," he said with a smile.

By convention, Tarumi's term is supposed to run until 2024, to coincide with events such as the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics and the 50th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between China and Japan.

"After years of efforts, China-Japan ties have seen sound momentum of development. Ambassador Tarumi's term of office will usher in four years of profound exchanges between China and Japan,” Duan said.  

"I wish my old friend a good future to create a better situation for China-Japan exchanges," Duan said. 


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