Together with the Nordic Ambassadors I recently visited Okinawa to get a first-hand impression of the prefecture which is so often discussed in Japanese media. We met Governor Nakaima and officials from the prefectural office and discussed both political issues and the particular culture of the islands. We also visited U.S. military facilities, had meetings with U.S. Consul General Green and his staff. One of the most destructive and key battles of the Pacific war took place in Okinawa and many of the issues are still somehow related to the war. It was very enlightening to listen to both Japanese and American officials and get a closer understanding of how important Okinawa is to both Japan and the U.S., in fact to the whole East Asian region.
Although Okinawa is an important part of Japan, the ancient Ryûkyû Kingdom has left its traces, giving the culture of the islands a distinct flavour. Perhaps the natural beauty of the surroundings and the history of the islands make it a perfect place for both contemplation and creative solutions. It is, anyhow, not so surprising that Okinawa has been chosen as the site for the newly established Okinawa Institute for Science and Technology, OIST, which we also visited. It is a graduate university and a research center in newly built facilities that harmonizes well with the surrounding nature and where the atmosphere is one of true creativity. International and Japanese researchers from different disciplins share resources in a very unique way, and the research projects that have already commenced are nothing but impressive. Don’t be surprised if researchers of the institute will be awarded several Nobel prizes in the future.
The trip to Okinawa followed a couple of intensive weeks with, on the one hand, a visiting delegation from the Standing Committee on Culture of the Swedish Parliament and, on the other, the visit by our Trade Minister, Dr. Ewa Björling, and her delegation. A team from Swedish Television was here at the same time, mainly to make a program about the chef at the Embassy, Mr. Richard Finnman.