Some speeches previously made by Dr. Kohara

Before Dr. Kohara assumed his current post in the University of Tokyo, he was Consul-General of Japan in Sydney (2010-13) and Consul-General of Japan in Shanghai (2013-15). Here are two speeches and a contribution to a newspaper made in Sydney and Shanghai.

Farewell Speech by Consul-General of Japan in Sydney Dr. M. Kohara

27 August 2013

Deputy Premier Stoner,
Minister Berejiklian,
Treasurer Baird,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It’s wonderful to see so many people I have met over the three years I have been in Sydney. I’m very glad to have this chance to say thank-you and good-bye. Yes, the time has come – I think of it as Doomsday – the day that I must leave Sydney. I really appreciate the support, friendship and trust that I have been shown during my time in Sydney. I will never, ever forget the hospitality and kindness of the people I have met in Australia. You’ve just seen some photos from my three years in Sydney. I would like to mention a few of my strongest memories.
My first memory is a sad one in so many ways. I will never forget the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011 – it was a heartbreaking event. I was so shocked to see the graphic images of the powerful tsunami sweeping away all in its path. The Governor of New South Wales, Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir spoke at the one year commemorative reception, held here at my residence to remember the victims of the disaster. Her warm words made me feel anew the friendship Japan shares with the people of Australia. Japan will never forget the generosity and heartfelt support that so many people gave at that time. There were so many donations and charity activities. The Japan Club of Sydney, the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Japanese community members joined with Australian people to work together to bring hope to the victims. Just this month, some children who lost parents in the disaster visited my residence – they had been invited to Sydney to encourage them to meet the future with a fresh, positive attitude. I hope they made friends they will know for many years to come. Such encounters can be long-lasting, and I am reminded of the story that Governor Bashir told me when I paid a farewell courtesy call to her last week. Many years ago, she was in Japan and looking puzzled in front of a Bullet Train (Shinkansen) ticket machine, when a little Japanese girl came up to help her. That girl became a school teacher, and today she brings across students to Sydney to meet the Governor! This kind of meeting and people-to-people exchange has laid the groundwork for mutual understanding and friendship between Australia and Japan, creating a basis of trust between us.
Last year was the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Darwin and the attack of the Japanese midget submarines on Sydney Harbour. I attended the memorial services as well as the unveiling of a plaque commemorating the attack and the recently discovered midget submarine wreck. These memorial services have made me reflect on our shared history and aware that the peaceful and friendly relationship we have today should never be taken for granted. Ken Done's wonderful paintings of the Sydney harbour attack made me reflect on the universal values of life and death, family love and a nation’s honour, and the preciousness of peace.Next year, in Cowra, we will commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Cowra Breakout. Although I will not be there, my thoughts will definitely be with you, Mr Don Kibbler and others, who have so sensitively looked after the war cemetery and the beautiful Japanese garden in Cowra, which I will remember as a centre of reconciliation and Australia-Japan friendship. His Majesty the Emperor of Japan also pays attention to Cowra and met with Kibbler-san in Tokyo. Please take care, Kibbler-san.
And now we enjoy a mutually complementary economic relationship. I am fortunate to have witnessed and been involved in a couple of important economic milestones. Last year the Australia-Japan/Japan-Australia Business Co-operation Committee celebrated its 50th anniversary here in Sydney. There is a firm basis of trust between the businesspeople of Japan and Australia. I have seen the variety and strength of these personal ties which have been key to developing the strong economic ties we share. I would like to thank all of you who have contributed, with particular mention of JCCI. There is firm commitment at the top-level for maintaining and developing our economic links.  [As we have heard,] Deputy Premier Stoner, Minister Berejiklian and Treasurer Baird have visited Japan, and I am pleased to know that the Premier of New South Wales, the Honourable Barry O’Farrell, will pay his first official visit to Japan in October. I regret that I will not be able to accompany him on his visit, particularly as I always told him to visit Japan whenever I met him. In the Northern Territory, the two former Chief Ministers Henderson and Mills both visited Japan, and Chief Minister Adam Giles has already been to Japan on an official visit and he will visit again in October at the same time as Premier O’Farrell to attend this year’s JABCC conference in Tokyo. New momentum may be given to Darwin when it hosts the conference next year. For me personally, it was very memorable to visit Darwin with many representatives from Japanese companies two years ago, and later to be present at the signing of the final investment decision for the INPEX-led Ichthys investment – the largest ever investment in Australia by a Japanese consortium. Former Chief Minister Henderson laid the foundations and both Terry Mills and Chief Minister Giles have embraced the project. Thank you to all the people concerned – so many people have done such a fantastic job.
Another memory was from an event which Deputy Premier Stoner kindly attended. It was an event to introduce Japanese rice wine, saké, to Australians. The saké was very well received, and the reason I will remember this event was that no-one listened to the Deputy Premier’s or my speech – they were all enjoying the saké too much (I won’t say they were drunk). Yes, that was a great logistical mistake. Since then, I always wonder about when to serve drinks, but I'm sure that tonight’s gathering will not enjoy the wine and saké too much before the speeches are finished.
Another strong memory I will take with me is my recent visit to central Australia where the Northern Territory Chief Minister Adam Giles showed me around his hometown and became a good friend. Surrounded by vast nature, the night sky at Uluru was amazing – I saw Jupiter, the Southern Cross and the Milky Way. I’ve never seen the sky so full of stars. It was fantastic.

And from my private life, another memory. The time my family and I were climbing at Cradle Mountain in Tasmania – and we feared we were going to perish in the mountains. I was leading the group, my wife, my son and my daughter. We set off very happily (remember the photo?). It’s such a beautiful place. We walked and walked. Then, the track became harder to find. My wife and daughter were saying, “Is this really the track?” as they scrambled along a path that dropped away. As the sun started to sink, a sense of despair set in. “Dad, we’ll be lost and eaten by bears.” “There aren’t any bears in Australia.” Finally the carpark where the bus departed came into view. Looking at the time, we panicked, thinking it was the last bus. Maybe you know I like jogging? Well, I didn’t jog – I ran towards the bus stop harder than I ever had run before – in my own mind I was Ussain Bolt. But, the bus left. I shouted louder than I ever had. To no avail. My family took almost 20 minutes to catch up to me, they were so exhausted. I felt I had failed my family as they said ‘we will die here!’ Of course, we didn’t die. No, we weren’t rescued by rangers. Much simpler. When I called the hotel, they told me there was one more bus to come for climbers who missed the official final bus. And sure enough, there were lots of other hikers waiting for this unlisted final bus inside the log bus shelter.

So, ladies and gentlemen,

I lived to be able to take up my posting to Shanghai which is a very important posting for Japan. I wrote two books about Japan and China while in Australia, and as a diplomat and a Mandarin speaker, I feel very honoured and a sense of responsibility to do my best to improve and promote Japan’s ties with China. I will have jurisdiction over Shanghai, and the 4 provinces of Jiansu, Zhejian, An Hui and Jian Xi. Combined, the population exceeds 260 million. In Shanghai, there are more than 80,000 Japanese. It has the world’s largest Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry with around 2,400 companies. There are more than 30 local government offices such as Tokyo Metropolitan Government and Tokushima Prefecture which is my hometown. There are 2 Japanese schools with around 3,000 students. While I look forward to my new posting, I will definitely miss Sydney – including Sydney’s clean air and beautiful blue skies – and the Australian sense of humour. And one day I will come back to Australia. Because there are many reasons for me to return. To name a few briefly: A golf rematch with Treasurer Baird. My partner and I trailed by a stroke when I fluked a miracle second shot to be only 30cm from the hole on the 18th. Mike said I was a real diplomat and had hidden my talent till the last game – but it really was a fluke!
But running is not a fluke. I successfully completed the Sydney half marathon and City-to-Surf without cheating, but I have my sights set on the full marathon. I will have to train, because I remember my desperate sprint at Cradle Mountain, but a bit carefully in Shanghai, and maybe wear a mask. By the end of 2016, the INPEX Ichthys project is scheduled to start production. I would like to come back and see this. I think Darwin will have changed, a bigger city with a greater Japanese presence. Maybe I could aim to be the first Consul-General in Darwin!

Finally, I will come back like a very special boomerang given to me by former POW Mr Bart Richardson. I would like to thank former POWs who have contributed to reconciliation and mutual understanding between us. I am proud to be called a friend by Bart Richardson. After visiting Japan as a guest of the Government of Japan, he has given many talks here in New South Wales. Thank you so much, Bart. I received a boomerang from him engraved “From your friend, Bart” and yes, like a boomerang, I will be coming back to you!
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Perhaps my speech tonight is a little too long? Well, I must be putting off coming to the conclusion, because this is when I must say my final good-bye to you all – so many great friends. Above all I am so grateful for your support and kindness.

I love Australia; I fell in love with the lifestyle – particularly the outdoor lifestyle; but there is one thing even after these three years that I never grew to love [PAUSE], yes, Vegemite. That might take a few more years living in Australia!
To conclude, let me assure you that Japan is back on track.

Prime Minister Abe has fired his three arrows and I’m confident that Japan is really back, emerging stronger than ever before.

Soon the IOC will announce the 2020 Olympics host city. I hope it will be Tokyo – I think it will be – and I know this will further rejuvenate Japan.
I expect that Prime Minister Abe will visit Australia in the near future and this will further develop our relationship. Although I leave Australia, it will always have a very special place in my heart and I will continue to be a friend of Australia. Should you come to Shanghai or my subsequent postings, please say hello. I have a strong request, should you visit me, please bring a little bit of Sydney and Australia with you – even just a bottle of air.
Definitely a case of last but not least, I must give a special thanks to several colleagues: Chris – my secretary, Ray – my official chauffeur, Sato-san – my personal chef, and Jennifer – my speech writer and tonight’s master of ceremonies. Also, Mr Kobayashi, my deputy who will be acting Consul-General after my departure. Please extend to him the same kindness and support you have given me. And all of my colleagues and staff.

Without their contribution to my daily life, I could not have carried out my role so successfully.
Thank you, everyone.

Thank you so much.