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Japan Ambassador says Brave Blossoms show how SA can rise through hard work: iLIVE

Ambassador Hiroki of Japan | 2016-01-14 17:20:53.0
South Africa v Japan - IRB Rugby World Cup 2015 Pool B
Japan's Karne Hesketh celebrates with team mates after scoring their third try to win the game during South Africa v Japan - IRB Rugby World Cup 2015 Pool B - Brighton Community Stadium, Brighton, England on September 19, 2015
Image by: Reuters Staff / Reuters / REUTERS

Shockwaves reverberated around the world as rugby fans, glued to their television screens, watched in awe as Japan beat South Africa in the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

Commentators called it the biggest shock in Rugby World Cup history.

Robert Kitson, rugby union correspondent for The Guardian newspaper in the UK, summed up the Brave Blossoms’ performance on the day: “Japan was sharper in thought and deed throughout, varied things smartly in the lineout and was an absolute credit to the coaching brains of (Eddie) Jones and his forward lieutenants Steve Borthwick and Marc Del Maso.” 

Before the tournament, other teams viewed Japan as an easy opponent that would merely give them a passport through to the next round.

In fact, it was well known among rugby fans that the Japanese national team won only once in the 28-year history of the World Cup Rugby.

Therefore, we are deeply humbled by expressions of admiration, congratulations and respect bestowed on the Japanese players by the general public of South Africa. I am very grateful for the sportsmanlike attitude of the South Africans and cannot help but wonder the reasons for the progress of the Japanese national team.

I believe the improvement of the Brave Blossoms should be attributed to their sustained efforts to develop, backed by the Japanese work ethic.

Simply described, this ethic is based on the idea that hard work is intrinsically virtuous and worthy of reward.

The ethic is founded on the principles of diligence, perseverance, discipline, respect and team-work, which are synonymous with Japanese culture and essential to achieving one’s goals. These virtues have been passed on from generation to generation and are deeply rooted in the Japanese culture.

Visit any educational institution, sports stadium or workplace in Japan and you will see the Japanese work ethic in action. It is these virtues which were evident in our national team as they surprised the world with their victories over Samoa and the US as well.

In the business world, our work ethic has seen Japan become a world leader in the automotive, electronics, robotics and information and communication technologies industries, among many others. Our companies are renowned for their innovation and quality of workmanship, and their products can be found in markets all around the world. It is also this work ethic that governs our relations with our trade partners and which has led to much success in our stated mission of supporting development in Africa and South Africa.

Historically Japan has opened its arms to foreign cultures and systems, while maintaining its own traditions. This has injected energy, vitality and diversity into Japanese society. For instance, just after the samurai era ended around 1868,  young reformists travelled to European countries to learn how to achieve industrialisation and then integrated core European principles into Japanese industrial culture. By continuously being open to learning from others and adapting what they have learnt, the Japanese have excelled in many areas. And in the case of rugby, this has started to pay off.

It is my hope that young people in Japan, South Africa and in other countries around the world are reminded that a strong work ethic is key to reaching one’s goals, no matter the field of endeavour.

Therefore, I would like to encourage the young generation to establish a culture in which success is measured by hard work. To be able to participate and compete in the global economy, one needs virtues such as reliability, productivity and dedication – important building blocks of a strong work ethic.

Just as the Japanese has learnt from people in other nations, we can also share our Japanese ways with friends in Africa.

In 2015, South Africa and Japan celebrated 105 years of bilateral relations and I am pleased to see that  Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma at the G20 Summit meeting at Brisbane in 2014 and agreed to work together for the success of the 6 Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) which will be held on the African soil in 2016 for the first time in its history.

At the 5 TICAD held in Yokohama, Japan in 2013, the need for human resource development in Africa was recognised, as was the value of increasing the number of African people visiting Japanese companies to observe the culture of  Japanese enterprise  systems.

That is why I am delighted that the African Business Education (ABE) Initiative for Youth is providing opportunities for 1,000 young African men and women to study Master’s courses at Japanese universities and to gain valuable work experience through internships at Japanese companies.

In addition, at the third Japan Seminar in Johannesburg last September, I am delighted to hear that the Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa supported the idea of Japan’s efforts to provide training to South African artisans. As the Department of Higher Education and Training has said, I understand that South Africa has entered  ‘‘the Decade of the Artisan’’, and the fostering of skilled workers are required for further infrastructure and industrial development in this country.

I hope these Japanese initiatives will help young and talented South Africans to further develop their strong work ethic, and to gain effective skills and knowledge, which will sustain industrial development in South Africa and the rest of countries on this continent.

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