Embassy of Japan shares its national heritage with the University of Pretoria

Posted on October 10, 2011

The Ambassador of Japan, His Excellency, Mr Toshiro Ozawa singled out the establishment of the Centre for Japanese Studies (CJS) at UP’s Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) and the planting of 100 cherry trees in South Africa as the two Legacy projects of the centenary celebrations.

The cherry blossom tree, the national tree of Japan, blossoms in the southern hemisphere during September. The Ambassador said the planting of the trees at the University of Pretoria symbolises a friendship between the Embassy and the University. He described cherry blossom flowers as beautiful but short lived. “The cherry blossom flower is beautiful, yet fragile. It symbolises the ephemeral nature of beauty”, said Ambassador Ozawa.

The donation forms part of the 100 cherry blossom trees donated by the Embassy to various institutions and organisations in South Africa, and symbolises the establishment of official relations between South Africa and Japan dating back to 1910.

The Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University, Professor Cheryl de la Rey, reminisced about the year 2010, memorable in particular for South Africa's hosting of the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup. She added that the centenary of bilateral relations between South Africa and Japan is an equally memorable event.

Professor de la Rey said the establishment of the Centre for Japanese Studies at GIBS was one the flagship Legacy projects of the 2010 centenary celebrations and the Centre has already contributed to the development of business relations between South Africa and Japan.

The planting of the cherry blossom trees comes at the beginning of the jacaranda season, which is highly symbolic in Pretoria. For the University of Pretoria, jacaranda trees are laden with meaning and figure prominently in institutional mythology. "Jacaranda trees are part of our institutional culture, and tree blossoms have an important symbolic meaning for us as a University", said Prof de la Rey.

She said the University of Pretoria values the cherry blossom trees, equally laden with meaning and symbolic of bilateral relationships between South Africa and Japan, ties that will continue to grow and blossom just like the trees. "The University of Pretoria community will embrace this garden which will become a site that reminds us of the history of our relationship, and also a site which will inspire us to expand and deepen our mutual cultural understanding for the benefit of humankind", concluded Prof de la Rey.

The Japanese Ambassador, His Excellency Mr Toshiro Ozawa, and University of Pretoria's Vice-Chancellor and Principal Prof Cheryl de la Rey opening the plaque of the garden of the newly planted cherry blossom trees.

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