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Ukrainian-Japanese cultural ties: results are better than conversation


The State Archives of Odessa region is proud of its foreign connections. The popularity of the archives is evidenced by the fact that from 2005 to 2015 in the reading room researched a variety of topics scientists from 37 countries. Among them were guests from Japan.


Thus, in 1996, Tacio Sahara, a graduate student at the University of Tokyo, who studied the activities of the Odessa Greek Charitable Society, worked in the archives. Hokkaido University professor Sida Kyoko studied the polyethnic policies of the governor-general of Novorossiysk and Bessarabia.

In 2014, Sakon Yukimura, a professor at the Faculty of Economics at Niigata University, worked on “The Black Sea Merchant Navy in the Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries.” As we can see, Japanese scholars are interested in other ethnic communities and the international relations of the Russian Empire, Japan’s closest neighbor.

Odessa and Japan have their own history of relations. In particular, it is a continuation of the twinning ties with the city of Yokohama, which were established in 1965.

Half a century of friendship is a tradition marked by a number of significant events. The brightest period of cultural exchange began in 1984, when the Deputy Chairman of the Odessa City Council Halyna Izuvita initiated a systematic approach to the development of international relations. In 1984, she headed a delegation from Odessa to Japan, which included well-known representatives of science, culture, education, medicine, including Dean of the Faculty of History of Odessa University Zaira Pershina, member of the Union of Artists of Ukraine Mykola Vilkun, rector of Odessa Medical Institute and chairman of Odessa Regional Society of Friendship with Japan Igor Ilyin.

The following year, 1985, G. Izuvita and the director of the Odessa Art Museum Natalia Kasko, during a visit to Yokohama, organised an exchange of art exhibitions and the publication of catalogs. Over the next ten years, this friendship was reinforced by regular events – the exchange of professional experience between doctors, musicians, actors, the residence of Japanese children in Odessa families and vice versa.

Model of the Japanese imperial palace with hina dolls in the collection of the Odessa Museum of Eastern and Western Art

A special role in the development of relations between Yokohama and Odessa was played by the chairman of the Japanese Society of Friendship with Ukraine, Ms. Akiko Mitsukawa. It was she who kept a photo chronicle of the events and gave the people of Odessa photo albums in memory. There are such gifts in the personal archive of Mrs. Halyna Izuvita. In 2015, she kindly transferred their digital copies to the State Archives of Odessa region as a valuable source of historical evidence of the twinning of cities.

During the independence of Ukraine, good traditions were continued. Thus, in 1995, an official delegation of Odessa headed by Mayor Eduard Hurwitz visited Yokohama to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the establishment of twinning relations.

In 1996, Yokohama was visited by a sports delegation from Odessa led by Olympic champion-athlete Nadezhda Olizarenko, who took part in the International Yokohama Marathon.

In 1997, a Japanese film festival was held in Odessa, initiated by the Embassy of Japan in Ukraine and the Far East Charitable Foundation.

On July 19-24, 2005, an official delegation of Ukraine, led by President Victor Yushchenko, visited Yokohama to hold talks with Mayor Hiroshi Nakada. The delegation also included Odessa Mayor Eduard Hurvits. That same year, 11 members of the Yokohama-Odessa Friendship Committee, led by Committee Chairman Mr. Kazuo Ando, ​​arrived in Odessa on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the twinning: it was the 14th Japanese delegation to Odessa.

Japanese culture Festival in Odessa, 2017

In 2006, Mr. Norio Tomioka, a representative of the city of Yokohama (Frankfurt office), visited Odessa as part of the City Day celebrations. In 2007, Ms. Yoneyama, a volunteer teacher from Yokohama, organised free Japanese language courses at the ONU Faculty of International Relations. II Mechnikov.

In 2009, Odessa Mayor Eduard Hurwitz congratulated Ms. Fumiko Hayashi on winning the Yokohama mayoral election. In the same year, Mr. Hiroyuki Okamoto, Head of the Yokohama Representation in Europe, visited Odessa to celebrate the 215th anniversary of the founding of Odessa. The following year, 2010, he visited Odessa again on the occasion of the 45th anniversary of the twinning relations between Odessa and Yokohama. This date was widely celebrated with a number of cultural events, such as the Japanese Film Festival; an exhibition of works by Odessa artists, whose paintings were sent to Yokohama as a gift to its inhabitants; competition among students for knowledge of Japanese language, history and culture “What do you know about Yokohama?”; masquerade in the style of “anime” and Japanese street fashion and street performance in Japanese.

From September 9 to 11, 2010, a delegation of the Yokohama-Odessa Friendship Committee visited Odessa. During the visit, talks were held on deepening cooperation between the cities, in particular, the creation of a Japanese-style park in Odessa. In 2015, the first joint event to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Odessa-Yokohama friendship was the Days of Japan in Odessa on September 3-5. As part of the festive program, the Odessa Art Museum organized an exhibition of Japanese dolls, embroidered temari balls, calligraphy and photography. The festival program also included master classes in calligraphy, origami and furoshiki.

On the opening day of the exhibition, the Odessa Art Museum was visited by the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to Ukraine Sumi Shigeki and his wife Sumi Tomoko. Japan remains a friend of Ukraine. On June 6, 2015, the Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe arrived in Ukraine. This was the first visit in the history of bilateral relations between the two countries.

Odessa Cosplay Festival 2019

Japan considers unacceptable the use of force to resolve the situation in Donbass and offered Ukraine loan guarantees in the amount of 1.5 billion dollars, cooperation in the field of “green” investments and donated to Ukrainian law enforcement agencies 1.5 thousand Japanese cars with environmentally friendly engines.

All these events are reflected not only in the media, but also in the departmental archives of the Odessa City Council, museums, newspapers and television companies, which will eventually come to the State Archives of Odessa region in the status of the National Archival Fund and supplement our sources on the history of Ukrainian Japanese relations.

After all, according to a Japanese proverb, results is better than conversation.