Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has visited The Australian National University as part of his historic visit to Australia, in recognition of the University’s long-standing and growing links with Japan.
Prime Minister Abe met several ANU students as well as senior academics.
“I appreciate the warm welcome from the Vice-Chancellor, and I’m delighted to be able to visit The Australian National University, which has deep connections with our country,” he said.
As part of the visit, ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Young AO signed a new agreement with the President of Japan’s Ritsumeikan University, Professor Kawaguchi Kiyofumi.
The MOU will lead to greater cooperation between Ritsumeikan University and the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific, with more undergraduate student exchanges, a new double degree for undergraduate students focusing on Asia Pacific Studies, and greater research collaboration.
Prime Minister Abe said he hoped the MOU would lead to more student exchanges.
“I believe that exchanges between the youths who bear the future of Japan and Australia will further deepen the bond between our two nations, and I sincerely hope that exchanges between the two universities will become ever more active,” he said.
The ANU is home to the Japan Institute, which is Australia’s largest network of scholars with professional expertise on Japan and is a centre for research and education into Japanese language, art, economics, history and politics.
ANU is also home to the Australia-Japan Research Centre (AJRC), which carries out research and dialogue into bilateral economic, trade and finance issues with the support of business and government.
First year engineering and Japanese student Nanumi Starke introduced herself to the prime minister in Japanese, and said the meeting was a great moment in her time at ANU.
“It was a great experience. I’ve never done anything like that,” she said.
“I’ve actually been going to Japanese school for a long time and studying Japanese, so to have an opportunity like that was really fantastic.”
Catherine Hallett, who is doing a PhD on traditional Japanese comic storytelling, said she was delighted to meet Prime Minister.
“It was very exciting. I only found out today I was going to be meeting him,” she said.
“It was wonderful. I was so nervous all day today, but I feel so honoured to be able to have met him.”
Philippa Clark, who is studying Japanese and Korean, wore a traditional Japanese kimono to the event, and was called aside to meet Prime Minister Abe.
“He said to me ‘subarashii’, which means ‘that looks great’. I said I did it myself and he said that’s excellent,” she said.
“Then he shook my hand and then he was on his way. But it was very exciting.”
Prime Minister Abe is the first serving Japanese Prime Minister to visit the ANU campus, although Professor Young noted the prime minister’s father visited the ANU in 1982 when he was Japan’s Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry.
“Indeed it was here in the Common Room of University House that your father met with former ANU Vice-Chancellor and Chancellor, Sir John Crawford, and Professor Peter Drysdale, making it a fitting venue to host your visit tonight,” Professor Young said.
“These are the symbols of the close relationship between the Government of Japan and the ANU.
“Prime Minister, you do us a great honour by making time in your Australian visit to meet with staff and students from the ANU.”