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Interview:
Consul General Toshiyuki Iwado

• The new Consul General of Japan in Chicago, Toshiyuki Iwado, arrived at Chicago in late March.
• He was born in June, 1956 in Tokyo and raised in Okayama City from grade school to high school. He obtained an MA in agriculture from University of Tokyo in 1982 and joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

• Q: I heard that you were a researcher about trout when you were in graduate school.

• Iwado: Yes, I was. When juvenile trout in a farm are infected by Flavobacterium, tens of thousands of them die. I made a hypothesis that their death was caused by lack of oxygen because of the proliferation of gill cells due to the infection, and the space between blood vessel and water was widened, consequently they were not able to intake oxygen. I proved it through numerous experiments and wrote my thesis.
• I also made suggestions to save juvenile trout from Flavobacterium infection. The bacterium hits them and disappears after a week, so improving water flow in a farm or pumping oxygen during the week works well.

• Q: As a researcher, why did you join the Ministry of Foreign Affairs?

• Iwado: I liked fish since I was a child, so I thought that I would work in an experimental laboratory in the Farm Ministry. I passed the exam for the National Public Service and could hold it for two years, so I attended the graduate school.
• When I finished the school, the Foreign Ministry was looking for some diplomats who had studied in the fishery field, due to the 200-mile fishing range, so I was selected. Being a diplomat was very different from my field, but I thought that it was O.K. because my nature was optimistic.

• Q: Was your first assignment in California?

• Iwado: It was a year of English study through a training program. I was there from 1985 to 1986.

• Q: After that, where did you work?

• Iwado: My first job assignment was working in the Embassy of Japan in Canada from 1986 to 1989. During this period, Toronto Summit and interim review of the Ministerial Council on GATT were held. I also visited the U.S. including New York, Washington, and Seattle both for my job and privately.

• Q: After the Embassy, did you return to Japan?

• Iwado: Yes. From 1989 to 1993, I was assigned to work in the Economic Cooperation Bureau, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which administrated budget and other affairs of JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) at that time. JICA’s activities were based on international agreements, and reaching agreements were Foreign Affair’s job.
• Through my assignment, I made many business trips overseas, including Africa and Cambodia, where an internal conflict was just ended. The trilateral cooperation, which involved Japan and neighboring Asian countries, started to help Cambodia.

• Q: You moved to the Second Africa Division in 1993?

• Iwado: Yes. It was the year that the first Tokyo International Conference on African Development was held, and I worked for its preparation. I employed the South-South Cooperation, which involved Japan, Asian countries, and African countries that enabled us to promote cooperation between Asia and Africa. Probably, the name of South-South Cooperation was officially used in Japan for the first time.

• Another impressive job was welcoming President Nelson Mandela of South Africa to Japan as a state guest. I went to his country to bring an invitation. He was a stout person. I thought that he was probably 6 feet, 4 inches tall. Unfortunately, I couldn’t see him when he came to Japan because I was in charge of arranging his stay in Japan.

• Q: What was your next assignment?

• Iwado: After worked for Intelligence and Analysis, I was assigned to Embassy of Japan in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan as First Secretary from 1998 to 2001.

• Q: You experienced extremely hot temperatures there.

• Iwado: A display always showed a maximum temperature of 49 degrees in Celsius (120 F). I wondered, “Today is hotter than yesterday,” but the display showed the same 49 degrees. It seemed not to get to 50 degrees. When I opened a car door, my fingers were sometimes burned.

• Pakistan implemented nuclear tests on June 3, 1998. I went there after the test, so I didn’t experience it, but ballistic missile experiments, a military coup, and rocket bomb terrorism occurred. When I attended Independence Day ceremony, a bomb exploded, and sand fell on my head.
• Islamabad is a preplanned city, so it is beautiful, but bombs exploded everywhere at that time. You were O.K. if you didn’t go dangerous areas.

• Q: Did you have cultural exchanges?

• Iwado: There were some, but it was pretty hard. Japan stopped economic assistances after the nuclear tests, and Japanese consultants and construction companies returned to Japan. It was a very hard time.

• In that circumstance, a heart-warming thing was that about 30 members of Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers remained in Pakistan. They were helping the people under the sanction period. Because of the difficult situation, they were closely united with us. Before my departure to Chicago, they got together from all over Japan and held a farewell party for me.

• Another incident was that an Air India plane was hijacked in the late December, 1999 and a Japanese passenger was taken as a hostage. I went to Taliban-ruled Kandahar airport to make sure of the safety of the Japanese hostage and stayed there for several days. She was eventually released on the New Year’s Eve, so I decided to return to the Embassy in Pakistan. Many of you remember the computer-related problems stemming from the change to 2000 and avoided taking flights on January 1, 2000. I flew back to Islamabad on that day.

• Q: You had such an adventure! Did you move to Geneva, then?

• Iwado: Yes. I worked both with UNCTAD, the International Agency which works to reduce disparities between developed and developing countries, and WTO from 2001 to 2003. The year I arrived in Geneva, an agreement was reached to start Doha Round negotiations. Two years later, I was ordered to return to Japan, but I attended WTO Ministerial Conference held in Cancun in 2003. A day before the Conference, the negotiation broke down. I was very disappointed and return to Japan.
• In Geneva, I was working for Development Agenda, considerations for developing countries rather than negotiation itself. On the other hand, WTO was aimed to establish trade rules; thus, it was very difficult to reflect UNCTAD’s considerations within the WTO negotiation. I did my best, but the gap was profound.

• Q: You then returned to the fishery field.

• Iwado: I became Senior Coordinator of the First International Economy Division and at the same time Director of Fishery Division in Economic Affairs Bureau in 2003.
• As a representative of the Japanese Government, I dealt with whaling issues in IWC. I tried to reach an agreement based on scientific evidence; however, discussions were overwhelmed by emotion from opposition countries rather than talking about the situation. The scientific evidence clearly showed that the whale population has increased.
• I also worked on the conservation issue of Atlantic tuna and continental shelf issues.

• Q: You also worked on immigration issues in Japan?

• Iwado: Yes. From 2006, I became Director of Foreign Nationals’ Affairs Division in Consular Affairs Bureau. Some Japanese companies, which accepted foreign workers for job training, had them work at different jobs, and worker incidents were becoming a bigger issue. In some cities where many immigrant families resided, schools had education problems. Teaching by the Japanese language no longer worked for the immigrants’ children, and some sorts of aid were called for.
• I invited specialists from Germany, which had good reputations on immigrant issues, and other countries, and opened a symposium. I believed that the symposium was a good opportunity to share thoughts on the immigrant issue among Japanese people. Both the hosting community and immigrants have to think about how to get along with each other. I willingly worked on the issues.

• Q:Then you worked on piracy in Somalia.

• Iwado: I became Counsellor of Office of Headquarters for Ocean Policy in Cabinet Secretariat and worked for making a law to prevent threats from the piracy epidemic.
• UN Convention on the Law of the Sea states that countries are able to crack down on piracy when they are hit. Adapting from the Law, I drafted a law to crack down on piracies not only offshore of Somalia but also on any ocean. The Congress supported it and it became a new law, which enabled the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force to sail with Japanese vessels.

• Q: You were then assigned to go to Finland.

• Iwado: Yes. In 2009 I was sent to the Embassy of Japan in the Republic of Finland as Counsellor, then Minister, and stayed there for three and a half years. About 100,000 Japanese visited Finland every year both for business and sightseeing. It is a beautiful country with a fairy-tale atmosphere. It is also a business hub.

• Q: You were there when the great earthquake happened in Japan in 2011.

• Iwado: Oh, yes. We kept a space in Helsinki airport on that day to brief Japanese travelers about what happened because they departed Japan before the disaster occurred. A great number of Japanese arrived at the airport, so we had to inform them before they transferred to other cities. Some travelers wanted to return to Japan immediately, and we helped them.

• Q: How were the people of Finland?

• Iwado: They were very much worrying about Japan. Famous rock musician Michael Monroe held a concert to help only Japanese victims.
• Sauli Väinämö Niinistö, then Speaker of the Parliament of Finland and now president, expressed his condolence in parliament, and that was only the second time in the parliament’s history.
• President Niinistö himself was a survivor of the big earthquake in Bali. He was in an island of Thailand at that time and hit by tsunami. He climbed up a utility pole and survived.
• Many people came to the Embassy to express their condolences, and I was touched by the people of Finland.

• Q: Did you have cultural exchanges?

• Iwado: I enjoyed them a lot. There were so many exchange events including music, judo, aikido, kendo, and kyudo. Ladies were enjoying cosplaying every weekend. Even today, some girls visit Japan with costumes.

• Q: Did you have romantic experiences in Finland?

• Iwado: Unfortunately, I had none. But after returning to Japan, several people who worked in the Embassy came to see me. A yakitori restaurant near my home in Tokyo played the National Anthem of Finland when Finns came in. I think that everyone loves Finland.

• Q: It was 2012 when you returned to Japan.

• Iwado: Yes. I became Director General of International Department, Secretarial of the House of Representatives and arranged the schedules for Diet lawmakers to visit abroad.
• Then I became Principal Fellow of Institute for Global Environmental Strategies in July, 2014.

• Q: How do you like Chicago?

• Iwado: Japanese people tend to see the West Coast and East Coast, but I thought that it might be wrong. I want them to pay more attention to Chicago and the Midwest.
• I was invited by neighbors on Easter Sunday and introduced to many people. They are very friendly and frankly asked me questions. I was very comfortable with them and had a nice time. The first woman who became CEO of a big company was there.

• Q: Could you tell us about your plans in Chicago?

• Iwado: Here are already good environments where American people support a good relationship with Japan. I would like to expand the relationship even more. I also would like to listen to people and talk with them sincerely.

• Q: Could you tell us about your after-five life?

• Iwado: I love outdoor activities. One is climbing a mountain. Once I climbed Kita Dake in Southern Alps in Japan. It was 3,192 meter high. Mount Fuji is a future challenge.
• I do jogging and muscle training for mountain stream fishing. I think that I can enjoy local fishing here, too.
• I have competed in a half marathon five times so far.

• Q: Thank you very much.


Consul General Toshiyuki Iwado