[From May Issue 2015]
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Georgia to Japan
Dr. Levan TSINTSADZE
“The first European sumo wrestler to be promoted to the juuryou (junior grade) division was Georgian. Today we have two successful Georgian sumo wrestlers and we have won gold medals in Olympic judo,” says Dr. Levan TSINTSADZE, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Georgia to Japan. He laughs when he explains that wrestling is a traditional sport in Georgia and that Georgians are strong by nature.
The Ambassador first came to Japan in 1994 as a scientist, and conducted research into plasma physics at the Universities of Hiroshima, Osaka, Kyoto, Tsukuba, and also at the Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute. After he returned to Georgia, he went to Japan again in December, 2013, this time as an ambassador. “I’ve spent so much time in Japan, so it’s a pleasure and an honor to be able to do something for the country. Both Japan and Georgia are such wonderful countries that I’m glad I can work to strengthen our relationship.”
His first impression of Japan was that it was a clean and well-organized country. “Japanese people attach importance to duty and obligation. You find self-organized people in any country of course, but I think the number of Japanese with those values is very high. I’d like to see more people like that in Georgia,” he says.
He quickly got used to life in Japan. “Naturally, any European will have some difficulties in Japan if it’s their first time; just like when Japanese go abroad. I haven’t had any difficulties that I couldn’t overcome,” says the Ambassador. “In the beginning I had a startling impression of the TV programs. I found them a bit strange.”
“My spare time is devoted as much as possible to my son. We take walks in parks, we also used to ride bicycles together,” says the Ambassador. “Other than that, my pastime is reading. I read literary works from different countries in the original language if I can, or in translation if I can’t. I’ve read Japanese literature, too. I enjoyed it and it helped my understanding of Japan’s culture and history.”
Georgia is on the eastern coast of the Black Sea and is about a fifth of the size of Japan. With the discovery of 1.8 million-year-old human bones and evidence of wine-making dating back 8,000 years, Georgia is regarded as the birthplace of the first European civilization. Georgia is the birthplace of wine as well. The wine making tradition has been practiced in Georgia for thousands of years and has been preserved until nowadays almost unchanged.
“After arriving in Japan, I tasted Koshu Wine for the first time and thought it tasted like Georgian wine. That impression was reinforced when I went to Yamanashi Prefecture,” says the Ambassador. A group of researchers has since determined by DNA analysis that Koshu grapes have their origins in Georgia. Georgia is at the crossroads of Western and Eastern civilizations. Koshu grapes must have reached Japan by the Silk Road.
Japan and Georgia have other things in common besides the flavor of their wines. “Both countries have existed since ancient times and we’ve preserved our culture and unique traditions to this day,” says the Ambassador. Japanese hospitality is well-known, but Georgians can compete with Japanese in that area. Georgian hospitality is legendary, guests are considered to be a godsend in Georgia. If someone comes to your place, it means the host is a person worthy of that guest.
The Ambassador says that Georgians consider Japan to be a great country with a long history. He says that it has produced excellent literary works and movies and is a super modern nation that also preserves its old traditions. “Unfortunately, not everyone in Japan knows about Georgia. The number of Japanese tourists to Georgia is increasing, but I’d like this to double or triple. I bet Japanese people would love Georgia once they visited it.”
The Ambassador says that the charm of Georgia is in its rich variety of natural sites. By car, you can cross Georgia east to west, or north to south in about seven hours. The climate keeps changing as you travel. The country has as many as 12 different climatic zones. “After having a good time on the coast of the Black Sea, you can drive to mountains 2,000 meters above sea level. Is there any other country where you can enjoy bathing in the sea and skiing on the same day?” he says, smiling.
“I’d recommend Georgia’s mineral water. The country has as many as 2,400 springs and they are popular for their healthy water. The soil of Georgia is so fertile that our fruits and vegetables are all delicious. Khachapuri, a dish that resembles a cheese bread, is especially good. Georgian cuisine developed under the influence of various Eastern and Western civilizations over the course of centuries. Each region has its specialty and that’s also due to the diversity of climate.”
“Our historical buildings are gorgeous,” says the Ambassador. “Iron making and agriculture have been practiced since ancient times in that part of the world. Georgian is one of the oldest living languages in the world and has its own unique alphabet. Georgia was one of the first countries to accept Christianity as its national religion. We’ve preserved our unique culture despite constant interference from surrounding powers.”
“For sightseeing, I’d recommend historical and cultural monuments, some of them from the fifth century, that are listed as World Heritage sites. The cave dwellings carved into rocks from the 12th century are also impressive. Those who want to relax can see beautiful sights and unwind. Active people can climb mountains or hunt. History buffs can go to historic sites. There are so many ways to enjoy yourself.”
There were quite a few important Georgians well-known in Japan during the days of the former Soviet Union. They were fir-rate scientists, artists, actors, ballet dancers, and singers. Georgians are very talented and positive people.
The Japanese Government changed the transliteration of the name for Georgia from “Gurujia” to “Jo-gia” in April 2015.
Text: SAZAKI Ryo