[From Decemberber Issue 2014]
Wife of the Republic of Poland Ambassador to Japan
“Poland has been through hard times in history; the territory was carved up by other countries and we suffered tremendous damage in WWII,” says Iwona KOZACZEWSKA. “We’ve nevertheless managed to rebuild and develop. The Poles are a nation that unites in adversity and can cooperate and strive for reconstruction. I believe we share this national character trait with Japanese. Our two peoples also have a similar sensitivity to music. The Polish musician Fryderyk CHOPIN is popular in both countries.”
Kozaczewska came to Japan in August 2012. “I was surprised by the heat and humidity of Japan’s summer. In Poland, the temperature in summer can rise close to 30°C, but it’s dry and pleasant,” she says. “I also had a hard time in Japanese cities because few streets have names. The subway at the beginning was very complicated, too.”
“When I get lost and open a map, however, a Japanese person immediately speaks to me to help me out,” Kozaczewska says with a smile. “Just the other day, I got lost while trying to walk on my own to the nearest station from our embassy. Almost immediately, a young Japanese lady offered me her assistance in getting to the station,” says Kozaczewska. “That kind of hospitability, too, reminds me of Poland.”
She has no difficulty as far as Japanese food is concerned. “Japanese food is great. I love soy sauce, okonomiyaki and miso soup. My husband always laughs because I get hungry and want to eat something as soon as we go out,” says Kozaczewska. “I often go to a conveyor belt sushi restaurant in Shibuya with my two daughters and I really enjoy the choice of ingredients. I was warned by many friends to be careful with nattou as its taste and smell are too much for non-Japanese to handle, but I thought it was interesting to taste it.”
She has no difficulty with raising her children in Japan, either. “In whatever country we are in, what we should teach and what we should tell them are the same,” says Kozaczewska. “It is also wonderful that they are having this opportunity to actually experience such an exciting country as Japan.”
Kozaczewska often travels around Japan with her family. “When we went to Hokkaido, one of our daughters was delighted. She said it was as if we were in Poland. The climate and landscape did indeed resemble our country,” says Kozaczewska.
“Last year, our family traveled to Hiroshima and Nagasaki to attend the A-bomb commemoration ceremonies. We learned about the tragedies caused by the atomic bombs and while traveling, we saw aspects of Japan – like the Japanese way of life – that you wouldn’t find in guide books. We decided to go there by car so that we could explore as many places in Japan as possible. The trip was long, but very meaningful,” she says. “Our daughters were happy that we stopped by Iga, the ninja town. Our elder daughter was particularly interested because she is called Iga herself.”
Japan has a lot of wonderful things that I’d like to take home to Poland: Japanese discipline and politeness; the attachment to tradition; beautiful kimono… Bonsai look spectacular. I’m also attracted to the beauty of pine trees. I found the ones at the Imperial Palace particularly fantastic. If I took home everything I liked in Japan, I’d be stopped at customs because there’s just too much,” she says smiling.
“On the other hand, what I’d like to bring to Japan from Poland is food,” says Kozaczewska with a smile. “We presented Polish donuts, soup and smoked goat cheese at the recent Polish Festival at Roppongi Hills. They sold out right away. They are hard to find in Japan, so you should definitely eat them if you travel to Poland,” she says.
“I’m sure Japanese nature lovers will like Poland,” says Kozaczewska. “Poland still has primeval forest where European bison and storks live. The forests are full of mushrooms, so you can enjoy gathering them. In the Lake District, you can take boat cruises from lake to lake, as well as go fishing.”
“You can enjoy yachting and cruising on the northern Baltic coast, which is also known for its beautiful white beaches. The sand is so fine that even patterns created by the wind are beautiful. A lot of amber nuggets wash ashore on its beaches. As a child, I used to pick them up to present to my grandmother,” she says nostalgically.
“Poland also has lots of things of cultural interest,” says Kozaczewska. “Lazienkowski Park in the capital of Warsaw has the Palace on the Water as well as a famous statue of Chopin. Concerts are often held there. Many historical wooden churches are preserved in Małopolska and the Carpathians as they are listed as World Heritage Sites.”
“In the old capital of Krakow, there’s a museum of Japanese art and technology called ‘Manggha.’ Japanese comics are very popular with young people in Poland, too, but the Manggha of that museum has a different meaning,” says Kozaczewska, laughing. “Feliks JASIENSKI collected Japanese art, including ukyoe. He liked to be called by the nickname Manggha. The museum came to be called Manggha because it contains his collection. The film director Andrzej WAJDA, who’s known to be a Japanophile, was heavily involved with the construction of that museum.”
“Additionally, Wroclaw in southwestern Poland has a Japanese-style garden. As you can see, Poland has a lot of attractions and things related to Japan, so please come and visit. Our economic development in recent years has been remarkable and the streets are full of life,” says Kozaczewska.
“I would advise those foreigners studying the Japanese language to spend as much time as possible in Japan,” says Kozaczewska. “Japan has so many sides to it that it’s impossible to see everything in a short time. They should not only see the skyscrapers, Shibuya and tourist spots that are often shown on TV, they should also explore the back streets on foot. They’ll see that exotic Japanese scenes really exist, scenes that Europeans have seen only in children’s books.”
Photos courtesy of the Polish Embassy’s Tourism Office
Text: SAZAKI Ryo