Sunday 23 February 2020

Emperor Naruhito’s 60th Birthday Reception

Report by Therese Sakamoto (FSFA Executive Committee Member)

On Thursday 13th February, Vice-Chairperson Simon Hast and I represented FSFA at Emperor Naruhito’s 60th Birthday Reception which was held at the Japanese Consul-General’s residence in Lansell Road, Toorak. Invitations were extended to government offices, sister city associations, Japanese companies, cultural groups and other promoters and supporters of the Australia Japan relationship. The City of Frankston was represented by Mayor Sandra Mayer and Councilor Colin Hampton.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by Consul-General Mr. Kazuyoshi Matsunaga and his wife Yoko and escorted to the giant marquee on the back lawn to mingle with the other guests whilst enjoying delicious cold beverages and delicate morsels of Japanese cuisine such as sushi, tempura prawns and karaage chicken. Local Japanese companies proudly introduced their products in stalls around the perimeter of the marquee including Choya, Asahi, Kirin, Itoen, Shimora drink companies, plus sake from Saga Prefecture, awamori from Okinawa Prefecture, rice promotion and Kobayashi Healthcare goods.

The formal part of the evening was opened with a lively taiko drum performance by the fabulous Wadaiko Rindo group, who have performed at many of our Japanese Festivals and will do so again in late November this year. A Japanese-born and Australian-raised violinist led all attendees in the national anthems of Australia and Japan, then Consul-General Matsunaga presented his speech. He spoke of the wonderful bonds between our two countries and gave examples of the support Japan received from Australia during its natural disaster recovery in 2011 and Japan’s reciprocity during our recent bushfires and recovery efforts here in Australia this summer. He also talked about the upcoming Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics and the Japanese tennis players’ magnificent results in this year’s Australian Open.

Victorian Members of Parliament also addressed the gathering and gave recognition for the long friendship, support and promotion of Japanese culture which we have received over the past 190 years since our connection commenced. The traditional ‘kagami biraki’ ceremony in which a barrel of sake is opened by the official party, followed by a toast marked the conclusion of formalities.

The Mayor, Councilor Hampton, Simon and I enjoyed a brief chat with the Consul-General and his wife during the evening and were impressed by his knowledge of the Frankston Susono Friendship Association and his praise and recognition of the close personal, not economical, ties that our sister cities demonstrate. What a huge compliment for FSFA to receive!

I felt very privileged for this opportunity to attend such an important event on behalf of FSFA. This year marks Emperor Naruhito’s first birthday since his ascension to the Chrysanthemum Throne in May last year. In Japan, the 60th birthday is called ‘kanreki’ and is one of great importance and celebration as the person has gone through the 12 years of the zodiac 5 times. The birthday person traditionally wears a red cap, red vest and sits on a red zabuton (cushion). I have fond memories of sharing in this celebration of my host mum’s 60th birthday in Susono many years ago.

Therese Sakamoto (FSFA), Frankston Mayor Sandra Mayer, Consul-General Kazuyoshi and Yoko Matsunaga, Deputy Mayor Colin Hampton and Simon Hast (FSFA)