A warm welcome to everyone and thank you for joining us here today. I am pleased and very honoured to open this press launch of the exciting and varied programme of events which will take place throughout Japan this year to mark St Patrick’s Day.
Although St Patrick’s Day, Ireland’s National Day, falls on 17 March, events will take place throughout the month of March and even into April to celebrate.
Our latest Ireland in Japan Guide lists a whole range of events taking place around the country, including the newest parade in Yokosuka city which takes place for the first time this year.
The many events in this Guide show just how the awareness and popularity of St Patrick’s Day has grown over the last few years in this country, all of which serves to deepen further the strong links between Japan and Ireland.
Matsue for example has a very interesting event in March which highlights Ireland’s connection with the city through the Irish writer, Lafcadio Hearn. The shrine entrance at Ise -Jingu will be lit up in green and a special music and poetry event will be held there this year to mark Ireland’s economic and human links with the city.
In Nagoya the organisers of the St Patrick’s Day parade will theme their event on the special anniversary taking place in Ireland this year to commemorate the centenary of the dawn of Irish independence. Many other events in Japan, including the popular Parade in Yokohama’s Motomachi area, will also commemorate this key milestone in our history.
We will also remember the Great East Japan Earthquake, particularly at the Tokyo parade and I Love Ireland Festival in Yoyogi, with a message of support and hope for the people who are still living with the consequences of the disaster which happened 5 years ago next month.
My friends beside me, Mr Somers and Mr Tsuchiya, will provide more details on events being run by the Irish Network Japan and the Ireland Japan Chamber of Commerce, respectively.
But it is a wonderful testament to the friendship that exists between our two countries that this range of events will take place this year and will be enjoyed by so many people.
I hope that the increasing popularity of St Patrick’s Day, will lead to an increasing awareness and understanding of Ireland and our culture and through that, to a stronger friendship between our two countries.
Finally, Green is the colour of Ireland and its beautiful lush scenery and rich Celtic heritage, and, the world over, people wear green for St Patricks Day! So I urge everyone attending events in Japan this March to wear something green, join in the family fun, and raise a glass to friendship on St Patricks Day!