“My heart from the Silk Road country Uzbekistan”

This past July I made my first business trip in three years to the Silk
Road country of Uzbekistan in Central Asia.
Since my private visit to Uzbekistan in 2014, friendship between Japan
and Uzbekistan has been one of my life's work.
I have many friends in Uzbekistan.
Uzbekistan is one of the most pro-Japan countries in the world.
However, 95% of Japanese do not know about Uzbekistan.
Uzbekistan is a former Soviet Union country that gained independence in 1991.
The Soviet Union forcibly took 650,000 prisoners of war from the
defeated Japanese army in World War II.
At the same time, 25,000 Japanese POWs were forcibly taken to
Uzbekistan, creating a lot of infrastructure in Uzbekistan.
In 1966, Tashkent was hit by a major earthquake of magnitude 7.
300,000 Tashkent citizens lost their homes.
The Alishernavoi Theater, built by Japanese POWs, was not affected by
the 7-magnitude earthquake of 1966 and saved many displaced people.
The Japanese engineers took pride in their work and kept their word that
they would build a good product, and they were able to complete the
construction of the theater on time.
Many Uzbeks respected the Japanese for their pride in their work.
This story is passed down to the children of Uzbekistan even today.
In Uzbekistan, 812 Japanese POWs were lost.
The Soviet central government ordered the Japanese cemetery to be
destroyed, but the people of Uzbekistan protected it.
This episode made me determined to become a bridge of friendship between
Japan and Uzbekistan.
After three years from my last visit, Uzbekistan has developed greatly,
and the cityscape has changed.
But the blue sky of Uzbekistan, which our grandfathers loved, will never change.

Kotaro OKADA(Mr.)

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