As a veteran diplomat, Japanese Ambassador to Indonesia Mr. Tanizaki Yasuaki needs no introduction on how to navigate through this country’s political intricacies. He had come to Jakarta after successful stints in Austria, the Philippines, Russia, Germany and Vietnam, bringing with him fresh ideas on how to move Japanese-Indonesian relations forward. Now entering his third year here, the Ambassador says he’s looking forward to developing cultural ties between the two countries. That, while honing his skills as an avid diver. NOW! Jakarta had the pleasure of chatting with Mr. Yasuaki about his work and passion for exploring more of Indonesia’s marine biodiversity.
How would you characterize the relationship between Japan and Indonesia today?
The relationship between the two countries has been very excellent over the years as we have established solid partnership with Indonesia since decades ago. Even though the global economy has been reforming over the past few years, Indonesia still managed to strengthen its position as a favourite investment destination in the world during these competitive times. Japan and Indonesia economy affiliation mostly comes from trade relations and investment. Japan is the largest importer of Indonesian goods and the second largest exporter to Indonesia. We’re also the third largest direct investor in this country, with an approximate amount of investment reaching three billion US dollars.
With over 1,700 Japanese companies operating in Indonesia, how important would you say Indonesia is to Japan’s economy, and what needs to be done to improve the investment climate?
Indonesia is crucial to Japan and we also believe that Japanese investment plays an important role to Indonesian economy. Japanese investment is very unique and advantageous for Indonesia, as we’ve been creating huge job opportunities here through the manufacturing industry. This is also supported by official figures provided by the Investment Coordinating Board of the Republic of Indonesia (BKPM), which showed that Japanese companies in Indonesia have provided employment for more than 110,000 people. And although Japanese businessmen occupy top management levels in most companies, a lot of them employ staff and engineers from Indonesia, which means they can transfer the technology to be adapted in Indonesia, so there is knowledge and skill exchange between the two nations. While investor relations have been excellent, there is always room for improvement in terms of speed, especially when it comes to licensing and administration matters. We hope bureaucratic processes can be more straightforward in the future.
What are main sectors of Japanese investment here today?
If we look back at the economic relations and development between Japan and Indonesia, the first (and main) industry we are concentrating on are mining and manufacturing. Nevertheless, Japanese investment has been shifting to new industries lately. The automotive industry also important in our investment as brands like Toyota and Honda are very well received in the Indonesian market. Interestingly, we are entering a new trend today that we call ‘the third industry’, which refers to retail industry. This new trend was marked by the opening of AEON Mall BSD last year. AEON Mall is a leading Japanese retail group that aims to create a strong footprint in Asia and Indonesia. AEON has been very successful and now they are planning to open several new malls in the Greater Jakarta area.
One of the commitments made after the bilateral meeting between President Joko Widodo and PM Shinzo Abe earlier this year is the development of Patimban Port in Subang. How is this area progressing?
Japan is greatly involved in the development of Patimban Port, which is slated to be an international seaport with a 7.5-million TEU (twenty-foot equivalent units) capacity. This project is very important for both countries. There are many factories operating close to the area so we need to have more convenient access to the port. Patimban Port is expected to improve the flow of goods to - and from - the industrial estates in the regions east of Jakarta, for example Karawang and Cikarang. We currently rely on Tanjung Priok Port as the country’s largest seaport that handles about two-thirds of Indonesia’s international trade. Once Patimban Port is completed, factories will have other options and alternatives besides Tanjung Priok, and hopefully the traffic congestion can be reduced. Right now, we are working on the detail design, which means we’re very close to begin construction. The Patimban Port is targeted to be finished by the end of 2019.
Japan is a popular holiday destination for Indonesians. Any personal suggestions for tourism destinations in Japan for Indonesian travelers?
Compared with 2014, last year there was a 30-percent increase in the number of Indonesian tourists to Japan. We encourage travelers to visit not only the capital, Tokyo, but also to explore other local destinations. Many travel agents have different interesting programmes for every season, so do not hesitate to check on them to make the most of your holiday in Japan. Besides visiting Japanese famous cities like Sapporo, Hokkaido and Kyoto, I’d suggest visiting a small town near the Japanese Alps named Kanazawa that is known for its well-preserved Edo Period districts, art museums and regional handicrafts. Visitors can find beautiful hills, lush gardens, dozens of traditional temples and a classic castle that will transport you back to the gorgeous old Japan in the late sixteenth century. Also travelers can bring home beautiful traditional souvenirs and handicrafts like origami or pottery especially made by local people.
We’ve been told that you love traveling and diving. Please tell us about your recent trip and your favourite destinations in Indonesia. What are your thoughts?
Scuba diving is my hobby and I have 25 years of experience in that field. I just came back from Raja Ampat recently and I must say that my diving experience in the island was the best so far. Its underwater life was amazing and very beautiful. Besides Raja Ampat, my favourite diving spots are Bali and Manado. Indonesia is blessed with natural beauty and resources, but there is always room for improvement, especially in terms of infrastructure and transportation.
Finally, please tell us about your professional objectives in the future?
Since our two countries’ economic relations and investment are already excellent, I want to focus on the cultural aspect. I think cultural events should be added, as many young Indonesians want to know more about Japan through music, film, sport and so forth. Jak-Japan Matsuri 2016 is being held on September 3 to 4 and in 2018, we are planning to hold a one-year cultural festival in order to celebrate the 60th
anniversary of Indonesia-Japan diplomatic relations. With these activities, we hope to strengthen the interactions between both countries in the field of arts, culture and education.