Why Turkey and Japan should collaborate more?
Turkish people have positive views on Japanese people and culture as they find it both similar and exotic at the same time. According to a public survey in Turkey conducted by the Japanese Foreign Ministry in 2012, 83.2 percent of respondents said relations between Japan and Turkey are “friendly” or “almost friendly.” However, due to the huge physical distance between the two countries I believe that our relations have not been close enough to realize the full potential of what these two countries can achieve if they collaborate.
Relations between the two countries started in the 19th century. A foundational event occurred in 1890, when the Turkish frigate Ertuğrul sank off the coast of Wakayama, Japan, after having an audience with Emperor Meiji. The surviving sailors were taken back to Istanbul by two Japanese frigates. A monument commemorating the Ottoman sailors has been erected in Kushimoto of Wakayama Prefecture, near the Kushimoto Turkish Memorial and Museum. In 2015, marking the 125th anniversary of relations between Japan and the Ottoman Empire, with the support of the Foreign Ministry of Japan and the Turkish government, the movie “125 Years” was released. The motion picture reflects the two historical incidents of Ertuğrul and the Turkish government’s support of Japanese nationals in 1985. In 1985, the almost century-old gesture of kindness was reciprocated during the Iran-Iraq War. As hostilities escalated to an extent that all aircraft were threatened with being shot down, Turkey sent an aircraft in to rescue 215 Japanese nationals who were living in Tehran at the time. The Turkish government had issued a statement, saying: “We have not forgotten the rescue of the sailors aboard Ertuğrul. Thus, once we heard there were Japanese citizens in need of help, we went to their rescue.”
Today, Japan has an embassy in Ankara and a consulate-general in Istanbul. Turkey has an embassy in Tokyo. I think in the age of internet, distance should not matter and we should forge a better alliance with Japan. So far Japan has only been a partner to Turkey in a handful of mega projects like the Bosphorus Bridge.
I had the opportunity to speak with Hirose Kohzo from JETRO, the Istanbul director for economic affairs, and Satoshi Hashimoto who is the deputy director of the Fourth Industrial Revolution Policy Office of the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry.
Both of them really want to increase technological cooperation and strengthen economic ties between the two countries. Hashimoto told me that Japan has already selected some areas in the fourth industrial revolution to focus on in international cooperation. These are: Autonomous driving and mobility services, manufacturing and robotics, biotechnologies and materials, smart life and precision health care and plant and infrastructure safety management.
I know that in all of these five areas there are many companies who can work with Japanese counterparts in Turkey. If we can increase the dialogue between those companies and between the researchers in these companies then we can really boost technological ties with Japan.
Closer partnership with Japan can increase our research and development (R&D) efforts in many technological areas. It would also boost our chances of market entry in the Asia/Pacific region. Asia/Pacific is one of the biggest markets in terms of technology consumption and Turkish companies are virtually non-existent there. We can only change this if we take bold steps to get to know the Japanese culture and way of doing business better.