Remarks by President Tony Tan Keng Yam at the reception for overseas Singaporeans on Sunday, 4 December 2016, 7.00pm at Imperial Hotel in Japan

Minister Lim Swee Say

Senior Minister of State Sim Ann

Ambassador Chin Siat Yoon

Members of Parliament

Ang Hin Kee and Doctor Intan Binte Mokhtar

Fellow Singaporeans and Friends

Ladies and Gentlemen

Good evening. My wife and I are delighted to be here tonight at this gathering among fellow Singaporeans away from home.I am honoured to be making the second ever State Visit by a Singapore President to Japan, especially in this special year. As you know, 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Singapore and Japan, or in short, SJ50. My State Visit is the latest in a series of events to celebrate this significant milestone, which included a visit by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in September.

In the past week, I have had good meetings with Their Majesties Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, as well as several Japanese politicians and business leaders. There was much to discuss given the broad range of cooperation that Singapore and Japan enjoy.  Japan is Singapore’s second largest investor, while Singapore is Japan’s largest Asian investor. Our strong economic ties are underpinned by the Japan-Singapore Economic Partnership Agreement (JSEPA), which we are working to upgrade to better serve Singaporean and Japanese companies.

Beyond the close political ties and robust economic links between Singapore and Japan, it is the strong connection between our peoples that give this bilateral relationship its depth and vibrancy.  This affinity is not surprising given that Singaporeans are so familiar with Japan.  Singaporeans grow up shopping at Isetan, Takashimaya or Daiso, or for those who are not as young, Yaohan or DaimaruWe eat at Japanese restaurants, and visit Japan at various times of the year to immerse in the charming four seasons of Japan. Increasingly, we are also seeing familiar Singapore brand names making their mark in Japan with the likes of Bee Cheng Hiang, Wee Nam Kee Chicken Rice and Mr Bean setting up shop here. I am happy to note that for those of you residing in Japan, you can still savour the taste of home. We hope to see more of such success stories from among our Singaporean companies. 

The greatest manifestation of the goodwill between the peoples of Singapore and Japan was the outpouring of support following the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. Singaporeans and the Government of Singapore raised S$35.7 million that went towards the reconstruction of the affected areas. Tomorrow, I will be visiting one of these reconstruction projects in Miyagi Prefecture – a nursery school for local children which will also serve as an evacuation centre for future emergencies. I hear that the school has adopted the nickname of “Lion Park”, a heart-warming gesture in recognition of Singapore’s contribution. 

As we look towards the next 50 years, our younger generations will have to take up the mantle of further strengthening Singapore-Japan bilateral relations. I am therefore pleased to have jointly witnessed with PM Abe the conclusion of several agreements between our universities and research institutions. These agreements will create more opportunities for closer scientific and educational cooperation, bringing our young talents together.  There is much more that we can learn from each other. During my visit to the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation in Tokyo, I saw how the Japanese have married discipline, ingenuity and creativity to become one of the most innovative economies in the world.  As Singapore transforms itself into a Smart Nation, promoting innovation is one aspect in which we can look to Japan for inspiration.

My Fellow Singaporeans

All of you who live or work in Japan play an important role as ambassadors of Singapore. For many Japanese people, their interactions with you will form a large part of their impression of Singapore. The friendships you build here reflect and contribute to the broader relationship between Singapore and Japan. At the same time, I encourage you to continue keeping up your ties with your family and friends back home. 

Ladies and Gentlemen

As we wrap up the celebrations for SJ50 this year, we look forward to embarking on the next 50 years of excellent relations between Singapore and Japan. I wish all of you continued success in all your endeavours. My wife and I look forward to hearing about your experiences and stories of your time in Japan. 

Have a good evening. Thank you.