Address by President Nelson Mandela at the Court Dinner hosted by His Majesty Emperor Akihito and Her Majesty Empress Michiko

4 July 1995

Your Majesties, the Emperor and Empress;
Your Royal Highnesses;
Honourable Prime Minister;
Your Excellencies;
Ladies and Gentlemen.

We are deeply honoured by the invitation you extended to us to visit your beautiful country and for the rare opportunity to be your guests on this august occasion.

May I also, Your Majesties, express our heartfelt gratitude for your warm welcome this morning and for the hospitality with which we have been treated.

We have fond memories of our first visit to your country in 1991. Then, we were able to experience first-hand the empathy of Japan's people with our quest for democracy. Today, we come for the first time as a free people, to thank you for your generous support during those difficult times.

The hours we spent in the serene natural surroundings of Hakone were not only tremendously refreshing. In many ways, the scenery of mountains and lakes of Hakone reminded us of the natural beauty of our own country.

With so much in common in our natural heritage, our two nations, I am sure, will eagerly take advantage of increased co-operation in the field of tourism.

We take pride in informing you that the task of reconciling our people is being accomplished with spectacular results. This has laid a firm foundation for us to start in earnest to address the socio-economic legacy of apartheid. The determination of South Africans and the support of humanity that saw us destroy apartheid, will certainly see us through this equally challenging period.

Your Majesties; the reconstruction of our country is highly appreciated by our people. Your substantial contribution to our Reconstruction and Development Programme does much to help alleviate the poverty and misery that the new government has inherited. Indeed, it is in the interest of both our countries that these relations should grow from strength to strength.

As a free country, South Africa is privileged to be associated with your people and their tremendous achievements. Your country's economic and technological accomplishments stand out as a miracle of our time. From the ruins of conflict only half a century ago, your have risen to become one of the foremost industrial nations of the world.

Through dedication and hard work, "the land of the rising sun" has weathered many storms with determination and amazing success. We, in South Africa who are in the process of freeing ourselves from the legacy of a hideous past, have much to learn from your experiences.

Indeed, much ground has already been covered since South Africa's historic elections last year, to normalise diplomatic relations and deepen economic relations which should redound to the benefit of our peoples. We are tremendously inspired that, in Japan, we have found friends in need and friends indeed.

In as much as Japan played a central role in the revival of this region, so too does South Africa have an important role to play in our region and our continent. As the curtains close on a momentous century, we are confident that a new partnership is being born between South Africa and Japan, between Africa and Asia.

We sincerely hope that our visit will herald a flowering of the friendship between our two nations.

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen;

I ask you to rise and raise your glasses in a toast to His Majesty Emperor Akihito and Her Majesty Empress Michiko and the people of Japan, and to the strengthening of relations between Japan and South Africa.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation