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Yohei Sasakawa
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The Japanese Association of Peru:Visit to Peru (2) [2012/02/15]

Members of the Japanese Association of Peru. Luis Uemura, chairman of the association, is to my left, and Heraldo Marui to my right.

The Japanese Association of Peru:
Visit to Peru (2)

Located in central western South America, Peru is bordered by Ecuador, Columbia, Brazil, Bolivia, and Chile. The country is divided into three distinct geographical areas: the coastal desert that includes the capital, Lima; the highlands, across which the Andes Mountains are spread; and the Amazon basin. I once made a helicopter excursion with Peru’s president at the time, Alberto Fujimori, to the city of Cusco, which served as the capital of the Inca empire, and to Machu Picchu, a UNESCO world heritage site situated on a mountain ridge, in order to distribute clothing to the needy.

Peru has a population of around 30 million, spread over an area 3.4 times larger than Japan. Around 110 years ago, Japanese began to immigrate to Peru, and today some 90,000 people of Japanese descent live and work there. Japanese Peruvians form one of the closest knit overseas Japanese communities in the world, and they undertake various philanthropic activities, including the management of a highly regarded hospital and the establishment of a Japanese cultural center. One individual who has been a force in the community is Luis Uemura, chairman of the Japanese Association of Peru.

Despite the late hour of my arrival, Uemura and other association officers, along with the Heraldo Marui, former director of the Clinica Centenario Peruano Japonesa (Hospital of the 100th Anniversary of Japanese Migration to Peru) kindly met me at the airport.

Despite its limited funds, the association presented me with a $50,000 donation to be used for the Great East Japan Earthquake relief work.

My trip this time included a visit to the newly refurbished Museum of Japanese Immigration. A New Year’s party was held in the evening, with about 300 people in attendance. The celebrations included a ceremonial breaking open of the lid of a barrel of sake with wooden mallets. The guests also helped make rice cakes, taking turns pounding the steamed rice in the mortar three times each. One of the guests pounded the rice with so much force that the mallet broke, which got everybody laughing and made the atmosphere even more festive. Although I had intended to eat at the hotel, I canceled my reservation and instead indulged in the delicious New Year’s dishes the Women’s Association worked so hard to prepare . Old Japanese traditions have been carefully preserved in this distant land, and I spent an enjoyable evening with people in whom the spirit of old Japan was still very much alive.

During a ceremony in 2011 to mark the completion of a hospital funded by the Nippon Foundation, then President Alan Garcia apologized for the Peruvian government’s harsh treatment during World War II of Peruvians of Japanese descent, becoming the first leader of his country to do so. The hospital has built up an excellent reputation because it uses state-of-the-art medical equipment to treat both Japanese Peruvians and other Peruvians. The doctors, nurses and office staff are highly trained and very professional in their manner.

Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 08:28 | URL | comment(0)