This year Germany celebrates 20 years since the Berlin Wall was torn down and the country started on the road to reunification. Weekender’s Bill Hersey caught up with German Ambassador Hans Joachim Daerr as he prepared to return to his home country.

How long have you been in Japan?

This time, three years and four months.

What will you miss most about living here?

The people―Japanese people are very sensitive and considerate, and we will of course miss all our friends we made over the years. My wife Alexa and I will greatly miss the embassy garden, one of the finest in Tokyo. In Berlin we only have a small garden, but the city has lots of big parks.

How have your goals been during your time here?

It is very important to increase scientific cooperation between Germany and Japan. I would like to see my country play a more important role in public diplomacy, and I want to make Germany more interesting and relevant to the Japanese public, particularly young people.

What does your National Day represent?

On October 3 we Germans celebrated the Day of German Unity. On that day in 1990, after 40 years of separation, the former East Germany, a product of World War II and the following Cold War, joined the Federal Republic of Germany. Earlier this year, on May 23, we celebrated the 60th anniversary of our now common constitution, which was drafted and adopted in 1949 by a parliamentary assembly which was not allowed to represent all of Germany.

And in a few weeks time, on November 9, we will again have a reason to celebrate: 20 years have passed since the fall of the Berlin Wall, which started of the process of German reunification. And this, indeed, is a cause of celebration for all of us, since it changed the world by ending the division of Europe and the East-West confrontation worldwide, the negative effects of which spared almost no country. We Germans will always remember with gratitude the decisive role some of our Eastern neighbors (and now partners within the EU) played in preparing the ground for the fall of the Berlin Wall.

What events are planned in Tokyo?

Many Japanese still today have vivid memories of that historical event, and around 40,000 Japanese cherry trees donated by them grace the reunited city of Berlin. Here in Tokyo we will use the outside of the wall surrounding our embassy premises to display a photographic documentation of the construction, the sufferings caused, the opening, and the demolition of the Berlin Wall.

What does the future hold for Japan and Germany?

While we can look back with some pride, the challenges ahead are looming large. Japan and Germany have been hit especially hard by the worldwide financial and economic crisis. It did not originate in our two countries, but we have to overcome it, together with other partners, by coordinated programs of economic stimulation, the defense of free trade, and measures which hopefully prevent recurrence of such a crisis.

At the same time, we cannot afford to neglect the longer term global problems like peace and stability, energy safety, climate change, world health issues and disaster prevention. Everywhere Japan and Germany have an important role to play, and when we cooperate effectively, the result will be even better, from arms control to energy saving, from development cooperation to non-proliferation, from the eradication of diseases to environmental protection.

Do you have a final message for Japan?

I would like to avail myself of this opportunity to thank Japan for its friendship which we in the Federal Republic of Germany have enjoyed throughout the last 60 years. In particular, we will always remember the support and sympathy from the Japanese government and people for German reunification. We look forward to further deepening our friendship with Japan and to pass it on to younger generations. I am convinced that there is a multitude of fields in which we can successfully cooperate. Finally, on behalf of all Germans living in Japan, I would like to thank the Japanese people for their overwhelming hospitality. We feel welcome in your country and, indeed, at home.

Photo credit:
Photo courtesy of Hans Joachim Daerr