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This is the philosophy of Youliana Antonova whose diplomatic career began in the early 1990s in Asia, where she was a cultural attache in Beijing and Tokyo. She went on to become a Minister Plenipotentiary and held other diplomatic specialist posts in Delhi and Dubrovnik. By Aneta Nedyalkova
As a long-time diplomat married to a Japanese Youliana has lived in various places around the world – Germany, England, Russia, China and India. During the great earthquake in 2011, when our embassy in Tokyo remained without a consul because of its emergency evacuation, Youliana opened the doors to her home, sheltered our countrymen and worked 24 hours a day on a new term as a consul. After her mandate, she remained in Tokyo with her husband, Takashi. In the spring of 2017, Youliana published her first book “Moshi, Moshi, Japan”, which has achieved an outstanding reader interest in Bulgaria.
Japan sounds like a fairy tale country. How would you describe it?
The pale pink colors of the ephemeral blossoming cherry, the emerald colour of the matcha green tea, and the red disk of the rising sun over the horizon in the early morning when the fishing boats set off into the sea, are my three strongest impressions of this beautiful country.
You recently published a book about Japan with wonderful stories that really take us to a fairy-tale world. Are there any common features between Japan and Bulgaria?
Yes, after “Moshi Moshi, Japan”, which has already been in bookstores for eight months, I’m preparing a second book. Bulgaria and Japan have something very much in common – Bulgarians traditionally experience warm feelings and sympathy for Japan. The Japanese also like us – I have never met anyone here who wasn’t interested in the beautiful Bulgarian rose, our delicious yoghurt, the beautiful colours of Bulgarian costumes and our white shirts with unique embroidery. In doing so, they truly think and sincerely share that we are very beautiful people, and each one of us has huge, magical eyes full of intellect and wisdom.
Every culture has its peculiarities – what must a Bulgarian who comes with business interests in Japan know?
Very important is preliminary preparation for meetings, and an excellent presentation of a project or company. Without any “in the moment” improvisations. Also important is accuracy. What distinguishes Japanese businessmen in their meetings with businessmen and partners from Bulgaria or other countries is a very important word: “yazaka”. This is the typical old Japanese restaurant with low wooden tables – hosts always invite their guests to such a place. This is how first contacts and acquaintances are made, not through correspondence and paperwork. The Japanese want to hear who or what kind of person their business partner is, what are his tastes, the family environment – they would spend one evening on Sunday talking and sharing impressions and stories on a human plane.
Where in Japan can we meet Bulgarians?
For the most part, Bulgarians here are lecturers, researchers, bank employees, corporate employees or computer specialists. We have a musician in a symphony orchestra, employees in companies importing wines, rose oil and water.
You are one of the most sought after Bulgarians in Japan – do you get tired of helping us unreservedly and with enormous energy? What motivates you?
When we are having a cup of tea or dinner, or at exhibition openings, when I present my Japanese friends to my Bulgarian ones, I see such a spontaneity in the relationship that the Bulgarians who have been here have gone on to “develop” these unexpected occasions into further meetings, in conversations or new visits. How can I not be happy about it!
Which Bulgarian artists present their works in Japan and how are they adopted?
Visits by our opera, Theodosii Spassov, Valya Balkanska, Vesko Eschkenazy, exhibitions of Christo and Georgi Chapkanov, performance of “The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices” and archeological exhibitions like “The Riches of the Thracian Rulers” are the right direction for the development of Bulgarian – Japanese relations over the years.
What do you dream about in your free time?
I want to share the truth and the love in my heart with the world and especially with my compatriots. To set our minds to agree to “higher” things, regardless of distance.