Jamaica gained independence after 450 years of being a Spanish and British colony, and today its motto is, “Out of Many, One People.” Toshio Motoya spoke with His Excellency Mr. C.P. Ricardo Allicock, ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of The Embassy of Jamaica in Tokyo, about the beliefs of the Jamaican people, unique characteristics of Japanese society as seen from outside, and other topics.
(M) Thank you for joining me on Big Talk today.
(A) Thank you for having me.
(M) I met you for the first time in April, after which you also took part in a Wine Tasting and Discussion About Japan article published in Apple Town, this magazine. You also spoke at the Shoheijuku school. Jamaica is still not well known in Japan, and some people don’t even know where it is. I hope you will tell our readers about Jamaica today, which should help develop familiarity and also inspire more people to visit.
(A) I am grateful for this opportunity.
(M) I went to Jamaica and tried trolling more than 20 years ago. I caught a huge fish, although I don’t remember what it was called. I have gone to other Caribbean islands but Jamaica left the best impression on me.
(A) Thank you! It is truly a beautiful island. Trolling is still popular in Jamaica, and there is a large annual tournament for catching marlin. Right before the bubble economy burst, during the 1990s more than 20,000 Japanese tourists visited Jamaica each year.
(M) That’s when I went.
(A) It was a popular honeymoon destination, but honeymooners have decreased since then because the flights are so long.
(M) Are there any direct flights from Japan?
(A) No, you must transfer once in the United States or Canada. You can get to our capital of Kingston or the airport in Montego Bay, Jamaica’s second city that offers easy access to sightseeing spots, via Miami, Los Angeles, Dallas, New York, Toronto, and other cities. It takes one hour and 20 minutes from Miami, 3.5 hours from New York, and six hours from Los Angeles.
(M) Would you share some general information about Jamaica?
(A) Of course. Jamaica is an island country in the Caribbean Sea, to the south of Cuba. It has an area of approximately 11,000 square kilometers, roughly the same size as Akita Prefecture. Jamaica is a multiethnic nation. The population numbers approximately 2.9 million, 90% of which have African heritage and the rest of which is people with Indian, Chinese, and British heritage, as well as people of mixed races. The original inhabitants were the Tainos, but they died out after Jamaica was conquered by the Spanish in 1494. Over the next 150 years it was a Spanish colony. West Africans were brought as slaves and forced to work there. England captured Jamaica from Spain in 1655, and it became a British colony.
(M) So it was a colony for 450 years. I have heard that there were rebellions led by people who were punished harshly, which made it difficult to achieve independence. However, colored nations across the world were lent courage when Japan beat Russia in the Russo-Japanese War that ended in 1905. Japan also proposed that racial equality be included in the Covenant of the League of Nations at the Paris Peace Conference after World War I, which gained many supporters. American President Woodrow Wilson was also in favor, but he rejected the proposal due to opposition from the British territories of Australia and Canada, saying that something so important must be approved by a majority. Japan was defeated in World War II, but I believe it made major contributions to banishing inequality, racial discrimination, and colonialism from the world. Today colonies and racial discrimination have been officially abolished, yet Japan is still a colony for all intents and purposes. I hope that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will revise the constitution to make Japan into a decent, independent nation. The general election poses an ideal opportunity thanks to Kibo no To (the Party of Hope), which is in favor of constitutional change. Even if the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) loses, it is highly probable that National Diet members who want to revise the constitution will gain more seats. As a Jamaican citizen, what do you think of the political situation in Japan today?
(A) While aiming for independence, Jamaica made exceedingly proactive efforts for human liberation. It became independent in 1962, leading to a deep-seated way of thinking that all citizens must determine their own destinies. This is presupposed on the strong conviction that all people are created equal, regardless of gender or skin color. Our motto, which is written on our national coat of arms, is “Out of Many, One People.” Jamaica is also dedicated to governing according to our democratically established constitution. Democracy attaches importance to statements made by all people, so citizens must be able to express their feelings freely. I think this is true for both Jamaica and Japan.
(M) There is a huge volume of news coverage on how Abenomics has failed. However, stock prices are twice what they were when the Abe administration came to power, tax yields and the GDP have risen, and the employment environment is drastically improved. No media outlets report positively on these results. The American and Japanese economies are remarkably good compared to the rest of the world, yet the media is entirely negative. I can understand why President Donald J. Trump refers to the traditional media as “fake news.” Japan is a truly great country with good circumstances, and we should all have a sense of self-confidence. I assume that Jamaicans are proud of their country. I am working to revive Japan as a way for Japanese people to regain pride.
(A) It is a good thing for people to have pride in their country.
(M) Jamaica is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, and its head of state is Queen Elizabeth II of England. There is also a governor-general and prime minister. It seems to me that Queen Elizabeth is the British equivalent of the Emperor of Japan. What does the governor-general do?
(A) He is appointed by Her Majesty, The Queen and is Her Majesty’s representative in Jamaica. He exercises the executive authority of Jamaica and appoints the prime minister, leader of the opposition, cabinet ministers, members of the Senate, the chief of justice, and other members of the Judiciary to office, among other important duties.
(M) Does he have the right of veto in Parliament, for instance?
(A) No, like the Emperor he has no political rights.
(M) I am interested in hearing more about the Commonwealth of Nations, including the structure and financial contributions.
(A) Originally established as an association with historic colonial ties to the United Kingdom, it has expanded to a group of 52 independent and sovereign states, including developed and developing countries such as Canada, Rwanda, Australia, Vanuatu, and Jamaica. Like any multinational organization, there are attendant membership fees, but at a practical level, the Commonwealth is a cost-effective avenue for international engagement. The councils, meeting, and research and advocacy of the Commonwealth prove to be of significant benefit for both large and small members.
(M) Is unity of purpose built regarding various projects in the commonwealth?
(A) It depends on the project. Despite the name, the UK does not have any type of control. It has not been the British Commonwealth since 1949. It is a place where nations engage in close, often times mutually beneficial discussions. Also, not all nations have Queen Elizabeth as their sovereign like Jamaica does. For instance, India is another member state that is a republic led by a president. The same is true for South Africa and Rwanda, which never had ties to the UK.
(M) India’s president is a figurehead, while the prime minister has all the power. Various countries in the Commonwealth have different political systems. What about tariffs between member nations?
(A) There is no economic cooperation and no preferential treatment within this body. This federation strives for mutual gains in many realms.
(M) I would like to ask about industry. Jamaica is known for coffee, especially Blue Mountain. Is there actually a mountain of that name?
(A) There is. This refers to coffee beans grown in the Blue Mountain range, with an elevation from 800 to 1,200 meters, in the Blue Mountains in eastern Jamaica.
(M) Many Japanese people recognize the name “Blue Mountain,” even if they know nothing about Jamaica.
(A) That’s probably because products say “Blue Mountain” without mentioning much about Jamaica. Blue Mountain beans from other countries are not authentic. However, trademark law requires that, when coffee beans are labeled “Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee,” they must be 100% Blue Mountain beans. Seventy percent of Blue Mountain exports are to Japan, but lately the Japanese market has been pushing prices down.
(M) Starbucks and other major coffee companies in the global market are in a frenzy to buy cheap beans. Consumers used to be interested in where their beans came from, such as Blue Mountain, but today they pay more attention to what coffee chain they are sold by. I think this might be driving prices down.
(A) That could be true. The global coffee market is growing and Jamaica is increasing its production. Perhaps prices are falling because the supply is too great.
(M) Are there any exports besides coffee? How about mineral resources?
(A) Our principal exports are bauxite and alumina, the raw materials of aluminum, as well as bananas and sugar cane.
(M) What sightseeing spots do you recommend in Jamaica?
(A) Jamaica is only around 11,000 square kilometers, but it offers many different sightseeing spots. We have an extremely rich natural world and eco tourism is popular. For example, you can stay at a villa in the Blue Mountains and enjoy visiting coffee plantations or trekking. Montego Bay, the major city for sightseeing, has multiple tropical resort areas where you can have luxurious experiences including relaxing on beaches and playing golf. I also recommend Mystic Mountain in central Jamaica. You can take a lift to the summit then zip line down through the forest or bobsled along a rail for a thrilling experience.
(M) I want to try that next time I go there!
(A) Also, Jamaica provides vibrant cultural experiences through live reggae music festivals, dance theater productions, local cuisine festivals, and art exhibitions.
(M) How many years have you spent in Japan?
(A) Four years.
(M) I am sure you have traveled around Japan. What is your impression of this country?
(A) I have traveled from Hokkaido in the north to Okinawa’s Ishigaki Island in the south, which is somewhat like Jamaica.
(M) There is an APA Hotel there.
(A) I stayed at a beach house on the coast instead of the APA Hotel (laughs). There are no other homes for several kilometers along the beach, and I enjoyed taking a boat out to the ocean, snorkeling at the coral reefs, and seeing the beautiful underwater scenery. My impression of Japan is that it has many wonderful places that always offer something new to learn. Many people across the world merely associate Japan with the bustling city of Tokyo or the ancient capital of Kyoto, but these are stereotypical views of Japan. In addition to Ishigaki, all of the places I have visited are wonderful such as Sapporo, Kumamoto, Tottori, and Sendai. My sense is that Japanese people feel and think deeply, but they also quickly open up, even with Jamaicans. I think that Jamaican and Japanese people both have a heartfelt longing for individuality, including freedom and independence.
(M) Throughout its long history, Japan has adopted good things from other countries while rejecting the bad. The citizens are mostly from a single ethnic group, and most of the people are not religious. Thanks to its favorable location, Japan also has a climate with four clearly defined seasons. Our society is uniquely clean and safe. Our public transportation runs on time, which is normal for Japanese people but an astounding thing in other countries. Japanese people also know surprisingly little about themselves. I have visited 81 countries around the world and seen them from an outside viewpoint, which showed me the great qualities of Japan. Unfortunately, many people have masochistic ways of thinking even though they were born in such a fantastic nation. This is because Japan lacks an educational system that inspires a sense of pride, which is the global standard. I am sure Jamaica teaches its citizens that Jamaica is a wonderful country. Japan is the opposite; it teaches children about fake history such as the Nanjing Massacre and comfort women, making them believe Japan is a bad country. China claims that 300,000 people were slaughtered in Nanjing, but its original population was 200,000, which grew to 250,000 one month after the occupation by the Japanese Army. That shows that 300,000 people could not have been killed. I think this kind of education is rampant because of the Japanese citizens with anti-Japanese sentiments.
(A) I think there are two major ways that Japan differs from other countries. The first is the astounding beauty of its terrain, flora, and fauna. The second is the extremely efficient, skillful Japanese society. Japanese people take this smoothness for granted, but it is unusual in other countries. I think this is due to the strong Japanese focus on methodical approaches and accuracy. Similarly, Tokyo subways are all color coded and the stations are numbered. Consequently, even if someone cannot read Japanese or English, they can still find their way to their destination using the subway. I think this symbolizes the skillful and thoughtful nature of the Japanese society. For instance, in my experience with the Shinkansen, I realized that even if a visitor cannot read Japanese, he can find the right train as long as he knows what time it departs because no two trains are scheduled to leave Tokyo Station at the exact same time.
(M) I find your viewpoint fascinating. There have to be many cases of Japanese people not taking notice of things that foreigners see as wonderful. Japanese people who study abroad say they come to understand Japan’s good qualities. However, I have heard that fewer young people want to study abroad recently. There used to be many young people in Japan who were curious and interested in seeing the world. This trend may not change unless we conduct education to help youth regain their self-confidence.
(A) In all countries it is essential to give young people responsibility and opportunities. I want to tell the Japanese youth to be fully cognizant of their country’s achievements and to confidently move out into the world. Some people say that studying history is tedious or that the past has nothing to do with the present, but that’s wrong. If we look at Japan from a global standpoint, it was a miracle that Japan quickly made itself into a modern state starting in the Edo Period and that it rebuilt the country as an economic power after the end of World War II. I hope they will think about how to make Japan into an even better country while having a sense of pride in these accomplishments. They are incredibly blessed to have a successful model built by people of your generation, including the exemplary Japanese society, capital, and schools.
(M) You know a lot about Japan and are carefully observing the young people of today. Your service as ambassador is a positive thing for both Jamaica and Japan.
(A) Thank you. However, one thing that concerns me about young Japanese people is the fairly large number who worry about their post-retirement years. I want to tell them to refrain from thinking about that, and to instead consider what they can accomplish before then.
(M) Yes, we must work to give Japanese people pride so they can switch to a more positive outlook. Thank you for sharing such an interesting conversation with me today.
(A) Thank you.
Clement Philip Ricardo Allicock
Earned his B.A. in English Literature from Mercy College (New York, the United States) in 1983 and his M.A. in International Political Economy and Development from Fordham University (New York, U.S.) in 1990. He worked in the private sector before becoming special advisor to the Jamaican minister of foreign affairs in 2001. After working in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade and as consul general in Miami (U.S.), he took up his current post in 2013.