At the end of September I was in Saudi Arabia to help celebrate United Nations World Tourism Day. This year it was the turn of Riyadh to host the UN’s conference, so 350 politicians and civil servants were invited to assemble from across the globe. The high point was the gala after the conference, held at the UNESCO world heritage site. Choirs, orchestras and musicians were invited, as well as artists from different parts of the world introducing their own cultures and creations.
I was invited in order to perform the Japanese tea ceremony. It was a great honour to be chosen, and great to meet up with so many creators, musicians, politicians and civil servants. Many of them were interested in Japanese culture and very keen to understand more. It was a great privilege – and a great responsibility – to be in that position. The people were fascinating and wonderful, and I became good friends with an Aboriginal artist and a Ghanaian basket weaver. Although our backgrounds were completely different, we had much in common in our appreciation of the beauty of craft, art and creativity.
Life in Saudi Arabia is very different and it was very new experience for me. Surprisingly, some young Saudi people spoke to me in Japanese, as they are grow up with Japanese animation and they are hope to go to Japan one day. They also told me that they often have iced matcha tea, and were surprised that I served a cup of hot matcha tea. I understand that iced matcha is popular there as it was 44 degrees in late September. Also, as they don’t drink any alcohol, alternative drinks including fancy juices and teas are very popular there.I used to think that London was a very multi-national and multi-cultural city, but now I realize – having experienced the UN conference - that I still haven’t seen that many different cultures and people.