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The launch of Zen Garden and Kaizen Academy is a symbol of the spontaneity and modernity of India-Japan relations. I am confident that the establishment of the Japanese Zen Garden and Kaizen Academy will further strengthen the relationship between India and Japan, bringing our citizens closer. I would like to especially thank the leaders of Hyōgo Prefecture and my dear friend Governor Mr. Toshizō Ido. Governor Ido himself came to Ahmedabad in 2017. He and the Hyogo International Association have been instrumental in establishing the Zen Garden and Kaizen Academy in Ahmedabad. I also congratulate the colleagues of the Indo-Japan Friendship Association of Gujarat. They have consistently done remarkable work to give new energy to India-Japan relations. The Japan Information and Study Center also is one such example.
India and Japan are not only committed to outer progress and growth but have given equal importance to inner peace and progress. The Japanese Zen Garden is a beautiful expression of this quest for peace and simplicity. The people of India will see a glimpse of the peace, poise and simplicity that they have experienced through yoga and spirituality for centuries. And anyway, what is 'Zen' in Japan is ‘Dhyan' (Meditation) in India. Buddha gave this ‘Dhyan’, this Buddhism to the world. And as far as the concept of 'Kaizen' is concerned, it is proof of the strength of our present intentions and our commitment to move forward continuously.
Many of you know the literal meaning of Kaizen as 'improvement', but its inner meaning is much broader. It not only emphasizes ‘improvement’ but ‘continuous improvement’.
Serious efforts were made in Gujarat regarding Kaizen for the first time shortly after I became the Chief Minister. We studied Kaizen thoroughly, implemented it, and it was in 2004 that for the first time so much emphasis was placed on Kaizen during administrative training. In the next year in 2005, we gave Kaizen training to the top civil servants of Gujarat during a brainstorming session. Gradually, we introduced it to the education system and many government offices in Gujarat. The continuous improvement that I was talking about here also continued. We took out truckloads of unnecessary stuff from government offices, revamped processes and made them simpler.
Similarly, huge reforms were carried out in the health department drawing inspiration from Kaizen. Thousands of doctors, nurses and hospital staff were trained in Kaizen. We organized physical workshops in different departments, worked on the processes, engaged people and connected them with it. All this had a huge positive impact on governance.
We all know that governance is very important in progress, whether it is about the development of the individual, institution, society, or the country. When I came to Delhi from Gujarat, I brought with me the experiences I gained from Kaizen. We introduced this in the PMO and other departments of the Central Government. This led to the simplification of the processes and optimization of office space. Kaizen is being used in many departments, institutions and schemes of the Central Government.
Our guests from Japan at this event know my personal connection with Japan. The affection of the people of Japan, their work culture, skills and discipline has always been influencing. And that's why whenever I have said - I wanted to create Mini-Japan in Gujarat, the main idea behind it has been that whenever the people of Japan come to Gujarat, they should find the same warmth and belongingness. I remember that Japan had joined as a partner country with the Vibrant Gujarat Summit from the very beginning. Even today, the largest delegation that comes to the Vibrant Gujarat Summit is from Japan. It is gratifying to see the confidence that Japan has reposed on Gujarat and the potential of its people.
Today the best of Japanese companies are operating in Gujarat. I have been told that their number is more than about 135. Japanese companies have set up their bases in Gujarat in every sector from automobiles to banking, from construction to pharmaceutical. Be it Suzuki Motors, Honda Motorcycle, Mitsubishi, Toyota, Hitachi, many such companies are manufacturing in Gujarat. And one good thing is that these companies are also helping a lot in the skill development of the youth of Gujarat. Three Japan-India Institutes for Manufacturing are providing skill training to hundreds of youth of Gujarat every year. Many companies also have tie-ups with technical universities and ITIs of Gujarat.
There is so much to talk about the relations between Japan and Gujarat that time will run out. These relationships are strengthened by intimacy, affection and understanding each other's feelings and requirements. Gujarat has always given special importance to Japan. JETRO, which has opened the Ahmedabad Business Support Center, has the facility to provide plug-and-play work-space to five companies simultaneously. Many Japanese companies have taken advantage of this. When I recall the old days, I find that the people of Gujarat have paid attention to even the smallest details. I remember a topic came up informally once I was discussing something with a delegation of Japan as Chief Minister. This topic was very interesting. People of Japan love to play golf but golf courses were not prevalent in Gujarat then. After that meeting, special efforts were made to expand golf courses in Gujarat. I am happy that there are many golf courses in Gujarat now. There are also many restaurants whose specialty is Japanese food. An effort has been made to make the people of Japan feel at home in Gujarat. We also worked a lot so that there is an increase in the number of Japanese speakers in Gujarat. Today there are many people in the professional world of Gujarat who speak Japanese comfortably. I am told that a university in the state is also going to start a course to teach Japanese. It would be a good beginning. I would also like to have a model of the Japanese school system in Gujarat.
I have been a huge fan of Japan's school system which emphasizes modernity and moral values simultaneously. I had the opportunity to visit Taimei School in Japan and those moments are very memorable. I can say that it was a precious opportunity for me while talking to the children of that school.
We also have a strong belief in centuries-old cultural ties and a common vision for the future! Based on this, we have been continuously strengthening our Special Strategic and Global Partnership over the years. For this, we have also made a special arrangement of Japan-plus in the PMO. India-Japan relations gained a new impetus when the former Prime Minister of Japan and my friend Mr. Shinzo Abe visited Gujarat. He was very excited when the bullet train project started. Even today, when I talk to him, he vividly recalls his Gujarat tour. The current Prime Minister of Japan, Mr. Yoshihide Suga, is also a very amiable person. PM Suga and I believe that the friendship between India and Japan has become more relevant to our partnership, global stability and prosperity in this Covid pandemic era. At a time when we are faced with so many global challenges, it is the need of the hour that our friendship and relationship grows in strength. Of course, effort like Kaizen Academy is a beautiful reflection of that.
I would like Kaizen Academy to promote the work culture of Japan in India and step up business interactions between Japan and India. We have to give new energy to the efforts that are already underway in this direction. For example, the Indo-Japan Student Exchange Program between Gujarat University and the Otemon Gakuin University of Osaka! This program has been strengthening our relationship for over five decades. This can be further expanded. Such partnerships can be developed between the two countries and institutions.
I am sure our efforts will continue, and India and Japan will achieve new heights of development together. I also convey my very best wishes to Japan, the people of Japan for organizing the Tokyo Olympics through this program.
Many thanks to all of you!