Your Highness, Ladies and Gentlemen,
One hundred and fifty years is a milestone anniversary, and it can be celebrated in many different ways. We are celebrating with an exhibition, with culture, because we believe that this is fitting for two ancient nations of culture such as the Japanese and the Hungarians. I have travelled more than ten thousand kilometres to be here with you today: Hungary is a distant country, a strange country inhabited by strange people. In this exhibition you will be able to see the mentality of this strange people. Therefore I would like to say a few words not about the paintings, but about Hungary. If I were Japanese, I would find it hard to understand Hungarians. Japan is a large nation: its area is four times the size of Hungary, and its population is ten times bigger. The Japanese surely believe that Japan and Japanese people have always existed, and always will exist. The Japanese cannot conceive of a world without Japanese people. But we are a smaller nation, and we are troubled by the nagging thought that one can imagine a world and a human race without Hungarians and without Hungary. Therefore it is our recurring nightmare that the creator of this world, the Good Lord, will one day appear in Hungary and ask us who we are, and why we exist – why we are here on earth. And in our nightmare this question surprises us so much that we have no answer, and then God erases us from the great book in which the nations of the world are recorded. This is a nightmare which weighs heavy on Hungarians. You may ask why Hungarians are innovative, why they are capable of world-class art such as that you see here; and you may ask why it was a Hungarian that invented the Rubik’s Cube, why it was a Hungarian that invented the ballpoint pen, and why it was a Hungarian that invented the punched card machine – the forerunner of the computer. The answer is that Hungarians must prove that the world needs them. We must prove that the world is better off if there are Hungarians in it. This is why we have produced more than a dozen Nobel Prize winners, this is why we have won more than 170 gold medals in the summer Olympics, and this is why we are capable of creating music such as that of Liszt and paintings such as those you see here. All this is evidence of Hungarians demanding their place in the sun, and we want to convince the world that it will benefit from the existence of Hungarians.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
When I speak to Japanese people in Hungary, artists living there or businesspeople visiting our country, I always have the impression that more things unite us than divide us. There is, for instance, a Hungarian poem – a children’s poem that every child learns in nursery school. It is called “The Hawthorn”, and it was written by a Hungarian, inspired by a Japanese tanka. When a Hungarian speaks to a Japanese person, he or she immediately recognises the common threads of spirit, emotions and virtues. Perhaps you have already heard about it, but I would like to tell you that the largest cultural project and development in the entire Western world – not only in Europe, but the entire Western world – is taking shape in Budapest. We are building a superb museum quarter, in which there will be a building dedicated to Hungarian music, and a wonderful home for Hungarian painting. We initiated international architectural competitions for the design of these buildings, and both were won by Japanese architects. In the heart of Budapest the House of Hungarian Music was designed by Sou Fujimoto, while the enormous gallery building nearby was designed by the Japanese architectural firm SANAA. They are beautiful.
Finally, Your Royal Highness, please allow me to thank everyone whose work has made it possible for these works of art to come to your country. As a matter of personal bias, I would especially like to thank Mr. Suzuki for his help. He is a generous old friend of Hungary who has honoured us with his friendship for more than thirty years, and he has done a great deal to make this exhibition possible. I hope that visitors to this exhibition will find these paintings just as exciting as Hungarians do. And if you like what you see, then please come to visit us in Hungary, where you will be warmly welcomed. You can also see for yourselves our museums being built to the designs of Japanese architects.
On the 150th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our two countries, I wish to express my esteem for the Government of Japan, the Imperial House of Japan and the Japanese people. Thank you for one hundred and fifty years of friendship. God preserve and bless Japan, and Hungarians.
Thank you for your attention.
Photo credit: Origo