Cordial business, trading and cultural relations have long existed between Japan and the Arab world. Japan is one of the region’s most important economic and diplomatic partners.
A major part of Japan’s energy imports come from Gulf Cooperation Council countries (40 percent from Saudi Arabia alone), while most Arab countries are heavy importers of manufactured goods and electronic equipment from Japan.
No colonial past in the Arab world and a national interest in a continued safe passage of oil shipments means that Japan is genuinely committed to prioritizing the peace and stability of the region. Which means that the Middle East is a destination for significant Japanese financial investment.
Right now, Saudi Arabia officials are working with their Japanese counterparts on the formal handover for the G20 leaders’ summit, which will take place in the Saudi capital, Riyadh in 2020, following the highly successful event held in Osaka, Japan, in June.
While there may be growing Arab-Japanese ties at the level of politics and government, the extent to which these close bonds are reflected in the attitudes of the general public has, until now, remained an unanswered question.
This is what our Arab News-YouGov poll — titled “How Arabs View Japan” — seeks to find out as part of a special report commissioned for our newest international edition: Arab News Japan.
I have to confess, though, the findings did take us by surprise. Given that only 4 percent of Arabs have ever visited Japan, one might expect general understanding to be poor. However, the study reveals not only a high level of understanding, but a high level of appreciation by Arabs of Japan and its people.
The poll reveals that an incredibly low proportion of Arabs — just one percent — describe the political relationship between Japan as negative, that 7 percent of Arabs think that Japan produces better products than China, South Korea and the US, and that 56 percent of Arabs would prefer Japan to be a neutral mediator for a potential Israel-Palestine peace deal, over and above the EU, Russia, the US and the UK.
Across the Arab world, people hold overwhelmingly positive associations with Japanese people, describing them as: Hardworking (61 percent), organized (54 percent), punctual (42 percent), polite (30 percent) and creative (37 percent). Perhaps this is why 87 percent of Arabs would like to visit Japan.
At the same time, this research highlights some of the common misconceptions held by Arabs about Japan. Only 44 percent of Arabs can make sense of the power and decision-making structure in Japan.
While this could be understandable, just over a quarter of Arabs are aware that the Walkman is a Japanese invention, despite it being the 40th anniversary of the iconic product. Misconceptions such as these are even more widely held amongst Arabs under the age of 24.
We look forward to bringing a better understanding of the rich Arab and Japanese cultures to our readers. The pan-Arab study by YouGov marks the first step in that journey
Faisal J. Abbas
Our goal is to become a trusted communications channel, whereby our friends in Japan can rely on us for credible information and insightful analysis.
Through the Arab News Japan news site, we will provide a content mix that blends original reporting from both the Middle East and Japan as well as a Japanese translation of some of our most important news and views.
We look forward to bringing a better understanding of both of our rich cultures to our readers. This pan-Arab study marks the first step in that journey.