English translation of Prime Minister's address at the inauguration of Zen Garden and Kaizen Academy at AMA, Ahmedabad (June 27, 2021)

June 28, 2021

kem chho!

This occasion of the launch of Zen Garden and Kaizen Academy is a symbol of the spontaneity and modernity of Indo-Japan relations. I firmly believe that this establishment of the Japanese Zen Garden and Kaizen Academy will further strengthen the relationship between India and Japan and bring our citizens closer. At this time in particular, I would like to congratulate the leaders of Hyogo Prefecture, specially my dear friend Governor Mr. Ido Toshizo. Governor Ido himself visited 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 Indo-Japan Friendship Association of Gujarat. They have consistently done remarkable work to boost India-Japan relations. The Japan Information and Study Center is also an example of this.


Both India and Japan have aimed at external progress and development, as well as given importance to internal peace and progress. The Japanese Zen Garden is a beautiful expression of this quest for peace, this simplicity. The peace, ease and simplicity that the people of India have learned through yoga and spirituality for centuries, they will see a glimpse of the same here. And anyway, the 'Zen' in Japan is the same as 'Meditation' in India. This is the meditation that Buddha gave to the world. And as far as 'Kaizen' is conceptualized, it is a living proof of our will to strengthen our intentions at present, to move forward continuously. Many of you know that the literal meaning of Kaizen is 'improvement', but its internal meaning is even much deeper. It emphasizes on continuous improvement, not simply improvement.


Shortly after I became the Chief Minister, for the first time serious efforts were initiated in Gujarat with regards to Kaizen. We got the Kaizen studied thoroughly, implemented it, and it was in 2004 that for the first time so much emphasis was put on Kaizen during administrative training. Then the next year in 2005, we organized a Chintan Shivir with the top civil servants of Gujarat, and we gave Kaizen training to everyone. Then we implemented it in the education system of Gujarat and in many government offices. The continuous improvement that I was talking about here also continued. We took out truckloads of unnecessary stuff from government offices, revamped processes, made them simpler. Similarly, in the health department, huge reforms were implemented with the inspiration of Kaizen. Thousands of doctors, nurses, and hospital staff were trained in this kaizen model. We worked on Physical Workshop in different departments, worked on the process, engaged people, and connected them with it. All this had a huge positive impact on governance.


We all know that governance is of prime importance in progress. Whether it is about the development of the individual, the development of the institution, the development of the society or the country, governance is a very important factor. And so, when I came to Delhi from Gujarat, I also brought with me the experiences I gained from Kaizen. We started this in the PMO and other departments of the central government. We simplified the processes and we optimized a lot of space in the offices. Even today, Kaizen is being adopted in many new Central Government departments, institutions and schemes.


Our guests from Japan associated with this event know how much I personally have had an association with Japan. The affection of the people of Japan, the working style of the people of Japan, their skill, their discipline, has always influenced us. And that's why whenever I have said - I wanted to create Mini-Japan in Gujarat, the main sentiment behind it has been that whenever the people of Japan come to Gujarat, they must feel the same warmth, the same belongingness. I remember from the very beginning of the Vibrant Gujarat Summit, Japan had joined it as a partner country. Even today, the largest delegations that participate in the Vibrant Gujarat Summit, one of them is from Japan only. And we are all satisfied to see the confidence that Japan has reposed on the soil of Gujarat, in the power of its people. Today many Japanese companies are operating in Gujarat. I have been informed that their number is more than 135. From automobiles to banking, from construction to pharma, Japanese companies from every sector have their base in Gujarat. 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 skill development of the youth of Gujarat. In Gujarat, the three Japan-India Institute for Manufacturing, are providing skill training to hundreds of youth every year. Many companies also have tie-ups with technical universities and ITI's of Gujarat.


There is so much to say 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, each other's needs. Gujarat has always given special importance to Japan. Now as JETRO has opened this Ahmedabad Business Support Center, it has the facility to provide plug and play work-space facility to five companies simultaneously. A lot of Japanese companies have taken advantage of it. Sometimes, when I think about the old days, it seems that the people of Gujarat have also noticed the small nuances. I remember, once as Chief Minister, I was interacting with the Delegation of Japan and a topic came up informally. This subject was very interesting. The people of Japan love to play golf, but golf courses were not that prevalent in Gujarat. After this meeting, special efforts were made to develop golf courses in Gujarat. I am happy that today, there are many golf courses in Gujarat. There are also many restaurants whose specialty is Japanese food. Thus, there has been an effort to make the people of Japan feel at home in Gujarat. We also did a lot of work to see that the number of Japanese speakers in Gujarat should also increase. Today, in the professional world of Gujarat there are many people who speak Japanese easily. I have been told that a university in the state is also going to start a course to teach Japanese. That would be a good start. 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, the way it emphasizes modernity together with moral values. I had the opportunity to visit Taimei School in Japan and the time spent there is memorable to me. Talking to the children of that school, I can say, it was a precious opportunity for me even today.

We have a strong belief in centuries-old cultural relations, and a common vision for the future! On this basis, for the last several years, we have been continuously strengthening our Special Strategic and Global Partnership. For this, we have also made a special arrangement for Japan-Plus in PMO. When Mr. Shinzo Abe, the former Prime Minister of Japan and my friend, came to Gujarat, India-Japan relations gained new momentum. He was very excited when the work of the bullet train project started. Even today, whenever I talk to him, he definitely remembers his Gujarat tour. The current Prime Minister of Japan, Mr. Yoshihide Suga, is also a very sorted person. PM Suga and I believe that in the Covid pandemic times, the friendship between India and Japan has become more relevant to our partnership, global stability and prosperity. Today, when we are facing global challenges, then this friendship of ours, this relationship of ours, must be strengthened continuously, it is the need of the hour. And of course efforts like Kaizen Academy are a beautiful reflection of that. I would like Kaizen Academy to promote the work-culture of Japan in India and increase business interactions between Japan and India. We have to boost new energy to the efforts which are already continuing in this direction. For example, there is an Indo-Japan Student Exchange Program between Gujarat University and Osaka's Otemon Gakuin University. This program has been strengthening our relationship for over five decades. It can be further expanded. Such partnerships can be made between the two countries and also between institutions. I am sure, these efforts of ours will continue in this way, and India-Japan together will achieve new heights of development. Today, through this program, I also convey my very best wishes to Japan, and the people of Japan, for organizing the Tokyo Olympics.

Many thanks to all of you!

DISCLAIMER: This is the approximate translation of Prime Minister’s remarks. Original remarks were delivered in Hindi.