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First Havel’s Place in Asia ceremoniously unveiled in Japan

On 7th December 2021, the Havel’s Place, a work of art inspired by the ideas and deeds of the internationally recognized first Czech president, was ceremoniously unveiled at Hiroshima Shudo University. The guests of honour at the ceremony were, among others, the Governor of Hiroshima Prefecture, Mr. Hidehiko Juzaki, and Mr. Kazumi Macui, the Mayor of Hiroshima. The Prime Minister of Japan, Fumio Kishida, also supported the event in a personal letter. In the letter, which was read out at the event, he praised Václav Havel's contribution to the fight for liberal democracy and human rights in the world. The Havel’s Place is the first of its kind in Asia and, due to the events that the continent has been going through in many places in recent years, its message transcends the borders of Japan.

The installation of Havel’s Place – together with a Sakura tree, instead of a traditional Czech linden – followed a debate between the Shudo University and the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Tokyo about Václav Havel's international political significance, his attitude to freedom and democracy and the legacy of his important speech delivered at the conference in Hiroshima in 1995. The fact that there is a number of links between Hiroshima and the Czech Republic, including the so-called Atomic Bomb Dome, designed by the internationally renowned Czech architect Jan Letzl, and the fact that the university has a partner university in the Czech Republic, were all crucial for this decision. Dean of the university Mr. Junji Yatabe's lifelong connection to the Czech Republic and his personal contacts, which he established during his five year-long scientific stay in our country in the period before and after the Velvet Revolution, played equally an important role in the implementation of the project.

The ceremony follows this year's 85th anniversary of Václav Havel's birth as well as the 10th anniversary since the news of his departure hit the whole world. He was a famous playwright, a prominent dissident, president of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic, who, like few others, contributed to the international reputation of the Czech Republic.

The ceremony was attended by the Ambassador of the Czech Republic to Japan, Mr. Martin Tomčo, the Governor of Hiroshima Prefecture, Mr. Hidehiko Yuzaki, the Mayor of Hiroshima, Mr. Kazumi Matsui, the Chief Director of the European Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, Mr. Hideki Uyama, the President of Shudo Gakuen, Mr. Masao Hayashi, and the President of Hiroshima Shudo University, Mr. Takanori Mikami.

Guests of the ceremony had a unique chance to attend two lectures on the topic of Václav Havel, which were prepared especially for this occasion. The speakers were the acclaimed Japanologist Ms. Daniela Ryugo and the prominent professor of Bohemistics Mr. Taku Shinohara, who both work at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies. The event also featured a successful panel presentation prepared by the Czech Embassy in Japan to mark the 100th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Havel’s Places created by the architect and designer Bořek Šípek can now be found in many places in the Czech Republic and abroad, including Georgetown University in the USA and Oxford University in Britain. The round table, with a Czech linden tree growing in the centre, and two chairs are decorated with typical Havel´s hearts that symbolize open and free discussion, the cornerstones of democracy. The Havel’s Place in Hiroshima, first of its kind on the Asian continent, is a significant and accurate reminder of these values ​​in the East Asian region, where freedom of speech, freedom of media and freedom of political thought are at many places currently violently suppressed and persecuted.


Inauguration of Havel’s Place in Japan