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By Kotaro Yaginuma / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer

Walking around residential areas in Tokyo�fs Minato Ward, such as Azabu and Mita, I
spot many buildings with the flags of foreign countries. These are embassies ? the
ward is home to about 80 of them, more than half the embassies based in Japan. Why
are so many here and not in Chiyoda Ward, where many Japanese government bodies are
located, or in Chuo Ward, which used to have an enclave for foreign residents?

The German Embassy is located in the Minamiazabu area of Minato Ward. In the garden
of the ambassador�fs official residence, there is a cherry tree about 150 years
old, as well as an old bell and a small shrine.

�gA samurai house used to stand on this site during the Edo period (1603-1867),�h
said Mario Krebs, 43, a diplomat in charge of public relations at the embassy.

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The Yomiuri Shimbun

A monument bearing a likeness of Townsend Harris at Zenpukuji temple in Motoazabu

According to the Foreign Ministry, 155 countries, including the Delegation of the
European Union to Japan, had embassies in this nation as of the end of last year.
Of them, 83 embassy facilities are located in the ward, far more than the 23
embassies in Shibuya Ward, which ranked second.

Germany (then West Germany) set up an embassy at its current location in 1960. Most
of the about 15,000 square meters of the premises was once part of the residence of
a hatamoto retainer of the Tokugawa shogunate, according to the embassy. It later
became a politician�fs house sometime from the Taisho era (1912-1926) to the Showa
era (1926-1989).

After World War II, the Japanese government sounded out the German side about the
construction of the embassy and ambassador�fs residence on the site.

Feudal domains in the Edo period are believed to have begun setting up residences
outside Edo Castle to disperse their bases following the Meireki no Taika (Great
Fire of Meireki) in 1657.

In the current Minato Ward area, there used to be many houses for daimyo feudal
lords and hatamoto. These compounds are usually quite large.

�gThe sites of these houses are in a prime central Tokyo location and offer a lot
of space, making them ideal for embassies,�h said Narumi Seino, 46, who was a
director of Global Community, Art and Culture Planning at the Minato Ward Office
through the end of March.

Krebs said, �gI like my workplace because I can carry out my duties at a historical
location while feeling a bond between Japan and Germany.�h

Temples as diplomatic offices

There are many temples in the ward, which seems to be another key to the number of
embassies in the area.

Townsend Harris, the United States�f first consul to Japan, moved to Zenpukuji
temple in Motoazabu in the ward in 1859. He is also known as a negotiator of the
Japan-U.S. Treaty of Amity and Commerce. The temple preserves diaries that describe
diplomats�f lives at that time.
�gWe often have foreign tourists visiting our temple,�h said a temple official.

Britain likewise had its base at Tozenji temple in Takanawa, while France was based
at Saikaiji temple in Mita.

Why were temples chosen as diplomatic offices?

�gAfter Japan opened its doors to the world, the anti-foreign sentiment in Japan
was quite strong, so temples, which were usually spacious and solidly built, were a
perfect place for a diplomatic establishment,�h said an official of the Minato City
Local History Museum.

However, temples could be found in other areas than Minato Ward, so why did many
foreign countries choose to have their embassies here?

�gAt that time, ships were the only means of transportation between Japan and
foreign countries, so being close to Yokohama, which operated as an open port, gave
them a great advantage,�h the official said.

Many countries that started their diplomatic operations based in temples later
opened their official embassies in the same area, which is now part of Minato Ward.

�gWhen Japan was still an unknown land to many foreign diplomats, they could
probably easily exchange information in the Minato Ward area because many countries
were based there,�h Seino said.

�gI think the area [present-day Minato Ward] already had an established status as
an embassy district in the Meiji era (1868-1912),�h Seino added.

New era, new style

The ward nowadays sees an increasing number of embassies in a new style.

A building in Nishiazabu is home to embassies of 12 countries, mainly from Latin


America.

Ecuadorean Ambassador Jaime Barberis, 60, said he was first surprised to learn the
embassy was located inside an office building. As a diplomat, he has served in such
countries as Germany, Switzerland and Austria, and all the embassies he previously
worked at were independent buildings.

The ambassador believed having an embassy inside an office building could be


particular to Japan, where land is very limited.

However, having an embassy in such an environment comes in handy, Barberis said.


For instance, when Latin American countries jointly negotiate with the Japanese
government, they can easily gather for meetings.

Twenty-five organizations, including embassies in the ward, took part in a March 25


event at the foot of Tokyo Tower to introduce their cuisines and cultures.

Mai Toriyama, 31, a homemaker in the ward who participated in the event, said,
�gI�fm having a great time here, as I can experience various cultures at the same
time.�h

Walk around the ward and you�fll get the feeling that you�fre traveling around the
world, walking in the footsteps of history that embassies have also seen

GOYANG, South Korea (AP) ? With a single step over a weathered, cracked slab of
concrete, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made history Friday by crossing over the
world�fs most heavily armed border to greet his rival, South Korean President Moon
Jae-in, for talks on North Korea�fs nuclear weapons. Kim then invited Moon to cross
briefly north with him before they returned to the southern side.

Those small steps must be seen in the context of the last year ? when the United
States, its ally South Korea and the North seemed at times to be on the verge of
nuclear war as the North unleashed a torrent of weapons tests ? but also in light
of the long, destructive history of the rival Koreas, who fought one of the 20th
century�fs bloodiest conflicts and even today occupy a divided peninsula that�fs
still technically in a state of war.

It was all smiles Friday as Moon grasped Kim�fs hand and led him along an
blindingly red carpet into South Korean territory, where school children placed
flowers around their necks and an honor guard stood at attention for inspection.

Beyond the surface, however, it�fs still not clear whether the leaders can make any
progress in closed-door talks on the nuclear issue, which has bedeviled U.S. and
South Korean officials for decades. North Korea�fs nuclear and missile tests last
year likely put it on the threshold of becoming a legitimate nuclear power. North
Korea claims it has already risen to that level.

Kim�fs news agency said that the leader would �gopen-heartedly�h discuss with Moon
�gall the issues arising in improving inter-Korean relations and achieving peace,
prosperity and reunification of the Korean peninsula�h in a �ghistoric�h summit.
It�fs the first time one of the ruling Kim leaders has crossed over to the southern
side of the Demilitarized Zone since the Korean War ended in 1953.