Name: Jean-Eric Paquet
Title: Ambassador of the European Union
Hometown: Strasbourg, France
Years in Japan: less than one
What’s your favorite Japanese food or drink?
I’m a big ramen fan — I must say, all kinds of ramen. I love it at all times. That would be my favorite. Also, what's the name of those very long menus when you eat in a good restaurant and you have 10 different types of dishes? Kaiseki, yes. It’s spectacular, and I've been invited to many, some of which were truly amazing, so I should say that. But in fact it’s ramen. And I find Japanese beer to be quite OK, as someone who lived in Belgium for 30 years.
Do you have any hobbies?
I hike a lot. I've done all the peaks around Tokyo. Hiking is a big, big part of our weekends with my wife, and I swim, I bike and I run. For the first time ever, on the weekend I will do a triathlon. And in Japan, something I also do much more than I did before in Brussels, because it’s so widely available, is that I attend a lot of classical music, opera and ballet performances. And I read a lot of Japanese literature to understand where I am.
You became ambassador to Japan in 2022. What do you know about Japan now that you didn’t know before?
Not much, because knowing Japan takes probably a lifetime, but what I like so much here is that Japan is full of paradoxes, at least in the eyes of the non-Japanese. But it's a place which is super-practical, super-simple. Life in Tokyo is very simple. It’s really amazingly close to Europe and the Western world — but then it has nothing to do with it. It’s a completely different culture, completely different way of looking at society and being a society and looking at the world. And I find it entirely, entirely fascinating.
What’s one of the biggest differences you’ve observed?
I think one big difference is the way we make decisions. That’s completely different. As Europeans, we want to make well-informed decisions, but we also want to make them in a timeframe where, after the decision is made, we start to think about implementation. Within Japan, the process of getting to a decision also requires all the steps of the possible implementation to have been gone through, and that requires patience for us Europeans. Of course, this means that if a decision is taken, then the rollout is quite efficient. That’s a very big difference between the Europeans and the Japanese.
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