KUALA LUMPUR: His late grandmother was a Japanese, so AmBank Group chairman Tan Sri Azman Hashim has always felt a connection to the Land of the Rising Sun.
This link was given added meaning when Azman was given a chance to meet the Crown Prince of Japan Prince Naruhito yesterday.
Prince Naruhito, who was on the fourth day of his five-day visit to Malaysia to mark the 60th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Malaysia and Japan, granted an audience to Japanese citizens married to Malaysians and descendants of Japanese citizens, Azman being one of them. Azman, who came with his siblings Abdul Aziz, 81, Azian, 74, Azibah, 57, and niece Atiqah Nadiah Zailani, 30, said he felt honoured to be given the chance to meet the Crown Prince.
“It’s a great privilege,” he said, adding that Prince Naruhito was very nice and informal.
Azman, 77, whose late grandmother Tamano Murakami came to the then Straits Settlement in the late 1890s and later married his late grandfather Yusof, said he had always felt connected to Japan.
“I’m 25% Japanese and have always been involved with Japan. I have been president of the Malaysia-Japan Economic Association for the last 30 years,” he added.
He noted, however, that Murakami’s story ended tragically.
“She went to Singapore during the war (World War 2) and she was arrested with the other Japanese there and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp in India (by the British).
“She died in the camp,” he said.
Also granted an audience with Prince Naruhito was Emi Kawauchi, a 64-year old Japanese who has lived in Malaysia since she was six.
“My mother was born in the Straits Settlement, while my father was born in Singapore.
“When the war broke out, they were considered enemies of the state so they were sent to a prisoner-of-war camp in India for the duration of the war,” said Kawauchi, adding that her parents went back to Japan after the war and she was born there.
“But my parents always felt that they were Malayans (as it was then known), so they wanted to come back,” she said, adding that the family returned in 1959.
As an ethnic Japanese, she said it was an honour to meet the prince.
“He is really nice, he asked us what we are doing.”