The Gulf Today - Panorama - - Contents - By Ma­tovu Ab­dal­lah Twaha

Rie Noor Nakao, along with her late hus­band, made it their life’s mission to bridge the gap be­tween Arab and Ja­panese cul­tures

At a time when Arabs’ “im­age is, un­for­tu­nately still widely neg­a­tive in Ja­pan,” one fam­ily is walk­ing the road of im­prov­ing this im­age by hold­ing lec­tures in Ja­pan and the UAE through pe­ri­odic mu­tual vis­its — and the re­sults are seen in the num­bers of par­tic­i­pants.

“In or­der to un­der­stand each other, face-to-face com­mu­ni­ca­tion is very im­por­tant but not in­di­rect in­for­ma­tion,” says Rie Noor Nakao.

Wikipedia de­fines com­mu­ni­ca­tion as “im­part­ing or ex­chang­ing in­for­ma­tion by speak­ing, writ­ing, or us­ing some other medium,” while in­for­ma­tion is “facts pro­vided or learned about some­thing or some­one.”

Leave it to Nakao, a mother of three, who has lived in Shar­jah for 20 years with her

Bahraini hus­band Ab­dul Jalil Ali Al Saad un­til his death back in Fe­bru­ary.

As a fam­ily, they have been or­gan­is­ing vis­its to Ja­pan, hold­ing lec­tures in Ja­panese schools and com­mu­ni­ties, and in re­turn, the Ja­panese also or­gan­ise vis­its to Shar­jah and, “openly ask us ques­tions that they would not ask peo­ple on the streets about Arabs, Is­lam and lo­cal cul­ture.”

Nakao’s hus­band was a writer and re­searcher with an in­cli­na­tion to­wards pro­mot­ing Ara­bian Gulf cul­ture and her­itage. They to­gether cham­pi­oned, with pas­sion, the in­ter­ac­tive pro­gramme be­tween Arabs and Ja­panese.

“We are de­ter­mined to keep this bridge run­ning by car­ry­ing out his wish of the cul­tural ex­change pro­gramme which he had at heart,” says Nakao.

“In the last three years, ap­prox­i­mately 400 Ja­panese tourists have vis­ited our house in Shar­jah to learn more about lo­cal life and cul­ture of the UAE di­rectly through the cul­tural in­ter­ac­tion with us.”

Also com­mu­ni­cat­ing with their Ja­panese peers are their three chil­dren 17-year-old Reem, 15-yearold Yousef and Saif, 12.

Saif is the 2015/16 win­ner of the Sheikh Ham­dan

Bin Rashid Award for Dis­tin­guished Aca­demic Per­for­mance. For the 2016/17 Shar­jah Award, he couldn’t pass the in­ter­view as his fa­ther was ter­mi­nally ill and passed away two days later.

“The im­pact is deeper when the com­mu­ni­ca­tion is be­tween chil­dren,” says Nakao, the au­thor of My Life’s Sail to the Emi­rates, a pub­li­ca­tion of Shar­jah In­sti­tute for Her­itage.

Her book was signed dur­ing the 2016 Shar­jah In­ter­na­tional Book Fair (SIBF) with her hus­band’s last book. Hers was one of the two books se­lected as Elite Books from 50 ti­tles that drew a con­grat­u­la­tory let­ter from the Supreme Coun­cil Member and

Ruler of Shar­jah, Sheikh Dr Sul­tan Bin Mo­hammed Al Qasimi. Nakao and her hus­band were work­ing on their next book ti­tled The Story of Pearl, which she says she will “hope­fully” com­plete next year.

The 70-page book is a photo novella paint­ing con­tain­ing 20 dif­fer­ent dhows of the Ara­bian

Gulf; some of which have no longer ex­ist. “Sadly, many peo­ple don’t know all the types of dhows nowa­days,” she notes.

My Life’s Sail to the Emi­rates is writ­ten with a pic­ture of the dhow on one page while on the op­po­site page there are one or two lines ex­plain­ing the type of dhow painted in six dif­fer­ent lan­guages: Ara­bic, English, Ger­man, French, Ja­panese and Span­ish.

It is sail­ing that de­fines Rie Nakao, who was born in Unzen City in ru­ral Na­gasaki and has been a sailor for most of her life.

At 22 she joined the

Ship for World Youth Pro­gramme, a Ja­panese Govern­ment ini­tia­tive to con­struct a strong, cross­bor­der per­sonal net­work, which led to her trav­el­ling the world. “I sought to gain more knowl­edge of the world. I sailed and passed by Spain, Oman, South Africa, Dubai Syria, Bahrain and Aus­tralia. I vis­ited around 50 coun­tries in my 20s but I was most fas­ci­nated by the Ara­bian cul­ture and its peo­ple.”

She stud­ied an Ara­bic course in Da­m­as­cus for eight months be­fore be­com­ing the first Ja­panese li­censed Tour Guide in the UAE.

She says she be­came more aware of Emi­rati life and Is­lam, a re­li­gion she con­verted to in early 1999 be­fore get­ting mar­ried to her Bahraini hus­band later that same year. Nakao has lived in Shar­jah ever since.

Her en­v­i­ron is dot­ted with verses drawn in Ara­bic cal­lig­ra­phy she has writ­ten or “writ­ten by my daugh­ter and I draw the work,” she ex­plains. She draws with the com­bi­na­tion of Ja­panese style. She has been a visi­tor to the Bahraini ex­hi­bi­tion.

On the sim­i­lar­ity be­tween Ja­panese and Emi­rati cul­tures Nakao says both have a high value of re­spect and are work­ing hard to re­serve their tra­di­tions. “How­ever, we starkly dif­fer in the form of greet­ings. Here, they em­brace, kiss and shake hands while in Ja­pan, we bow and keep dis­tance.”

It might be a phys­i­cal dis­tance, but Nakao’s hy­brid fam­ily is ac­tively and pos­i­tively clos­ing the neg­a­tive im­age gap be­tween the Ja­panese and the Arabs. “My life is de­voted to the Ara­bian Gulf as I con­tinue my sail­ing.”

Rie Noor Nakao

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