Starting from Learning Japanese as an Absolute Beginner to Opening the Embassy of the Republic of Togo in Tokyo

Steve Aklesso Bodjona (Chargés d'affaires ad interim, Embassy of the Republic of Togo in Japan)

The Japan Foundation Japanese-Language Institute, Kansai carries out Japanese-Language Training Programs for Foreign-Service Officers & Public Officials. The program is designed specifically to young officers at other countries' foreign ministry and government agencies, who need acquiring Japanese, along with their relocation to Japan, for example. During the eight-month program, participants will learn about Japanese society and culture and build up a network of personal connections besides learning the language.
Mr. Steve Aklesso Bodjona, who currently serves as Chargés d'affaires ad interim of the Embassy of the Republic of Togo and participated in the program in 2009, told us of his joy and difficulty about learning Japanese, his memories of teachers and other participants he met at the Institute, and his efforts for setting up the Embassy.
While working as a diplomat, he has been writing poems in Japanese, being inspired by events and experiences in everyday life. He read his own poem titled Japan and Togo, which he put his passion for Japan and Togo. Please enjoy the video of his interview.

My name is Steve Aklesso Bodjona and I am Chargés d'affaires ad interim, Embassy of the Republic of Togo.

How did you study Japanese?

Before I came to Japan, I tried to learn a little bit about Japan. The Japan Foundation sent me some materials, and among them there was information about the Hiragana and Katakana phonetic alphabets.

The first question I asked myself was "Can I write these?" because they looked very difficult. I tried many times but never succeeded.

But when I arrived at the Japan Foundation, Japanese-Language Institute, Kansai, I was very surprised that our Sensei (teachers) were very professional. Just one or two weeks later, everyone was able to write Hiragana and Katakana. For us, they became like writing ABCD in English or French.

What is your impression of the Japan Foundation, Japanese-Language Center, Kansai?

When I came to the Japanese-Language Institute, Kansai in 2009, there were foreign-service officers and public officials gathered from 25 countries. We became close as a family by doing everything together such as studying, taking a walk, and going to Karaoke.
This program (Japanese-Language Program for Foreign-Service Officers & Public Officials) is a very unique program.

What was your challenge to start up the Embassy of the Republic of Togo in Japan?

We are still a very young embassy: it was just opened in October 2010.
At that moment, there was no staff at the embassy, so I needed to prepare everything by myself. I had a very tough time.

However, thanks to the program, I could start up the embassy. This was a feat I would not have been able to accomplish if I did not know the Japanese language.

Please give your advice for Japanese language learners

Please continue studying Japanese, even after the program finish and you go back to your home country.
That is important. Do not forget that you made a really good family through the Japanese-Language Institute, Kansai.

Please tell us about Togo.

My country, Togo, is geographically located in West Africa.
Togo is known as the "Smile of Africa."
I would like to invite Japanese people to come and visit to discover Togo.

Steve Aléwabia Délali Aklesso Bodjona

Steve Aléwabia Délali Aklesso Bodjona is Chargés d'affaires ad interim, Embassy of the Republic of Togo in Japan.He was born in September 21, 1982. After obtaining his master degree in Law at the University of Lomé, he studied Diplomacy at the École nationale d'administration of Togo and then started working for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Togo. He participated in the Japanese-Language Training Program for Foreign-Service Officers & Public Officials between September 2009 and May 2010. Upon the completion of the program, he returned to Togo once, but came back to Japan to set up their Embassy in Japan. Since then, he energetically introduces music, cuisine and other genres of culture of Togo and is active as a bridge between Japan and his country.

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