Tokyo Embassy Talk:
Celebrating the Tokyo-Berlin City Partnership's 30th Anniversary and Breaking Stereotypes

Judith Hollis, Attachée of Cultural Affairs and Public Relations at the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany Tokyo, tells us about her mission to diversify the image of Germany in Japan, while building on long-term connections between the two countries and especially the two friendship cities of Tokyo and Berlin.
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Judith Hollis with a Tokyo version of the famous Berlin Buddy Bear at the entrance of the embassy. The bear was designed by artists Shibuya Tadaomi and MAHARO.

Berlin and Tokyo officially became friendship cities in May 1994, with a joint declaration by the Governing Mayor of Berlin and the Governor of Tokyo. Hollis acknowledges how the two cities are bursting with energy and creativity and attracting fashionable, inventive, and creative people. "As in Tokyo, in Berlin, too, everything is always moving," she says. 

Hollis enjoys cycling and rides her bike to the embassy as often as possible.

"I think that Berlin, but also Germany in general, is open to everyone, welcoming anyone coming to visit or live there," Hollis says. Proud of these values, the embassy has been supporting diversity and equality efforts in Tokyo.

One particular effort is in the domain of LGBTQ+ diversity—the German Embassy had a booth at Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2023 with a special guest from Germany, drag queen Vivienne Lovecraft. For Pride in 2024, the embassy plans to increase its presence on the event as one of the activities to mark the 30th anniversary of the Tokyo-Berlin partnership. 

The ambassador of Germany to Japan, H.E. Dr. Clemens von Goetze and drag queen Vivienne Lovecraft at Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2023 in April. Photo: courtesy of German Embassy Tokyo

Diversified Communication Activities in Tokyo

This connects to Hollis's main mission to diversify, broaden and enrich the image of Germany in Japan via social media. 

"While beer, cars and soccer are a big part of German culture, there is a lot more to it," Hollis says. "So, what I've been trying to do is find opposites to what is already established as a facet of German tradition," she shares. Thus, the embassy's social media posts introduce German wines, not just beer, and, to contrast with the image of cars, snaps of cyclists transporting their bicycles on the Deutsche Bahn encapsulate the prevalent pastime of cycling in Germany. 

Hollis enjoys sharing and exchanging information as part of her job, especially with young Japanese people. "To students who come here for a visit, avoiding stereotypes, I tell them about what I've experienced in Germany and how I see Germany," she answers when asked about the favorite part of her work. 

"In 2023, we highlighted German diversity on the exterior wall of the embassy with a photo exhibition of beautiful spots in each of the 16 German federal states that people may not know," Hollis explains. The exterior wall of the embassy often serves as a canvas for art projects. In 2024, the exterior wall also celebrates the 30th anniversary of the Tokyo-Berlin city partnership. 

There are many more events and activities planned for the 30th anniversary such as collaboration in the fields of science (particularly the development of AI technologies), startup economy, arts, and esports.

<Home Country Hints>

Q1. Aside from German sausage, what other food should people try in Germany?

Any of the German breads. Germany's bread culture, with over 3,000 varieties, is unique and was designated as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2014. In fact, Germany also has a German Bread Ambassador, and they are working to spread the bread culture and bread industry of Germany, which are uniquely diverse in the world.

Q2. What else would you like people to know about your country?

Although not yet an official sport, gaming is one of the most popular pastimes among children and young people in Germany. Moreover, games have become ubiquitous in our lives. For example, not only through gamification in business, but also in education and social issues, game culture has taken root. Therefore, the embassy, organized the first German-Japanese "League of Legends" cup at the eSports High School in Shibuya. The professional esports team of German soccer club, Eintracht Frankfurt Esports participated in the finals of the first ever "Diplomacy meets eSports Cup."

Judith Hollis

She joined the German Federal Foreign Office in 2014. After spending three years in Togo working in development cooperation and cooperation in the arts, she moved to Tokyo in 2020. Her work in Tokyo has been focused on nullifying stereotypes about Germany via cultural projects, PR campaigns and workshops. She enjoys discovering Tokyo and its parks by bicycle with her husband and their dog Flocke.

Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Tokyo
*Japanese and German language site

X: @GermanyInJapan
Instagram: @germanyinjapan
Interview and writing by Zoria Petkoska
Photography by Anna Petek