Tokyo Embassy Talk:
Tokyo's Cultural Connections with India

With an existing interest in Japan and India's relationship, Anviti Chaturvedi jumped at the opportunity to further fuel that curiosity on her first foreign service posting. Now, she is regularly joining the dots between the two cultures in both her work and personal life.
Anviti Chaturvedi, Second Secretary at the Embassy of India, finds particular interest in the cultural and spiritual links between India and Japan.

Learned Japanese in Tokyo during the Pandemic

When Chaturvedi joined the Indian Foreign Service in 2019, she was given the opportunity to learn Japanese, but unfortunately, this meant that her language learning would begin just as the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Although this also meant that her classes were restricted to being entirely online, she found that this was an interesting time to see how Tokyo reacted to the situation. One of the changes was a quick and efficient adoption of digital technology.

Hitting the ground running, Chaturvedi immediately started a 15-month Japanese course with a language school to prepare her for her embassy work. This language learning was part of what made her transition into Tokyo life much easier. She was soon exploring different parts of Tokyo with her new language skills and finding different cultural activities to try. For example, as a pescatarian, she enjoys the city's variety of international pescatarian and vegetarian cuisine. 

India's high economic growth is attracting worldwide attention. Chaturvedi sees a lot of potential for further collaboration between India and Tokyo in business, economy, and sustainability.

Points of Cultural Crossover around Tokyo

But it is not just in the cuisine that cultural crossover comes into play in the metropolis.

Chaturvedi was also surprised to find overlap with Indian culture at Tokyo's temples: "Some of our gods share common origins. For example, Daikokuten has origins tracing back to Mahakala, the god of war and prosperity, while Kichijoten is believed to trace back to the goddess Lakshmi." Even many of the practices when entering temples are similar, such as bowing and washing your hands.

One of the Seven Lucky Gods, Daikokuten, in the Buddhist Gokokuin Temple in Taito City. Photo: Kuremo via Shutterstock

She also enjoys the more intentional crossovers, such as the Kabuki performance based on the Indian epic, The Mahabharata, saying that she found it intriguing to watch the different portrayals of the characters while already knowing the story's context.

Regarding a memorable experience in Japan, she mentioned watching Totto-chan: The Little Girl at the Window. Based on Kuroyanagi Tetsuko's autobiographical novel, which has sold more than 25 million copies in Japan and abroad, it is a retelling of the unconventional education the author received at the former Tomoe Gakuen, an elementary school in Jiyugaoka, Meguro City during World War II. She also liked this book and found it to be an interesting representation of how people in Tokyo can enjoy living in the moment, even in hard times. Chaturvedi enjoys her daily life in Tokyo, where she occasionally feels the connection between India and Tokyo and is touched by the spirit of Tokyo's people and culture.

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Q1. What are some of India's lesser-known tourist attractions that you would recommend? 

Two are the Ajanta and Ellora Caves. They were among the first UNESCO World Heritage sites recognized in India in 1983. In the Ajanta Caves, we have Buddhist sculptures and Buddhist wall art so it's interesting both as an architectural marvel and as a cultural heritage site.

Q2. Is there anything you would like readers to know about the future of India-Japan relations? 

I believe in the advancement of our civilizational connection, with a greater degree of strategic cooperation in the Indo-Pacific and beyond, as well as working on a stronger B2B (Business to Business) and P2P (People-to-People) partnership. For this purpose, under the leadership of our ambassador, Embassy of India has undertaken initiatives such as the India-Japan SME Facilitation Cell, India-Japan Skill Connect, for bringing Japanese small and medium enterprises to India, and the improvement of skills development and knowledge exchange. We are also celebrating 2023 and 2024 as the India-Japan Year of Tourism with the theme of 'Connecting Himalayas with Mount Fuji' to strengthen our tourism links.

Anviti Chaturvedi

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Having moved to Tokyo in 2020, she joined the Embassy of India Tokyo in 2022 as Second Secretary of Political, Press & Information, Thematic Cooperation. She enjoys reading and exploring Tokyo's libraries and green spaces.
Interview, writing and photography by Cassandra Lord