Tokyo Embassy Talk:
Canadian Diplomat Finds Joy and Friendship Through Music
Diverse Cultural Competencies in Action
Anita Pan, First Secretary of the Embassy of Canada to Japan, brings along with her a slate of numerous talents. A speaker of French, Japanese, and Mandarin Chinese in addition to English, Pan has consistently strived to bring a cultural context to dealings of trade and diplomacy. Her first overseas assignment after joining the Canadian Foreign Service was in Tokyo as a trade commissioner from 2015 to 2018, after which she obtained her graduate degree in public policy from Princeton University in the United States.
Given the presently shifting geopolitical dynamics, the timing of Pan's return to Japan in autumn 2022 for her current mission was perfect for putting her diplomatic and linguistic expertise to work. "This is an extremely exciting time to be based in Tokyo," notes Pan, whose background makes her well-poised in her current role to help facilitate Canada's support of peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region.
This type of intensive work naturally also requires outlets for de-stressing and self-care, and Pan is equally well-suited for this regard through another one of her passions: classical music.
Power of Music to Bring Balance, Transcend Barriers and Create Connections
A pianist since the age of five, and a violinist since she began studying the instrument during her previous assignment in Tokyo, music is something that Pan has consistently turned toward as an outlet for creativity and expression. "Music provides a balance in my life, and also brings me a sense of lightheartedness that is particularly important when dealing with regional security-related issues in my work," she notes.
Given her busy schedule, Pan's opportunities for playing music are limited to practicing her violin and piano at home, as well as occasionally playing in violin recitals or at Embassy events. She observes, however, that the Tokyo metropolis offers incredibly rich opportunities for attending numerous types of classical music events as a spectator.
"Whether it's amateur orchestra performances, concerts featuring some of the world's top soloists, or any number of unique festivals, there is just so much on offer for musical enthusiasts here in Tokyo," Pan notes. She explains that a particularly favorite event of hers is La Folle Journée, held annually at the Tokyo International Forum, featuring a three-day lineup of various creative artistic collaborations in the classical music genre.
"The Tokyo public is extremely engaged when it comes to appreciating musical performances, and I love that aspect of the city so much," she adds.
Circling back to the matter of diplomacy that Pan deals with in her daily work, she notes that music has a clear role to play in this regard as well. "Music is a common language that we can all understand, and which has the power to create bonds and special connections while also breaking down cultural barriers," she emphasizes.
Pan cites one particularly special personal experience involving music: the opportunity to join a choir performing Ode to Joy from Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 in a New Year concert held in Shibuya City. "I ended up participating for two years in a row, and the second year's performance was held at Orchard Hall, which was an incredibly exciting opportunity," she recalls. "Through this experience, I was also able to become friends with people whom I never would have been able to encounter otherwise."
Tokyo: City of Unexpected Discoveries
Pan also recounts an experience of wandering upon a musical performance at the T-site complex in Tokyo's Daikanyama district. "I realized that the violinist had played the music for the soundtrack to the Your Lie in April anime series, which I was an enormous fan of," she recalls. "Tokyo is the kind of city where you can have little unexpected discoveries like this all the time."
This attitude of curiosity is one that Pan carries with her throughout the metropolis wherever she goes. "If I am having lunch in a new neighborhood, I usually avoid restaurants where I see long lines of people; but will instead choose little obscure hole-in-the-wall spots, that will definitely not have English menu," she laughs. "This approach has enabled me to discover so many of the amazing spots that exist throughout Tokyo."
＜Home Country Hints＞
Q1. Which is a city or town that you want someone to visit at least once in your country?
The Gulf Islands of British Columbia are a wonderful place to visit; they are so beautiful and serene that you feel like you are stepping into another world. My hometown of Vancouver is also an incredibly gorgeous place, and is home to people from many different backgrounds. In fact, a majority of its residents are non-Caucasian. Montreal is another lively and vibrant city, with many events and festivals, as well as numerous languages spoken, beginning of course with French. It really exemplifies the multiculturalism that is such an important feature of Canada as a nation.
Q2. What is a food or drink that you would like to introduce from your country?
Again, there are so many fantastic foods to be found in Canada due to its diversity. One item with a fascinating history is the B.C. roll, which was a creation of Japanese-Canadian chef Tojo Hidekazu in 1974. Raw fish was not commonly consumed at that time in Canada, and so Chef Tojo used local ingredients that were more familiar to people: barbecued salmon skin and cucumber. It ended up becoming a mainstream food item, and all local sushi restaurants now definitely have it on their menu. I really love this story because of its resonance in terms of the blending of cultures.
Photos (portraits) by Emily York