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Autumn Issue (Nov.)

Messages to Their Second Century

His Excellency wearing a necktie in Waseda colors, a gift from President Shirai

His Excellency Abdulaziz Turkistani

Globalization that can be performed only by Waseda

His Excellency Abdulaziz Turkistani
Special Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to Japan

His Excellency Abdulaziz Turkistani assumed the position of Special Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to Japan, utilizing the 8 years of foreign study that he spent in Japan. His Excellency discussed memories from his time as a student at Waseda University, the impression of Japanese universities as seen from overseas, and his expectations towards Waseda.

Understanding instructors who permitted religious worship during classes

-- Would you please discuss what made you decide to study abroad in Japan?

In 1971, when the King of Saudi Arabia made his first visit to Japan, I saw an interpreter on television. I told my mother that I wanted to become like that interpreter, and she then told me that I should become an ambassador who would act as a bridge between Saudi Arabia and Japan. This year, 38 years after that conversation with my mother, I was able to fulfill the promise that I made to her.

At that time, I was chosen as the first scholarship student of the MEXT (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology), something that I am grateful for even now. My entrance into Waseda University was also made possible by recommendations received from staff of the Japanese Consulate General in Saudi Arabia. However, at that time, I was still not able to speak Japanese, and I experienced a great deal of culture shock upon actually coming to Japan.

-- What surprised you about life in Japan?

To begin, I was taken to my dormitory in Komaba by an employee of the MEXT, and I was really surprised the first time that I entered my room. I opened the door and saw what I thought was the entrance to my room, but it was really the entire room itself! Normally, homes in Saudi Arabia are much more spacious, so I was quite incredulous. Also, I was hungry at the time, so I went to a nearby convenience store and purchased what I thought was some kind of white cheese, only to be surprised by the strange taste! That's right, what I had bought was tofu. I had these kinds of surprises every day.

-- What was your impression of Japanese people?

I thought that the Japanese are a very kind and warm race of people. Although nearly 29 years have passed since I first came to Japan, I have rarely met a Japanese person that I disliked. I am very fond of the Japanese.

My instructors also made an effort to understand the culture of my country. Since I am a follower of Islam, I pray at certain times every day. My instructors allowed me to leave classes for the 5 minutes that I needed to pray. I was grateful for this kindness from the bottom of my heart. Also, this show of understanding caused me to respect Japanese people.

-- What was the focus of your study at Waseda University?

The main theme of my study was "advertising ethics in Saudi Arabia." I studied this theme under the guidance of Professor Tasaburo Kobayashi, who was famous for his research in advertising, and under the guidance of Professor Toshio Yamaki of Tokyo Keizai University, who served as an instructor at Waseda. A variety of overseas products are sold in Saudi Arabia, and these products are accompanied by advertising. There are merits to this trend, such as the creation of more convenient lifestyles and the granting of dreams. However, there is also the aspect of our country losing a culture that it has followed since long ago. Therefore, I analyzed how people's way of thinking, lifestyle, and culture changed as a result of advertising, and I researched what kinds of advertising ethics are required. Just as television has broadcasting ethics, advertising also requires ethics.

-- I have heard that your previous position was as Dean of the School of Management at King Saud University. What kind of impression does Waseda University give when viewed from overseas?

There is the impression that students and personnel are greatly valued at Waseda. Since Japan has not been blessed with physical resources, there is the custom of valuing individuals. King Saud University of Saudi Arabia performs a variety of international projects, such as an agreement for cooperation with the King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals. King Saud University also has an outstanding policy of accepting foreign students. Speaking as a representative of Saudi Arabian universities, we hope to learn from Japan in the future.

I hope to increase understanding of Saudi Arabia from different perspectives

-- In the future, what actions will you take as ambassador in order to deepen exchange between Saudi Arabia and Japan?

From an educational standpoint, I hope to create a university in Saudi Arabia that enables students to study Japan. This is a dream that I have held since long ago. Preparations have already started for such a university, and I absolutely intend to fulfill this dream.

Regarding sports, I would like to foster exchange between Saudi Arabia and Japan through soccer, which is a major sport in both countries. In the past, when asking Japanese people what they think of when they hear the name "Saudi Arabia," the only answers that I received were "oil," "deserts," and "camels." However, current students often give the answer of "soccer." This makes me very happy. In the future, I hope to use soccer to create an opportunity for exchange between the two countries.

In terms of the media, there is a lack of effort in both countries to acquire information about each other. In the future, I hope to call for more effort from the media.

I want parents to see the growth of their children as human beings

-- What does Waseda University need in order to become a university that is selected by students throughout the world?

Nowadays, globalization at universities is commonplace. In order for Waseda to differentiate itself from other universities, I believe that Waseda must learn more about the systems of foreign universities. Japanese universities require a great deal of time to make a decision, no matter what item is being considered. In Saudi Arabia, there are many cases in which documents are quickly stamped and corrections to the orientation of projects are made while the project is being implemented. Of course, there are many cultural differences, and I do not expect Japan to adjust in order to follow our methods. I simply want Japanese universities to be aware that there are many foreign countries that make decisions quickly.

I believe that such globalization can only be performed by a university like Waseda. My deep respect for Waseda University leads me to have high expectations.

-- In conclusion, would you please give a message to student's parents who are reading this interview?

I hope that parents are not content with having their children enter Waseda University. Rather, I want parents to take responsibility for raising their children until they enter society. I realize that parents are busy, but I ask them to watch over the growth of their sons and daughters as human beings. Japanese society will improve when students who have become outstanding adults enter society. I believe that this relationship is very important.

His Excellency Abdulaziz Turkistani
Special Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to Japan

Born in 1958 in Ta'if, Saudi Arabia. Graduated from King Abdulaziz University and then came to Japan in 1980 as a student on a Japanese government scholarship. Studied advertising at the Waseda University Graduate School of Commerce and obtained his Master's Degree in 1984. Afterwards, conducted marketing research in the Doctoral Program of Seijo University until 1988, and obtained his Doctoral Degree from the University of Cairo in 1999. After returning to Saudi Arabia, served as a university instructor, as well as an employee of a publishing company and company selling imported Japanese vehicles. His most recent position was as Dean of the School of Management at King Saud University. Assumed the position of Special Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to Japan in June of this year.