St. Patrick's Day Special Article - Hideki Mimura
Hideki Mimura is arguably the biggest supporter of all things Irish in Japan. His passion and commitment to Ireland is truly remarkable, particularly his key role in setting up multiple St. Patrick’s Day parades and greenings across the nation since the early 1990s. To mark Paddy’s Day this year the IJCC sat down with Mimura-san to discuss his extraordinary achievements.
Mimura’s initial exposure to Ireland occurred over thirty years ago. Completely unfamiliar with the country and its culture, he came across a newspaper advertisement looking for volunteers who would be willing to help out at the Irish Pavilion at Expo ‘90 in Osaka. His curiosity was piqued, and he was soon put in charge of various projects that would ultimately lead to a lifelong affinity for all things Emerald Isle.
This unexpected path resulted in Mimura obtaining a job at the Irish Embassy in Tokyo, where he was able to become involved in organising events and activities aimed at promoting Ireland to a Japanese audience. He’s also made regular trips to Ireland, and has expressed fondness for the unspoiled natural beauty of Connemara. Since his debut visit to Ireland three decades prior, Mimura has observed quite a few changes that have taken place across the country. Nevertheless, the innate character of the Irish people that initially attracted him has remained the same.
“The enthusiasm of Irish people affected me a lot. Irish people still have good spirits, and are always very kind” he remarked fondly.
No stranger to the many manifestations of Irish alcohol, Mimura demonstrates enthusiasm for both stout and whiskey. He’s happy to get stuck into a pint of Guinness whenever the opportunity presents itself, and enjoys the occasional drop of Jameson Black Barrel. But for special events he likes to put out all the stops and enjoy some Midleton Very Rare. He says it’s a bit tricky to get, and hopes it becomes more popular in Japan soon.
Mimura’s life was marked by sudden personal tragedy in 2017 when his daughter, Melissa, passed away in a traffic accident in Canada. He was devastated, but his link to Ireland offered remarkable solace in an unexpected way. A phone call came from the Irish Embassy, on what would have been Melissa’s 22nd birthday, telling him that he had been granted the prestigious Presidential Distinguished Service Award for the Irish Abroad. Presented by President Michael D Higgins at Áras an Uachtaráin, Mimura says that the award was more than he deserved. The countless Irish and Japanese communities who have benefited from his work would beg to differ. Liam Neeson also won the award the same year, and Mimura jokes that his one regret was not being able to meet the stoic action star while in Dublin.
The pandemic has unfortunately meant that the main parade in Tokyo’s Omotesando has been cancelled for three consecutive years. While this is undoubtedly a tremendous shame, there is very much light at the end of the tunnel. Last Saturday, parade celebrations once again took place in Yokohama alongside green light ups in an optimistic taste of what will come in 2023. Expo 2025 will once again be held in Osaka, which will give Mimura a chance to look back on all that he has accomplished since he first replied to that advert in 1990. But at the moment he’s busy heading to New York to participate in the parade there, having made the acquaintance of many Irish-Americans through his wide-ranging work.
It is now Mimura’s ultimate ambition to help set up St. Patrick’s Day parades in all 47 Japanese prefectures, from Hokkaido to Okinawa. With such a strong track record of success behind him, he may very well meet his goal.
We would like to express our thanks to Hideki Mimura for taking the time to sit down with us for this insightful discussion
Written by Ciaran Lawler