The bonds of friendship between Aberdeen and Japan have long been in the making. With connections like Thomas Blake Glover ( the Scottish Samurai) being celebrated in Japan only now being recognised in Scotland after a century of history has passed. Ronnie Watt OBE, ORS has been one of the most robust links with our city and the Japanese since the days of Glover. A link verified by the Japanese when they gave him the Order of the Rising Sun, an award previously bestowed on Glover, making Ronnie the 2nd Scottish Samurai.
Ronnie is a 9th Dan Karate master who has taught Karate in Aberdeen and around Scotland and abroad for over 50 years. Ronnie also founded and organised the prestigious "Scottish Samurai Awards" that has been recognising people of all walks of life for more than two decades. The self-funding awards are supported by his Karate, donations and the hard work of the awards committee.
This weekend 15 Japanese school-children visited Aberdeen. They came from Nagasaki. Ronnie organised home-stays for them in Aberdeen with many of his friends and karate-ka. These children experienced a fantastic jam-packed weekend of Scottish culture and history. The weekend began with the Lord Provost welcoming the children and their families with a Civic Reception in the Aberdeen Town House. They visited the town centre, Dunottar Castle, Stonehaven, Drum Castle and Crathes. On Saturday they spent the day at the Lonach Gathering.
To experience a Lonach Gathering is something extraordinary. Especially if you are from Japan.
The children and families were accompanied by Ronnie and the Consul General of Japan and Lord Charles Bruce. They were welcomed into the arena by the master of ceremonies Robert Lovie and introduced to the Lonach audience with the pipes resounding in the background. On Sunday night the tour ended with a private party hosted by Pauline Dreelan. The party began with Ronnie's Aberdeen children giving a demonstration of Karate. The Japanese then joined in a bit of ceilidh dancing with Charlie Abel from Iron Broo Ceilidh Band providing the music on his accordion. The children loved the Scottish music and dancing and took to it like a duck to water.
One parent of the families commented on how much she enjoyed the company of the Japanese children during the stay. "They were so polite, and I will miss them. I was in tears when they left. It was very emotional. One of them was so fascinated by everything here, and they even took photos of what was in my fridge!"
It is not our differences that define us. It's our humanity that unites us.
On Monday morning the groups met up for a tearful goodbye at Aberdeen Airport.
This is the second such visit that Ronnie has organised for the Japanese in Aberdeen. The visits have become a pilgrimage recreating the historic trips of the Japanese students organised by Glover. The students who visited Scotland over a century ago on Glover's behalf, went on to modernise Japan and transformed it into one of the worlds most important economies. Glover and his students are celebrated and credited in Japan as the fathers of the new age of industry.
Who knows what might come of these modern-day trips, a century later.