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As part of its ongoing series of meeting with ambassadors of the world stationed in Japan, the Min-On Concert Association interviewed His Excellency Teimuraz Lezhava, Ambassador Extraordinaryand Plenipotentiary of Georgia to Japan. The ambassador shared his thoughts on several fascinating aspects of Georgian culture as well as his impressive work in the social media space.

The interview opened with the question on the unique way inbound travelers are, depending on the season, welcomed upon arriving at Tbilisi Airport at the Georgian capital: a courtesy bottle of wine. The reason for this is because wine occupies a very special place in Georgia—where, located in the Caucasus Mountains, Asia, the Middle East and Europe come together—as it is seen by many as its birthplace, said Ambassador Lezhava. Georgia’s winemaking history goes back more than 8,000 years, he explained, and the process by which the vino is fermented is unique as it is buried in special vats called qvevri.

Ambassador Lezhava cited another of Georgia’s cultural riches—“polyphony,” or “a type of vocal harmony wherein multiple independent melodies intertwine, creating a complex yet harmonious sound,” according to the website, georgianwine.uk. He said UNESCO declared it a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2001 and, expressive of the country’s proud history in the arts and profound spirituality, taught to children at an early age and performed in schools and churches.

Min-On, in fact, invited the Georgian National Dance & Song Ensemble “Rustavi” to tour Japan in 2018, which the ambassador was told met with enthusiasm by Japanese concertgoers. He went on to say polyphony is a record of the joys and adversities the people of Georgia have undergone over history and an inestimable testament to the robust and resilient fabric from which they are cut. The success of the “Rustavi” tour impressed on him that further cultural exchange initiatives are needed so that the people of Georgia and Japan can deepen their mutual understanding.

Ambassador Lezhava and his embassy have actively engaged in bilateral exchange, starting with promotion of Georgian wine to Japan. This “soft power” project aims to donate the product to all 47 prefectures in Japan, each wine carefully chosen from Georgian grapes that are compatible with the respective prefecture’s soil. To date, 20 have been selected and delivered out of the some 500 types of grape grown in his country, with more on the way.

Another initiative is the ambassador’s efforts to pique Japanese curiosity over Georgia through X, formerly known as Twitter. He has some 270,000 followers as of November 2023, making him the most followed among all other ambassadors stationed in Japan. As he tells it, he is tweeting not only to convey the joy of having people learn of his country, but also to facilitate communication between different cultures—and hopes that such exchanges can contribute to peace in general. Taking heart that more people are becoming aware of Georgia through social media, Ambassador Lezhava explains he is looking to further expand his audience, engaging in other media channels going forward.