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On September 11th, the International School Network went to visit the Embassy of Slovakia to Japan in Tokyo for an interview with the Ambassador, His Excellency Mr. Michal Kottman. Prior to the interview, HE Mr. Kottman welcomed us with a brief video about his country. 


History (Reported by Kurumi)
HE Mr. Kottman introduced to us that Slovakia is a young country. The nation was created on January 1st, 1993, and went through fundamental changes during the end of the 1980s, regarding the political and economical systems. Previously, after World War II, Slovakia was on the eastern block; where the one party system of the government limited human and political freedom. In 1989, the political regime was overthrown by the people, and a sense of trust was formed regarding social, political, economic life. The nation’s people had very lively discussions on how they would like to live in the future. They eventually agreed peacefully and amicably that the country of Czechoslovakia would split into the two countries of Slovakia and Czech Republic and “start from scratch”. Since then, the processes of transformation and change towards the betterment of the nation continued, such as the integration into the EU (2004) and the introduction of the common European currency (2009). Slovakia was doing well in the economic aspect and was thriving towards reaching the power, efficiency, and stability of neighboring EU countries. HE Mr. Kottman believes that their history and development, whilst being a compact and relative small country with the area of 94,000 km2 and a population of 5.4 million, is a very encouraging and admirable factor.

Geography (Reported by Kurumi)
HE Mr. Kottman explained to us that Slovakia is a very mountainous country. With mountain summits and hills above 2,000 to 6,000 meters, the country is a very popular destination for mountain hikers. 
The capital, Bratislava, is interestingly located as it lies on the national border. This makes the capital close to Budapest (Hungary), Prague (Czech Republic), and the Danube River. From the capital, one can see Austria (Bratislava is 60 km away from Vienna), and Hungary. HE Mr. Kottman mentioned that he often goes to Vienna to have coffee from Slovakia (6 km downtown). He also explained to us that many Slovakian people have houses in Austria, because the countries are so close. He commented that “you do not feel” the borders, making Bratislava’s location a very unique place.

Technology (Reported by Kurumi)
HE Mr. Kottman commented that technology is a sector that is has been booming in recent years. “There are a  relatively large number of people who are currently engaged in this kind of high-tech industries, such as antivirus assets. They are known worldwide with products that are a state of art, the best in the world,” he explained. An example of a  newly made technology is Sygic. Sygic is a Slovak mobile application that enables navigational service. Other major industries include the automotive industry and electronics; which constantly undergoes research and development. HE Mr. Kottman believes that it is significant for Slovaks to keep in touch with the most advanced, sophisticated techonology.


Exports and Imports (Reported by Kurumi)
Slovakia is currently the world’s largest producer of cars per capita and the production of cars go up to approximately one million cars per year. HE Mr. Kottman mentioned that it is the main commodity in their mutual trade with Japan. 75% of the nation’s export is cars; however other exports include electronics, food, beverages, and chemical products. At the moment, their exports to Japan are not very high (approximately 100 million euros and 150 million euros in successful years). “It is a huge challenge for everyone that is engaged in trade to expand trade to Japan,” he commented.


something that is in people's mind. As a result of this, there have been numerous national state folk ensembles that still continue to perform. “I believe it’s important to have that feeling, even in Japan, that I belong to something, some community, and circle of people. I think it’s important to keep this feeling of belonging to your own traditional regions,” The national state folk ensemble was created after World War II and still exists until this day. There are currently many professionals that work to preserve culture by performing traditional folk dances and music as an occupation. In addition, there are some institutions that are paid by the state that work for the preservation of traditional craftsmanship. These institutions support people who keep traditional crafts (including the making of cornback dolls) alive.

Cultural Values
According to HE Mr. Kottman, Slovak people love life and are family-oriented. During Christmas, Bratislava, which is usually crowded with people, become empty as people tend to go back to their hometown to spend time with their families. Regarding cultural values  in general, he expressed, “I believe that every nation has it. Mankind as a whole is rich in diversity and every country is contributing in diversity. We, Slovaks are easygoing people, as  we do not like to make enemies, we have never  started a war within our extensive history, and we are traditionally accustomed to influence of other cultures. In our mindsets, we always have a readiness to encounter different nations and cultures.”

The First Step to World Peace
HE Mr. Kottman mentioned that World Peace is as an aim that all people must have in their minds and that in everything we do, it is necessary for us to do our best to reach this goal. He stated, “If I have a recipe, I’ll be getting the Nobel Prize. I think we should be tolerant to other people. We need to learn a lot and understand other nations. Through this, we can help to build bridges and cultivate the art of communicating. Then, we can find a solution. Hatred is not the way for people.”


Languages (Reported by Kurumi)
According to HE Mr. Kottman, Slovakia is a country with a very rich history. “The knowledge of their history is traditionally and mentally in the minds of Slovaks,” he spoke. Slovaks came to Europe during the 6th or 7th Century and became a part of the Hungarian Kingdom in 1000 CE. The official language of Slovakia is Slovakian. Because of its similarity, HE Mr. Kottman stated that it is possible for Slovak people and Czech people to communicate with each other even if one speaks in Czech and the other speaks in Czech. Children begin learning foreign languages, such as English, German, and French from the third or fourth year of elementary school. German is especially popular, as many Slovaks live in Austria. As a member of the European Union, there are also many opportunities for university students to participate in student exchange programs. HE Mr. Kottman’s son had also taken advantage of the student exchange program. “He spent his time in Belgium. Because he was a part of an international community, he was able to gain an international experience. He used to say that it was by far, the best experience ever. There is multiple motivation for young people to learn languages,” he commented. 


Influence of Nature (Reported by Kurumi)
The Northern part of Slovakia is very hilly, and so during the Middle Ages, it not easy to travel from one part of Slovakia to another. With ethnical diversity, people in Slovakia spoke 30 different dialects, making it difficult for a person on one side of the country to understand a person on the other side. The country also has a large variety of traditional costumes, used in dancing and singing folk festivals, as almost every village has a special folk costume that differs from all others. During the medieval times, people mined for silver, and farmed in good soil. In this way, natural diversity has had a large influence on the diversion of society and how the country was shaped.


Preservation of Culture (Reported by Kurumi)
HE Mr. Kottman stated that the act of preserving culture has been 
HE Mr. Kottman had always been a diplomat at all areas. He has been working with the foreign service since graduating university. “I saw in foreign service the possibility to travel, meet new people, experience new culture in all aspects, and get in touch with new culture new traditions. It is still my passion and I still enjoy travelling. I am doing the best I can to get as much as possible from this profession and to travel as much as possible,” he expressed his undying passion for his job. Furthermore, HE Mr. Kottman commented that Japan is beautiful country with huge diversity; as there are cities, rivers, and mountains. He especially enjoys mountain climbing and skiing.

Childhood Dreams
Surprisingly, HE Mr. Kottman’s childhood dream was not a diplomat. When he was about four or five, he had wanted to be a postman. “In our neighborhood, there was a man who was in his forties. When he saw kids playing, he knew the tricks. So, I wanted to become a postman, like him,” he reflected. “In the last grade of elementary, I wanted to go to a high school that prepares for the tourism industry. I wanted to travel.” For high school, instead of continuing on with the specialized high school, he transferred to a secondary grammar school. By then he was completely sure of where he wanted to be.
During his childhood, HE Mr. Kottman spent a lot of time on the streets, instead of at home; since there were no computers or video games. He often played games such as football and dodge ball with his friends. “I was not very good at sports and I was not in a team, but I tried all kinds of sports,” he added.



Goals (Reported by Kurumi)
HE Mr. Kottman’s ultimate goal is to not only promote his country to the best extent, but also to promote cooperation and relations between countries. “Slovakia is a relatively young country and many people usually do not know much about Slovakia. I need to promote my country, but I would also like to meet different people and [directly] talk about my country and explain what we are looking for and what we are trying to do,” he began, “We are living in a global world with a global economy, so foreign investments play an important role”. HE Mr. Kottman explained mentioned that he sees a huge possibility of cultural exchanges and that his role is to try his best to promote these exchanges. Additionally, he would like to see more Slovak students come to Japan and to take advantage of the unique opportunity of learning. He stated that he would like Slovak students to learn the Japanese way of doing business, the way of thinking, and the way of organizing. HE Mr. Kottman had stated that he and the workers at the embassy are also here to help with Slovaks who live in Japan. He mentioned the need to do a bit of everything.

Message to Japanese Students
“I would like them to use every opportunity to experience the world, to travel, to participate in student exchanges, and to study abroad; because that is the future of mankind. We are going to be closer and closer [globally]. That is the reason why we need to be able to understand different people, cultures, languages, and nations to prevent misunderstandings and conflicts. I heard that Japanese students, in general, are not too enthusiastic to travel abroad so this would be my advice,” HE Mr. Kottman commented. In addition, he hopes that students use every possible opportunity to experience this aspect of student life.



Reported by

              Kurumi Onishi




Madoka Nishina   12th Saint Maur International School

Kate Shimizu       12th Seisen International School 

Kurumi Onishi      11th Saint Maur International School

Karen Nishina       6th Saint Maur International School

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