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On February 19, 2016, the International School Network was invited to the residence of the Swiss Ambassador, His Excellency Mr. Urs Bucher, for an interview about his country.





About the Residence (By Madoka)

Having been built in 1980, the Ambassador’s residence was described by H.E. Mr. Bucher as a “functional space reflecting modern architecture and art of both the Japanese and Swiss”.

Among the many intricate pieces of furniture and decorations, the wooden table carved out of a single tree sitting in the dining room catches the eye. Modern, simplistic Swiss paintings hang on the walls, and two lamps that show tribute to the Japanese culture are displayed. The lamps, entitled samurai, were designed and made in Swiss but are decorated with traditional Japanese “washi” paper, effectively becoming a “symbol of cultural interaction between Japan and Switzerland”. The residence also has a 30 meter long window frontier that displays the beautiful Japanese-style garden of the residence, which is illuminated at night. The Swiss art pieces and furniture create a very stylish and clean layout, effectively promoting Swiss interior designs to guests. H.E. Mr. Bucher also explained to us that both Swiss and Japanese architecture are very famous, and that architects from the two countries visit and learn from each other. He says that architecture and interior design are a “source of mutual inspiration” between Switzerland and Japan.

The Significance of Nature and Tourism (By Madoka)


H.E. Mr. Bucher explained to us that tourists visiting Switzerland should “seize the opportunity to visit many places”. He recommends to visit Switzerland for at least 3 nights to see what the country is about. Switzerland is home to many mountains, lakes, and romantic cities that include “the German/Latin atmospheres” and “the Italian atmosphere under the palm trees”. H.E. Mr. Bucher explains that in Switzerland one can see the ”mini-version of what Europe is about”.

Swiss people enjoy going outside more than anything. H.E. Mr. Bucher explained that from a young age, Swiss children are encouraged by their parents to play outside. He said that this is not only good for the physical health of the children but also for their mental health. Many traditions in Switzerland are therefore outdoor focused.

There are four defined seasons in Switzerland: a cold winter, a beautiful and merry spring, a warm summer, and a dry and colorful autumn. Winter sports such as skiing, snowboarding are very popular in Switzerland. In spring, the Swiss landscapes bloom with beautiful flowers that would light up anyone’s heart. He also mentioned that during autumn, forests become very colorful due to the autumn leaves, similar to Japanese forests. H.E. Mr. Bucher explained that during the summer time, almost all families play soccer and have hiking trips. The temperatures of Switzerland in the summer are similar to those in Japan.  

H.E. Mr Bucher explained to us that in Switzerland, people swim outdoors all throughout the year. He explained, “When the water is melted, you can swim.” H.E. Mr. Bucher mentioned that he was surprised to hear that Japanese people would not swim in the cold. In Switzerland, people are encouraged to swim and physically interact with nature no matter the season.

The high value of natural interaction in Switzerland is poignantly represented by the proximity of animals to Swiss people. H.E. Mr. Bucher explained that Swiss farmers allow cows to walk in nature, outside the fences. He commented that cows can be found “every 5 minutes” when traveling by bicycle in nature. Wild deer and foxes are hunted especially by the Romansh in Switzerland. There is a wide variety of birds that are home to Switzerland as well. H.E. Mr. Bucher mentioned that birds always sing in the morning, creating a “concert of birds” even in large cities.

Switzerland has come a long way in terms of the preservation of nature. During the industrial period, the environment was largely neglected. However, since then, Swiss people have realized how the treatment of nature “directly affects the lives of the people”. Switzerland has worked hard to decrease activities that cause negative externalities to the environment. The government invested in water purification and renewable energy, advocating the clean and sustainable lifestyle. H.E. Mr. Bucher explained that Switzerland is very “proud” to be the “source of streams” that provide water to many countries. He commented that the water and air in Switzerland is all clean, despite the fact that there is a large amount of traffic in the country. Switzerland still relies on nuclear energy, which H.E. Mr. Bucher explained that the country has “decided to smoothly opt out”. The country plans on increasing the percentage use of sustainable energy to 100% in the next 25 years.

Cultural Diversity (By Madoka)


Diversity in Switzerland not only includes the physical features of Switzerland but also its people. H.E. Mr. Bucher explained to us that 25% of the people living in Switzerland are not Swiss, as people in Switzerland are from “all over the planet”. H.E. Mr. Bucher explains that the country is a very attractive place to live, as it is beautiful, safe, and prospering with job opportunities. Furthermore, in Switzerland one can buy newspapers from at least 10 different countries; sometimes even 30. Swiss satellite TV also catches TV from all over the world.” Also, in addition to their first languages, Swiss people can speak “at least one second national language”. Switzerland is a very open-minded country; a country that warmly welcomes foreigners. H.E. Mr. Bucher relates the openness of Switzerland to the country’s education. Swiss education greatly values interaction and exchange of opinions.

Creating an “Open” Environment (By Kurumi)


Switzerland is globally known for its system of direct democracy and so, as representatives of Japanese citizens, we sought help from H.E. Mr. Bucher to create a more “open” environment between the people and the government in Japan. When asked for advices regarding this matter, he mentioned that the issue of secrecy lies in how education is preceded in Japan.

“In Switzerland, we always want teachers to interact with the students during class. Therefore, a teacher who lectures students are considered to be a very bad teacher. We [individuals] have strong opinions that we must express. Then, we would be open to better arguments,” he pointed out. Additionally, H.E. Mr. Bucher stated that Japanese students tend to “not express feelings and conviction”, while Swiss students are “outspoken and are encouraged to be so”. As he takes up the role of an Ambassador, he has been observing the attitudes of the Japanese students, and thus, he noticed that many of the Japanese students do not communicate with foreigners through the English language. “They are too busy studying grammar that they forget to use the language [effectively]. Language is a tool for interaction and is not something to study. By interacting, life would be more enjoyable,” H.E. Mr. Bucher expressed.

Education in Switzerland (By Madoka)


H.E. Mr. Bucher explained that only a minority of Swiss people pursue their studies at university, and that this is the reason of success for Switzerland’s low unemployment and competition in the world market. H.E. Mr. Bucher commented that Swiss parents generally do not wish for their children to study at the “best” universities. Swiss people believe that each individual should “make the best out of their skills”, working “with their hands” instead of “sitting and studying”. H.E. Mr. Bucher explained that Swiss students apply to apprenticeships instead of going to university. They can then opt for further education, such as studying at technical schools or universities, or they can apply to jobs with decent salary. H.E. Mr. Bucher said that this greatly decreases stress for young people, and allows for an efficient economy from the sufficient labor force. It allows “Every place” to have “the right person”. H.E. Mr. Bucher also added that this unique system has proven to be highly efficient, and that it is being investigated and used as a model for many countries.

Cultural Values (By Kurumi)


When asked about the cultural values the Swiss people hold through their mentalities, H.E. Mr. Bucher revealed, “It is true that we always aim for an egalitarian society. We never had an aristocracy or kings. We believe that every human should be valued equally and [individual rights] are not depended on family and social status,” he began, “You should do the best you can do in what nature has given to you. If there is someone who is not necessarily good in mathematics, but if he is a good carpenter, society should cherish that and support his ability in what he can do. Respect depends on performance.”

Food in Switzerland (By Kurumi)


Switzerland is most widely acknowledged for its chocolates and Swiss cheese, but Switzerland was not only about its appetizing cuisine. H.E. Mr. Bucher mentioned that it was not only about having good food, but the role in which food plays in human connection and relationship is what makes it so special. Cheese fondue could be an example. According to H.E. Mr. Bucher, cheese fondue plays an “integrating role”. “Through sharing our meal, we can create a warm atmosphere to make close human contact. Food is not only for nutrition [intake], but mealtime is a moment where humans can communicate and that is the best you can ever have,” he stated. This could be compared to the Japanese nabe (cooking pot), where family members or friends gather in one table to share their meal. By cooking meat and vegetables from one pot, the eating experience would feel more intimate and heartwarming. Food may be a universal method of uniting people.

Cultural Exchanges Taking Place (By Kurumi)


H.E. Mr. Bucher stated that despite the “incredible distance”, he was taken aback by the “tensed cultural exchange” that have been taking place between Switzerland and Japan. In 2014, the Swiss Embassy celebrated their 150th year of diplomatic relations with Japan. He spoke that in this year, the cultural exchange was particularly “rich”. There were around 250 events related to Switzerland hosted in Japan and similarly, Japan-related events in Switzerland. Events included art exhibitions, dance, and any form of performances. “Swiss artists love to visit Japan because they know of the amount of interest Japanese people have on foreign culture. There is a cultural understanding and the artists feel that. This could be seen through how the Japanese audience interact with the paintings and they are always enthusiastic about these experiences,” H.E. Mr. Bucher commented.

Comparing the Two Nations (By Kurumi)


H.E. Mr. Bucher commented that Switzerland and Japan has a potential of establishing “wonderful relations” and this may not be too difficult to achieve, as we are “economically and culturally close”. According to H.E. Mr. Bucher, there are approximately 7,000 Japanese inhabitants in Switzerland and there are even mixed marriages between people from the two countries. He added that statistics show marriages between a Swiss and a Japanese result in a much lower percentage of divorce compared to a marriage between two people from Switzerland. This shows stability and the capability of people from Switzerland and Japan getting along together. The reason behind this could be due to how similar Swiss and Japanese people could be.

H.E. Mr. Bucher listed that politeness and respectfulness are two similarities between the two nations. “We are both accurate with our work and we both have discipline and punctuality. We are modest with our human relationships and make approaches to initiate a harmonious relationship,” he shared. Furthermore, he views that both countries favor “integration” and that we are “conscious-driven”.

Swiss Donation for the Great Tohoku Earthquake (By Madoka)


The International Network expressed our thanks as Japanese citizens for the generous support Switzerland has presented to Japan after the devastating Great Tohoku earthquake that occurred on March 11, 2011. H.E. Mr. Bucher explained to us that Switzerland had donated largest amount of money to Japan. He commented that he was amazed by the discipline and braveness Japan had shown during and after the earthquake. “I have the deepest respect towards Japan,” he added.

The Ambassador’s Aspirations (By Madoka)


When we asked H.E. Mr. Bucher what his childhood dream was, he explained to us his sequence of life aspirations. Initially, he wanted to become a farmer. At the age of 6 his dream career changed to becoming an astronaut. At the age of about 14 to 15, he then developed the passion to become a lawyer. His future aspirations then turned to concrete as he decided to endeavor his path to become a diplomat.

As the Ambassador of Switzerland to Japan, H.E. Mr. Bucher has the goal of bringing Swiss and Japanese people closer together. He explained that he would like to raise awareness among Swiss people of “how Japanese people live to their values”. Overall he aspires to increase opportunities for Swiss and Japanese people to learn from each other.

The Ambassador’s Messages (By Madoka)


H.E. Mr. Bucher’s message towards students is to learn 2-3 foreign languages. He said that it is important that one “speak[s] the languages and use[s] them when traveling the world”. H.E. Mr. Bucher encourages Japanese people to study abroad and come back to Japan to contribute to the country. He also mentioned that they should feel proud to be Japanese. H.E. Mr. Bucher believes that the first step towards world peace is to respect each other. He explained, “Every individual should behave in a way they would expect others to act”.

Reported by

        Madoka   Nishina

        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

Moe  Onishi          6th Saint Maur International School

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