Yasuhiro Ashiya, Marubeni Corporation, Warsaw Office.
In May 2004, Poland joined the EU, along with the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. It could be said that this marked a completely new start for a country which has "a history of being invaded", clearing the dark cloud that has hung over the hearts of its people.
Joining the EU has been lucky for Poland. The sudden increase in exports to EU of high quality agricultural and livestock products has been such that the domestic circulation of beef has fallen dramatically, to the extent that cow tongue, which was once very popular among Marubeni staff stationed here, is hardly available at all now. Moreover, foreign investors have been investing in Poland as a manufacturing base for the EU market one after another, mainly in industries such as cars and domestic appliances, and more recently major Japanese manufacturing corporations such as the Toyota Group, Sharp and Toshiba have also announced the creation of new factories or the expansion of existing facilities. It is anticipated that Poland will go on to be the subject of even more attention within the European region in the future too.
Poland's capital, Warsaw was a vibrant city known as "the Paris of the North" until it suffered immense destruction during the Second World War. When sitting drinking beer and snacking on sausage in a terrace in one of the beautiful squares in the Old Town that has been reconstructed to look as it used to, you could almost believe you had time-slipped to the middle ages. And if you could engage in lively conversation with the beautiful Polish lady sitting at the next table, there would be nothing wanting in the world.
Here in Warsaw, the Chopin International Piano Contest is held once every five years. It represents the gateway to success for talented young pianists aged 16 to 28, and the competition is at a very high level, with most of the top prize-winners of very promising world class standard. I watched out for the progress of the large team of supporters from Japan during last year's contest, and the competition made a great impression on me, with 2 Japanese pianists being awarded prizes, and a blind pianist from Japan aged only 16 managing to get through into the latter rounds and drawing great applause. In addition, there is also a piano concert held every Sunday during summer in the square containing the statue of Chopin in Lazienki Park and at Chopin’s birthplace, providing moments of relaxation for the music loving people of Warsaw.
Home not only to tasty beer and good meat dishes, Poland is undergoing economic development at an ever increasing pace, while at the same time protecting and maintaining its tradition of beautiful music. When in Europe, why not stop by in Warsaw to check out its new face, which is already different to how it was 3 years ago, and is still changing even now.
Marubeni Group magazine "M-SPIRIT" VOL.36 (November, 2006)