June 23, 2021: Visit to the Slovak Library for the Blind Matej Hrebenda in Levoča

   On June 23, I visited the Matej Hrebenda Slovak Library for the Blind in Levoča. I was invited by director of the library, Ing. František Hasaj, and saw memorial sakura planted on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of relations between Japan and the Slovak Republic in 2020. We unveiled a memorial plaque written not only in Slovak and Japanese, but also in Braille. The courtesy visit continued with a tour of selected library workplaces. For example, I looked at recording studios aimed to production of audio books for the blind, which are equipped with special equipment from a grant donated by the Japanese government, and which, despite its age, still works effectively and is used regularly.
   Despite the fact that we receive a number of applications from various Slovak institutions and organizations, unfortunately it is no longer possible to draw this grant aid in Slovakia at present. I am fully aware that the possibilities and resources of the Embassy to support and implement cultural diplomacy are very limited. Due to this, it is often difficult to build a mutual relationship for fruitful cooperation, to participate together in the activities of cultural diplomacy and thus contribute to the further development of friendship between Japan and the Slovak Republic.
   Frankly speaking, the motto "to do things together" is an important factor in cultural diplomacy, but in reality, many good ideas without "financial resources" intended for this purpose will unfortunately not move forward. When we look at the cultural and social projects of the embassies of individual countries in Bratislava, especially the embassies of EU countries, regardless of their size, they manage to carry out relatively large and remarkable activities in cooperation with private organizations. In this sense, to feel their strong presence in society. Of course, this is given by the amount of their budgets for the activities. Some countries have even set up separate institutions, which are responsible for cultural diplomacy separately from embassies. Ever since I began my mission in the Slovak Republic, I have been thinking about ways how to support the Matej Hrebenda Slovak Library for the Blind in Levoča, the only one of its kind in Slovakia. It is a special library and also a publisher of periodical and non-periodical documents in special forms (Braille, sound recordings, enlarged type of black print, digital texts, relief graphics). Its services are used exclusively by blind, partially sighted and otherwise disabled citizens. The peculiarity of SKN is that all documents must be produced by themselves and only then are they included in the library collection. Matej Hrebenda Slovak Library for the Blind in Levoča and the Embassy of Japan in the Slovak Republic are united by a long and sincere friendship thanks to a grant from the Japanese government. However, this equipment also has a limited lifespan and will need to be updated over time. I hope that at that time the Embassy of Japan will have wider opportunities to support and develop cultural diplomacy.