Tokyo businessman holds meeting to discuss Ukraine situation

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Akiharu Awazu, left, and his wife, Yoko, center, offer Ukrainian homestyle dishes to an attendee of a meeting to discuss the current situation in Ukraine, at their home in Nerima Ward, Tokyo, on Saturday.

A Japanese business consultant who has dealt with Russia and Ukraine organized a meeting at his home in Nerima Ward, Tokyo, on Saturday to discuss the current situation in Ukraine.

Akiharu Awazu, 51, who has been involved in corporate revitalization in Russia and other countries in Eastern Europe, organized the gathering soon after Russian troops invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. He invited guests through social media, and about 20 people immediately responded.

While projecting scenic photos of the streets of Kyiv on a screen, Awazu explained the history of Ukraine and its relationship with Russia.

“In recent years, Ukraine has also developed close ties with the United States,” Awazu told attendees. “That’s why Russia was trying to keep Ukraine in check.”

According to Awazu, many of his friends and acquaintances living in Ukraine have evacuated the country, but some still remain. So far, he has tried to contact more than 20 people in Ukraine via email or social media, but only a few have responded. One friend posted a photo of a high-rise apartment building in front of his house in Kyiv that was hit by a missile.

“Phone reception is generally poor when you’re in an underground bomb shelter,” Awazu said. “I guess it’s not easy to keep their [mobile phones] charged, so I can’t get in touch with them that often. I’m really worried about them.”

During the meeting, Awazu’s wife, Yoko, 54, served Ukrainian homestyle dishes, such as borscht, pirozhki and potato pancakes.

“I felt like I understood Ukraine more,” said Yukie Watabiki, 41, a company employee in Kita Ward, Tokyo, who attended the meeting. “I also wanted to know more about the war that has now dragged ordinary citizens into it.”

Awazu, who is planning to hold similar meetings again, said: “There are many kind people in Ukraine, and it makes me very sad to think about their cities are being destroyed. War doesn’t make anyone happy. I want to continue my support so that peace can be realized.”