Embassy of Afghanistan in Tokyo

Afghan-Japan Relations

Ancient Influence:
In the period after Ashoka (232 B.C.) and with Brahmanism’s decline in India, Mayhana Buddhism’s gestation in Gandhara (area of Kabul, Jalalabad and Peshawar) spread along the commercial Silk Route to Turkestan, Mongolia, China, Korea and subsequently Japan. Under Kanishka I (125 A.D.) known as the “Victorious,” a Kushan ruler who converted to Buddhism, Gandhara (which under his rule expanded into a vast territory and included Balkh) became a “Holy Land,” dotted with monasteries. Statue making eventually evolved into the first artistic portrayal of the Buddha in human form due to the Gandhara’s Hellenic past, a direct influence of the Greek god Apollo. It is in the period after this that the Buddha statues were carved in Bamian hills (5th Century A.D.). In 632, when the Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang visited Bamyan, he was overwhelmed by the majestic splendor of the Buddha statues.

The Recent Past:
Although official relations between Afghanistan and Japan were established in 1931, there were contacts with the Meiji Administration long before then. During the visit of King Habibullah Khan (1901-1919) to India in February of 1907, it was arranged that Sardar (Prince) Mohammad Ayub Khan pay a visit to Japan. Prince Ayub and his entourage left Lahore on January 12, 1907 for a long trip to Japan. A well-versed commander in modern warfare and an able General, the Sardar had on July 27, 1880 (Second Anglo-Afghan War) decisively defeated a British force under Brigadier-General George Burrows in an open battle at Maiwand, forty miles west of Qandahar. In Japan the Sardar was extremely well received, visiting by arrangement some regiments of the Imperial Guard and a military college for officers, and meeting with Naval Commander-in-Chief Admiral Kamimura, Count Okumas, Admiral Togo, Generals Oku and Nogi.

In December 1927, when King Amanullah along with the Queen embarked on his European tour, he concluded diplomatic treaties with Finland, Liberia, Switzerland, Egypt, Poland, Latvia and Japan among others. Subsequently, in 1930, the Friendship Treaty documents were signed and exchanged between Marshall Shah Wali KhanAfghan, the Afghan representative and the Japanese Ambassador in London. Finally in 1931, formal relations were extended and embassies were opened in Kabul and Tokyo. In the 1930s, Japan invited six Afghan students to learn Japanese and undertake higher learning. They continued their education throughout WWII and returned to Afghanistan thru Siberia after the war. Of these five, one later became Chief Justice and the other Deputy Prime Minister.

In 1969, Their Majesties King Zahir Shah and Queen Homaira paid an official State visit to Japan which was followed by a State visit in 1971 by their Imperial Highnesses Crown Prince and Princess, now Their Majesties Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko. They visited Kabul, Bamyan and Ai-Khanum, a vast Hellenic metropolis on the banks of the Oxus River founded in 327 B.C.

However, the new era of cooperation and exchange on political, economic and cultural matters were short-lived as a Republic was declared (1973) and the former Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan (1979). After the occupation, Japan’s role was more humanitarian and after the Communist collapse (1992) mediatory.

After the Taliban defeat and the Bonn Accord (December 2001), Japan hosted the first Donors’ Conference for the reconstruction of Afghanistan and reopened its Embassy in Kabul in February of the following year, followed by the reopening of the Afghan Embassy in Tokyo.

© The Embassy of Afghanistan in Tokyo, Japan