Russian President Vladimir Putin said he is looking forward to his Japanese trip because of his great interest in that country and judo, which he described as his "first love."
"I have a huge interest in Japan, which is well known, including its history and culture, and so it will be very interesting for me to see and learn more about Japan," the Russian head of state said in an interview with the Japanese media.
"I have been to Tokyo and several other cities, but I have never been to Yamaguchi Prefecture," Putin told the Japanese journalists.
The Russian leader is scheduled to arrive at the Yamaguchi Prefecture airport, in the southwest of Honshu, Japan’s main island, on December 15. He will meet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the city of Nagato.
"I wonder what it is like, what interesting things it has to offer. I am sure that Prime Minister Abe will tell me all about it," the Russian leader resumed.
The Japanese journalists told Putin that there were hot springs in Yamaguchi Prefecture. "This never occurred to me, but yes, it could be interesting," Putin said.
The Japanese journalists showed Putin an extract of an interview with Yasuhiro Yamashita, the pro-rector of the Tokai University and Vice-President of the All-Japan Judo Federation, in which the respected master had spoken warmly about the Russian leader.
"It is a pleasure to hear that. Mr. Yamashita is a respected judo master not only in Japan but throughout the world. To me, he is an example of an outstanding athlete and a very good man," the Russian head of state stressed.
"Judo has been part of Japanese culture for a long time. It makes sense to me that this sport, which is both athletic and philosophical, was created in Japan. It is based on respect for the partner and for our elders as our teachers, which is very important and makes a strong, positive contribution to human relationships, and not only in sports," Putin explained.
"I am happy that life brought me into this wonderful sport as a child. It is like my first love. I like other sports, too, including skiing and swimming, and I am learning to play ice hockey now. But judo is definitely part of my life, a very big part, and I am glad that judo was the first sport I took up and that I have practiced it regularly and seriously. I am also grateful to Japan for this," the Russian leader said.
He added that he would be pleased to go to Kodokan, which he visited back in 2000 and which he considers to be a special place for any Judoka.
"Kodokan is, to a large degree, a trendsetter in the sport. This school trained outstanding masters and is a kind of Mecca for all judokas. Certainly, I would be pleased to visit it, if time permits, Putin said.
The Russian president made his first public appearance on the tatami at Kodokan during his visit to Japan in September 2000.
According to the program for Putin’s visit to Japan published by the Japanese Foreign Ministry, the Russian president is to visit the Kodokan Judo Institute, the governing body for the sport, along with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on December 16.
First published by TASS.
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