BENGALURU: As a high school student who studied Indian history, Sugita Akiko, who recently took over as the Consul General of Japan in Bengaluru, recalls being so interested in it, that she wanted to study Hindi. While the dream didn’t realise then, Sugita – who visited Delhi and Mumbai in 2009 and 2011 – is hoping that this desire turns a possibility during her term here. Previously posted in Singapore, she came to Bengaluru in June-end, although she got an official notice in April.
As the second Consul-General of Japan in Bengaluru, and the first woman to hold this post, 61-year-old Sugita says she comes from an “older generation” that values tradition as well as career pursuit without compromising on family life. “I serve dishes, clean them at home, and have been actively involved in child caring. At the same time, in my official role, I speak up like a man. I’ve been lucky not to face any sort of discrimination because of gender in my 40-year career,” says Sugita. Her son, Yuki Sugita, who has graduated from university, now lives in Bengaluru.
But she does admit that the gender gap prevalent in Japan’s workforce is something that has to be worked on. “The target of 30 per cent of women in the management levels in the workforce, which was to be achieved by 2020 by the government of Japan, might take longer than imagined. As of 2019, there were only 14.8 per cent women in the management levels in both the public and private sectors. Even the lower house of parliament has only a 9.9 per cent representation by women,” she points out.
Since she has taken over at a tumultuous time, Sugita is working around the new normal, holding meetings virtually. “It is challenging for me or anyone new, who is starting a new job. At the same time, I’m hoping that this global crisis will, in fact, lead to a digital transformation for advancing social and economic activities. Bengaluru has a key role to play here and it’s important for both the countries to work together on digital transformation, in the healthcare sector in particular,” she says, adding that the moment calls for patience.
Sugita plans to continue events such as the Japanese food festival and Cosplay walk, which were introduced by her predecessor, Takayuki Kitagawa. “I’m also hoping to promote Sake (made from rice) and wine (made from grapes) here,” she says, adding that her agenda also includes encouraging Japanese tourists to come to the city to experience Ayurveda and yoga, which have gained prominence back home. “Many Japanese assume that the Indian weather is really hot.
But it’s breezy and there’s a lot of greenery, which makes Bengaluru a good tourist spot,” says Sugita.
Although she has not ventured out beyond visits to 1-MG and Mantri Mall, Sugita has been able to sample some Indian cuisine, courtesy her chef, Sunita Khatri, who has prepared pulao and other rice dishes. Still getting used to the concept of ‘Indian Standard Time’, she got first-hand experience when she placed an order for a delivery which was supposed to reach by 6pm, but didn’t come for two hours. “Later, I realised that the timing had been changed without my being notified,” she says. “But I’m adjusting myself to it.”
Sugita Akiko, who recently took over as the Consul General of Japan in Bengaluru, hopes to promote Sake and grape wine here, and encourage Japanese tourists to come to the city to experience Ayurveda and yoga