TOKYO - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong met about 400 Singaporeans living in Japan at a belated National Day reception on Tuesday night (Sept 27).
There, he took wefies and chatted with Singaporeans who ate hearty local fare such as chicken rice, laksa and bak kut teh, as National Day tunes played in the background.
"Japan is an important friend of Singapore," PM Lee said in brief opening remarks to illustrate the close economic and people-to-people ties. For example, he said to laughter, Singapore "must have one of the largest number of Japanese restaurants per person in the world".
PM Lee, who is in Tokyo for a four-day official visit that started on Monday, also urged Singaporeans in Japan to take home "some of the good values and habits and customs of the Japanese". He said: "They're very disciplined, they queue up very neatly, they don't litter the streets, they work very hard, and they work together cohesively as one people.
"These are the values we need as Singaporeans," he said, as he looked beyond the Republic's 51 years of independence.
He said: "Being connected to the world - to Japan, to China, to America, to Europe - and being confident of ourselves, knowing what we can do and are determined to do, and being able to work together, I think if we can keep these values, we can keep (our) success."
Among the Singaporeans at the reception was corporate lawyer Nithia Dory, 35, who has been living in Tokyo for two years. She noted her Japanese colleagues tend to look at Singapore with respect: "Whenever I tell someone I'm from Singapore, they are always very proud of the fact that we have very good diplomatic ties."
Mr Benjamin Tan, a quantitative analyst who has been in Japan for 6-½ years, added that he holds the empathy exhibited by the Japanese in high regard. Describing it as a "form of mutual respect", he said he has since come to embrace it.
Newcomers to the city include Ms Olivia Dong, 28, who manages the Japan market for Singapore concierge and delivery firm Honestbee that recently launched in Tokyo.
She said: "Japan has been very open to welcoming us here ... We're a tech firm and it's a bit newer, but they're still very receptive."
Tuesday night's event also reminded Mr Dexter Sim, 28, who has been living in Tokyo for three months, of home.
The recruitment consultant said: "Being in an environment where everyone spoke Singlish freely, and seeing how many people 'chionged' to take selfies with PM Lee... It was really heartening and it really felt like home."