Ataturk Mustafa Kemal (1881~1938) – The First President of Turkey
After the defeat of the Ottoman Empire following World War I, Ataturk saved Turkey from disintegration. He became the hero of the Republic of Turkey, founding it in 1923 and steering it through a process of thorough modernization. Ataturk, the name adopted by Mustafa Kemal, means “the founder of the country.”
Ataturk was greatly interested in Japan; he coined a slogan “Learn from Japan,” which referred specifically to the Japan’s Meiji Restoration. It is said that the portrait of Emperor Meiji, so respected by Ataturk, was displayed at his mausoleum. In addition, the Japanese sword, presented to him by His Imperial Highness Takamatsu, was displayed in his museum and a vast number of books on Japan were arranged on the bookshelf in his office.
In his later life, Ataturk stated to the Japanese ambassador to Turkey, Taketomi, that had learned a great many things from Japan and that the Japanese had been teachers to the Republic of Turkey. Taketomi’s predecessor Ambassador Yoshida died from an illness in Ankara. Receiving word that Yoshida was in a critical condition, Ataturk rushed to the hospital and gave his forehead a sincere farewell kiss. Other foreign diplomats died at Ankara, but it was to Yoshida’s side that Ataturk hurried, demonstrating particular respect and affection.