On 29 April 2006, the Japanese Government announced that a decoration was to be bestowed upon Sir John Whitehead GCMG CVO in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the promotion of Japanese culture and to the enhanced understanding of Japan among British people. The Grand Cordon of the Rising Sun will be presented to him by Ambassador Yoshiji Nogami next month.
Sir John is a retired diplomat who is a great friend of Japan. Having joined the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in 1955, he served in Japan four times and spent a total of 17 years there. As Minister and Deputy Chief of Mission and then as Ambassador in particular, he worked tirelessly to foster Japan-UK relations not only in the diplomatic and economic fields but in other important areas including science & technology, culture and sports as well. Sir John's distinguished diplomatic career ended with his retirement as Ambassador to Japan in 1992.
In 1996 Sir John joined the Board of Trustees of The Japan Society, an organisation which ever since 1891 has done a tremendous amount to promote friendship and understanding between our two countries and peoples. In 2002 he became Joint Chairman and is currently serving as Chairman.
Sir John has also played a key role in the UK-Japan 21 st Century Group (formerly the UK-Japan 2000 Group), formed by a group of businessmen, politicians, officials and intellectuals from both countries to foster deeper mutual understanding through the discussion of matters of mutual interest, the international economy and global issues. From the perspective first of a diplomat and subsequently of a private citizen keen to promote deeper Japan-UK economic ties, Sir John has worked tirelessly to help formulate initiatives to put to the leaders of both countries. Moreover, since becoming a Board Member of the British side in 1993, Sir John has provided valuable advice on the running of this organisation.
In addition, Sir John has served as a member of the Management Council of the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation and as a Trustee of the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation.
Both in his former diplomatic capacity and in his present role, Sir John has made and continues to make a valuable contribution to mutual understanding between Japan and the United Kingdom. He well deserves to be honoured for this achievement.