Message from H.E. Yoshiji Nogami, Ambassador of Japan to the Court of St James's
I am delighted and excited to have been appointed as the Japanese Ambassador to the United Kingdom. Our two countries enjoy a partnership which is in many ways unique, and I am very eager to help make it even stronger.
Our friendship is based upon mutual esteem and respect. Symbols of the influence which each country has had on the other abound, whether it be people playing a round of golf in Japan or sushi in British supermarkets. In the economic field, Japanese inward investment in Britain has had an extremely beneficial impact on both countries. Britain's open economy and welcoming attitude to foreign investment have made it the most popular investment destination in Europe for Japanese companies. Meanwhile, Japanese tourists visit Britain in substantial numbers, attracted by the friendly people, vibrant culture and beautiful scenery.
Something I hope to witness during my tenure is a considerable increase in British investment to Japan and in the number of British visitors to my country - there were around 200,000 in 2003. This vision has inspired the Visit Japan and Invest Japan campaigns, which I will enthusiastically support and promote. I am particularly confident in this respect, as I have witnessed for myself the economic recovery that is unfolding in Japan and the amelioration of those factors which used to be cited as deterring inward investment and tourism in Japan, such as exorbitant prices and obstructive regulations. I am going to bang the drum for Japan in this regard at every opportunity.
Relations between Japan and the UK extend far beyond business and commercial considerations. Our views on many - perhaps most - of the weighty issues of global significance have much in common, inspired by the importance each of us places on stability and security.
Japan is currently seeking to play an international role more commensurate with its economic strength, and in this regard the UK has been - and continues to be - a firm ally. For instance, we co-ordinate our policies in the area of overseas development aid. We also collaborate in our efforts to promote the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Meanwhile, in the struggle against international terrorism, Japanese Self Defence Force vessels refuelled British ships patrolling in the Indian Ocean in support of action in Afghanistan. More recently, in the same spirit of solidarity and service, Japan dispatched non-combat forces to Iraq, where they have co-operated with their British counterparts. Of course, such initiatives cannot be undertaken without cost. This point was grimly demonstrated last November with the tragedy that befell our much-loved colleague Katsuhiko Oku, ironically after he had attended a conference on the reconstruction of Iraq.
Our co-operation and shared interests are evident in other respects, too. For instance, the UK has been unstinting in its support of Japan's endeavours to gain a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. Meanwhile, the scope and scale of our co-operation in the global arena is steadily expanding, and it is one of my goals as Ambassador to the Court of St James's to do all I can to further this trend.
To underpin the cordial relations our two countries enjoy in the political and economic fields, it is essential that both sides spare no effort to deepen mutual understanding between our two peoples. In this connection, a glittering success story is the JET Programme. I have heard much about it, and absolutely everything I have heard is positive. On top of the wonderful impact it has had on young people in Japan, there are now approximately 7,000 JET Alumni in Britain - a substantial group of young people with experience of, and goodwill towards, Japan, as well as very marketable skills in Japan-related fields. I am sure the JET Programme will go from strength to strength in the years ahead.
Another pleasing trend is the rising number of young people in Britain studying Japanese. Although this situation was undermined when a well-known university closed its Far East Department, the prospect of a growing body of British people with interest and competence in Japanese augurs well for fruitful interaction between our two peoples at grassroots and other levels in the future.
The success of Japan 2001 in stimulating and developing interest in Japan among British people is a matter of record. With this thought in mind, I am looking forward to the activities planned for the Japan-EU People-to-People Exchanges Year in 2005. Moreover, the Aichi Expo is due to start in March, with the UK as one of the participating countries. These initiatives should add momentum to the trend towards closer co-operation and friendship between the Japanese and British peoples. For my part, I will do my utmost to keep things moving in the right direction.