Last year saw the 150th anniversary of the first exchange of scholars between Japan and the UK. In the late stage of the Samurai period, five Japanese students, the ‘Choshu Five’, arrived at UCL, one of whom, Hirobumi Ito, later became the first prime minister of Japan. Since then, Japan and the UK have exchanged scholars and developed collaborative work across many fields including science, technology and innovation.
One of the fields in which we have a long history of collaboration is astronomy and space science. These links were formed when the Royal Greenwich Observatory supported Makoto Hirayama for his studies in astronomy in 1890; later he became the director of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, helping smooth the way for his successors.
Nowadays, our two countries have established a number of international projects which are aimed at solving frontier problems in astronomy and space science. To strengthen such cooperation, during Prime Minister Cameron’s visit to Japan in April 2012, the British and Japanese Governments signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for wider cooperation on space-related activities for the two countries’ mutual benefit.
On 6 December 2013, the Embassy held a Science, Technology and Innovation Symposium on Astronomy & Space Science. This symposium highlighted past, current and future collaboration in astronomy and space science, covering a wide range of research topics, from the sun to cosmology. It was held as part of “The Japan-UK Science, Technology & Innovation Symposium” series.