Another hectic month in the diplomatic calendar
September afforded me a number of opportunities to appreciate the diversity of the UK by attending functions in various places from London to Scotland. Still fresh in my mind is the Japan Matsuri at Trafalgar Square on 25 September, which I daresay many of you attended with family and friends. Londoners were given an intriguing taste of Japan through a variety of performances and activities, reinforced by delicious snacks and drinks. The event was a great success, thanks in no small part to the generous support offered by the Mayor of London, Mr Sadiq Khan. Among the luminaries at the opening ceremony were the Lord Mayor of Westminster Steve Summers and Lady Borwick MP, who briefly addressed the gathering.
Meanwhile, I took part in various events with both academic and cultural themes. On 8 September I attended the 34th International Symposium on Economic Crime at Jesus College, University of Cambridge. An annual gathering, it is a unique occasion for law practitioners, diplomats and academics to tackle the scourge of economic crime, which leaves its mark all over the world, not least in emerging nations. Japan has focused its recent efforts in this regard on supporting Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia and Myanmar to establish modern, effective legal systems. A very different event took place on 21 September, when I joined 17 other embassies in supporting World Dementia Day, an initiative led by the Alzheimer’s Society and Dementia UK to raise awareness of dementia, a field in which research collaboration between Japanese the British academics is making significant progress.
A week later Chatham House hosted the seminar TICAD and Africa: Lessons for Coordination and Impact. Since organising the inaugural TICAD conference 23 years ago, Japan has made it a priority to promote self-sufficient growth in Africa by applying the concept of “human security”. TICAD VI in August represented the first time for the gathering to be held in Africa, on which occasion Japan and the UK co-hosted a side event for discussion on peace-building and gender issues. On a more cultural note, on the same day I attended a private viewing of the Flora Japonica exhibition at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, an undertaking in which the botanical artist Ms Masumi Yamanaka played a leading role. Her painting Miracle Pine, a pine tree that survived the devastating Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami in March 2011, now adorns the wall of my office at the Embassy. We are planning to hold a small public exhibition from the end of October until November, at which some of the botanical art from Kew, including Miracle Pine, will be displayed.
My travels also took me to Scotland for two days, from 15 September. I was very impressed with the fantastic scenery there. During the trip I visited Dounreay to learn about the development of renewable energy, had discussions with representatives of the food, tourism and golf industries, and toured a Scotch whisky distillery. That latter part of my itinerary brought to mind the story of the Japanese chemist and businessman Masataka Taketsuru who travelled there about a century ago, studied the techniques of whisky production and applied them upon his return to Japan, where he laid the foundations of a domestic whisky industry. This visit was a useful precursor to the event Gourmet Travel Japan – Highlighting Craft Spirits, which I hosted at the Embassy on 29 September. Guests on that occasion were able to become acquainted with Japanese whisky distillers that are now known in the UK as well as the first craft gin from Kyoto, which reflects distilling techniques imported from London.
Last but at least, we celebrated the achievements of two of our good friends. On 13 September we held a reception for Ms Heidi Caroline Potter OBE, Chief Executive of the Japan Society, to mark the Government of Japan’s decision to award her the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays in recognition of her sterling work in enhancing the bilateral friendship by promoting Japan-related cultural and educational activities in the UK. On a similar theme, on 30 September I hosted a gathering at my official residence to honour Mr Takaaki Hanaoka, Secretary General of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the UK, who had been awarded a Commendation by the Foreign Minister of Japan for his valuable contribution to Japan-UK business relations over 27 years, during which he offered valuable support to Japanese inward investors and the Japanese business community in this country.
As we enter October, our thoughts turn to harvests and the bountiful results of seeds sown earlier. In this spirit, I wish you all a fruitful autumn.