Ambassador's Blog

A summer visit to East Anglia

July 2012

Although we are now well into summer, the weather remains extremely changeable. However, it was glorious at the end of May, and this provided the backdrop for my first ever visit to the county of Suffolk.

My two-day trip, on 31 May and 1 June, was made possible by the kind arrangements of Councillor Tim Passmore, Olympic Ambassador for Suffolk. It enabled me to experience cutting-edge technology in the IT field, acquainted me with some of the county’s traditional industries and introduced me to some delightful scenery. Now that I have seen it for myself, I can well understand how inspiring the great British painters John Constable and Thomas Gainsborough found their native landscape.

The delightful Hintlesham Hall Hotel just outside Ipswich was the base for my stay. My first port of call was University Campus Suffolk (UCS), one of the UK’s newest academic institutions, where I toured the Regenerative Medicine Laboratories. I was impressed with the research facilities I saw there and was pleased to learn of UCS’s thriving links with Japanese universities.

The afternoon offered two contrasting experiences. I first visited BT Adastral Park, where I was introduced to some of the latest developments in the IT sector. The experience really brought home to me the indispensable role of technology in making our lives more comfortable and agreeable. Mid-afternoon refreshment was not a problem as I then toured the facilities of Aspall Cyder, which produces cider, vinegar and apple juice. The company has a long and fascinating history going back to the mid-18th century. It was fascinating to learn how cider is produced and to be shown some of the equipment used in the pre-industrial era. Moreover, I was pleased to hear that the company is selling its products in Japan. Having had a sip of some delicious cider during my tour, I made a point of taking some samples with me in order to gain a more first-hand experience of this delightful beverage in my leisure time!

Learning about new technology at BT Adastral Park

Opening new Petainer kegging plant at Aspall

That evening I attended a Dinner at Hintlesham Hall with local and regional civic and political leaders, some sporting their splendid official regalia, as well as people from the academic world. Those present were greatly interested in developments in East Asia, and we had a lively discussion on the security and economic situation there.

My second day began with a visit to Muntons plc, which produces malt for brewing and distilling as well as related ingredients for the food industry. I was amazed at the wide range of applications for this natural food additive. My official duties ended with a tour of Stephen Walters Silk Weavers in Sudbury, a long-established manufacturer of silk ties and other elegant accessories. In spite of the fierce competition from low-cost producers around the world, the company continues to prosper due to the high quality of its designs and its advanced technology. It was gratifying to know that both Muntons and Stephen Walters have found an enthusiastic market for their products in Japan.

I returned to London impressed by the mixture of cutting-edge technology and more traditional but no less impressive goods and production processes that I had seen during my visit. Suffolk’s pretty towns and charming countryside made the trip all the more enjoyable. I have since spread the word among my colleagues within the Embassy and my acquaintances in the diplomatic community at large, and will return there with my wife for a more leisurely stay at the earliest opportunity.

Keiichi Hayashi

Visiting UCS with Councillor Tim Passmore (far-left)


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