Ambassador's Blog

End of Year Message from Ambassador Hayashi

December 2012

A very busy year in Japan-UK relations culminated in a reception at the Embassy on 6 December to celebrate the birthday of His Majesty the Emperor of Japan. Approximately 500 guests attended the event. The formal part started with the national anthems of both Japan and the UK beautifully sung a capella by a young Japanese counter-tenor, Daichi Fujiki, who was the winner in the vocal section of this year’s “The Music Competition of Japan” held in October and who happened to be in London. At this reception it is always natural to look back on the events of the preceding months.  This was especially the case this year as in May the United Kingdom had welcomed Their Imperial Majesties the Emperor and Empress of Japan to join in Her Majesty The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

In my remarks I referred to the success of the Imperial visit as well as to some other notable events. In April Prime Minister Cameron visited Japan for the first official bilateral visit by any British Prime Minister in nine years. The visit resulted in an agreement to take our bilateral relationship to the next level in a number of ways. One prominent area of common endeavour has been the push for a Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), enthusiastically supported by Prime Minister Cameron, which will bring huge benefits to both Japan and the EU, including the UK, by boosting trade and investment in both directions. I was therefore delighted when on 29 November the Foreign Affairs Council of the EU cleared the way for the opening of negotiations.

In my speech I also looked back on other developments during the past year, including moves to strengthen our defence co-operation following the signing in June of a Memorandum to this effect.  Moreover, in October our foreign ministers launched a strategic dialogue during which I was struck by the extent to which our two countries shared common or similar views on most of the weighty global and regional issues, including security in the Asia-Pacific region and peace in the Middle East.  Meanwhile, I was happy to remind the audience that our economic relations had continued to prosper throughout the year.  It was particularly noteworthy, I emphasised, that the UK was keen to support Japan in the long-term process of cleaning up and decommissioning in the aftermath of the nuclear accident in Fukushima, while a Japanese company, Hitachi, was to play a leading role in major British infrastructure projects involving nuclear power stations and high-speed rail.

On the success of London 2012, which is still fresh in our memories, I spoke of my impression that London certainly showed how a huge capital city could overcome a number of logistical challenges to make a success of such a mammoth undertaking.  I appreciated London’s role in setting an excellent precedent for Tokyo, another mega-sized capital city, in its bid to host the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics.

In my thoughts on the future, I noted that next year promises to be another busy one for Japan-UK relations and for my Embassy.  For a start, the UK will assume the presidency of the G8, while Japan will host the TICAD V summit on African development.  For these and other reasons, the leaders of our two countries will be sure to exchange visits and to find more opportunities to firm up our bilateral ties.
On a somewhat more light-hearted note, some of you may know of my love of football. I was therefore in my element on two consecutive days in November. On the 20th, Ryo Miyaichi, who currently plays in the Premier League for Wigan Athletic, visited the Embassy on a consular matter, affording me the opportunity to invite him to my office for a chat. The following day, Southampton players Tadanari Lee and Maya Yoshida, the captain of the Japanese Olympic Men’s football team, made courtesy visits to my residence. The pair from The Saints also attended the Emperor’s Birthday Reception. I was fascinated to hear about their experiences in the English Premier League. When one takes into account Shinji Kagawa of Manchester United, there are now four Japanese players in the top tier of the English professional game, whereas two years ago, when I was appointed Ambassador, there were none. I am fairly sure the number will grow.

Posing for a picture with Maya Yoshida, Southampton Chairman Nicola Cortese
and Tadanari Lee

At the end of my speech Lord Howell of Guildford responded on an equally positive note and proposed a toast.
For those attending the Emperor’s Birthday Reception, the opportunity to hear me speak was not a major attraction, if one at all. Judging from the queues at the sushi corner, the creations of the chefs at my official residence clearly won general approval! Moreover, the guests’ appreciation of the cuisine was enhanced by top-quality sake, some of it from the Tohoku region. It is worth noting that sake from the area had earlier been one of the food products on which the EU imposed import restrictions following the nuclear accident. Although the curbs were lifted in April based on scientific data, limits on the import of some food items from a much wider area than the region directly affected are still in place. As such products are subject to strict scientific tests and tight distribution controls to ensure that they may be safely transported and consumed, I earnestly hope that these constraints will be lifted soon, as the demand for Japanese cuisine in the UK and elsewhere in Europe is extremely high and keeps on growing.

May I take this opportunity to offer all of you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.



Keiichi Hayashi

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