Ambassador's Blog

New Year Message from Ambassador Hayashi

January 2013

This was meant to be a Happy New Year message, but regrettably I have to begin by offering my sympathy and condolences to the families and friends of the victims of the recent appalling terrorist incident at a gasfield in Algeria. The Government of Japan joins the governments of the UK and the other countries concerned in condemning the inhuman attacks on innocent engineers and other workers.

That said, I would still like to offer you my greetings for the New Year. Last year was a highly significant one for Japan-UK relations, with a number of landmark events. There will be no let-up in the momentum this year.

A notable feature of Japan-UK ties is that they have come to embrace an ever wider range of important areas.  We co-operate and co-ordinate our views on the host of daunting challenges facing the international community.

The biggest event of the year from my perspective is the G8 summit, which will be held in Lough Erne, Co. Fermanagh, Northern Ireland in June. However, it will not be a one-off event as the summit will have to be preceded by a number of meetings involving ministers and senior officials. The Foreign Ministers’ meeting is to take place in London in April and the Finance Ministers’ meeting in May. The leaders of the major developed economies will discuss various issues of global concern. The UK and Japan will closely coordinate their views and will cooperate with the aim of producing concrete results.

One of the issues for discussion will be that of development, which will inevitably focus on Africa. In 1993 Japan showed the importance it placed on this subject by hosting the first Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD), which was attended by more than forty heads of state and government. At the beginning of this June, two weeks before the G8 gathering, the fifth Japan-Africa summit, or TICAD V, will take place in Yokohama, marking 20 years since this initiative was launched. In recent years Africa has made tremendous progress in a number of important areas. Most significantly, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Africa now exceeds ODA. The UK and Japan are operating a project in East Africa under the umbrella of TICAD and are also collaborating in other ways to ensure that Africa prospers.

Meanwhile, there will be no shortage of occasions this year for us to reflect on the depth and longstanding nature of the ties between our two island nations situated on opposite sides of the world. First, there is Japan400, which celebrates the four centuries that have elapsed since the founding of the first English Trading Post in Hirado city in northern Nagasaki prefecture. There will be various events in the UK as well as some in Japan to celebrate our long-established commercial relationship as well as the role of William Adams, the ‘English samurai’ known in Japan as Miura Anjin, who arrived in Japan in 1600, became a diplomatic advisor to Shogun Ieyasu and played a central role in the emergence of trading ties between Japan and England. The first of these events, Anjin, a modern play at London’s Sadler’s Wells Theatre, will start at the end of this month.

Another landmark in Japan-UK relations will be the 150th anniversary of the arrival in the UK of the Choshu Five, members of the Choshu clan in western Japan, who defied Japan’s policy of sakoku (isolation) to travel secretly to Britain in 1863, where they studied at University College London. These men went on to play leading roles in Japan’s subsequent rapid modernisation: one of them became Japan’s first Prime Minister and another the first Foreign Minister, while the rest came to be called respectively the Father of Japanese Engineering, the Father of Japanese Railways and the Father of the Japanese Mint. A number of events to celebrate the 150 years of UK-Japan academic contacts and to commemorate and recognize all those involved will be held.

Photograph of the Choshu Five on display in the Embassy's lobby

A matter dear to my heart is the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, which Japan hopes to host. A few days ago a delegation from Japan, including Mr Naoki Inose, the Governor of Tokyo, was in London for the international launch of Japan’s bid. They made it clear how impressed they had been by the success of London 2012 and declared their confidence that Tokyo could accomplish something similar, learning from London’s feat. I know that support for Tokyo’s candidacy has soared among the general public in Japan, and I will share the jubilation of most of my compatriots if Tokyo succeeds in its bid.

I thus hope that the rest of the year will turn out to be as positive and exciting as 2012.


Keiichi Hayashi

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