Ambassador's Blog


January 2014

I hope you have enjoyed the Festive Season and the start to the New Year.

Last year continued to provide plenty of high-profile cases of cooperation and exchange between Japan and the United Kingdom, which attested to the excellent state of our relations.  The most recent instance of increasingly close defence cooperation, although under tragic circumstances, occurred as a result of Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated the Philippines on 7 November.  Both our countries were swift to respond with valuable assistance, including Japan’s dispatch of more than 1,000 members of the Self Defence Forces.  In order to ensure better communication and coordination for the relief activities, the two Navies of our countries decided on the unprecedented move of exchanging liaison officers between the vessels operating on the scene, with JMSDF Captain Tanaka of JS Ise being dispatched to HMS Illustrious and his British counterpart Lt Cdr Currin going in the other direction.

Another recent event of considerable significance was the signing of the Protocol Amending the Tax Convention between Japan and the United Kingdom that took place on 17 December at the HM Revenue and Customs Building. On behalf of the Japanese Government I had the honour of putting my signature, twice in Japanese and twice in English, on the two sets of a pair of authentic texts in our respective languages, which are to be held separately by each country. The British side was represented by Exchequer Secretary David Gauke, MP. The Protocol amends the Convention in order to reduce cases of double taxation with respect to taxes on income from dividend and interest as well as to provide mutual assistance for tax collection.  It should further facilitate our bilateral investment ties.

Having celebrated some significant milestones in 2013, we can discern one or two more this year.  In particular, 2014 marks the passage of 100 years since the start of World War I.  By that time the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, established in 1902, was firmly entrenched, and Japan acted in support of the UK and its other allies in a number of ways. 
In the European theatre, at the request of HM Government, Japan’s Second Special Squadron conducted the highly dangerous but valuable mission of escorting Allied troop transports in the Mediterranean Sea. They were engaged in anti-submarine operations as well as missions to rescue the naval crews and passengers from ships damaged or sunk by enemy U-boats.  More than 70 naval officers and sailors paid the ultimate price during the operation and were buried with full military honours in the British Naval Cemetery in Malta.

This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the start of Shinkansen (bullet train) operations in Japan.  The first part of Japan’s Shinkansen network was constructed to coincide with the opening of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games in 1964.  Since then the system has expanded and Japan’s rail technology, which boasts the impeccable record of zero passenger fatalities during the Shinkansen’s half-century history, has been adopted in a number of other countries.  During London 2012, Japanese-built Javelin trains transported thousands of visitors every day to the Olympic Stadium at high speed and in great comfort, and in the years ahead high-speed trains based on Japanese technology will be operating long-distance services in many parts of the UK.  Meanwhile, by the time Tokyo hosts the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, visitors will be able to enjoy yet more advances in Japanese rail technology.

In our zodiac, 2014 is the Year of the Horse.  I am confident that in the year ahead relations between Japan and the United Kingdom will gain further momentum and be spurred to a full gallop, overcoming with ease any hurdles encountered on the way.   In this spirit, may I wish all of you a good race in the 2014 Happiness Stakes!

Keiichi Hayashi

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