Ambassador's Blog

Bilateral relations in good shape as New Year beckons

December 2014

By the time you read this message we will have held a Reception in honour of the birthday of His Majesty the Emperor of Japan.  It always seems appropriate that this very dignified occasion, which celebrates one of the world’s oldest monarchies in the home of another, should be the final event of the year on the diplomatic calendar.  We had many eminent guests on this occasion, who joined me in wishing His Majesty continued good health as well as reaffirming the excellent state of relations between our two countries.  This year, those attending enjoyed some special culinary treats, including sushi served by a three-Michelin-starred sushi master chef.  As well as sampling his matchless cuisine, our guests were able to savour some succulent Japanese beef (Wagyu), accompanied by various kinds of sake, Japanese beer and whisky.  On this occasion there was also an exhibition of the achievements of a number of Japanese companies renowned for their innovation.  The evening had a musical element, too, with the national anthems of both countries performed by Ms Kiyoko Tachikawa, a Soprano singer who has been studying at the Royal Opera House since last autumn and who took part in a recital at the Embassy earlier this year.

Looking back at my diary for the past month, I find I have attended a varied array of events in my official capacity.  The first was the Lord Mayor’s Show on Saturday 8 November.  As colourful as ever, it brought home to me anew the UK’s unique talent for pageantry. 
This was followed three days later by a conference at the Embassy entitled ‘Closing the Global Health Divide through Partnership Driven Innovation’, which we co-hosted with the Tokyo-based Global Health Innovative Technology (GHIT) Fund, followed by a reception.  GHIT is known as the first product-development fund for global health, which is built on the strength of contributions from various partners from the public, private and civil sectors in Japan, under the country's commitment to global health leadership and engagement to the international community. 

We hope that, by encouraging innovation in the health sectors both domestic and overseas, we will be able to give people living in difficult circumstances greater access to quality healthcare services.

‘Closing the Global Health Divide through Partnership Driven
Innovation’ conference at the Embassy

On Friday 21 November, the fourth of the Green Park Youth Concert series took place at the Embassy, but unusually it was a joint venture between the two Embassies of Japan and Spain to mark the dual year of the 400th anniversary of the first official diplomatic mission from Japan to Spain.  We were treated to a delightful performance featuring the world-renowned Spanish guitarist and composer Mr Jose Maria Gallardo del Rey and the Japanese mezzo-soprano Ms Ayaka Tanimoto, who had studied at the Royal College of Music and was one of the master guitarist’s favourite singers.

Ayaka Tanimoto and Jose Maria Gallardo del Rey

Global warming and the environment were on the agenda on Tuesday 25 November when I visited the House of Lords to give evidence to the Select Committee on the Arctic. The aim of the meeting was to provide a forum for countries with observer status on the Arctic Council, which include the UK and Japan, to show what they had been doing to tackle the issue. Stressing Japan’s strong focus on the principle of international cooperation and the rule of law, I outlined Japan’s interest in developing international joint research and researchers’ exchange programmes, not only with Arctic countries but also with the UK, an important partner which has a wealth of relevant scientific expertise.

The following day the focus was on pharmaceuticals as I visited the giant drugmaker Eisai’s factory in Hatfield, home to its European headquarters and R&D operation,   to celebrate the introduction of state-of-the-art packaging equipment. These impressive facilities will raise the contribution of the UK operation to the company’s global strategy and strengthen still further the dynamic commercial relationship between Japan and the UK.

There was a reception at the Embassy on Monday 1 December to mark the Exhibition of the Myriad-year Clock, which was invented 150 years ago by Hisashige Tanaka, one of the founders of Toshiba.  The event was held in the presence of Mr Hisao Tanaka, President & CEO, Toshiba Corporation, and Mr Kazuyoshi Suzuki, Director, Centre of Japanese Industrial Technology, National Museum of Nature and Science of Japan. 

Hisashige was both a prolific inventor and a great innovator, and the presence of this fascinating clock and other exhibits here in London has finally fulfilled his dream of bringing his creations to a European audience.

With Mr Hisao Tanaka, President & CEO, Toshiba Corporation
As I look forward to what will surely be another eventful year in Japan-UK relations, it only remains for me to offer you my best wishes for the festive season and the coming year.

Keiichi Hayashi

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