Last month there were a number of Japan-related events in London which were as varied as the capital’s weather. A few in particular stand out.
On Tuesday 5 May JETRO hosted a special occasion entitled “Experience Premium Japanese Food and Drink: Authentic Japanese Agricultural Products as Business Opportunities”, which was attended by Deputy Prime Minister Mr Taro Aso and Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Mr Yoshimasa Hayashi. It was a promotional event including seminars aimed at professionals in the food and related industries, focusing on Japanese rice (including sake), beef, tea, flowers and seafood. You are probably aware of our Embassy’s involvement in championing Japanese foodstuffs since Washoku, or traditional Japanese cuisine, was registered by UNESCO as part of the world’s cultural heritage at the end of 2013, and we are indeed keen to see Japanese agricultural products become more popular in the British market.
On Monday 11 May, we had the sixth concert in the Green Park Youth Concert series at the Embassy, this time featuring the violinist Ms Chieri Tomii and the pianist Ms Yuko Sano in a first ever collaboration with the Royal Academy Music. It is good to know that the Academy is strengthening its links with some of Japan’s most distinguished schools of music. We hope that the flourishing bilateral cooperation between our two countries will lead to more Japanese musicians demonstrating their skills to British audiences. The concert took place shortly after the first of the recent earthquakes that devastated Nepal, and we invited a representative of the British Red Cross to be present to receive donations to help the victims. Thanks to the generosity of the guests on this occasion, a total of £1,080 was raised and sent to Nepal as emergency assistance. Meanwhile, the Government of Japan is actively involved in efforts to tackle the effects of the disaster and to spearhead reconstruction in Nepal.
The following week, on Wednesday 20 May, I took part in a regular lunch meeting of the British- Japanese Parliamentary Group. We reviewed the developments in our bilateral relationship over the past four months. I started with how Prime Minister Abe had called Prime Minister Cameron to congratulate him on his general election victory. During their discussion, the two leaders resolved to do everything possible to strengthen our ties still further. I also referred to the first bilateral Foreign and Defence Ministerial (“2+2”) meeting in January and the Duke of Cambridge’s first visit to Japan from late February to early March, including his overnight trip to the Tohoku region, which had been devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake. Another topic in which the participants showed keen interest was the progress of Abenomics and the brightening prospects for the Japanese economy, and I hope those present found my presentation useful.
I was delighted to be invited to attend the State Opening of Parliament following the general election and to hear the Queen’s Speech. I noted with interest Her Majesty’s Government’s determination to continue to play a leading role in global affairs. In tackling the major issues of international security, economic and humanitarian challenges, the British Government will find its efforts echoed by those of the Abe administration, reflecting the shared values which underpin our cooperative relationship. As for the EU referendum which Her Majesty’s Government intends to hold, this is a matter of considerable significance for Japan and we will keenly follow the deliberations on the UK’s relationship with the EU.
I also had the chance to enjoy two plays respectively directed by Yukio Ninagawa at the Barbican Theatre on Thursday 21 and Thursday 28 May. The first was Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and the other was Kafka on the Shore based on the intriguing novel written by Haruki Murakami, one of Japan’s most acclaimed contemporary novelists. Although, unfortunately Ninagawa himself was unable to visit London for precautionary health reasons, the Japanese actors and actresses from different generations gave dynamic and moving performances under the unseen command of the world-famous octogenarian director. I am sure the British audiences enjoyed these productions as much as I did.