Over the last couple of months, despite the onset of summer and our inevitable thoughts of holidays, the UK-Japan calendar has concentrated minds at the Embassy with a number of notable events.
On 2 June, we had the Annual Summer Reunion for Peace and Friendship at the Embassy. This year’s event was particularly significant as it marked the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. Sadly, as on previous such occasions we had to acknowledge the loss of some dear friends who had involved themselves in the reconciliation process. Nonetheless, the overriding spirit of the occasion was one of confidence that succeeding generations will spare no effort in strengthening our friendship and thus helping to secure peace and prosperity in the future.
June also saw two ceremonies to celebrate the action of the Japanese Government in decorating two people for their invaluable and outstanding contributions to enhancing relations between Japan and the UK. On the 5th we honoured Sir Stephen John Gomersall KCMG, former British Ambassador to Japan and current Vice-Chairman of Hitachi Europe Ltd., and on the 12th we paid tribute to Mr Keisaku Sano, Chairman of UK Japanese Association. Business was also on the agenda: On 9 June there was a seminar at the Embassy organised jointly by the Embassy and the Greater London Authority in order to encourage investment in and export opportunities from London, and the following day the focus was on promoting Japanese investment in Northern Ireland, for which purpose we co-organised a seminar with Invest Northern Ireland and JETRO.
There was no let-up in the second half of the month. On the 16th I attended the regular meeting of the British-Japanese Parliamentary Group and on the 24th I participated in the Annual General Meeting of the Japan Society. Both occasions provided the opportunity to renew acquaintances with people who in their various ways have committed themselves to fostering cordial ties between our two countries and peoples. On 25 June we hosted the Japanese Self-Defence Forces Day reception to commemorate its foundation in 1954. In recent years the JSDF have made increasingly greater contributions to UN peace-keeping operations and international disaster relief operations.
In early July I attended the annual conference of Japanese Ambassadors stationed in Europe back in Tokyo. On top of the discussions we conducted among ourselves, there were meetings with Prime Minister Abe and Foreign Minister Kishida. It was a good opportunity for us to report and reflect on the current situation in and involving Europe and directly receive fresh instructions in this regard.
Soon after my return to London, there was a visit by Mr Eikei Suzuki, Governor of Mie Prefecture. With the 42nd G7 Summit due to take place in that prefecture next year, on 6 July we hosted a business seminar, in cooperation with JETRO, to promote investment in Japan, and particularly Mie. A few days later, on 10 July, there was a reception for the JET Programme participants just prior to their departure for Japan, That event enabled me to catch up with former ‘JETs’, who are now directly and indirectly working to promote Japan-UK relations in a broad range of fields. Then, on 15 July we had a special culinary event called “Master Umami & Transform Your Food!,” to which we invited Grand Master chefs Mr Yoshihiro Murata, master chef possessing seven Michelin stars for Kikunoi Japanese restaurants and chairman of the Japanese Culinary Academy, and Mr Jason Atherton, who runs a Michelin starred restaurant, Pollen Street Social in London, as well as Dr Kuniko Ninomiya, a leading authority on umami, the so-called “fifth taste”, as the Keynote Presenters and Moderator. Many members of the Guild of Food Writers joined us for this occasion. We trust our guests enjoyed exploring the secrets of Japanese cuisine and particularly umami, which is attracting growing attention worldwide.
On 16 July, we welcomed the Governor of Fukushima, Mr Masahiro Uchibori, with whom I attended the ceremony to mark the third anniversary of the opening of the Fukushima Garden in Holland Park to commemorate the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. In this regard let me place on record my appreciation of the assistance extended to this project by Mayor Robert Freeman of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and the former Deputy Mayor of London, Lady Victoria Borwick, now a local MP. That evening I attended a reception at the House of Lords jointly hosted by Lord Howell of Guildford and Mr Uchibori. While Mr Uchibori was in London he must have been pleased to hear that Aizu Homare, a premium brand of sake from Fukushima, well-known for the high quality of this Japanese nectar, had been acclaimed the Champion of the International Wine Challenge Sake Category for this year out of 876 entries. The following day we held an Award Winning Sake Tasting Event at the Embassy to introduce the delightful offerings of the 12 award-winning breweries to professionals in the culinary business as well as sake lovers in London, as part of our drive to promote Japanese cuisine and food products in the UK.
To return briefly to the subject of war, at the end of July I personally visited the Royal Naval Cemetery in Malta, which honours the servicemen of the Japanese Navy who lost their lives during the First World War for the cause of Japan’s support of the Allies based on the Anglo-Japanese Alliance. I was touched by the obvious care with which the British authorities have looked after the resting place for those gallant Japanese sailors.
Last but not least, let me pay tribute to the Nadeshiko, the Japanese women’s football team, for their brave efforts in winning the second place in the World Cup. We look forward to further stirring performances from them in the future!