Ambassador's Blog

Rugby and a festival beckon as autumn arrives

September 2015

As the summer gives way to autumn, still fresh in my mind is the moving service of international friendship and reconciliation between Japan and the UK which took place at the majestic Canterbury Cathedral on 16 August. I was able to renew acquaintances with a number of dear friends, some of whom I had seen at the  Annual Summer Reunion for Peace and Friendship which we held at the Embassy in June. This year marks the seventieth anniversary of the end of the Second World War, and the robust friendship our two nations have forged in the aftermath of the bitter enmity of that conflict, despite some inevitable challenges along the way, owe a great deal to many of the people who attended that event. The warm ties between our two countries and peoples look set to go form strength to strength and augur well for the future.

In Japan, following the rainy season and the heat and humidity of summer, the arrival of autumn is very welcome. We regard autumn as the ideal time to enjoy sport, and the same seems to be true here – at least this year. From 18 September for around six weeks, England is to host the Rugby World Cup. The tournament will be followed eagerly by large numbers of Japanese, not only because their country is represented in the prestigious tournament but because it will host the event in 2019, followed by the Olympic and Paralympic Games the following year. I am sure the Japanese rugby authorities and fans will find the way the World Cup is organised in England most instructive, and there will surely be many opportunities for our two countries to collaborate and share experiences both for the 2019 World Cup and the 2020 Games.

On this occasion, I would like to encourage you to visit Japan. I know many of you are likely to go there in 2019 or 2020, but why wait until then? Autumn is one of the best times to visit Japan, with extremely pleasant weather and a host of appetizing seasonal dishes. But whenever you go, there will be much to please and impress you, whether you are interested in cutting-edge technology or traditional arts and crafts. A recent edition of Monocle magazine named Tokyo as the best city in the world in terms of the quality of life, while also giving a high ranking to Fukuoka, in Kyushu. Each region has its own attractions, from the northernmost island of Hokkaido to subtropical Okinawa in the south, and you will be made welcome wherever your fancy takes you.

Of course, autumn is not only about sport. We have a saying in Japan that autumn is “the best season for culture and good food”. Thus we are eagerly anticipating the 7th Japan Matsuri at Trafalgar Square on 19 September, which as in recent years should attract a large turnout, reflecting the considerable interest in Japanese culture among the residents of London. In Japan, matsuri are traditionally held to celebrate the harvest. People gather to have fun, enjoy food sold at street stalls and take part in or watch various forms of entertainment. If previous London gatherings are anything to go by, this month’s event promises to have a very authentic atmosphere. Lasting from morning to evening, it will be a good showcase for Japan with its displays and performances featuring both traditional and contemporary aspects of Japanese culture, offering something for everyone, along with tasty samples of Japanese cuisine (washoku). I hope to see many of you there!

Keiichi Hayashi

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