For me and probably for you, the Rugby World Cup was the outstanding sporting event in the UK this autumn. Congratulations to the New Zealand team! Although it is a pity that we could not see the Japanese Brave Blossoms gracing the Final, they clearly made their mark with their skillful, passionate performances and record-breaking results. Because of Japan’s dramatic last minute try which produced one of the most shocking upsets in rugby’s history, the Japan-South Africa game was selected as the Best Match Moment of the tournament in the World Ruby’s Award Ceremony on 1 November. We are naturally pleased and proud of the three victories Japan won in the pool stage, but are also grateful for the tremendous support and acclaim given by the British people. This excellent result will be a big boost to promote the next Rugby World Cup in Japan. The Japan Pavilion was launched on 9 October at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in Westminster, with a view to promoting the 2019 Rugby World Cup and Japan itself. There was a major promotional event called “Meet Your New Host” on 27 October.
During October, my official duties took me to various places in the UK. On the 6th attended the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester. Prime Minister Cameron spoke forthrightly on his Government’s commitment to a strong defence and its determination to tackle the key issues of migration, extremism and poverty, while Foreign Secretary Hammond offered his thoughts on the UK’s relationship with the EU, the challenge posed by ISIL and the importance of the rule of law – one of the fundamental principles which Japan shares with the UK.
This month, there were some opportunities to promote inward investment from Japan. There is no doubt that Japanese companies, many of which have longstanding operations in the UK, are feeling more optimistic due to monetary easing and high share values and are now looking for investment opportunities wherever there is a good business environment. On 15 October, the North East Economic Annual Forum was held in Sunderland to discuss the positive impact of Japanese investment in the region. Fifty companies took part in the event. My itinerary began with a visit to the landmark Port of Tyne. The forum was followed by a reception at the House of Commons on 21 October to showcase the activities of Japanese companies in the UK, including their positive economic and social impact. Among the illustrious people taking part were the Secretary of State for Business Sajid Javid, Mr Ian Wright, Chairman of the Business Innovation and Skills Committee, Lady Barbara Judge, Chair of the Institute of Directors, Mr Haruki Hayashi, Head of Mitsubishi Corporation (Europe) and Vice President of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the UK, and more than 50 peers and MPs. The participants were reminded that Japanese investment in the UK had reached around £40bn by 2014 and that Japan is now second only to the US among non-EU investors in the UK. I believe the mutually-beneficial economic ties between Japan and the UK are the driving force of our relations and will surely lead to further prosperity for both countries.
I also had opportunities to see some long-term friends who have been working to strengthen the friendship between Japan and the UK. On the 14th, I opened a seminar organised to reflect on the importance of British-Japanese post-war reconciliation, as this year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. There was a message from a former PoW as well as contributions from British grass-roots activists and Japanese academics. In my speech I expressed my heartfelt gratitude and respect for those who have courageously and generously supported the path of reconciliation for so long, helping to secure peace in the future.
Having begun my comments with rugby, let me finish by returning to the subject. The World Cup Final showed us the heights which this wonderful sport can attain, and in 2019 Japan is determined to help take it to an even more exalted level. The London Times of 21st September quoted me as I tweeted from the Brighton Community Stadium just after Japan beaten South Africa, “Veni, vidi, vici! History made!” Now, for the promotion of the RWC 2019 and Japan itself, I would like to say, “Vedete, videte, adamate!” or come, see and love it! Once more history will be made!