Ambassador's Blog

Celebrating a century of Japanese Studies in London

March 2016

With 2016 already a couple of months old, I can look back on a few memorable events that testify in their various ways to the depth and breadth of Japan-UK relations.

A particularly heart-warming event took place on 1 February at the SOAS (School of Oriental & African Studies, University of London) Japan Research Centre, entitled Dulwich Boys and Beyond: 100 Years of Japanese Studies at SOAS, celebrating the School’s centenary.

In my keynote speech I emphasised the School’s tremendous achievement in furthering friendship and understanding with our country over a whole century through the endeavours of the Japanese language specialists who studied there, including the distinguished group of wartime language students that came to be known as the “Dulwich Boys”. It was an honour to attend the event with Professor Ronald Dore, a former Dulwich Boy and distinguished sociologist and expert on Japan, and Sir Hugh Cortazzi, a former wartime language student and British Ambassador to Japan. These Japanologists contributed greatly to developing the postwar Japan-UK relationship, not only as academics but through their work in the political and diplomatic fields as well.  I trust new generations of SOAS alumni will play a similarly constructive role in helping to keep our bilateral ties flourishing.

Dulwich Boys and Beyond: 100 Years of Japanese Studies at SOAS

On 4 February, the Supporting Syria and the Region conference was held in London, co-hosted by the UK, Germany, Kuwait, Norway and the United Nations. At this important conference, Japan’s State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Yoji Muto, represented the Government of Japan and announced that Japan was to extend new assistance of approximately 350 million US dollars to Syria, Iraq and neighboring countries. This is on top of the 850 million US dollars that have already been allocated, most of which has been delivered. Mr Muto expressed Japan’s strong determination to continue providing assistance to the countries of the region.

Two weeks later, on 18 February, I hosted an eye-opening Seminar on Japan-UK Robotics and Artificial Intelligence at our Embassy. It was a full-house event attended by 150 guests, including leading researchers from both countries. Among the eminent participants were Professor Hiroshi Ishiguro of the University of Osaka, internationally renowned for his very human-like robots, and Professor Robin Grimes of Imperial College London, who is the Chief Scientific Adviser of the FCO. It was a thought-provoking seminar which led me to the question, “Are robots soon to replace/sideline humans?” We will have to wait to see what the future unfolds, but I trust this event will facilitate further collaboration between Japan and the UK in the field of robotics and AI, thus contributing to technological progress in many areas of society.

The Japan-UK Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Seminar at the Embassy

With Professor Hiroshi Ishiguro of the University of Osaka and Professor Robin Grimes of Imperial College London

Finally, I cannot finish my blog without talking about sport! I was invited to attend a ceremony at Wembley Stadium on 24 February, when a ground breaking Memorandum of Understanding was signed by Mr Greg Dyke, Chairman of the Football Association (FA), and Mr Kuniya Daini, his counterpart at the Japan Football Association (JFA), to promote further collaboration in football, particularly as regards the training of coaches. During the ceremony it was recalled that relations between the FA and the JFA date back to more than 95 years ago when the FA helped in the foundation of the JFA and presented a silver cup for Japan’s national football championship. 
Unfortunately, however, that cup was lost during the Second World War. Nonetheless, in August 2011, in celebration of the JFA’s 90th anniversary the FA offered the JFA a newly made replica of the original silver cup in a ceremony at Wembley, which I also had the pleasure of attending. Moreover, in the wake of the Tohoku disaster in March 2011, the FA presented a group of high school students from the most affected part of the Tohoku region with a golden opportunity to play at Wembley Stadium. I cannot help but remember that many of the players had lost their homes in the disaster and confided in me that they had thought they would never be able to play football again, much less on the hallowed pitch of Wembley. This unforgettable experience surely encouraged not only the young footballers but many people in the region with hope for the future. As we approach the fifth anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami, such sporting links can only be welcomed by everyone with the friendship between our two countries at heart.

At Wembley with Mr Kuniya Daini, Chairman of the Japan Football Association
and Mr Greg Dyke, Chairman of the Football Association

Keiichi Hayashi

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