What have the highlights of your posting been?
There have been some big events during my posting. One was the Japan-UK 150 anniversary in 2008-09. There were 450 events, which culminated with a reception at the British Museum. There was also the Japan Matsuri 2010 at Spitalfields, to which about 50,000 people came. I had the pleasure of being head judge at the karaoke competition, which was a completely novel experience. Most recently, in May, Westminster Abbey had a memorial service to remember those affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake. But in addition to the large events, meeting people genuinely committed to promoting exchange between Japan and the UK has been a very rewarding experience, and I would like to thank all of them for their efforts.
What have the most difficult tasks been?
One of the most difficult tasks was during the week after the Great East Japan Earthquake. We were bombarded with requests for information and for interviews, but it was very difficult dealing with this because the situation on the ground was quickly changing and we found it extremely challenging to keep up with events.
On a lighter note, I have used about 2,400 name cards during my tenure. I have never been good at remembering people's names and faces, but my task was almost impossible because of the huge number of people that I met.
Do you have any unfinished business?
I regret to say that I was not able to attend this year's Llangollen Eisteddfod. This is an international folklore and dancing festival in North Wales. I wanted to attend this year and to try to have a Japanese group participate in it, but I'm afraid I will have to ask my successor to follow up on this. There is also the idea of trying to have some collaboration with music and art schools in and around London on a Japanese theme at the Embassy, which I have not been able to organize.
How has your impression of the UK changed since you were previously here?
When I was at Oxford 25 years ago, I never dreamt that sushi would be lining the counters in Tesco today! London is much more international now, with many different people and it's much more crowded.
Are you looking forward to your next posting?
I'm looking forward to my second posting in Africa. My first was in 1998-99 in Zambia. For the first several months I will be busy dealing with the climate change conference in Durban planned for late November to early December.