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Ambassador's Speech made in Bangor, Wales
29 March 2003

Vice Chancellor, Mr. Pugh, Professor Sunderland, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Allow me to speak in English. My staff prepared the first sentence of my speech in Welsh but the pronunciation and intonation is so difficult and unfortunately today I cannot make it.

1 It is a great pleasure to be in Bangor and to be able to speak to you all on this very auspicious occasion. This is my first visit to the northern part of Wales and, on my way here, I have enjoyed gazing at the wonderful scenery, especially the combination of mountain and seashore scenery. This scenery reminds me of Japan. Talking about scenery, when I actually saw it I thought, if you put Samurai castles instead of Welsh castles, put Japanese shrines and temples, put hot springs (onsen) and if you put human beings instead of sheep, it is exactly like Japan! Although I live in London, I feel that Wales is quite near to me. I often have occasion to meet Government people responsible for Wales either in the Central Government or the Welsh Government, and Welsh people working in business or culture. About a month ago, I attended a luncheon at the House of Lords celebrating St. David's Day. Many dignitaries of Wales were there. During the luncheon, there were many toasts and speeches and it lasted more than 3 hours! I have particular pleasure in taking part in Wales-related events, such as this Japanese Studies Launch today.

2 Due to the hard work and dedication of numerous individuals, including Professor Kitanaka of the Institute of Japanese Studies in Bangor, a closeness has developed between Japan and Wales, despite the considerable distance between the two countries. At present, the world is going through a very difficult period. In the world full of uncertainties, the Japan-UK relationship is one important, strong, stable and reliable factor. We should cherish this relationship. It is underpinned by many elements, and one of the most important elements is the strong friendship between Wales and Japan. With this strong sense of friendship between us, coupled with the warmth of the Welsh people, I think it is safe to say that Wales has many fans at the Embassy of Japan and in the wider Japanese community. I should like to see the number of Wales fans grow even more throughout Japanese society, and as a fan myself, I am always eager for the chance to savour the attractions of Wales. I do know that the Emperor and Empress of Japan, who visited Wales during their State Visit to the United Kingdom in 1998, were similarly taken with the warm and friendly welcome that they received in Wales.

2 Allow me today to make a few observations about Japan-Wales relations. One can trace our ties back at least 100 years. After the conclusion of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance in 1902, Japanese warships were fuelled by Welsh coal during the Russo-Japanese war. As the process of industrial development unfolded in Japan towards the end of the 19th century, Welsh industry, centred on coal and steel, helped to foster relations between Japan and Wales. The very close economic ties that we enjoy today were forged around three decades ago. When I visited Wales for the first time 37 years ago, there was not a single Japanese company located here. However, after the decision of Takiron and Sony to establish operations in Wales in the 70s, many Japanese companies started to base operations here, creating our modern partnership. There are now more than 60 Japanese companies and more than 1,300 Japanese nationals based in Wales. I understand that they have been most warmly welcomed in their respective localities, and I wish to express my deep gratitude to the Welsh people for this. Meanwhile, it is no secret that there have recently been several cases of Japanese firms reducing their presence here or withdrawing altogether, putting a strain on the economic links between our two countries. Of course, there are a number of factors behind the problems of the Japanese economy and the changes in strategy among Japanese companies with regard to locating production facilities in Europe. In this context, let me say a few words about the current state of the Japanese economy.

3 It is common knowledge that the Japanese economy is struggling through difficult times and is beset with numerous problems. The real economic growth rate has been negative or very small for the past several years and the unemployment rate has been rising. The figures have been very bad in the recent history of the Japanese economy, but the figures are perhaps not so bad when one compares them with those of other countries of mature economy. My message to you today is simply that it is misguided to view the economic situation in Japan in an excessively pessimistic light. Things are not as bad as everyone thinks. For instance, the purchasing power of the Japanese people, the ability to produce high value-added items and the country's capital reserves remain strong. Let me say that the size of the economy of Japan is three times bigger than that of the UK and four times bigger than that of China. In Japan it is not just a case of maintaining things as they were before: a relentless process is under way involving deregulation, an adjustment in the mindset of the majority of Japanese people towards the economy and changes in management methods. Firm commitment to reform, together with the appointment of a new Governor of the Bank of Japan, will lead the Japanese economy in a more positive direction. In view of the size and maturity of the Japanese economy, it would be overstepping the mark to say that I anticipate a dramatic improvement in circumstances in a short period of time. However, Japan is well on the road to reform and I feel it is appropriate to view things with careful optimism.

4 One should not think of Japan-Wales economic relations solely in terms of Japanese investment in Wales. They have the potential to be much broader than that, and there is furthermore great scope for practical co-operation between us in a number of areas. Investment by Welsh firms in Japan is perfectly feasible. The Japanese government is also trying to attract foreign investment into Japan, and I very much welcome approaches from Welsh companies seeking to invesan inve anin Japie. Exchhoging vttws on orw to ausract fmieign b ainess bight beor possilolity wWhth exp Jring. e y doesmeapanesthinvestednt in ome Unitd Kingdes exceefothat dr tined anr otheriEuropeve countt es? Deeslopmena Agenciro play atmajor ngle in -stractinv larget.cale i iestmenpe Walescas the porfect , se in ghint as5 althount only e per ceop of thn UK's perulatioatlive h 1e, it cetractsUK5 per int of en-boundm nvestmhat. I aJasure t st the ulpaneseelide woead do wm l to lpern fro othe exesrienceasf bodiel such el the W Ash Dev ls 5 I tould aouo likepeo see er co-oberationhextend miyond tre econon c sphele. Japa aand War s facemo numbeleof comann chald nges, l d woullodo weletto expysre togicher waee in wh. h to mstt themthFor ine ance, esere arssthe pr asing iirues ofe, low beith ratie an ageity and rising production costs. At the beginning of this speech, I referred to the geographical similarities between our two countries. The special features of Wales - mountains?Cseashores and castles, as well as friendly and welcoming people - are precisely the qualities that provincial parts of Japan cite in trying to lure tourists. Stimulating tourism, just as much as attracting investment, is an important policy aim of the Japanese government. I hope that anyone here who has yet to visit Japan will take the opportunity to enjoy not only the mountains of Wales but those of Japan as well. You might be surprised at how much they remind you of your home town! There are already various projects underway in the area of natural beauty to bring Japan-Wales ties even closer. A 'Sister Forest' relationship exists between Afan and Kurohime and perhaps it might be possible to explore other potential 'sister' relationships.

6 This leads me to mention Aichi Expo, which will take place in 2005 in the central part of Japan. The theme is "The Earth", which is the common property of human beings. Through this world exposition, Japan wants to explore new ideas, together with other participants, about how human beings can coexist with the earth, how we can preserve or improve the environment, reduce our dependence on energy, and so on. It will provide a valuable forum for a pooling of wisdom from around the world in tackling weighty global issues, and the participation of the British business community would be most welcome. I should very much like to encourage people from a broad range of backgrounds to take part in this exposition.

7 The progress of cultural exchange is something that illustrates well the wide scope of ties between Japan and Wales. During Japan 2001, a series of cultural events about Japan, Wales hosted an impressive number of cultural and educational events, and today's Japan Day can be regarded as a most significant follow-up to the Matsuri held in Bangor as part of Japan 2001. Such cultural exchange should not be limited to Matsuri, lasting only one day at a time.The important thing is to see how something of the spirit of cultural exchange can take root in people's daily lives.

8 In this regard, Japanese language education must surely have a crucial part to play, and I sincerely hope the Japanese Studies project being launched today will be successful. Providing teaching of Japanese language and culture in primary schools would be a great opportunity to enhance our level of cooperation. As far as we know, there are very few primary schools which offer Japanese language classes in the UK. In that sense, this project is extremely innovative and somewhat experimental. At the same time, I was impressed by the fact that it is a project initiated by the Welsh Government, rather than by a Japanese company. I truly appreciate the decision of the Welsh Government. On our part, the Embassy and I myself, together with the Japan Foundation Language Centre, supports the further enhancement of Japanese language education, and we would be very happy to give your project any assistance or support that we can.

9 I am happy to note that the Institute of Japanese Studies at the University of Wales, Bangor and the Embassy have established very cordial ties. Incidentally, you may be interested to know that we have recently finished interviewing candidates for this year's JET Programme. The UK university with the highest number of JET applicants was the University of Wales, and I think this goes to demonstrate the extent to which ties and exchange between Wales and Japan have become strong. As for myself, I have at last been able to visit North Wales thanks to today's event and, proud of my status as a Wales fan, I once more affirm my wish to see our co-operative ties raised another notch.

Thank you.


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