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Ambassador's speech at a dinner following the Fortieth Anniversary Symposium of the Centre for Japanese Studies at the University of Sheffield
26 July 2003

Vice Chancellor, Lord Mayor, Professor Sasaki, Professor Hasegawa, Distinguished Guests, Ladies & Gentlemen,

This is my third visit to Sheffield in 6 months and I feel very at home here. I am extremely pleased to be with you this evening to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the establishment of the Centre for Japanese Studies at the University of Sheffield. This institution has come to play a highly significant & esteemed role in its field in the UK. First of all, may I offer my warmest congratulations and pay the highest tribute to everyone who has contributed to this fine achievement. Especially I would like to mention Professor Geoffrey Bownus who is the founder of the Centre. I remember very well that when I came to UK for the first time in 1965, the centre had been operating for scarcely 2 years and people talked enthusiastically about the potentiality of the Centre. I am also very pleased to see here my old friend, Professor Sasaki, President of the University of Tokyo. We are classmates and studied together during the "Bell-?poque" of universities in Japan as Professor Sasaki mentioned. We graduated from, as Professor Sasaki said, the sort of "classic" faculty of Law. Professor Sasaki studied so hard to have got stuck in the university, and I deviated from the university to get into the foreign service. Anyhow, it is so nice to see my friend as the president of the University of Tokyo here in Sheffield.

I came back from Japan just three days ago after attending the summit meeting between Prime Minister Koizumi and Prime Minister Tony Blair. In the eyes of the British media, there was something distracting from the meeting, but, as far as the bilateral relationships between the two countries are concerned, the meeting was a great success. Politically, it was confirmed at the highest level that Japan and UK is a reliable, trustworthy partner to each other in addressing the issues of the world, like issues relating to Iraq, Afghanistan, North Korea, reforms of the UN and so on. We need each other much more than before in the conduct of foreign policies. In the world, full of uncertainties, this relationship is a very important, stable and solid factor for the peace & stability of the world. At the summit meeting, three joint statements were announced. On (1) cooperation in the fields of global environmental issues (2) cooperation on information & communication technology and (3) Japan-UK Partnership in Science & Technology. These are important documents. In these fields, Japan & UK together can lead the world. People may not know the facts, but very important and substantial cooperation is already going on in many fields between the two countries. One important example, which I didn't know myself until quite recently, is the collaboration on Climate Change Modeling using the supercomputer in Japan called "Earth Simulator". Scientists try to calculate what kind of changes in climate may take place over long periods of time under certain conditions. Isn't it fantastic? Situation is changing and now cooperation between the two governments has extended far beyond economic cooperation. People tend to think that cooperation between the two countries is about only economic activities but there are a lot of new dimensions to our cooperation, political, scientific, cultural and so on. We need new blood of young talented people in giving new ideas and new kinds of substance to the bilateral cooperation. There is a big role that such institutions as this Centre can play in producing new talents.

In this context, I want to refer also to one thing, as Professor Bownus talked at the reception an hour ago. Despite the fact that UK has become much more important to Japan & Japan has become much more important to UK, there are in academic world of UK some worrying signs of retrenchments of Japanese Studies in some universities in UK. It is of course up to individual universities to decide. But it is difficult to quantify the importance of area studies like Japanese studies, especially in terms of budgetary priorities and in term of evaluation of academic standard. I hope very much that a long-term, wider, balanced, well-thought assessments or consideration is made. I feel that it is in Britain's strategic interest to maintain and develop the high level of area studies taking account of the possibilities in the future. This reminds me of one Japanese historical experience. During our isolation period which lasted more than 200 years from 17th Century, Japanese people were prohibited to make interchanges with foreigners. Even at that time, Rangaku, literally translated "Dutch Studies" was established. Many people at that time wondered, "What on earth, should we learn something about foreign countries?" "Dutch Studies" was actually studies not only about Holland but also studies about Western civilization and thanks to the tremendous efforts of scholars of that time, it was strongly pursued and developed. Over the very long period of time, it laid the solid foundation in many ways for new thinking to prepare Japan for the new era. Long-term assessment is really important.

The presentations at the symposium were excellent and discussions afterwards were quite interesting. Especially I appreciate the comments made by the Vice Chancellor Professor Boucher, "I am the guardian of important studies at the University." All these discussions will give the Centre for Japanese Studies a new impetus and help prepare the ground for further advances from now on. I wish every success and all the best the Centre. Thank you very much.


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