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The Japanese Government confers a decoration to Sir Sydney Giffard
24 November 2003

On November 21, the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun was presented to Sir Sydney Giffard in recognition of his efforts to foster friendship between Japan and Britain and of his promotion of Japanese studies in the UK. Throughout his diplomatic career, fifteen years of which he spent in Japan, Sir Sydney promoted Japan-UK relations by raising British people's awareness of Japanese history, society and culture, and by encouraging the study of these subjects. He made a particularly significant contribution to the Peace, Friendship and Exchange Initiative initiated by Japanese government in 1995, serving for eight years as Chairman of the Joint Committee of the UK-Japan History Project. He has also translated many works of Japanese literature and written a number of books on Japan.

On receiving the decoration, Sir Sydney said that the occasion had given rise to reflections on his acquaintance with Japan and how it had enriched him personally in friendship and understanding. "One of the great changes of these fifty years," he added, "has been the enormous increase in the number and quality of cultural exchanges between Britain and Japan and the fact that our common interests are now so extensive and so significant."

Speech delivered by Ambassador Orita at the award ceremony:

"Sir Sydney, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to bestow upon Sir Sydney Giffard on behalf of His Majesty Emperor of Japan, the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun for his lifelong contribution to the promotion of friendly relations between Japan and the United Kingdom.

One of Sir Sydney's trademark characteristics is modesty, although sometimes he carries this to extremes. For example, his CV, prepared by himself, is particularly sparing in detail. It is therefore my agreeable duty to elaborate on his remarkable achievements.

Sir Sydney's career in Her Majesty's diplomatic service extended over more than thirty years, nearly half of which was spent in Japan. Ties between Japan and the United Kingdom grew steadily throughout the course of his career, and he was directly involved in some of their most significant developments.

Having entered the diplomatic service in 1951, Sir Sydney was given his first assignment in Tokyo in 1964, the year Japan hosted the first Olympic Games. His second posting to Japan took place in the mid-'70s, when the emerging Japanese economy survived two oil crises and encountered trade friction with the developed countries in North America and Europe. After serving as British Ambassador to Switzerland from 1980 to 1982, and then assuming the post of Deputy Under Secretary of State of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office from 1982 to 1984, he was assigned to Japan for the fourth time as Her Majesty's Ambassador from 1984 to 1986.

Japan-UK relations made substantial progress in every arena during Sir Sydney's tenure in Tokyo. In 1984 Nissan decided to make a major investment in the United Kingdom, triggering a steady flow of Japanese investment into the British Isles in the years that followed. Meanwhile, co-operation at the highest level of government intensified through Prime Minister Nakasone's visit to the UK in 1984, followed by Prime Minister Thatcher's visit to Japan in 1986 on the occasion of the Tokyo Summit of G7 industrialised countries. The first meeting of the UK-Japan 2000 Group took place in 1984, while in the same year the Prince and Princess of Wales visited Japan and won over its inhabitants with their charm. During his ambassadorship, Sir Sydney contributed, in his typically quiet but effective manner, to making sure that our relations reached new horizons.

Sir Sydney's accomplishments as a diplomat are clear for all to see. However, he has many other outstanding attributes which manifest themselves when we consider Sir Sydney as a man of literature, as a researcher and as a mentor.

At Wadham College, Oxford University, Sir Sydney read Classics. His interest in literature diminished not at all after he joined the FCO; quite the contrary, as in 1961 his translation of the novel Ai no Shogen, or The Flowers are Fallen in English, by the Japanese novelist Shiina Rinzo was published. Over the years Sir Sydney published a series of books and articles through which he introduced British audiences to his unique and fascinating take on modern Japan. His book Japan Among the Powers 1890-1990, published in 1994, and his book reviews over the years in the publication Asian Affairs are cases in point. It is thus absolutely appropriate that he became an Honorary Fellow of Wadham College in 1991 and an Honorary Fellow of the British Association of Japanese Studies in 2002.

I myself was very impressed by the lecture Sir Sydney delivered to The Japan Society in February 2002 to mark the centenary of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance. His talk was sound on facts and analysis, while his affection for my country shone through. My admiration was felt by all present on that occasion.

In 1995 the Government of Japan launched the Peace and Friendship Initiative, which embraced the Anglo-Japanese History Project. It was an extremely ambitious venture to have researchers from both countries tackle the 400 years of our relations, with all their ups and downs. To co-ordinate the efforts of so many scholars, independent-minded and too enthused by their mission to be overly bothered by deadlines and editing considerations, must have been a daunting task. As chairman of the project, Sir Sydney was an impressive force of moderation who came to symbolise the venture by his sheer presence. In June of this year we celebrated the successful conclusion of the History Project in this very room. The work comprises five volumes, in both Japanese and English, which are now available to members of the public in both countries who are interested in the history of our bilateral ties. The project was also the catalyst for the formation of a network of researchers from our two countries - an asset from which we will all benefit for many years to come. Once again, Sir Sydney's quiet but persevering approach has proved effective. I am honoured to offer Sir Sydney Giffard the profound respect of my nation by bestowing upon him the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun."

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