Mr. Large, Ladies & Gentlemen,
It seems the common language among the guests here is English. So allow me to speak in English.
Thank you very much indeed for coming to the Embassy this evening. We are delighted to welcome you all. Have you enjoyed the Tea Ceremony by Urasenke Group? I am sure you did. To enjoy the tea ceremony, you need the concentration of your mind and relaxation of yourself. It is part of Japanese culture. And I like to thank Urasenke Group for their wonderful demonstration.
We have organized this reception to express our thanks, on behalf of myself and the embassy, for the efforts made by so many volunteers who have cooperated in two important programmes introducing Japanese culture, society, people, indeed Japan, to young students in this country. The programmes are �ߡ�Japan In Your Classroom�ߡ�organized by Japan 21 headed by Mr. Large and �ߡ�Club Taishikan�ߡ�by our Embassy. This year, according to our estimate, these programmes are expected to reach out to as many as 14,000 British young students. This is really an amazing number. Although we have seen a regrettable decline in the numbers of Japan- related studies at universities in the UK, we see a clear tendency under way for more and more primary and secondary schools to offer Japanese language courses or otherwise introduce Japanese elements into the curriculum. This trend testifies to the genuine, tireless dedication of all of the volunteers.
Japan and the UK currently enjoy extremely close and cordial ties. Our co-operation on major global issues, regional issues and bilateral issues is very strong and our ties in the economic area and cultural area have been strengthened. It is my strong belief that the fundamental basis of all these relationships is people-to-people exchange. �ߡ�Japan In Your Classroom�ߡ� and �ߡ�Club Taishikan�ߡ� programmes play such an important role in fostering better understanding of Japan among young people in this country.
I like to express my sincere gratitude to all these volunteers for their efforts. I also like to thank Japan 21 for organizing Japan In Your Classroom . And I want to stress that our Embassy will continue to support all these activities.
I like to take this opportunity to ask your understanding and cooperation on one matter. We want more and more UK people to visit Japan. We will soon start what we call ��isit Japan Campaign�ߡ� That is why we put a table over there to put pamphlets. Our Government has set the official target of doubling the foreign visitors to Japan by 2010. The UK is one of our main targets. The UK people are the most extensively traveling people in the world. According to statistics, 60 million people go abroad every year. The number is more than the population. Many people go abroad more than once. But only 3 in one thousand travelers reach Japan. I feel that there is a big room for us to encourage UK people to visit Japan. Schoolchildren may be too young for foreign trips. But I think that many of them are dreaming of using a gap year to go abroad. Please promote the charms of Japan also as tourist attraction. In Japan, there are many interesting places to visit, both modern and historical. The scenery is beautiful. There are varieties of food. And trains go on time. People are hospitable. Please encourage young people to think about the possibility of visiting Japan in their near future.