Good evening, Mrs Browning, Dr Pritchard, Pacific Venturers and supporters of the Pacific Venture,
I am thrilled to have been invited to this Grand Reunion, and to be able to celebrate the official final year of the Pacific Venture with so many of you here today. I have attended the Reunion at the Trafalgar Tavern for three consecutive years, which I assume would qualify me as a ����egular�ߡ�on these occasions. On behalf of Ambassador Orita, who cannot be with us tonight, I would like to thank you for inviting members of the Japanese Embassy to this very special and most heart-warming occasion.
Every year we receive reports about the Pacific Venture at the Embassy, and now have a sixteen-strong volume of them. Reading the reports of each trip has given me a sense of the history of the Pacific Venture. About 360 people have made the two-week trip, while 20 students have been on the five-to-ten-month programme. It is quite awe-inspiring to reflect on how far this programme has come. The Pacific Venture has indeed played a significant role in bringing the Japanese and British peoples together.
Looking back almost a decade to 1995, when the Japanese Government started the ��ױeace, Friendship and Exchange Initiative�ߡ�and began working with Mrs Browning and Dr Pritchard, one recalls that there was still a strong feeling of bitterness towards the Japanese people among former prisoners of war, civilian internees and their families. When the Emperor of Japan Emperor visited Britain in May 1998, this lingering anger was conveyed in letters we received at the Embassy and through the media. So much has changed and developed in our relations since then. This year at the Embassy's annual ��״ummer Reunion for Peace and Friendship�ߡ�reception we had over 200 guests, including many former prison camp inmates and their families. I firmly believe the seeds of reconciliation have been sown and have taken root gradually but steadily through people-to-people contacts and by programmes such as the Pacific Venture. I urge all Pacific Venturers to take pride in the fact that, by making the trip, you have helped to construct a bridge linking the past with the future.
The Pacific Venture has not only contributed to our friendship, but has also given many young British people the opportunity to gain first-hand experience of Japan, its culture and its people. For many of you, the trip has been a once-in-a-lifetime event that will surely influence your future.
It is indeed through the hard work of the brilliant organisers, Mrs Browning and Dr Pritchard, that this programme has been so successful during these ten years. Without their tremendous devotion, the daunting task of preparing for each trip, accompanying a group of 20 youths twice a year and handling all the administrative work could not have been accomplished so efficiently. May I pay tribute to Mrs Browning and Dr Pritchard for their infectious enthusiasm and their total commitment to the cause.
As I stand here talking to you, the very warm and friendly atmosphere in the room is almost palpable. This is the spirit of the Pacific Venture, nurtured by all of its participants and supporters. Please accept my gratitude for everything you have done to make the Pacific Venture such a success. I wish you all success in your future endeavours.