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Speech made by Minister Kishino on the occasion of the official closing of the 2005 EU-Japan Year of People-to-People Exchanges in the UK


29 November 2005

Mr Key, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very pleased to express my heartfelt welcome to all of you at this closing reception in the United Kingdom for the 2005 EU-Japan Year of People-to-People Exchanges.

First, let me start with a quick overview of why we initiated this venture and what we were aiming to achieve. At the Japan-EU summit in 2002, our leaders agreed to hold a series of enlightening events in 2005, the halfway point in the Decade of EU-Japan Cooperation. The idea behind it was that, through grass-roots exchange in various fields, mutual understanding would be deepened between the citizens of Japan and the EU member states, with the result that the groundwork for strong friendship and cooperation could be laid over the long term.

Overall, it is fair to say that it has been a successful year. Around 1,700 events, bringing together Japan and the 25 EU members, were authorised, and most of them have already taken place. Of these events, about 400 were organised in Japan and approximately 1,300 at various locations in the EU. The United Kingdom has featured prominently in this regard, with around 200 events. These statistics are a very positive sign of what we have achieved this year. Yet it is not just a matter of the number of events. In fact, quite a number of activities have taken place without being officially registered.

For the past quarter century , three major ventures of this sort have taken place in the UK , every ten years and on a much larger scale. The most recent one was Japan 2001 , in which more than 2,000 Japan-related events were held throughout the country . The initiative for those events came mainly from individuals and private organisations, and this is likely to be the case in the future.

Indeed, this trend has gained momentum during this EU-Japan Year. An immense variety of events have been organised on such a basis, including concerts, exhibitions and film showings as well as lectures, business seminars, school exchanges, Japan Days and the like. It is no surprise that so many of the events for EU-Japan Year have been held in the UK as there is a strong foundation here for grass-roots exchange between Japan and this country. We have a number of dedicated individuals and organisations eager to play a role, and they are the real players in cultural and social exchange.

This evening I am glad to announce that many of them are here with us. I would like to express our most sincere appreciation to all the event organisers, artists , lecturers and other s whose support and contribution have made EU-Japan Year such a success. They have performed a number of indispensable roles, including advertising, the offer of venues, transportation and financing .

Let me also pay tribute to the members of the UK Steering Committee, whose untiring work for the past year and a half has ensured the smooth running of this project. I would like to name each of them: the British Council, the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation, the FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office), the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation, Japan 21, the JCCI (Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry), JETRO (the Japan External Trade Organisation), the Japan Foundation, the Japan Local Government Organisation, the Japan National Tourist Organisation (JNTO), The Japan Society, the Nippon Club, Visiting Arts and the Japanese Consulate General in Edinburgh. I thank them all.

May I now say something about Stringraphy, as this reception is to be graced by a performance by the Ensemble, led by Ms Kazue Mizushima. The main instrument used by the Ensemble is the product of a flash of inspiration Ms Mizushima had in an open-air concert in a woodland setting. How is the music produced? Well, it's a secret - you'll find out for yourselves very soon!

Some of you might recall that, at the opening reception for the EU-Japan Year held in February, the audience was treated to an elegant performance of traditional Japanese dance, Nihon Buyo. This time, however, the focus is on the modern side of Japan, in the form of the hauntingly attractive music created by silk threads and paper cups. Through these two contrasting performances in the opening and closing events it has been our intention to introduce you to both traditional and modern, innovative aspects of Japan.

Of course, however much we talk about mutual understanding, "seeing is believing|! So while you are here this evening, why not visit the Tea Ceremony and Flower Arrangement corners in the next room ? They are sponsored by the Japan National Tourist Organisation as part of the "Visit Japan" campaign.

People-to-people exchange between Japan and the UK goes back well over a century. The friendship between our two peoples is now at a very sophisticated level indeed, as we have seen during the EU-Japan Year. These warm ties can surely serve as a model for Japan's relations with other EU member states and with the European Union as a whole, with thriving grass-roots links leading the way. We at the Embassy of Japan, drawing on the experience of the EU-Japan Year and inspired anew, will do our utmost to promote the further development of Japan-UK and Japan-EU ties in the years ahead. I am sure there are many ways in which we can support the cause of people-to-people exchange, and we will continue to be proactive in this respect.

Thank you.

  • 2005 EU-Japan Year of People-to-People Exchanges closing event



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