Ambassador's Blog

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My first summer in London

My arrival in London at the beginning of June to take up my new role of Ambassador to the United Kingdom coincided with considerable interest in this country because of the EU referendum.  I was therefore here to witness a historic moment as the electorate voted in favour of ‘Brexit’.  While the implications of that result are not yet entirely clear, what is beyond doubt is the strength and importance of the Japan-UK relationship, as illustrated by the Embassy’s busy schedule.

On 14 June, just days after commencing my new role, I attended the British-Japanese Parliamentary Group Reception, when I had a chance to meet the Chair, Roger Godsiff MP, as well as other members who do so much to support our bilateral relationship.  This event was a useful precursor to the meeting of the UK-Japan 21st Century Group on 11 July.  That was a most stimulating occasion, where I was able to become acquainted with the Chair, Lord Lansley, and other members of the Group to discuss issues of common concern.

A few days previously, on 5 July, I had outlined Japan’s strategy in tackling  the challenge of global malnutrition at an event co-hosted with the Department for International Development entitled “Partnering to Eliminate Malnutrition: From Promise to Impact” at London’s Congress Centre.   The participants explored the various ways in which Japan and the UK are working together in different fields and sectors, with the involvement of key institutions from both countries.  I also mentioned the importance of political initiatives such as the G7 Ise-shima Summit and the upcoming Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VI), which is to be held in August in Kenya.  The gathering gave me an appropriate opportunity to stress the importance of human security, a concept at the heart of Japan’s approach to diplomacy and extremely relevant in the context of tackling malnutrition.

In recent weeks I have had several other opportunities to meet friends of Japan at Embassy events.  On 15 June I hosted the Annual Summer Reunion for Peace and Friendship, an annual event to which my predecessors attached great importance aimed at promoting and consolidating postwar reconciliation between our two countries. This gathering was quickly followed by the Annual General Meeting of the Japan Society, an organisation with a 125-year history which has played an indispensable role in the evolution of the warm ties we enjoy today.  At the end of the month I was able to welcome Members of Parliament, Ministry of Defence colleagues, military attachés and other diplomats in London at a reception to celebrate the Japan Self-Defence Forces Day.
On 4 July it was my pleasure to invite to the Embassy Professor Takaaki Kajita, 2015 Nobel Laureate in Physics, to deliver his memorial lecture to an enthusiastic audience.  It was also my pleasant duty to host a series of ceremonies at the Embassy where I bestowed on three of Japan’s most cherished friends a decoration awarded by the Government of Japan in recognition of their outstanding contributions to Japan-UK ties.  The recipients of the well-deserved award were The Rt Hon. Lord Cunningham of Felling DL, Mr Bill Emmott and Mrs Mary-Grace Browning MBE.

A couple of days later we had a reception to wish “bon voyage” to this year’s British contingent of the JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching) Programme on the eve of their departure for Japan.  On that occasion we were also able to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the programme in the company of some distinguished former participants, Dr Peter Cave, Dr Angus Lockyer, Dr Peter Matanle, Dr Chris Hood and Mr Julian Paisey, who had received the Ambassador's Commendation for their outstanding contribution to Japan-UK relations through their activities at the grassroots level.  The excitement felt by the new ‘JETs’ and the atmosphere of friendship and camaraderie at that gathering made me feel extremely optimistic for the future of Japan-UK relations.

Enjoy the rest of the summer!

Koji Tsuruoka

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