Ambassador's Blog

Autumn events confirm strength of bilateral ties

October saw no let-up in the pace of events focusing on Japan-UK relations.  Perhaps I may be forgiven for reporting first on an experience which will remain with me forever.  On 20 October, I visited Buckingham Palace for an audience with Her Majesty the Queen, in order to present my Letters of Credence.  My wife and I, wearing formal kimonos for this special day, were transported to the Palace in a State landau from the Royal Mews, with some of the Ministers of the Embassy following in a second carriage.  The occasion was enhanced by pleasant, sunny weather even in October!

Earlier in the month I had returned to Japan to attend the 33rd annual conference of the UK-Japan 21st Century Group from 7 to 9 October, which was chaired by the Rt Hon Lord Lansley and by Mr Yasuhisa Shiozaki, Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare.  There were lively discussions on a host of important issues, including the current political and economic circumstances of both countries, the UK economy post-Brexit, East Asian security, the Japan-UK defence relationship, ageing societies and demographic change, energy policies, “womenomics” and cooperation for international development.  Before the conference the British participants, Minister Shiozaki and I paid a courtesy call on Prime Minister Abe.  Mr Abe declared that Japan considered the UK a key partner with which it shared fundamental values and that this situation would not change after Brexit.  He stressed the importance of the two countries working together on global issues as well as regional security and defence cooperation.  Lord Lansley expressed appreciation for Mr Abe’s words and reaffirmed the UK’s determination to be a global leader in free trade.

One of the cornerstones of the solid Japan-UK relationship is our wide-ranging economic partnership.  Two recent events forcefully brought home this fact.  On 4 October, we co-hosted the seminar “UK and Japan: Trade and Investment post-Brexit” at the Embassy with JCCI UK and JETRO.  Lord Price CVO, Minister of State for Trade and Investment, briefed the participants from about 100 Japanese companies regarding the British Government’s approach to leaving the EU and the main thrust of its trade policy, while stressing the importance of the two countries working in partnership.  In similar vein, on 31 October we organised an event, “Japanese Companies and Brexit”, in cooperation  with the British-Japanese Parliamentary Group.  I really appreciate the generous support afforded by the Group’s Chairman, Roger Godsiff, in providing the wonderful setting of Portcullis House in Westminster for the occasion.  The meeting was addressed by The Rt Hon David Davis, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, Mr Paul Drechsler, President of the CBI, and Mr Haruki Hayashi, President of the JCCI, who offered their valuable insights into the current state of economic relations between Japan and the UK and how our two countries can work together to sustain and enhance our strategic relationship.  Among other notable participants were The Rt Hon Chris Grayling, Secretary of State for Transport, and The Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health.  This stimulating and worthwhile gathering was attended by around 250 people in total, including about 70 British parliamentarians and 80 representatives of UK-based Japanese businesses.

As for the cultural and educational field, I had the pleasure of attending the launch of the book Japanese Studies in Britain: A Survey and History at SOAS on 27 October, organised by the Japan Society.  The book, edited by Sir Hugh Cortazzi and Emeritus Professor Peter Kornicki, is a compendium of indispensable information for people intending to involve themselves in Japanese Studies.  Finally, on 2 November I had the very agreeable duty of attending the 125th anniversary dinner of the Japan Society with its chairman, Sir David Warren, other members and a distinguished special guest, The Rt Hon Sir John Major.  There I presented to Sir David, on behalf of the Society, the Foreign Minister’s Commendation, awarded by the Government of Japan in recognition of that organisation’s distinguished service in promoting mutual understanding between Japan and the United Kingdom.  I trust the Society’s longevity will be a harbinger of many more years of invaluable service in the cause of Japan-UK friendship.

Koji Tsuruoka