No shortage of rugby in a busy November
Around half a year has passed since I was posted here, and it has been an existing journey so far. Clearly the most critical issue with implications for the UK’s place in the world, including its warm friendship with Japan, has been Brexit. I was therefore honoured to be invited to attend the EU External Affairs Sub-Committee of the House of Lords on 9 November. At that timely forum I had the opportunity to talk about the impact of Brexit regarding UK-Japan trade and the importance of promoting unencumbered business and investment ties between our two countries so as to nurture and enhance our mutual prosperity.
Having been to Scotland in September, on 18 and 19 November I visited Wales. On the first day I had a tour of Cardiff University, the only seat of higher education in Wales to offer Japanese language courses, and was also shown round Cardiff Museum, which has an impressive Japanese collection. The following day, as a guest of the Welsh Government, I watched an exciting and closely-fought rugby match between Wales and Japan at the magnificent Principality Stadium, which was attended by 73,000 people. After my return to London I met The Rt Hon Alun Cairns, Secretary of State for Wales, on 22 November and discussed with him the buoyant economic ties and the potential for further collaboration between Wales and Japan.
Among other interesting and memorable events in November, on the 7th we co-organised a “Japan Tourism and Gastronomy Night” with JNTO to encourage British tourists to visit Japan. We also had a ceremony to mark the appointment of Mr Yoshinori Ishii, Executive Chef of the two Michelin starred restaurant Umu, as a Japanese Cuisine Goodwill Ambassador by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. This was in line with the Embassy’s important role of promoting Washoku (Japanese cuisine), which was registered as an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO in 2013.
Three weeks later, on 29 November, we held a ceremony at the Embassy where I presented Mr Reg Clark, CEO of Rhino Rugby, with the Foreign Minister’s Commendation in recognition of his promotion of cultural exchange between Japan and the United Kingdom through rugby. Indeed, his keen support for Japanese rugby played a part in Japan being chosen to host the 2019 Rugby World Cup. The gathering was a particularly poignant occasion as it took place on the anniversary of the passing of Ambassador Katsuhiko Oku, with whom I also worked when I was in Tokyo. He was the Director of the Japan Information and Cultural Centre at our Embassy from 2001 but unfortunately perished in the line of duty in Iraq in 2003. Reg and Katsu Oku became good friends when they met and played rugby at Oxford University. They also shared a strong passion in boosting mutual understanding between people of different cultures as an eminently practical means of making the world a better place.
Well, the spirit of Christmas is in the air and 2016 is drawing to a close. As I look forward to another fruitful year for Japan-UK relations, may I offer you my best wishes for the festive season.