Refreshed by Bath Spa
I hope you had a good holiday break and have started 2017 invigorated and ready for whatever lies ahead. My family and I certainly enjoyed the Festive Season. The highlight was perhaps our brief stay in Bath, with its Roman and Georgian delights. I can well understand why the city has been accorded UNESCO World Heritage status.
A little relaxation was very welcome after the hectic end to last year. On 8 December, there was Her Majesty’s Reception for the Diplomatic Corps at Buckingham Palace, a truly international gathering which I attended with my wife. The following day I travelled out of London to Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, to participate in an impressive ceremony at Hitachi Rail Europe for the unveiling of the first train produced as part of the company’s Intercity Express Programme. Also in attendance were the Secretary of State for Transport, The Rt Hon Chris Grayling, and the Minister for the Northern Powerhouse, Mr Andrew Percy. While in the North East I also visited the University Technical College South Durham, located just next to the Hitachi factory, where I was inspired by what I heard about the bright prospects for cooperation between education and business in the years ahead. I was subsequently shown round the Nissan plant factory in Sunderland, a landmark and highly successful Japanese business in Northeast England.
December saw a number of events at the Embassy to bring to a close a busy year in the diplomatic calendar. On the 1st there was the Japan Society’s Christmas Party, attended of course by its Chairman Sir David Warren as well as by Mr Paul Madden, who is currently serving as British Ambassador to Japan. The following day I celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Japan Association in the UK with its members. On 14 December I welcomed a number of distinguished British and Japanese guests at a reception to mark the birthday of His Majesty the Emperor of Japan. We were honoured by the presence of Mr Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health, who kindly offered some warm remarks, as well as HM Marshal of the Diplomatic Corps Alistair Harrison, who offered the toast. At this year’s reception the guests were able to view on their arrival a digital installation about Japanese companies in the UK prepared by Takram, a Japanese design innovation firm with a presence in London. Meanwhile, the national anthems of both countries were performed by Mr Hiroshi Amako, a young Tenor singer who is studying at the Royal Academy of Music and who took part in the Green Park Youth Concert at the Embassy last March.
This year there are undoubtedly some tough challenges ahead for both our countries. We will both benefit from the warm bonds of friendship and mutual respect that unite us, and I will do my best to contribute to yet further progress in our important partnership.