My second British summer under way
May I begin by expressing my deep sorrow at the disaster at Grenfell Tower. I am particularly distressed by the tragic stories which have emerged from this devastating event, and my thoughts and prayers are with all the families affected by the fire. Sadly, this catastrophe follows in the wake of the appalling terrorist attacks in Manchester in May and in London earlier this month. I offer my sincere condolences to the loved ones of those who lost their lives and earnestly hope those who were injured will recover soon. Although there are no easy answers to the nightmarish problem of terrorism, there is no doubt in my mind that all peace-loving democracies need to share intelligence and otherwise work together to eradicate this scourge.
About a year has passed since I began my assignment in London as Japanese Ambassador. My wife and I have become accustomed to all the wonderful things that London has to offer – including the weather, which at the time of writing is most agreeable!
During the latter half of May, we celebrated some extremely significant cultural projects. On the 22nd, we proudly announced the location of the upcoming new facility, Japan House London. Japan House will offer visitors a comprehensive flavour of Japan, encompassing all areas of creativity from traditional Japanese culture to cutting-edge technology, services and everything that makes Japan quintessentially modern. Preparations are under way to open Japan House on Kensington High Street, and we hope to create a place where people can find something new each time they visit. Please be alert for updates on this exciting venture.
Shortly afterwards, on 23 and 25 May, the focus was on events related to the woodblock prints by the iconic Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai, both inside and outside the Embassy. On the 23rd, I was given the opportunity to officiate at the opening of the exhibition Hokusai: Beyond The Great Wave at the British Museum. This extremely well-curated exhibition focuses particularly on the Ukiyo-e prints the artist produced in his later years, which had a remarkable influence on the impressionist painters of modern Europe. I was surprised to learn that in his last years, Hokusai no longer made wood block prints, but painted. These masterpieces are also on display. We also took the opportunity to open at the Embassy a small exhibition of Hokusai’s works, called Hokusai and his Vision, in collaboration with the British Museum. Then, on the 25th we organised a lecture by Dr Shugo Asano, Director of the Abeno Harukas Art Museum in Osaka, together with Mr Tim Clark, the curator of the British Museum who is behind the Hokusai exhibition there. As these ventures make abundantly clear, art is for the benefit of all humanity and a key factor in forging friendship and mutual understanding between people, irrespective of their culture or nationality.
As for other matters, on 26 May I attended the academic seminar “London Trade Conference on Dispute Settlement in Free Trade Agreements” at King’s College London. There I talked about Japan’s perspective on the subject, drawing on experiences I had gained in my previous assignments.
Last but not least, on 5 June we held a ceremony at the Embassy in honour of Dr Eric Albone, Co-founder and Director of the Clifton Scientific Trust. The occasion marked the Government of Japan’s bestowal on him of the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays, in recognition of his significant contribution to strengthening and developing relations between Japan and the United Kingdom over many years. During this period he inspired countless students, both Japanese and British, to take an interest in science and international relations. Moreover, he provided valuable and highly tangible support for teachers and students who had been affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami in 2011.
On a separate note, on 8 June I welcomed to my residence some British friends, especially young people who have dealings with my staff, to express my thanks for their efforts in a relaxed atmosphere. In my view, it is impossible to overstate the importance of strong and enduring friendships. In fact, there is a saying in Japanese that people, no matter how old they are, should cherish good friendships as the treasures they truly are.
Well, I trust that the lovely (at the time of writing!) summer weather will continue to bless us and that you will all enjoy your holidays!