Busy as ever in run-up to year end
Time flies like an arrow, as the saying goes, and it once again falls to me to offer my year-end greetings. Let me do so while chronicling a few notable events of interest.
On 4 December we had a reception to celebrate the birthday of His Majesty the Emperor of Japan. It was our great honour to have with us The Duke of Gloucester on this occasion. Patron of the Japan Society, he kindly proposed a toast on behalf of the many guests – British, Japanese and several other nationalities – who had assembled for the event. We welcomed those attending with, I trust, our customary Japanese hospitality, and enjoyed the generous support of various organisations who added to the occasion with their own offerings of Japanese culture and technology. Two days later it was my privilege to join a gathering at Buckingham Palace to mark this year’s Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering. Four engineers were awarded the prize for contributing to the creation of digital imaging sensors, and I was of course delighted that one of them was Professor Nobukazu Teranishi of the University of Hyogo and Shizuoka University.
These events followed another busy month for the Embassy. On the 3rd we held a reception for Mr Tim Clark, Head of the Japanese Section of the British Museum, where he was awarded the Foreign Minister’s Commendation for his tremendous and longstanding contribution to cultural relations between Japan and the United Kingdom. Three weeks later we hosted a similar event, this time a reception in honour of Mrs Yoko Morishima, who was to receive the Ambassador’s Commendation for her tireless service over several decades on behalf of the Japanese Women’s Association of Great Britain and the International Children’s Bunko Association, especially with regard to her valuable educational initiatives.
Among other occasions, on the 6 November we co-hosted an event with JNTO entitled “Visit Japan Night: On the Cutting Edge of Fashion and Technology”, aimed at encouraging British tourists to visit Japan. The following day I welcomed a ‘Living National Treasure’, Mr Kazumi Murose, who specialises in lacquerware, to deliver a lecture related to his exhibition at the Embassy this month.
November also afforded me a few opportunities to travel outside London. They included a visit to Newcastle to attend the CBI’s Global Growth Conference on 13 November, followed by a stay in Sheffield over the next two days. There Mr Richard Caborn, former Minister for Sport, introduced me to the Olympic Legacy Park with an eye on the Olympic and Paralympic Games which Tokyo will host in 2020. I also visited Sheffield Hallam University, currently collaborating in various projects involving the Park, some of which have attracted investment by Japanese businesses. Another port of call was the University of Sheffield, whose Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) and Factory 2050 comprise a showcase of advanced engineering. While at the University, I had an opportunity to deliver a lecture to students of Japanese Studies on the theme of Japan’s view of the world. A couple of weeks later, on 27 November, there was another occasion with a Japanese theme, this time at St Antony’s College, University of Oxford, where I addressed the subject of Japan and Brexit in a lecture organised by the Nissan Institute of Japanese Studies.
Sport also featured in November. On the 16th we caught a glimpse of the trophy for the 2019 Rugby World Cup, to be held in Japan, when it was brought to the Embassy as part of an international tour. I welcomed the trophy with Mr Reg Clark, who is a recipient of the Foreign Minister’s Commendation in recognition of his promotion of cultural exchange between Japan and the United Kingdom through rugby. This year he also kindly organised the memorial rugby match on 2 December for Ambassador Katsuhiko Oku, a former rugby player at the University of Oxford who used to be a Minister at our Embassy and tragically lost his life while on a mission in Iraq in 2003.
Westminster was the backdrop for my official duties on 20 November. On what was an interesting and stimulating day, I attended two events at the House of Commons. The first was the launch of Ashinaga Global UK, the London office of a Japanese nonprofit organization offering educational, financial and emotional support to orphans worldwide, in the presence of its Founder and President, Mr Yoshitomi Tamai. The second was the first meeting of the UK-Japan Parliamentary Group Sports Subcommittee, one of whose key aims is to provide a setting in which the UK can share with Japan its experience of hosting the London Olympics and Paralympics in 2012.
November ended with a visit to Gibraltar for a couple of days. It was fascinating to spend time in a place so tiny in terms of area but with such a significant role in British history. With Barbary macaques roaming around, I almost forgot that I was in Europe. However, the reassuring presence of Marks & Spencer and Morrisons made me feel quite at home!
Well, it only remains for me to wish you all an enjoyable festive season and to express my confidence that 2018 will be another favourable year for UK-Japan relations.