From medical science to a meeting at No. 10
After a quiet and sedate start to the New Year, things have steadily gained momentum and my diary is filling up. There have already been a number of events worthy of note.
As the first science-related gathering of the year, on 23 January I welcomed participants of the UK-Japan Symposium on Medical Imaging and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to the Embassy for a reception. It was a good opportunity for researchers and academics from both countries to meet each other after the symposium, which had been organised by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) and the Academy of Medical Sciences (AMS). Medical science is a field with rich potential for collaboration between Japan and the UK, and I hope to see our links flourish in the months and years ahead – no doubt buoyed by the fact that the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development (AMED) opened its London office last February.
On 31 January, I attended a luncheon hosted by the British-Japanese Parliamentary Group, which allowed me to meet a number of good friends who are always great supporters of our bilateral relations. The following few days brought us some significant cultural events. On 3 February my family and I visited the Institute of Contemporary Arts, which was hosting the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2018. There I had a chance to meet Mr Masahiro Motoki, who stars in The Long Excuse, a delightful film by a young Japanese director. Three days later I was present at the British Museum for the reopening of the Asahi Shimbun Gallery of Amaravati Sculptures, which was very impressive. The Museum is the only place outside the sculptures’ native India where any of them are on display. With the wall covered in golden foil to give an authentic Asian effect, the unique appeal of the sculptures really stands out. My visit brought to mind my first cultural engagement as Ambassador after my arrival in London in the early summer of 2016, when I took part in a celebration of the opening of a Japanese porcelain exhibition featuring Kakiemon in the Asahi Shimbun Display. Since then I have enjoyed attending various other exhibitions in London – one of the benefits of my posting!
The topic of Brexit was on the agenda on 8 February, when I attended a business roundtable hosted by Prime Minister Theresa May at 10 Downing Street. The meeting included Chancellor Philip Hammond MP, Secretary of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Greg Clark MP, Secretary of International Trade Liam Fox MP and senior representatives of several Japanese businesses operating in the UK. Prime Minister May reaffirmed the UK Government’s commitment to securing a new deep and special partnership with the EU after the UK leaves the union, and to maintaining a constructive dialogue between the UK Government and businesses as EU exit negotiations progress. With almost 1,000 Japanese businesses operating in the UK, Japan has a huge interest in an orderly Brexit process with clarity, and this topic will continue to command my keen attention as the year unfolds.
The day concluded in a most agreeable way with the Launch Event for the “Enjoy My Japan Global Campaign”, which was co-hosted by the Embassy and JNTO. The key guests were Ms Joanna Lumley, whose three-part ITV series Joanna Lumley’s Japan was highly acclaimed, and Mr David Atkinson, who is a British champion of inbound tourism to Japan. During the event, guests were treated to beautiful visual content on remote travel destinations, featuring attractive Japanese villages. I have no doubt that the occasion inspired many of the British guests to start making travel plans to more “undiscovered” Japanese locations, and it even left me feeling a little homesick!