A refreshing trip to the Highlands
In the middle of May, Scotland can be a very appealing destination. My wife and I can vouch for this after a recent, most enjoyable stay there. On 17 May we travelled to Inverness in the Highlands in the company of Mr Jotaro Horiuchi, Minister in charge of transport-related matters at the Embassy, and a group of Japanese travel officials. It was an exploratory trip with the purpose of boosting Japanese tourism in Scotland and, more generally, of attracting more Japanese businesses to Britain.
The itinerary included visits to castles, tours of distilleries and country house hotel accommodation. We had the honour of meeting Scottish Tourism Secretary Fiona Hyslop and other government officials, as well as the Lord Provost of Aberdeen. On the 18th we visited the magnificent Balmoral Castle. The tour was fascinating and the scenery was breathtaking. I can see why Her Majesty is so attached to Balmoral! Another memorable feature of the day was a visit to Glover House in Aberdeen. This was once the home of Thomas Glover, who made a major contribution to Japan’s modernisation drive in the latter half of the 19th century, spending many years in the country and becoming known as the ‘Scottish Samurai’.
My official duties in Scotland finished as I witnessed the opening of the new Macallan Distillery in Speyside on the 21st. It is a state-of-the-art production facility which nonetheless preserves plenty of reminders of the long history of this illustrious producer of premium single malt whisky. Naturally, I tested for myself samples of the company’s products – for research and medicinal purposes, of course!
On 31 May I was invited to the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford, to deliver a lecture to 40 postgraduate students who were preparing to take part in a simulation where they would be Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiators. I spoke to them about my personal experience representing Japan in the TPP discussions and offered my observations on some of the attributes of successful negotiators. Afterwards I enjoyed dinner with some of the students and their professor. I was very impressed with the intellectual calibre of my dinner companions, who made the occasion most stimulating and memorable.
Two days later top hat and tails were the order of the day as my wife, clad in a kimono, and I attended the Derby at Epsom Racecourse. My particular interest was in Saxon Warrior, the first Japanese-born horse to take part in this historic event and the odds-on favourite. Unfortunately he finished fourth. However, I consoled myself with the knowledge that he at least finished ahead of eight of his rivals!
A very agreeable event took place at my residence on 7 June in the form of a barbecue in honour of some of our British friends from a variety of fields, including politics, business and the media. Blessed with fine weather and supported by a number of Japanese companies, the event was a definite success!
I attended a colourful occasion of a more formal nature, Trooping the Colour, on 9 June. As always, I found myself enthralled by the unmatched pageantry of the occasions.
The following day it was back to equestrian activities when I attended a UK v Japan friendly polo match at Ham Polo Club near Richmond, one of the oldest such clubs in the UK and the last surviving one in the London area. There was a good turnout of Japanese guests, and I would like to think that the camaraderie evident among everyone there augurs well for our bilateral relations.