A tranquil piece of Japan in Hammersmith
Last month, with the World Cup, Wimbledon and day after day of hot weather, one could have been forgiven for thinking longingly of holidays. The business of the Embassy continued, however, although my official duties included some lighter moments.
Technology was to the fore early in the month when I visited two Japanese companies with successful operations in the UK. The first port of call was the Fujikura Europe factory in Swindon. Fujikura is one of the leading makers of fibre optic equipment and I was interested to learn about the company’s cutting-edge technology in this field. A few hours later I was in Bristol to attend an event marking the 20th anniversary of Toshiba Research Europe Limited’s Telecommunications Research Laboratory there.
On 9 July my wife and I attended the Royal Regatta in the delightful location of Henley at the invitation of Mitsubishi Corporation. It was our third visit to Henley. The skill of the participating crews combined with the flamboyant outfits sported by many of the spectators as they tucked into sumptuous picnics made this a most memorable event with an unmistakably British feel.
The issue of defence was certainly on the agenda last month. On the 11th, I received a courtesy call from General Yoshinori Marumo, Air Chief of Staff of the Japan Air Self Defence Force, and Colonel Yashiro Ogawa, of the Air Staff, who had just attended the Air Power Conference 2018. The next day they went to the Royal International Air Tattoo. I was informed a Kawasaki C-2 military transport aircraft was on display and provoked much interest among the visitors.
A few days later, on the 17th, aviation was again the theme when I visited the Farnborough Air Show. Among the impressive array of aircraft there, I was pleased to see a Mitsubishi Regional Jet MRJ90. It represents an important milestone in Japan’s development of its civil aviation sector and attracted much attention. On that occasion I also attended a reception to mark the fifth anniversary of the Defence Equipment Cooperation Framework between Japan and the UK. The event was attended by senior people from both the British and Japanese armed forces.
The previous day I had toured the Mitsubishi Electric factory at Livingston in Scotland. The company makes around 1,000 air conditioning units a day at its state-of-the-art facility there. In view of the recent heatwave, I have no doubts about the demand in the UK for their excellent products!
Education was the focus of a reception I attended at the School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS), University of London, on 20 July. This was a pre-departure event for this year’s contingent of young Britons who were about to leave for Japan to work on the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme as Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs) at Japanese schools or as Coordinators for International Relations (CIRs) with local governments in Japan. Launched in 1987, the scheme, aimed at young graduates from English-speaking countries, has been a great success. More than 10,000 people have participated from the UK, with almost 240 people taking part this year.
Towards the end of the month Mayor Gigyo Takamatsu of Motomiya City, accompanied by 12 middle school students, spent a week in London. They visited the Embassy on the 24th to offer thanks for our role in facilitating the Sister Garden arrangement linking the Fukushima Garden in Holland Park with an English garden in Motomiya City. The students had a busy schedule in London, which included visits to prominent landmarks and a matsuri in a Japanese restaurant, to which local children of a similar age were invited. In my remarks to the students, I urged them to be curious and alert to the differences they noted between London and their home city.
On 25 July my wife and I welcomed the fashion designer Paul Costelloe and his family to my official residence for dinner. Since the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of March 2011, Paul has been active in endeavours to aid the region. In a tie-up with Kyocera Corporation, he recently designed an Irish Claddagh Ring made from the new material cobarion, jointly developed by Tohoku University, Iwate Prefecture and Eiwa Ltd, a company in Kamaishi City, Iwate Prefecture. Kyocera is now selling the ring in the Japanese market, sales abroad are being considered, and a certain portion of the proceeds will go to support the recovery effort. Paul is a true friend of Japan.
I had planned to end these remarks with an account of the festivities in Hammersmith Park on Sunday 29 July marking the restoration of its Japanese Garden. However, the event was rained off! I am pleased to announce, though, that it has been rearranged for the afternoon of Saturday 4 August. We hope to see you there!