Ambassador's Blog

  • (JNTO) event at Japan House
  • Oku Memorial Trophy competition
  • Councillor Robert Freeman's commendation ceremony

Why not try Japan in winter?

Now that winter has arrived, some of us may be wondering how we can escape it – or at least make the most of it. Well, those people attending a Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) event at Japan House London on 5 November to promote Japan in the winter would have gained great inspiration in this regard. Japan is already becoming the destination of choice for discerning skiers, and it offers many other winter delights. How about giving it a try?

My agenda for the following day was very different. Japan and the UK enjoy an increasingly deep and multifaceted relationship in which we consult and cooperate on a wide range of weighty issues. One area in which we are focusing great attention is that of defence. That is why I was particularly pleased to welcome a delegation from the Japan Self Defence Force (JSDF)’s Joint Staff College, led by the College Commandant, Vice Admiral Katsutoshi Deguchi. I briefed the group, consisting of senior students at the College from all three branches of the JSDF who will shortly be appointed to key positions in the Ministry of Defence, on various aspects of Japan-UK relations in the realm of security. During their stay, they visited some key British military locations.

The following day I welcomed the model Saeko to the Embassy. She has recently been gaining attention for her interest in the United Nations Development Programme’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially those pertaining to gender equality and empowering women. We discussed progress towards achieving the SDGs and how it can be expedited.

On 12 November I had the pleasure of attending the Lord Mayor’s Banquet together with more than 600 other guests. It was an international gathering of business leaders, diplomats and students. The Lord Mayor of London, Alderman Peter Estlin, outlined his positive vision of the future of his great city and of the UK overall, and we were also addressed by Prime Minister May.

Sport was the theme for the following Saturday, consisting of a double helping of rugby. I first attended the Oku Memorial Trophy competition at the Richmond Athletic Ground. This is an annual event in memory of Ambassador Katsuhiko Oku, a graduate of Waseda University and Hertford College, Oxford, who was tragically killed in 2003 while performing his duties in Iraq. Passionate about rugby, he was the first Japanese to turn out as an Oxford ‘blue’. The annual match is contested by the two clubs Ambassador Oku represented while in the UK, London Japanese RFC and Kew Occasionals RFC. After the Trophy match I travelled to nearby Twickenham to watch England take on Japan. Although the ‘Brave Blossoms’ did not win, they acquitted themselves well. A large television audience watched the match, and I daresay the spectacle persuaded some of the viewers to start contemplating a visit to Japan for the Rugby World Cup next year.

The next day I switched from rugby to tennis when I attended the Nitto ATP Final. Although I was disappointed that Kei Nishikori did not make it that far, I witnessed a memorable event when Alexander Zverev beat the world’s No. 1, Novak Djokovic.  Nitto Denko, a maker of innovative industrial materials, began sponsoring the competition last year as part of its campaign to promote its brand globally, and I learned more about the company’s international strategy from my conversation with its president, Mr Hideo Takasaki.

The Japan Society Annual Dinner took place on the 21st. This is always a stimulating and enjoyable affair, and this year was particularly significant in that we marked the transition from Sir David Warren to Bill Emmott as chairman. There was unanimous appreciation of Sir David’s sterling efforts in office. Meanwhile, we look forward to what Bill can bring to the role, as he draws on his wealth of knowledge and expertise about Japan coupled with the extensive network of contacts he has nurtured over his long journalistic career.

It was a very pleasant duty on the 22nd to host a ceremony at the Embassy where I conferred the Foreign Minister’s Commendation on Councillor Robert Freeman, a stalwart of The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council. He has long been a keen friend of Japan. In fact, he played a pivotal role in bringing the Japan House London project to fruition. (He was Mayor of the Borough in the early stages of the process.) He also played an important supporting role in the creation of the Fukushima Garden in Holland Park and the English Garden in Motomiya City, Fukushima prefecture, both of which were inspired by a wish to place on record the Japanese people’s gratitude to their British friends for the generous support extended at the time of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami.

Among the many areas in which the United Kingdom and Japan enjoy fruitful collaboration is life science. That is why I was pleased to receive a visit on 27 November from Professor Kenji Shibuya of Tokyo Medical School. He is due to take up a position next April teaching this important subject at Kings College London. Japan and the UK both conduct cutting-edge research in life science, and we discussed the positive global impact our joint efforts can have.

Two days later I welcomed Mr Alun Milford, General Counsel of the Serious Fraud Office, to my official residence to receive the Ambassador’s Commendation for his contribution to strengthening the Japan-UK relationship in the field of criminal law. With the activities of criminals, particularly those engaged in economic misdeeds, increasingly crossing international borders, I cited the cooperation between the SFO and the Japan Prosecutors Office as playing a key role in our joint efforts to tackle this scourge. Mr Milford has lectured in Japan and his advice has often proved valuable to a succession of legal attachés at the Embassy. He is shortly to retire from his official duties, and I trust our cooperation in this important sphere will continue.

Let me end my remarks with a piece of good news. On 23 November it was confirmed that Osaka had been selected to host the World Expo 2025. I am very grateful to the UK for supporting the city’s bid. Although the event is still a few years away, it is not too soon for you to start planning a visit to Japan’s thriving Kansai region!  

Well, the Festive Season is almost upon us, so it just remains for me to wish you all a refreshing and enjoyable holiday period as well as a happy and prosperous New Year.

Koji Tsuruoka