An auspicious start to 2019
Happy New Year! I hope you all had an enjoyable festive season.
This year sees the start of the Japan-UK Season of Culture. On 5 December I attended the press launch of the Citi exhibition: Manga, which the British Museum will present from 23 May to 26 August and which will surely be the highlight among the Japan-related cultural events due to take place over the next few months. Manga is an art form developed in Japan but which now has exponents and aficionados all around the world. Indeed, the Embassy organises a competition, Manga Jiman, every year to encourage budding artists in the UK, and I have been really struck by the quality of the work produced and the great interest it evokes here.
The British Museum extravaganza will comprise the largest ever display of manga outside Japan. The variety of works on show will appeal to people of all age groups and backgrounds. The exhibition will even feature a recreation of the oldest manga bookshop in Tokyo. Put a visit to this unique event in your diaries now! On 12 December the Embassy held a reception in honour of the birthday of His Majesty the Emperor of Japan. It was the last time for us to host this event before Crown Prince Naruhito ascends the throne on 1 May. As always, we were honoured by the presence of diplomats, government officials, business people and other prominent citizens from around the world. As well as opportunities for stimulating conversation, they enjoyed sushi and other dishes prepared by the chefs at my residence, along with sake from Ibaraki prefecture and other delicious beverages. The event was most enjoyable and left everyone attending with an unmistakable sense of the strength of Japan-UK relations.
Two days later the Embassy hosted the Japan Society Christmas Party. It was a perfect opportunity to celebrate the sterling service provided by Sir David Warren as chairman, and to look forward to the new era under the distinguished journalist, author and consultant Bill Emmott, which began at the beginning of this year. While most people were unwinding over the Christmas and New Year period, my colleagues and I at the Embassy could not entirely switch off. This is because we were preparing for the planned visit of Prime Minister Abe. He duly arrived in the UK on 10 January. After a visit to Twickenham Stadium in the context of Japan’s hosting of the Rugby World Cup this autumn, he held a summit with Prime Minister May.
His message on the importance that Japan attaches to the UK’s future relationship with the European Union was much publicised and, of course, well noted by Mrs May. However, the two sides discussed not only trade and investment but the many other aspects of our deep and multifaceted bilateral relationship. The meeting marked the start of a significant joint programme of research and collaboration that will address some of the major challenges of our time, including an ageing society, the need for clean growth, how we respond to the increasing use of AI and data, and the future of mobility. Furthermore, the leaders addressed our thriving cultural and touristic links and the upcoming Rugby World Cup and Olympic and Paralympic Games which will take place in Japan, concerning which the UK’s recent practical experience has been and continues to be extremely useful.
Security also featured in the deliberations, with reference to the growing number of joint military exercises as well as our collaboration in new technologies, including possible cooperation on future combat aircraft and missile development. Prime Ministers Abe and May reaffirmed their determination to work for the peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region, not least the resolution of issues related to North Korea’s nuclear activities. By declaring anew their commitment to a rules-based international order and the principles of democracy, openness and free trade, they pointed the way to even greater cooperation and shared endeavours in the future.
With Prime Minister Abe’s extremely fruitful visit to the UK, the state of our bilateral ties so early in the year looks very healthy indeed.