Ambassador's Blog

  • With pianist Nobuyuki Tsujii
  • At Bloomberg European Headquarters
  • Washoku-themed event at Wolfson College Oxford

Marmalade, music and much more

Since Prime Minister Abe’s visit to London on 10 January, the Embassy has returned to a normal, though by no means sedate, routine.

The following week started with an industrial flavour as I visited the Toyota plant in Derby for a ceremony to mark the launch of production of the new Corolla model. In attendance were senior officials from the company, Business Secretary Greg Clark and the MP for the area, Mrs Heather Wheeler. I was very impressed by the state-of-the-art facilities there and trust that they will be used for the production of many more models in the future. 

By contrast, the next day I visited Bath at the invitation of the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institute. While there I toured both the University of Bath and Bath Spa University. I met some of the academic staff and students at both institutions and was interested to hear about the research being carried out there. That evening the Mayor of Bath, Councillor Patrick Anketell-Jones, was kind enough to host a reception for me. It was a very enjoyable trip to a delightful city.

On 17 January it was my pleasure to officiate at a reception to mark the launch of the 14th World’s Original Marmalade Awards and the inaugural Japanese Marmalade Awards. These events will take place at Dalemain Mansion in Cumbria on 16 March and in Yawatahama, Ehime prefecture, from 12 to 19 May, respectively. The Awards founder Jane Hasell-McCosh and the Mayor of Yawatahama were both present, and we were all able to enjoy some tasty food and drinks with a marmalade theme. 

January was full of musical delights. On the 20th I attended a special concert at London’s Cadogan Hall featuring the renowned violinist Taro Hakase, who has quite a following in the UK, with pianist Maciej Janas and cellist Tim Lowe and a strong ensemble. Taro performed some of his much-loved compositions and a section of his favourite classical pieces.  Three days later I received a visit at the Embassy from the celebrated composer Yasuhiro Kasamatsu. Not surprisingly, music featured prominently in our discussion, especially his wish to popularise Japanese dramatic music in other countries. It was therefore with great anticipation that I attended his concert at the Grosvenor Chapel in Mayfair on the 27th, and I was not disappointed. The final musical treat was a performance on the 30th by the young pianist Nobuyuki Tsujii. Born blind, he has always considered his condition to be an incentive rather than an obstacle, and has duly forged a wonderful career and gained international acclaim. At the concert his prodigious talent shone through as he performed a variety of works by Satie, Debussy and Chopin.

I had the pleasant duty on 23 January of conferring The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon upon Mr Roger Pulvers at my residence. A playwright, stage director, translator and film director, Mr Pulvers has been involved with Japan for more than half a century and has made it his mission to introduce Japanese culture to the rest of the world. Through his many publications, his work with a number of academic institutions and in many other ways, Mr Pulvers has done a great deal to deepen understanding about Japan in the UK and around the world, and fully deserves his decoration.

At the invitation of Dr Matthew Jones, a former participant on the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme and now Lecturer in Political Science at the University of Greenwich, on 29 January I gave a lecture to his students on “Japan’s View of the World”. They showed great interest in the topic and asked some thought-provoking questions. I daresay some of the students will emulate their professor by joining the JET Programme!

Two days later the Embassy and the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) jointly hosted an event to launch an IPPF publication entitled Leaving no one behind: universal health coverage and sexual and reproductive health and rights. The event, attended by British parliamentarians, representatives from numerous governments, and development and global health practitioners, showcased the successful partnership between Japan and the IPPF in this field. In fact, universal health coverage (UHC) will be one of the topics to be discussed at the G20 Osaka Summit in June. Incidentally, earlier that day I had attended a gathering at the Bloomberg European Headquarters in London in which I outlined Japan’s economic priorities for the Osaka gathering.

One of the main themes of the Japan-UK Season of Culture is washoku (Japanese cuisine). I was therefore very pleased to attend a washoku-themed event at Wolfson College Oxford on 2 February in the company of an impressive group of academics, including people planning to attend the Oxford Alumni Meeting Minds weekend in Tokyo in March, where participants will address a fascinating variety of topics ranging from diplomacy to culture. I am confident that, having savoured the delicious five-course meal, augmented by several brands of choice sake, those people lucky enough to attend this event went away feeling very mellow and extremely positive about UK-Japan relations! 

Koji Tsuruoka