Ambassador's Blog

  • Speaking at careers event at Embassy
  • With delegation from trade organisation Koshu
  • With visitors from Royal Collection Trust

A true friend of Japan remembered

One thing I will remember about February 2019 is the prolonged spell of balmy weather that made me pinch myself to check whether I was really in the UK! There were, of course, other things which happened that in their own ways reinforced the UK’s important international role and the vibrancy of Japan-UK relations.

On 8 February I had the pleasure of hosting an event at the Embassy to introduce young Japanese studying in the UK to some leading international organisations that might point the way to possible careers. The event was held in conjunction with the Permanent Mission of Japan to the International Organizations in Geneva and a student group, the Intercollegiate Development Discussion Panel (IDDP). About 90 Japanese students had the opportunity to hear presentations from such bodies as the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO), after which there was a networking reception. I know from my conversations with some of the participants that they found the occasion extremely worthwhile.

The focus a few days later was on Japanese cuisine, or more specifically wine, and the opportunities for growth in the British market. The city of Koshu in Yamanashi prefecture is at the heart of Japan’s winemaking industry, and on 13 February I was pleased to host a lunch at my residence for a delegation from the trade organisation Koshu of Japan, including Mr Atsushi Tanabe, the Mayor of Koshu. My visitors were in the UK to engage in tasting events at prestigious locations and we discussed how best to promote their products here. I can confirm from personal experience that a treat is in store for British wine lovers lucky enough to sample Koshu’s delicious offering!

Two days later art was on the agenda as I welcomed to the Embassy two ladies from the Royal Collection Trust, Ms Kathryn Jones, Senior Curator of Decorative Arts, and Ms Rachel Peat, Assistant Curator of Non-European Works of Art. They will be involved in an exhibition of Japanese works of art from the Collection in 2020, to be held in The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Place in London and The Queen’s Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, respectively. My two visitors were about to leave for Japan to conduct research related to next year’s exhibition. They left me in no doubt that it will be an unmissable event for aficionados of Japanese art.

On the same day Her Imperial Highness Princess Takamado began a private visit to the UK. Her programme included delivering a lecture on netsuke at Girton College, Cambridge, where she had previously studied. The following day my wife and I hosted a reception in her honour. The event was attended by representatives of Anglo-Japanese organisations and recipients of commendations. This was the first time in 10 years that Her Imperial Highness had returned to the UK.

One of the global challenges that Japan is tackling is that of global health. Last autumn Professor Peter Piot visited Japan to receive the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun, awarded by the Government of Japan in recognition of his longstanding involvement in Japan’s efforts in this important area. A microbiologist widely known around the world for his research into Ebola and AIDS, Professor Piot has occupied many important international positions and is currently Director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. It was thus a great pleasure to have dinner with him at my residence on the 19th, both to congratulate him on his decoration and to discuss the progress being made in many areas of global health.

I will end my remarks by going back a few days to 11 February, when I attended a memorial service in St Paul’s Cathedral for Sir Hugh Cortazzi, who passed away last summer. He contributed more than most to the excellent relations Japan and the UK have come to enjoy in recent decades. For much of his adult life Sir Hugh was closely involved with Japan, and his diplomatic career culminated in his term as British Ambassador there from 1980 to 1984. He also wrote and edited numerous scholarly works on various aspects of Japan. He has always helped Japanese Ambassadors working in London and has been a dear friend of mine since I arrived in London. It was therefore with a feeling of profound gratitude that I joined a gathering of very distinguished people to remember Sir Hugh. It was a splendid occasion and a fitting tribute to a dear friend of Japan, and it reinforced my determination to help build an even deeper friendship between our two countries and people.

Koji Tsuruoka