Ambassador's Blog

  • At the J-Beauty event at the embassy
  • With MEXT scholars
  • Sir David Warren's decoration ceremony

Much-deserved recognition for former British Ambassador to Japan

During my time in the United Kingdom I have attended or been involved in a number of events which in their various ways have been memorable and even unique. One such occasion occurred on 5 March. This was a reception at Buckingham Palace to mark the 50th anniversary of Prince Charles’s investiture as the Prince of Wales. Virtually all of the royal family were present on this truly historic occasion.

That evening the Embassy co-hosted with Cosmetic Executive Women (CEW) UK a discussion and reception on the theme of J-Beauty. This was a Japan-UK Season of Culture event. Some cherry trees (authentic-looking but artificial) in the ballroom and elsewhere lent a seasonal touch to this very stimulating occasion, which was supported by four leading Japanese cosmetics firms. I spoke to the gathering on the importance of finding harmony with nature, a concept which embraces not only J-Beauty but Japanese cuisine (washoku) as well. Then followed presentations on various aspects of J-Beauty in the context of its presence in the UK, a lively panel discussion and a reception at which the guests enjoyed a variety of delicious Japanese dishes and some premium sake brands provided by Sake Samurai.

Earlier that day I had signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the establishment of the Japan Chair at the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) with Dr John Chipman, the Director-General and Chief Executive of that illustrious organisation. The IISS is an extremely valuable forum for discussion of weighty issues of political and diplomatic significance, and the setting up of the Japan Chair is a most gratifying development.

Security and diplomacy were also on the agenda on 7 March when I gave a lecture at University College London to its Diplomacy in Action Society on Japan’s view of the world. This was a student-led event consisting, not surprisingly, of a relatively young audience. However, as one would expect from UCL students, they showed keen interest in the topic and asked some probing, mature questions. It was certainly an enjoyable evening.

In a similar vein, on the 27th I delivered the keynote speech at the Chatham House conference Security and Prosperity in the Asia-Pacific: The Role of International Law. The following day I had the pleasure of welcoming a group of students from the Royal College of Defence Studies prior to their visit to Japan and elsewhere in East Asia. We discussed Japan’s security and its relationships with regional and global partners. Cooperation on defence is an increasingly important aspect of Japan-UK ties, and the visit to Japan by my young visitors can only help to bolster our two nations’ dynamic partnership.

Following a brief trip back to Japan, on 19 March I received a visit from some of this year’s MEXT (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology) Scholarship students. This programme offers undergraduate and postgraduate students from overseas the opportunity to study in Japan. My visitors were naturally excited at the new experience awaiting them, and we had an enjoyable discussion about what they could expect from their time in Japan. The scheme is a highly effective means of deepening mutual understanding between the young people of our two countries.

March was not without notable cultural activities. In this regard, on the evening of the 27th, the Embassy hosted the tenth in the series of Green Park Youth Concerts, another Japan-UK Season of Culture event. These concerts are designed to showcase the talents of young Japanese musicians studying or otherwise based in the UK. On this occasion we enjoyed a solo performance by the classical guitarist Ms Saki Kato. The programme included pieces by Western composers and one by Toru Takemitsu. Everyone who attended this delightful event owes a debt of gratitude to Mr Keith Dunn, Honorary Japanese Consul in Wales, who had contacted the Embassy after attending a performance by this very gifted young lady. We are indebted to KPMG for sponsoring the concert.

I will end my remarks with a short account of an event that illustrated the warm and enduring friendship between Japan and the UK. This was a ceremony and reception at the Embassy on 21 March in honour of Sir David Warren, former British Ambassador to Japan, who had been awarded the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun by the Government of Japan in recognition of his sterling contribution to strengthening our bilateral relations. During Sir David’s long diplomatic career he was continuously engaged in advancing Japan-UK ties through his three stints in Japan culminating in his final posting as British Ambassador there from 2008 to 2012.

That last assignment coincided with the Great East Japan Earthquake. In my speech I paid tribute to Sir David’s valuable role in extending assistance to Japan in its hour of need. In fact, just two days after the disaster Sir David visited the affected region to check on British nationals and to lend support and encouragement to the Japanese communities there. He was also a leading player in the British Government’s subsequent establishment of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE). In the aftermath of the catastrophe Sir David and his colleagues at the Embassy acted according to the evidence-based instruction from SAGE and decided not to close the Embassy or evacuate British nationals from Tokyo. The UK’s unwavering support for Japan after the earthquake led to the visit of HRH The Duke of Cambridge to the affected area in 2015.

Since his retirement Sir David has remained closely involved with Japan, principally as chairman of the Japan Society until he stepped down at the end of last year. He is also a member of the Steering Committee for Japan House London, which opened in June 2018 as a new Japanese cultural hub and which he continues to promote.

The occasion at the Embassy was attended by many of Sir David’s family members and acquaintances, who enjoyed witnessing a well-deserved tribute to the achievements of a good friend of Japan.

Koji Tsuruoka