Landmark manga exhibition under way in London
The enthronement of His Majesty Emperor Naruhito on 1 May triggered numerous congratulatory messages and plenty of visitors to the Embassy to register their good wishes. In fact, 642 people signed the commemorative guest book. I’d like to thank all who sent good wishes to the new Emperor and Empress. See my Twitter feed for my own modest effort in this regard!
My first major commitment of the new era entailed a trip north, to visit Northumberland and Yorkshire. On 3 May I visited the delightful Alnwick Garden to attend the 10th Annual Cherry Blossom Dedication Ceremony hosted by the Duchess of Northumberland, who has devoted years of unstinting efforts to maintaining and improving the garden. Its Cherry Orchard has 326 Tai Haku cherry trees dedicated to someone special by the people invited to the event, which ended with lanterns floating on the lake. My happy task on this occasion was to mark the gift of 150 cherry trees to Alnwick as part of the Sakura Cherry Tree Project under the Japan Season of Culture.
On my way back to London the following day, I stopped in the beautiful city of York to visit the Kohima Museum, devoted to one of the crucial battles of World War II. It is an impressive and moving repository of the stories of some of the people involved together with associated artefacts and memorabilia. After my visit I pondered with gratitude on the more than seven decades of peace that Japan has enjoyed since that tragic conflict and on the ongoing process of reconciliation. In this regard one cannot overestimate the importance of the deep friendship that exists today between Japan and the United Kingdom.
On 10 May Yooko and I had the agreeable duty of hosting a barbeque at my official residence for all those British friends from various organisations who interact with and assist our staff on a day-to-day basis. Our guests were able to enjoy a wide range of Japanese dishes including mouth-watering wagyu beef, seven types of sake and wine from Koshu in Yamanashi prefecture. It was a most enjoyable occasion, blessed by good weather.
A field in which both the UK and Japan excel is health science, so it was very pleasing to be able to host a significant event in this regard on 16 May. This was a reception at which the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), with the support of Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Ltd, announced the establishment of The Takeda Chair in Global Child Health, a new professorial post created to lead research activities in this important field. After my words of welcome, Mr Christophe Weber, President and CEO of Takeda, and Professor Peter Piot, Director of the LSHTM, addressed the gathering.
Health was also the theme of an event at the Embassy on 30 May, which we co-hosted with The Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation. This was a book launch followed by a reception to mark the publication of No Matter Where the Journey Takes Me: One Man’s Quest for a Leprosy-Free World by Yohei Sasakawa. Mr Sasakawa, a well-known businessman and philanthropist, set up The Nippon Foundation in 1962. As well as Mr Sasakawa himself, the event was attended by The Earl of St Andrews, Chairman of The Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation, and Professor David Heymann CBE of the LSHTM, and other distinguished guests.
Last month saw an eagerly-awaited cultural event in the form of the opening of Manga, a major exhibition at the British Museum, to run until the end of August. It is the biggest ever undertaking of its kind outside Japan. I attended the Grand Opening on the 21st and was extremely impressed by the variety and quality of the exhibits. The Embassy held a reception on the 23rd to celebrate the exhibition, and among the guests was Hagio Moto, widely regarded as “the Queen of shōjo manga (girls’ manga)”. While in the UK, Ms Hagio gave talks on her creative process, at Japan House London on the 20th, at the Embassy on the 23rd and at the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures in Norwich on the 24th.
Reflecting the growing popularity of this art form, the Embassy operates an annual competition, Manga Jiman, in which aspiring artists are invited to participate. This year’s theme, “Union”, was announced a few days ago. I am looking forward to a record number of entries!