A busy month, though with opera and golf thrown in
Many people begin to wind down for the summer in July, but my staff kept me busy throughout the month. Since I have been in London, I’ve seen the skyline continue to grow and change, and on the 1st I was asked to speak at the opening of NTT’s new global headquarters at London’s Walkie Talkie tower. This impressive architectural masterpiece is the latest home to a Japanese business in the UK. While I didn’t get much time to admire the views across London, I was able to explore the innovative Sky Garden, where I spoke to the assembled guests. I certainly recommend it for an afternoon out in London!
The busy week continued as I co-hosted the Embassy of Japan’s annual Self Defence Forces Day Reception in honour of the Japan SDF. This event was an opportunity to promote the work of the JSDF and highlight the close co-operation that is now under way between Japan and the UK. In the past year we’ve seen our alliance grow stronger still.
The following week I made my way to Parliament. At a time when the Conservative Party leadership contest was still in progress, the Japan-UK All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) brought together MPs and peers from all parties to network and celebrate the ties between our two nations. I spoke, alongside Baroness Hooper and Roger Godsiff MP, Chair of the APPG, on the developments of the last few months and my hopes for the new Prime Minister and his administration in regard to continuing the work that has been done so far to strengthen our relationship.
While it always makes sense to maintain our connections with parliamentarians, it is also important to make sure we support younger people keen to serve in public life. Thus, on the 11th it was my pleasure to speak to the Young Professionals in Foreign Policy at an event they had organised. I hope I didn’t bore them and that I was able to inspire them to continued success along the path they have chosen!
As many people take holidays and short breaks during July, it does allow for a slightly more relaxed schedule at times, and Yooko and I took full advantage of our leisure time. We were very fortunate to be invited to Garsington Opera to enjoy performances in a truly wonderful setting. The Turning of the Screw and Don Giovani provided memorable evenings as we sat with friends in the evening sun.
While posted in the UK, I’ve tried to explore as much of it as possible. I’ve been to Scotland and Wales a number of times but this July was the first time for me to visit Northern Ireland. On Saturday the 20th I travelled to Belfast to attend The Open at Royal Portrush. As a keen golfer, I found this a wonderful experience. Sadly, the Japanese players did not progress far enough for victory on this occasion but the event demonstrated the unmistakable skill of all those taking part. The Open is sponsored by NTT Data and is another example of the firm commitment of Japanese companies to maintaining a high profile in the UK.
Following The Open, I remained in Belfast to meet with local people, including the Speaker of the Assembly Robin Newton MLA at Stormont along with others. It was a fascinating visit and I took the chance to take a small tour around Belfast to see some of its history for myself. I hope I’ll get another chance to visit this wonderful part of the UK before my time in London ends, but if I don’t I can at least rest knowing I managed to visit all of the “awesome foursome” of countries that make up the UK (as the new Prime Minister described them).
It was a busy day on my return, as Boris Johnson MP was confirmed as the new leader of the Conservative Party and subsequently the new Prime Minister of the UK. Both Mr Johnson and Mr Hunt are strong supporters of Japan and I’m looking forward to seeing how our bilateral relations develop further. I wrote to congratulate them for the way they conducted the leadership election and to urge the new Prime Minister to visit Japan. I also thanked Mr Hunt for his contribution as Foreign Secretary, when he demonstrated his close friendship and his Japanese skills on several occasions!
In between all of this, I hosted an important lunch of TEPCO nuclear experts. They spoke with British experts and updated them on the latest situation concerning the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear power plant and TEPCO’s continuous work to improve safety at its nuclear facilities.
As London empties out for summer, I will continue to take the opportunity to see more of the city and its cultural attractions before the hard work ramps up again in September.