Deserved recognition for service to Japan-UK ties
In August I was fortunate to have a slightly less hectic diary. Like many of you, I took the opportunity to travel a little and see some of the UK at its best. Two short visits to Scotland allowed me the time to relax on the golf courses for which the area is so famous. My modest exploits on the Scottish links may soon become a distant memory as my busy autumn schedule unfolds!
One of the perks of being Ambassador is that I get to honour those who make a lasting impact on Japan-UK relations. While I have not always experienced directly their contributions, I am always thrilled to read and learn of their work and to get the chance to be the person who formally commends the recipients.
Often a ceremony is held at the Embassy of Japan, allowing the person being recognised to bring his or her loved ones to celebrate the occasion. However, recipients of decorations from the Government of Japan are also offered the chance to receive their award in person from His Majesty The Emperor in Tokyo. One of the first people to attend one of these ceremonies was Reverend Professor Kemmyo Taira Sato, Director of the Three Wheels Shin Buddhist Temple.
Reverend Sato was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays in light of his tireless endeavours for reconciliation, his promotion of friendship between our countries and his literary work. Since his arrival in the UK in 1993, Reverend Sato has worked continuously to bridge the divides which existed between our countries following the dark years of the Second World War. Although he had attended the ceremony in Tokyo, it still felt incredibly important to make sure his contribution was also marked in London.
At our annual Gathering for Peace and Reconciliation held in June, I was delighted to welcome Reverend Sato to speak and to receive congratulations from the audience for his dedication to this cause.
As Ambassador, I also have the capacity to commend people. In late July, Commander David Hilton, the Command Manager of the Royal Navy Portsmouth Base (HMNB Portsmouth), was awarded the Ambassador’s Commendation. There seemed no better time to present Commander Hilton with his award than at the Self Defense Forces Day Reception held at the Embassy of Japan. That is an annual event at which, together with distinguished members of the defence community in London, we celebrate the work of the Japanese Self Defense Forces.
I first met Commander Hilton when I went to Portsmouth last year for the visit of Kashima, one of the vessels of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force's Training Squadron. Commander Hilton organised the UK side of the visit and also looked after me during my stay. I was even privileged to enjoy a tot of rum on board HMS Victory! Commander Hilton not only made strenuous efforts to make that port call a success also worked hard to support two previous visits by the squadron, in 2013 and 2016. Thanks to Commander Hilton and his colleagues, the interoperability between our Maritime Self Defence Force and the Royal Navy is flourishing.
In July I was able to present the Ambassador’s Commendation to another worthy recipient, Ms Sarah Parsons, at a reception held at SOAS University of London. As a participant on the JET Programme between 1995 and 1997, Sarah developed a strong connection with Japan and has been involved in supporting Japan and the JET programme in the UK since her return. The positions she has held have included Treasurer of the JET Alumni Association (JETAA), Career Coordinator of JETAA and National Chair of JETAA. I am sure that numerous JET alumni or indeed those applying for the JET Programme will encounter Sarah and will have cause to be grateful for her help.
All of the people I have just mentioned fully merit the recognition they have received. Their contributions have helped strengthen the relationship between our countries and peoples in a number of ways. I always make it a point to mention at our commendation ceremonies that these awards are not to mark the end of the recipient’s involvement, but rather to encourage them to continue their good work. I hope they will also inspire others to take up the mantle.
As we move into autumn and the busy events that are likely to follow, I hope all of you get the opportunity to relax and enjoy the last of the sunshine!