Japan Season of Culture in the UK launched at the Japan Matsuri
After a relaxing break in August, it was time to step back into work mode. I kicked off September with an event on the 4th to celebrate the Rugby World Cup. With Japan hosting the tournament this year, it seemed fitting to join the Japan UK All Party Parliamentary Group’s Sub-Committee on Sports for an evening to highlight this landmark event in Japan’s sporting history. Committee chair Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale welcomed the guests, including representatives of all the home nations, to Parliament’s Portcullis House. Rugby fan Paul Farrelly MP also kindly presented me with a rugby ball signed by the representatives, which now occupies an honoured space in my office.
The reception was also attended by a number of Japanese MPs who were visiting London. It was a fantastic opportunity to show them the keen interest the Rugby World Cup has triggered in the UK and how close relationships can flourish through the promotion of sport.
The next day saw the beginning of the UK-Japan 21st Century Group meeting. This organisation was formed to bring together high-level representatives of our two countries to deliberate on critical issues of mutual interest and to promote co-operation. This year it was the UK’s turn to host the gathering. There were a number of events held over several days, including a reception hosted jointly by the Japan Society and the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry and one by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For the final three days of lectures and discussions, the participants gathered in Canterbury.
The following week, I was pleased to welcome three new senior colleagues to the Embassy: Minister Minoru Nakamura, the new Minister for Financial Affairs; Minister Takeshi Ito, in charge of Public Diplomacy and the Media, and Minister Jun Miura, Political Minister. On the 10th I hosted a reception at the Embassy to welcome them. They all gave speeches to introduce themselves, after which they mingled with their counterparts and the other guests, with whom I trust they will form productive and fruitful friendships.
The Embassy Ballroom was in use again the next day but for a different occasion. I always enjoy the opportunity to reward someone for truly outstanding work by presenting the person with a decoration or commendation, and the 11th was just such an occasion. That evening I conferred upon Professor The Rt. Hon. The Lord Darzi of Denham The Order of the Rising Sun Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon. In a glittering medical career, Lord Darzi has played a leading role in developing patient safety and helped to set up the Global Ministerial Summit on Patient Safety, the third of which was held in Tokyo last year. He has also welcomed Japanese students and doctors to Imperial College London, helping to further strengthen healthcare in Japan and the UK. Lord Darzi’s contributions were also noted by the former Health Secretary, The Rt. Hon. Jeremy Hunt MP, who toasted him and recalled his dedication and hard work during his time at the Department for Health.
Something a bit different was on the agenda for 17 September. The Praemium Imperiale is an award founded by the Japan Art Association and Prince Takamatsu of Japan. The awards are given in the fields of Painting, Sculpture, Architecture, Music and Theatre/Film. The Rt. Hon. Lord Patten of Barnes announced the winners at the Embassy and we then headed to the White Cube, where a body of work by the Sculpture prize winner Mona Hatoum was on display.
Finally, I end on one of the high points of our cultural calendar. The Japan Matsuri has been taking place in London for 11 years now and is always a great gathering of the Japanese community and Londoners. This year there were many impressive performances, including those by dance groups and musicians. Our sense were also stimulated in another way as Trafalgar Square was filled with the smell of Japanese cooking as many different restaurants ran stalls selling delicious snacks – some of which are not usually available in the UK!
The rain did not subdue the atmosphere as I noticed many people dancing and singing along with the performances. There were also some very interesting cos-players who made a great effort for the day!
The whole event happens because of dedicated volunteers who spend weeks and months preparing for it. My thanks to all of them for creating such a fantastic day out. It was the perfect way to start the Japan Season of Culture in the UK! If you attended please share your pictures with me on Twitter @AmbKoji. I would love to see what you enjoyed about the day.
I now look forward to October, with my diary already filling up with some intriguing and exciting events. I just hope the torrential rain we have experienced recently gives way to some glorious autumnal weather!