New Year Greeting from Ambassador Hayashi

We have witnessed a tragic start to 2024, with many precious lives being lost due to the Noto Peninsula Earthquake. I express my deepest condolences to the bereaved families and offer my heartfelt sympathy to all those affected. At the same time, may I voice my profound respect towards all those who are involved in the relief and recovery efforts.

Regarding the Noto Peninsula Earthquake, it was greatly encouraging to learn of the warm and supportive message from His Majesty King Charles III to His Majesty the Emperor of Japan as well as the earnest support expressed by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in his statement. I believe these warm sentiments represent the ongoing vigour of the ties that unite our two countries.

In this regard, last year was a particularly fruitful and significant one for the relationship between Japan and the United Kingdom. Most notably, the visit of Their Imperial Highnesses Crown Prince and Crown Princess Akishino to the UK in May for the coronation of His Majesty King Charles III was a momentous event, following the attendance of Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress at the funeral of the late Queen Elizabeth II in September 2022. This visit highlighted the deep and enduring friendship between the Japanese Imperial Family and the British Royal Family, further strengthening the bonds between our two countries.

In 2022, Japan presided over the Group of Seven and hosted the G7 Hiroshima Summit in May, which was attended by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak among other G7 leaders. On this occasion, both Prime Ministers Kishida and Sunak agreed to deepen Japan-UK relations and unveiled "the Hiroshima Accord: an Enhanced Japan-UK Global Strategic Partnership". Other significant developments included the signing of the Japan-UK Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA), the Convention on the establishment of the GCAP International Government Organisation (GIGO) involving Japan, the UK, and Italy, and the Protocol on the Accession of the UK to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). Furthermore, the RAA has already come into effect, while Japan has become the first Party member to notify the completion of its domestic procedures regarding the Protocol on the Accession of the UK to the CPTPP to the depositary. These achievements mark a year of broad and significant leaps in Japan-UK cooperation. In the cultural sphere, Japan House London celebrated its fifth anniversary and has now registered more than 1.5 million visitors since its establishment. In the autumn, the Japan Matsuri in Trafalgar Square was held for the first time in four years. Attended by over 40,000 people, it was a resounding success.

Furthermore, the extent of people-to-people exchange between Japan and the UK is gradually returning to its pre-COVID-19 level. The number of British tourists to Japan has recovered to about 90% of the pre-pandemic level, and Japan is increasingly popular as a travel destination for Britons. In November 2023, the UK-Japan Memorandum of Cooperation on People-to-People Exchanges was signed between the Japanese and British Foreign Ministers, confirming the expansion of the issuance of visas to each other’s country under Japan's Working Holiday Scheme and the UK's Youth Mobility Scheme to a maximum of 6,000 slots annually.
This year, we will continue to strive to further advance Japan-UK exchange and cooperation in a range of key fields including politics, diplomacy, security and defence, the economy and business, academia, culture, and sports. In this regard, we are confident our endeavours will enjoy widespread appreciation and backing, including that of the Japanese community in the UK. We will also make further efforts to provide and expand essential support and services to ensure that Japanese residents can live, work, and study in the UK with confidence and peace of mind.

While of course hoping for the earliest possible recovery from the disaster that has just befallen Japan, may I express my sincere wish that this year will be a prosperous one for us all.
Ambassador of Japan to the United Kingdom