2019 Autumn Conferment of Decorations on Foreign Nationals (UK)

Professor Marie Conte-Helm

The Government of Japan has decided to confer The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette upon Professor Marie Conte-Helm in recognition of her long-standing dedication and significant contribution to the promotion of mutual understanding and cultural exchange between Japan and the United Kingdom.

As a scholar of Japan, Professor Conte-Helm has made a lasting contribution to the promotion of mutual understanding between Japan and the UK. Continuously publishing her research on the history of Japan-UK exchange, in 1989 her publication, “Japan and the North East of England - From 1862 to the Present Day”, presented for the first time the people-to-people and technical exchanges between the North-East of the UK and Japan. In addition to this, Professor Conte-Helm’s publications also focused on the advancement of Japanese relations with the rest of the UK and Europe. They include “The Social and Cultural Implications of Japanese Investment in Britain”, “A Case Study of Dusseldorf’s Japanese Community” and “The Japanese and Europe: Economic and Cultural Encounters”.

Through her active involvement in Japanese Studies at Sunderland University and Northumbria University, and in cultural exchange activities between Japan and the UK, Professor Conte-Helm, through the 1980s and 1990s, provided support to Japanese companies in the North East of England and to the families of Japanese investors, enabling them to better interact and integrate with the wider UK community. From 1994 through to 1999, she also supported the activities of the Japanese artist Toshihiro Hamano, and his Ryu Group members, during their time in the UK.

Over a 12-year period from 1999 to 2011, Professor Conte-Helm served as Director General of the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation, a major Anglo-Japanese charitable foundation based in London. Making a steady contribution to the prestigious Daiwa Scholarship Programme and other activities of the Foundation, her work has provided opportunities for the next generation of UK leaders to learn the Japanese language and to further their career involvements with Japan.

In recognition of her experience of UK-Japan relations since the 1980s, Professor Conte-Helm was appointed Executive Director of the UK-Japan 21st Century Group in 2011 and served in that position until 2017. Her years of dedicated work and support have been highly praised by members of the Group. Having documented the endeavours, progress and purpose of the UK-Japan 21st Century Group, her chronicles have become an invaluable testament to the history of Japan-UK bilateral relations.

Mr Takaaki Hanaoka

The Government of Japan has decided to confer The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays upon Mr Takaaki Hanaoka, Secretary General of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce & Industry in the UK (JCCI), in recognition of his sterling contribution towards promoting economic and cultural exchange between Japan and the UK, and to the welfare of Japanese residents of the UK.

Mr Hanaoka took on the role of Secretary General of JCCI in June 2009, buoyed by his 30-plus-year experience in the UK, and his own background in international business. During his tenure, he has played an important coordinating role on behalf of the whole Japanese business community in the UK, such as organising regular lectures and luncheons inviting guest speakers from both Japanese and British political and business spheres, covering a wide range of themes from visas to Britain’s departure from the European Union. Furthermore, he played a leading role when the JCCI served to represent the opinions and voices of the Japanese business community when the British government was consulting on changes to the UK’s visa system. Mr Hanaoka has not only excelled in his duties as Secretary General, but has also made an extraordinary contribution to the collaborative relationship between the Embassy of Japan in the UK and the JCCI. In particular, when Japan House London was established by the government of Japan as a Japanese cultural hub, Mr Hanaoka played a pivotal role in encouraging the participation of Japanese companies, disseminating information to member companies through a series of briefing sessions which culminated in 37 companies supporting the initiative as corporate members.

Mr Hanaoka’s contribution to Japan-UK relations goes beyond his vast achievements in his professional capacity. He has been a key member of the organising committee of Japan Matsuri since the inception of the festival in 2009, and since then played a crucial role in negotiating with the relevant authorities, accounting, and fundraising, all of which contributed to the success and persistence of the festival, which contributes greatly to Japan-UK friendship and understanding. In recognition of his achievements on the committee, he was appointed Vice Chairman of the Japan Matsuri Executive Committee in 2012, and Chairman in February 2019. Another cultural project in which Mr Hanaoka’s contribution has been widely felt is in his capacity as a member of the project team of the Sakura Cherry Tree Project, the flagship programme of the Japan-UK Season of Culture; a bilateral season of cultural exchange between Japan and the UK jointly declared by the prime ministers of the two countries in 2017. His experience in accounting and Japanese business has led to a great contribution to the management of expenditure of the project, contributing to the goal of planting 6,500 cherry trees across the UK.

Mr Hanaoka has also done much towards the wellbeing of Japanese residents of the UK through his activities as a board member of the Japan Association in the UK (JA), a position he has held since 2010, becoming Vice President of the association in 2014. Through encouraging collaboration between JA and JCCI, he contributed greatly to the development and expansion of the activities of both organisations and friendship between Japanese residents of the UK and British people.