14th February 2017 Tokyo, Japan
First month in Japan
Well, I’ve now completed my first month in Japan. It’s been interesting comparing my experiences with the first time I was posted here more than 25 years ago. It’s hard to make direct comparisons because coming back as Ambassador after a long Foreign Office career, is different from arriving on your very first overseas posting. But I’m pleased to see that Tokyo remains a mix of the new and fascinating, alongside many familiar things I remember fondly.
Tokyo is a big, bustling city at the heart of a metropolitan area of nearly 40 million people. There is much striking new architecture, particularly around Tokyo Bay. But as in London, you can stroll around a corner and find something that takes you back to Japan’s rich history.
I was reminded of that history when I presented my credentials to the Emperor on 18 January. Dressed in morning suit you travel by horse and carriage to the Imperial Palace for a dignified and memorable ceremony with His Imperial Majesty. The Japanese Imperial family is the world’s oldest continuous monarchy.
I also had an early opportunity to meet Prime Minister Abe, as my arrival coincided with his lunch with Japanese-speaking ambassadors. Since then I have been meeting ministers and senior officials. There is a strong recognition of the importance of our bilateral relationship and the way we work closely together in many international bodies from the UN, where Japan is currently on the Security Council with us, to G7, which Japan chaired last year.
Supporting business is a top priority for the Embassy. I’ve given speeches to the Keidanren (Japan’s leading business organisation), and the British Chamber of Commerce. CEOs of the leading UK companies here came round for breakfast and briefed me on their diverse activities in Japan. I’ve also hosted a number of business events at my Residence already, in sectors ranging from nuclear to fintech. Japanese business is keenly interested in Brexit, and welcomed the clarity in the Prime Minister’s recent speech.
I made a point of getting down to Osaka in my first week to visit staff at our Consulate General there and meet local business leaders. Osaka’s Kansai region has an economy around the same size as Korea, so it matters to us.
Of course the relations between countries are not just about Ambassadors and Ministers and Business. They rest on many individual contacts too. And it has been a pleasure reconnecting with my old Japanese friends.