British Excellence in Japan

Features - April 20th, 2007
Ian de Stains

Executive Director, BCCJ, Ian de Stains OBE

For almost 60 years, one organization has set out to prove that Britain means business in Japan. In 1948, when the British Chamber of Commerce was set up, the once highly respected relationship between the two countries was in shreds, severely damaged by the war. In those dark days, a few far-sighted individuals of both nationalities recognized that if Japan was to recover, trade would once again become a vital life-line. Slowly, painstakingly, the links were re-established, and trust was regained. Re­spect was restored.

Today, however, the bilateral relationship cov­ers much more than trade; it is deeper and closer than ever and extends into the political arena as well as peace-keeping and the watch on terrorism, environmental issues such as global warming, and the challenge of eradicating poverty in Africa as well as HIV/AIDS. As one of the UKNOW Partners, the BCCJ is proud to be a part of this relationship.

As our name would suggest, we are naturally most closely concerned with matters of trade and invest­ment. Our mission is to strengthen business ties be­tween Britain and Japan, to promote and support the business interests of all our members, and to actively encourage new business entrants into the Japanese market (for example in the British Industry Centre in Yokohama) as well as Japanese investment into the UK. We provide members with access to a broad range of valuable information, events and networking op­portunities, including social functions, working in close cooperation with the British Embassy as well as with the highly influential European Business Coun­cil in Japan.

It’s not all beer and skittles
Ask the man-in-the-street of Osaka or Manchester what Britain exports to Japan and you’re most likely to find Burberry raincoats and Scotch whisky high on the list. But, important as these elements are, the truth is that fully two-thirds of UK exports to Japan are industrial. Specialty chemicals take the lead with—even more surprisingly for some—automotive-related items coming second. But it doesn’t end there. The best-sell­ing computer games in Japan were written by British engineers and the UK also enjoys the lion’s share of the market for sound-mixing boards in film and television studios. And watch for what’s about to happen in the aerospace sector!

It’s true that the UK lacks the same high street profile of many of Europe’s brands. But we are here: Burberry, Dunhill, Paul Smith, Vivienne Westwood, to name a few. HMV is Britain’s biggest retailer in Japan and along with music, British fashion and design are highly regarded here (the logo for the Tokyo Metro is the creation of a British designer). The UK is the venue of choice for young Japanese wishing to study art, graphic design, fashion and hair-styling. At the more academic level, many Japanese see the UK as the most attractive place to pursue post-graduate studies and there are increasing links between British and Japanese universities (a recent very exciting one being the University of Brighton and the Tokyo University of Technology). Our partner, British Council can tell you more about this important area of bilateral coop­eration and there’s a convenient link to the Council’s website from our own. www.bccjapan.com

The BCCJ website is also the place to see what events are coming up (non-members are welcome to attend many of our luncheons and seminars) and also to watch Insight Online, our streaming video news­letter produced in association with ITVJapan. As you would expect, there’s much more besides.

Looking ahead
2008—the BCCJ celebrates its 60th an­niversary. The Japan-British Society will celebrate its 100th anniversary. More importantly, it is the 150th year of the Treaty of Amity and Commerce between Japan and the UK. The UKNOW Partners, led by the Embassy and Council, have planned a variety of events to mark this, under the UK-Japan 2008 logo (itself a masterpiece of UK graphic design). The fo­cus is on the creative, contemporary and collabora­tive and already a number of really exciting events are in place, with many more to come as the planning progresses. The opportunities for you to be involved in these important celebrations are many and varied, from badging your own events (if they fit the profile) to sponsorship. There is a link to UK-Japan 2008 on the BCCJ website and by checking in regularly, you can keep abreast of developments.