The Role of the UK in Japan

Features - April 20th, 2007
Sir Graham Fry

British Ambassador to Japan, Sir Graham Fry

I’m delighted to be able to introduce this special edition of Weekender magazine, celebrating all things British and introducing aspects of Britain in Japan today. Weekender magazine has for many years played an important role for the international com­munity in Japan, and helped both its foreign and Japanese readers understand each other better. And so I’m very grateful that the Weekender has devoted this issue to highlighting the role that Britain is play­ing in Japan today.

This weekend is a special occasion for two reasons. April 23 is St. George’s Day. St. George is the patron saint of England—but this weekend is more than just an occasion for the English. April 21 also marks the 81st birthday of Her Majesty the Queen. So we have every reason to treat this as a special occasion for the UK as a whole, and to celebrate the special relationship that exists between the UK and Japan.

As you will discover elsewhere in this special edi­tion, the relationship between Japan and the UK cov­ers almost every walk of life, and you do not have to go very far at all in Japan to see evidence of our past and present collaborations. From its beginnings with the arrival of William Adams in Japan in 1600, right through to this month’s opening of the Shin Marunouchi building outside Tokyo station, designed in collaboration with British architect Sir Michael Hop­kins, the UK’s relationship with Japan is a long and active one.

Today, the relationship between our countries continues to flourish and open up new areas of col­laboration, as Prime Ministers Abe and Blair con­firmed when they met in January this year in London. As governments, we work together on international security, climate change, international development, and science, technology, and innovation. Our busi­ness ties also continue to develop, with, for example, over 1,400 Japanese companies in the UK employing over 100,000 people, and UK exports to Japan worth 1.6 trillion yen. In the field of education, about 10,000 Japanese students are studying at British universities and colleges, with a further 90,000 Japanese studying English in the UK.

Looking forward, in 2008 we will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the first UK-Japan Treaty of Amity and Commerce, which formed the basis of diplomatic relations between the UK and Japan. To mark this an­niversary, the British Embassy and British Council in Tokyo are launching UK-Japan 2008, a series of events, performances, and exhibitions in the fields of arts, sci­ence, and creative industries. We hope that this year will also encourage new collaborations and partnerships be­tween the two countries in these fields that will con­tinue to flourish long after the events of 2008 are over.

I haven’t of course yet mentioned the British community in Japan, which numbers around 15,000 at the last count. Many of you will, I’m sure, be regu­lar Weekender readers. And so I’d like to end by em­phasising two points. Firstly, for those of you who haven’t yet registered your details with the Embas­sy, please do so—it only takes a moment to register through our website, as in an emergency you never know when you might need our help. You’ll also find on our website a range of information on life in Japan as well as on our work in promoting UK-Japan relations. Secondly, as Brit­ish Ambassador, I know that each of you can play an important role in representing modern Britain in Japan. I hope that you’ll find in the pages of this spe­cial edition ideas and inspiration for celebrating the best of today’s Britain with your Japanese and inter­national friends. I hope you enjoy reading the maga­zine, and I wish all the Weekender readers a happy St. George’s Day weekend.