As we compiled features in this issue about the UK and Japan marking their 400-year relationship and a tourism campaign by VisitBritain and British Airways, I was intrigued to learn about a number of other important anniversaries in 2013.
It’s 100 years since the first RHS Chelsea Flower Show, which has welcomed many award-winning Japanese exhibitors and visitors.
Another popular draw for Japanese visiting the capital is the Globe Theatre, London, the original of which was built by Shakespeare’s players 400 years ago, in 1613—exactly 200 years before the Royal Philharmonic Society was created.
This year is also the 100th since the birth of composer Benjamin Britten. His 1940 piece, Sinfonia da Requiem, was commissioned to celebrate Japan’s 2,600th anniversary, but it was angrily rejected by Tokyo due to its Christian nature; just 12 months later the two nations were at war.
Seventy years on, an envoy accepted the score with grace, while Britten and Japan continue to influence each other in ballets and operas.
The Beatles, who probably helped repair any lingering bilateral damage, recorded their first LP, Please Please Me, 50 years ago, in 1963.
In sport, it’s 150 years since cricket was first played in Japan (see our report next month), a quarter of a century before England’s Football League (the world’s oldest) kicked off in 1888. In March, Shinji Kagawa became the first Asian to score a premiership hat trick, putting Manchester on the map for many Japanese tourists.
Meanwhile, in a nod to our diversity report, as Americans high-five the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a dream” speech, and the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation that revolutionised their country, Britons need look back just 40 years to the London Stock Exchange’s first admission of women, in 1973.
One hundred years ago, the first female magistrate was appointed and suffragette Emily Davison fatally hurled herself in front of the king’s horse at the 1913 Epsom Derby.
Go back another century and you can find Jane Austen publishing Pride and Prejudice, in 1813, or just 60 years to Ian Fleming’s first James Bond novel, Casino Royale.
Concorde, meanwhile, broke the Atlantic crossing time record 40 years ago, and it’s a half-century since the Flying Scotsman’s final scheduled run, in 1963.
John Logie Baird, a Scottish engineer who invented the first “practical television system”, was born 125 years ago. His compatriot David Livingstone, explorer and missionary, was born in 1813—a century before the first Morris Oxford car was sold, in 1913.