Leaders April 2015

Blazing a trail

It is no secret that Britons tend to be modest by nature. Perhaps that is why the depth and breadth of revolutionary work by those in the UK—from years past to the present day—is not so well known.

However, Japan is one country that has long recognised the achievements of Britain. In 1865, a group of young men known as the Satsuma Students set sail for the Port of Southampton, England, on a fact-finding mission from Kagoshima Prefecture.

On arrival, they studied at universities, with many later returning to Japan to achieve great things in government, business and education using the knowledge they had gained.

It is fitting then, that on the 150th anniversary of this successful mission, the British government will be running a year-long campaign to promote the UK as a country of innovators and entrepreneurs.

Hoping to increase awareness of the expertise of British firms and create links between academia and investors, the initiative is expected to bolster trade opportunities, while deepening the existing spirit of collaboration between the two countries.

Touching hearts
Opening the launch ceremony on his first visit to Japan on 26 February was Prince William, The Duke of Cambridge. After meeting dignitaries in Tokyo, the prince went to areas in Tohoku affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami of 2011.

Seemingly unaware of how much his visit meant—and no doubt still means—to local people there recovering from the disaster, the prince spent time with both adults and children, and paid his respects to those who lost their lives.

Spotlight on diversity
In recent years, particularly in the delivery of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, Britain has been a shining light in the area of diversity.

With preparations for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games underway, the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan (BCCJ) is hoping lessons learned from the UK experience can be applied to Tokyo 2020, advancing diversity—along with other issues—that it has long championed.

As part of a focus on diversity, this issue of BCCJ ACUMEN includes a feature on the experience of Anglo-Dutch firm Unilever regarding what businesses can learn about empowering women.

Speaking at events held by both the BCCJ and the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Chief Executive Paul Polman outlined the firm’s approach and how Japan might ensure it achieves a gender balance at work.

In a new regular column that will profile the work of BCCJ members, we feature Haruno Yoshida, president of BT Japan Corporation. She explains her struggle as a working mother, what she has learned from her time at a UK firm and her hopes for womenomics.

Finally, the TELL column this month explores how parents of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) children can best support them.