Publisher July / Aug 2020

Don’t doubt our diversity

With many exhibitions, concerts and parties cancelled or postponed, we have no events pages again this issue. Among the most notable survivors, though, is Banksy—Genius or Vandal?, in Yokohama until 27 September when the 70-piece exhibit by the controversial West Country artist moves to Osaka. Admission is by advance reservation only:

Installation depicting Banksy working in his studio. Photo: IQ Art Management Corp

Too much

Depending on who you hear, ACUMEN is either too English but not north-of-Watford enough; too local, too global, too male, too female, too young, too old, too soft, too hard, too Tory, too liberal, too groupthinky, too woke, too trendy, too old-school; too much business or not enough business—which shows what a diverse lot we are.

So after our warmly received recent interview with Cardiff’s top man in Tokyo and the British Council Japan’s new bass-playing boss from Edinburgh, we present Belfast’s main representa­tive here, along with two award-winning young Caledonian business leaders; a BBC-gonged adult actress-turned-activist; a Japanese woman raised in London preserving her father’s creative legacy; a classic Scots-Japan name of Mariko McTier and her eco-warrior business partner from Edinburgh; plus five foreign and local women cyclists who call themselves knights.

Avoid clichés like the plague

That hackneyed old media chestnut, “A flurry of diplo­matic activity,” came to mind when planning this issue. We try to offer views from both sides of the borders—from tropical Minami Torishima to the wet and windy Shetlands—so please welcome former Japanese Ambassador to the UK Koji Tsuruoka. Surprisingly, he seemed to have had limited know­ledge of British customs before becoming ambassador to London in 2016. Unsurprisingly, he committed some amusing and awkward cultural and linguistic gaffes on his tour of duty that ended last year. Unlike our British Ambassador in Tokyo, who regularly shares with us his busy workload in Despatches, Koji understandably declined to write about official business, reminiscing instead about the hectic but rewarding social obligations that come with the job.

No touching, please, we’re British

When discussing any good that could come from Covid-19, one self-confessed cantankerous old Brexiteer said he was secretly delighted the virus had apparently condemned “that pretentious post-Thatcher continental custom of kissing and hugging everyone, every time, even those you barely know, even at work”. Exchanging sweaty hands with colleagues and anxious strangers at work events also got our introvert’s thumbs-down.

I wonder if the expat cocktail party in Tokyo will ever be the same again?

Democracy in action

I was recently privileged to witness first-hand a most thorough, open and fair democratic election at a well-established and reputable “public interest incorporated association” with about 2,000 diverse and high-profile members from the media, busi­ness and governments.

First, an election committee was formed and every eligible member was officially invited to run for office, with no obvious quotas, agendas, favourites or horse-trading. Candidates wrote one A4 page about themselves and their pledge, which was posted prominently at the organisation’s premises and on its website.

They were free to campaign and were invited to appear on stage and online, live in front of members who grilled them for more than an hour—quite mercilessly at times. They put the video of the event on their website next day and members continued to ask candidates questions until the deadline for voting and campaigning. At the annual general meeting, the votes were put in a secure box that was taken, quite theatrically, to a private room by members of the board and staff for counting in front of witnesses.

The results were then announced to the members as they sat for dinner. The quorum was met, but not enough votes were received to fill all the board seats, so officials announced a second election. It was quite an eye-opener to see real democracy in action, which could be a model for some other NPOs to consider.