Inside 1 Ichiban-cho

It’s people who make places

I’d like to warmly welcome two new regular columnists and congratulate an old friend.

British ambassadors to Japan have traditionally written the odd piece for BCCJ ACUMEN, especially on royal or other key events. But this is the first time we have had our top diplomatic representative and head of mission in Japan sign up for every month, starting this issue.

British Ambassador Paul Madden CMG told me: “There’s always plenty to report from our activities at the embassy. From my point of view, your readership is a valuable target audience”.

A previous ambassador once said how pleased and proud he was to always see BCCJ ACUMEN prominently displayed along­side the quality inter­national press at a Heathrow Airport business class departure lounge.

Reflecting how BCCJ ACUMEN values both niche print and mass market digital media, Ambassador Madden added: “I’m always impressed when I am back in the UK to hear people telling me they’ve read the online version”.

No, minister!
Often with a less conciliatory tone is out­spoken economist and well-known political commentator Noriko Hama. Not one to suffer fools gladly, Hama was Mitsubishi Research Institute’s first resident economist and chief representative in London. Now aged 65 and based in Tokyo, her strong opinions have long ruffled feathers after being published and broadcast, including by the BBC. Please read our warning and disclaimer.

Meanwhile, back at the embassy …

I first met Fernando Bangit at the launch party of BCCJ ACUMEN in 2009. I won’t reveal which tired and emotional guest spilled a full glass of red wine on the thick white carpet of the Ambassador’s Residence that lively evening, but it was Fernando who quickly cleaned up without fuss. He has since greeted me—and thousands of others—at a host of embassy events with his trademark smile and a welcome tray of refreshments.

I once lost an item of some value at an embassy function. Fernando found it for me. A mutual friend from the Philippines passed away in 2015, but Fernando and I just nodded to each other because it was too personal and we were both on duty.

When I visit the embassy, he always seems to spot me before I see him as he cycles or walks on errands with a cheery wave, or serves guests. Recently, I came late and tired. It was mid-speech, so I just slumped in a hidden corner chair. In seconds, Fernando appeared silently with classic fish ’n’ chips and a gin & tonic. Before I could thank him, he had gone. He does it for everyone.

Fernando is not the first Filipino to receive a coveted queen’s honour, but he is probably the only one gonged for service in Japan.