Welcome to this special issue of BCCJ ACUMEN. Arguably not since Margaret Thatcher has a British politician’s mission to Japan been so crucial and timely for bilateral trade and regional peace as that of Prime Minister Theresa May in late August.
In September 1989, claims, denials and threats were exchanged about barriers to Scotch, the Tokyo Stock Exchange and other bilateral moot points. This time, Brexit and North Korea put the two powers in the global media spotlight. Indeed, our own David Bickle, president of the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan (BCCJ), was interviewed on 30 August by CNBC, the US business news broadcaster whose programmes are beamed worldwide to some 385 million homes.
So who could offer readers as compelling an inside view as British Ambassador Paul Madden CMG—who welcomed, guided and shadowed the Conservative Party leader and her 16-strong delegation of private-sector chiefs during their non-stop three-day trip? See our top story.
Thanks and congratulations for a very successful visit must go to the ambassador and his diligent teams from the British Embassy Tokyo; the British Consulate-General, Osaka; the Department for International Trade; as well as the Prime Minister’s Office in London and others.
To support the mission, we kept this issue’s theme mostly inbound—UK to Japan.
So who can beat Johnson Matthey Plc’s colourful and diverse 200-year history? The global chemical and sustainable technology firm’s boss during a recent anniversary world tour stopped over briefly in Tokyo, where he shared with us the story of the former gold refiner, including its near quarter-century presence in Japan.
Our celebrity stage is shared by a homeless addict-turned-globetrotting author and charity fundraiser, interviewed by Guy Perryman MBE, and the large and loud British presence at Fuji Rock Festival ’17, where fish ’n’ chips, pies and beer were served for the umpteenth year running by Refugees International Japan Executive Officer Jane Best OBE and her volunteers.
Also on our menu is meat. People occasionally ask me if we will ever enjoy British beef—banned here since 1996—again in Japan? Our food article may reveal some post-BSE good news for carnivores.
And as charity begins at home, Animal Refuge Kansai founder Elizabeth Oliver MBE brought her pet love here long ago. However, despite much progress, the 76-year-old from Weston-super-Mare says there are still many unwanted pets. Buy her calendar and help this very worthy cause, which recently opened a new kennel block.
And fashion here gets labelled “fanatical” by former Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme teacher Philomena Keet. We are giving away two signed copies of her latest book, Tokyo Fashion City, to lucky readers.
The inbound theme flows on with an unlikely partnership between multi-award-winning Group Lotus Plc—whose racing and sports marques enjoy cult status in Japan—and global behemoth Toyota Motor Corporation. Aston Martin, meanwhile, is gearing up thanks to another multi-million pound bilateral deal.
This UK-in-Japan issue concludes with nostalgic anecdotes from Ian de Stains OBE, who warmly welcomed several prime ministers during his 24 years as BCCJ executive director (1987–2011). As you can see on, he got hand-bagged by you-know-who.
How British is that?
After North Korea fired a missile over northern Japan as Mrs May’s mission was en route to Tokyo, the BBC asked Hirafu, Hokkaido Prefecture-based UK entrepreneur Jonathan Knight how he reacted. He said: “I made a cup of tea”.