Media April 2014

news in brief

Swindon car plant to cut costs

Honda Motor Co., Ltd. is slashing production at its UK factory due to sluggish sales in Europe, the website reported on 25 March.

The Swindon plant will move to two shifts instead of three, which could lead to 340 assembly line staff being fired. A proposal has also been put forward to consolidate production to one line, following a similar move by Toyota Motor Corporation at its Derbyshire facility.

Most vehicles built at Swindon are exported, and sales abroad have not been as strong as in the UK. However, Ian Howells, senior vice president, said that Honda was confident about the long-term future of the Swindon facility.

Airlines start shared flights

British Airways (BA), Japan Airlines (JAL) and Finnair officially started joint operations on flights between Japan and Europe at the beginning of April, Business Traveller reported on 27 March.

The three airlines are members of the Oneworld alliance. BA and JAL established a partnership in 2012, and Japanese regulators approved the inclusion of Finnair in October 2013. The three firms will share revenue and cooperate on scheduling and pricing on joint routes.

Finnair CEO Pekka Vauramo said the alliance would constitute “the single largest player in Europe–Japan traffic”.

Pharma firm opens first Tokyo branch

A Northern Ireland pharmaceutical firm has opened an office in Japan, the BBC reported on 11 March.

Almac Group Ltd., which specialises in drug testing and development, is one of Northern Ireland’s major exporters. About 95% of its revenues are earned outside the UK. The firm currently employs about 3,300 staff.

The foray into Japan is intended to boost Almac’s business in the Asia–Pacific region.

Wind farm investors

UK Green Investment Bank plc and Japan’s Marubeni Corporation have jointly invested in wind power, The Telegraph’s Energy Live News website reported on 31 March.

The bank and Marubeni have purchased a 50% stake in the proposed Westermost Rough offshore wind farm. The site should generate enough power for about 200,000 homes.

According to Energy Secretary Ed Davey, “The UK is number one in the world for investment in offshore wind”.

J-pop teen trio crosses genres

A teenage girl band that combines the sounds of death metal with J-pop has made the online top 10 songs list in the UK, The Guardian reported on 16 March.

Babymetal has three members, aged 14 to 16, whose musical mission is to fuse thrash metal with the sugary sounds of J-pop.

The band was recently confirmed to make their UK debut at the Sonisphere music festival in July, to be held at Knebworth House in Hertfordshire.

Washoku cuisine getting popular with British chefs

Many British chefs are introducing traditional Japanese cuisine—washoku—on their menus, The Guardian reported on 5 March.

Washoku was added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list in December 2013, and since then, star chefs such as Satwant Singh “Sat” Bains have crafted tasting menus around the theme.

Chocolatier William Curley has even integrated Japanese tastes into his creations. Bite into one of his chocolates and you might find Japanese black vinegar or cherry blossom ganache.

Ambassador of Japan to the UK Keiichi Hayashi has declared that 2014 is “the year of washoku”.

Long history of rugby

Rugby was introduced in Japan decades before most people and official records recognise, The Japan Times reported on 15 March.

It all began with the founding of the Yokohama Foot Ball Club in 1866, as printed in a Japan Times article that year. George Hamilton and Evan James Fraser, both Scots who had studied at England’s prestigious Rugby School, deserve much of the credit. The strong military presence in Yokohama at that time helped boost the team’s numbers.

In 1884, the rugby club organised and led the initiative that merged the cricket, rugby, athletics and baseball clubs to form the Yokohama Country & Athletic Club, which still exists today.