Media May 2014


Top brass speaks at Diet

UK Chief of Defence Staff General Sir Nicholas Houghton spoke about the UK–Japan partnership at the Diet on 14 April, the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) website reported on 28 April.

An audience of 250, comprising a wide cross-section of Japan’s political and defence community, were at the legislature to hear the speech. General Houghton advocated an “enhanced and formalised” partnership between the two nations that would help address current global and regional struggles.

He highlighted the importance of preserving a rules-based international order and the inherent struggles that come with the task. “Maintaining stability while accommodating change” has become, he said, “the grand strategic security challenge of the age”.

HS2 recruits foreign experts

The firm responsible for developing the UK’s high-speed rail network has signed a contract with Japan International Consultants for Transportation (JIC), the Global Rail News website reported on 9 April.

East Japan Railway (JR East) has a majority stake in the JIC, the mission of which is to export Japan’s rail expertise to benefit railway projects abroad.

In March, the JIC sent a fact-finding mission to the UK, and is drawing up a report on business opportunities there for Japanese operators. JR East opened a London office on 15 April.

London firms lead governance charge

UK fund manager Hermes was among the first signatories to a new corporate governance code in Japan, the Financial News website reported on 15 April.

The new code, governing investor behaviour, emerged in the aftermath of the Olympus scandal made public by executive-turned-whistleblower Michael Woodford MBE. The UK published its first Stewardship Code in 2010.

Hermes executive Colin Melvin said, “It all stemmed from the UK’s response to the financial crisis—but [the establishment of governance codes is] gathering steam now. It’s going global”.

Fashion brand seeking suitors

Uniqlo’s parent company is in talks to buy British design brand Cath Kidston, The Daily Telegraph reported on 13 April.

Fast Retailing Co., Ltd. has reportedly held meetings about acquiring the retro floral design brand. Luxury goods group LVMH has also been named as a potential bidder for Cath Kidston.

The eponymous founder of the line of accessories and clothing set up her first shop in western London in 1993.

Cath Kidston opened its first shop abroad in Tokyo in 2006 and now has 33 stores throughout Japan. A price of around £250mn has been suggested for the sale.

Students excel in problem solving

Both English and Japanese students ranked highly in problem-solving skills, according to a recent study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), The Independent reported on 1 April.

The study, the first international assessment of its kind, covered 44 nations. Findings revealed that “students in England perform significantly above the OECD average in problem solving (scoring 517 points compared with the OECD average of 500).

England ranks above the top-performing [continental] European countries”. The report puts England in 11th place among global peers.

However, the UK still lags behind Japan, which scored 551 points.

“Cultural diplomat” dies

Former British Council director and Japan stalwart Peter Martin MBE has died, The Japan Times reported on 8 April. He was 83.

Born in London, Martin was posted to Kyoto in 1963. As the only “official” British figure living there at the time, he entertained scores of British dignitaries as well as artistic leaders on their visits to Japan.

Martin retired in 1983 to dedicate himself to writing, under the nom de plume James Melville. He produced 13 detective novels set in Kobe that were well received in Japan and abroad.

In the course of his duties, he found the time to learn Japanese thoroughly, opened a new cultural centre and supervised the British Pavilion at Expo ’70 in Osaka.